After 28 years, superintendent reflects on legacy

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After 28 years, superintendent reflects on legacy

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Dyer) Superintendent Barbara Longo is retiring after 28 years in the district.

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Dyer) Superintendent Barbara Longo is retiring after 28 years in the district.

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Dyer) Superintendent Barbara Longo is retiring after 28 years in the district.

(Photo courtesy of Lisa Dyer) Superintendent Barbara Longo is retiring after 28 years in the district.

By Catherine McLaughlin, News Editor

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Superintendent Barbara Longo has been a member of the West Essex Regional School District through nearly three decades of change, turmoil and growth. Starting as the middle school librarian, she worked her way up to director of curriculum, high school principal and finally to her current position as superintendent. After 28 years of service to the district, Ms. Longo has decided to retire at the end of this school year.

During her time as principal, Ms. Longo said, she managed the good, the bad and the ugly to the fullest extent possible. Upon coming into the job in 2002, she also had to handle a costly construction referendum that went terribly wrong.

“We went for three years without ceilings, we went for three years without cafeterias, we went for so long without the auditorium being done,” Ms. Longo said.

But after that turbulent era in the district’s history came to a close, in the past few years Ms. Longo worked to make the changes she wanted to see within the district. She pushed to not only keep West Essex up to high academic standards, but also allowed for STEM and arts programs to flourish.

“I would like our students to be able to get a taste of a lot of the different careers they don’t see everyday and then be able to leave here and know what they would like to do in the future,” she said.

In addition to caring about academic achievements, Ms. Longo made her primary focus the students’ well being. She said she did her best to make the school a place where students want to be.

“I tired to develop some kind of climate and culture that would make the students comfortable,” Ms. Longo said. “If the students wanted to walk out, I used to say to them when I was the principal, ‘Just come to me, I’ll walk with you.’ I wanted this to be that kind of campus, and I think for the most part, we are.”

When deciding to become superintendent, Ms. Longo gave up her beloved opportunity of working with students. However, Ms. Longo has been able to still have an effect on those who have direct access to students.

“The coherence and fluidity that the district has now, and the stability especially, is all because of her and the people that she’s hired,” high school principal Caesar Diliberto said. “She’s hired almost everyone that is at this school, between both schools, at this point and I mean that’s one of her greatest talents.”

When becoming superintendent, Ms. Longo never thought she would be here for so long. The superintendent position in her eyes was a last hurrah before retirement, she said, but her plan ended up taking a different turn.

“I decided to take it on for a year or so, and here I am nine years later still and I’ve loved every minute of it and every job I’ve had in this district,” she said.

During her time in the district, Ms. Longo made a lasting impression not only on the school itself, but the staff members she has worked with.

“No other individual has had a greater impact on West Essex Regional Schools than Barbara Longo,” Mr. Diliberto said. “She’s been here for many years. I’m certainly sad to see her go, but I wish her the best.”

With the addition of a granddaughter into the family, Ms. Longo decided now is her time to leave. However, now that the time has come, she said that she realized how lucky she has been.

“My husband says to me everyday, practically, do you know how lucky you are that you get up in the morning and you want to go to work,” Ms. Longo said. “I love every minute of it, but my granddaughter needs me. My family needs me now.”