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West Orange School District Welcomes Dr. Joseph Vespignani as Executive Director of Personnel and Special Projects

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Dr. Joseph Vespignani has been named the new Executive Director of Personnel and Special Projects for the West Orange School District.


As schools in New Jersey continue to face the challenges of the Covid pandemic, innovative and adaptable leadership is paramount to providing a successful learning environment for both students, teachers, and administrators. Vespignani hopes to bring that and more with successfully implemented strategies and a fresh perspective of personnel management.


Dr. Vespignani previously served in the Madison School District as Human Resources  Director where he facilitated the transition to a digital process for onboarding. The implementation of Frontline Central essentially created a digital, confidential filing cabinet.  In the case of personnel, for example, new hires would have a better experience by being able to access a singular file for all their needs.


In addition, Dr. Vespignani established staff wellness and professional growth programs and strategies for staff diversification. In Madison, he established partnership with the Madison YMCA and offered health resources to employees in addition to professional development. He plans to implement similar programs in West Orange.


Prior to working in Madison, Vespignani served as principal of Salvatore R. Calabro Elementary School in Hoboken where he closed the achievement gap and led the school to a 96th percentile rank in New Jersey. (The school has a 56 percent Hispanic population and a 60 percent economically disadvantaged population. They attained a 94 percent school-wide proficiency on the NJSLA ELA and 70 percent school-wide proficiency in Math.)  During his career, he also worked as a middle school vice-principal, elementary school Spanish teacher, and high school soccer coach.


Dr. Vespignani holds five certifications from the New Jersey Department of Education including Teacher of Spanish, Elementary School Teacher, Supervisor, Principal, and School Administrator. He graduated in 2001 from Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham with a B.A. in Spanish and Master of Arts in Teaching through the QUEST Program. He earned his principal certification through the NJEXCEL program in 2008 and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Rowan University in 2016. His research focused on bridging the gap between pre-service and the workplace as well as support for non-tenured teachers. He has been published in the NJEA Review and twice in the NJPSA journal Educational Viewpoints in the area of personnel.


There are several important issues that Vespignani has begun to address since he began work on July 1, including the Families First Corona Virus Response Act that creates a new entitlement for workers to receive emergency paid sick leave and an expansion to FMLA related to needs for child care between April 1 and December 31, 2020.  Staff must report to Personnel with documentation if they have been exposed to Covid to receive 80 hours paid sick leave or may receive 12 weeks unpaid family leave. Adding to that is that whether or not employees or family members are immune-compromised and how that will affect their return to school.


“It’s an interactive process of providing leave or reasonable accommodations,” noted Vespignani.


In addition to handling the integration of new laws into district personnel operations, Vespignani is leading the Search Team for the Kelly School Principal. (Dr. Joanne Pollara is retiring Nov. 1.) They are currently in the process of reviewing finalists, holding presentations, and making final recommendations.


Vespignani has begun traveling to the West Orange Schools to meet with Principals and staff and get to know the district.


“It’s important to be out and be visible and show the staff some support,” he explained.


In a time of uncertainty and change, Vespignani recognizes the importance of emotional support as well.


“I want to support the staff, including the board and the superintendent, make recommendations regarding strategic planning, and be a responsible advocate for individual and collective needs. I want to represent the district in a positive manner,” he concluded.


Dr. Vespignani lives in Woodland Park with his wife and young son. He can be reached at Central Office at 973-669-5400 x. 20545 and


Dr. Joseph Vespignani

Dr. Joseph Vespignani





Cynthia Cumming
Aug. 4, 2020