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Final Board of Education Meeting of School Year Recognizes Special Services, Trailblazers, and Liaisons

WEST ORANGE, NJ - During the final Board of Education meeting for the 2023-24 school year, Superintendent Hayden Moore and the board members took time to recognize some important departures.

Leila Aboulneja and Keni Khindru James were recognized for their consistency and commitment to serve as West Orange High School Board of Education Liaisions for the 2023-24 school year. Aboulneja, who has been a beloved member of the Color Guard for the past four years, will be attending Fairleigh Dickinson University and majoring in Biology, with a track in Dentistry. James, who played saxophone in the Marching Band, will be attending Syracuse University to major in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in International Business; however, for his first year he will attend school in Madrid.

Superintendent Moore then called parent Gina Velazquez to the podium. Velazquez is stepping down as the chairperson of West Orange Special Education Parent Advisory Council (WOSEPAC) after five years and created several popular outreaches with her team to connect the community with special needs students. Velazquez then called Alex Mizrahi-Rothman to give out the last Parents Advocating for Special Services (PASSE) awards to educators and administrators in the special needs program. In a touching moment, Velazquez and Mizrahi-Rothman presented the educators with handmade drawings from special needs students. This was the last set of awards PASSE will distribute.

Several years ago, the district initiated the "Trailblazer Award," to be given to one or more students that have accomplished something unique by blazing a new trail of opportunity for themselves and fellow students. The award was created to honor Dylan Pennell, a WOHS Class of 2014 graduate who lobbied the state, Essex County, and the school district to begin the now award-winning WOHS AFJROTC. Pennell, who is currently at sea with the United States Navy, was unable to attend, but his parents Suzanne and Donald were on hand to present the award to 18-21 Program graduates Nick Velazquez and Gabriel Evans. Both work with Maschio's, the district food-service purveyors, and Velazquez will be attending Essex County College.

After thanking the recipients, Superintendent Moore noted, "We've had a difficult, yet successful year. We have expanded our preschool program and revamped the transportation system. We are stronger together, and I appreciate you, our West Orange community, our board, and our liaisons. Thank you. I look forward to us continuing our work in the new school year."


Superintendent Hayden Moore, Leila Aboulneja, Keni James, BOE President Brian Rock

Special Services

Recipient Hayden Moore; PASSE Alexandra Mizrahi-Rothman, WOSEPAC Gina Velazquez, recipient Jodi Goldstein, recipient Dawn Ribeiro, recipient Oscar Guerrero (Not pictured: Madeline Werner)

Incoming WOSEPAC board

Incoming WOSEPAC board: (L-R) Chair Oceanna George, Ysaura Fernandez, Christina DeMarco, Gabriella Morales, Co-chair Richera Jones.


Trailblazer Award: Hayden Moore, Donald Pennell, Suzanne Pennell, Gabriel Evans, Nick Velazquez, Oscar Guerrero



Cynthia Cumming
June 19, 2024