Longtime RVBOE President Receives Tributes

Longtime RVBOE President Receives Tributes
Posted on 12/22/2021
RVBOE Members

Longtime River Vale BOE president receives high-profile tributes at her last meeting

Honors for Lorraine Waldes and fellow outgoing Board member John Puccio

River Vale, N.J. - A parade of speakers that included prominent educators and a Bergen County Commissioner thanked Board of Education President Lorraine Waldes for two decades of service as she presided over her final meeting on Dec. 14.

Speakers also offered tributes to outgoing Board member John Puccio, the principal of Pascack Valley High School, who has served since 2017.

Waldes said she made many friends and memories on the Board, and in a past role as PTA president. She established the nonprofit River Vale Educational Fund during her tenure, a transformative development for the district. The nonprofit organization funds improvements without using tax dollars; it has raised $1.8 million over 14 years. The Educational Fund also expanded its scope to operate before- and after-care for four districts. Waldes will continue serving as a trustee of the organization.

Waldes worked on two successful bond referendum campaigns, including one passed in April of 2021, and conducted five superintendent searches.

Those five superintendents were represented at the Dec. 14 meeting. Waldes sat alongside current Superintendent Melissa Signore, and speakers included Dr. Matthew Murphy, current Ramsey School District superintendent; and Dr. Frank Alvarez, who led the district two times during the past 20 years. Letters were read from the other former superintendents, Rory McCourt and Dr. David C. Verducci.

Murphy called Waldes “one of the top five most influential people” in his 34-year career, because she gave him the confidence to take chances.

“For 20 years, and in my four years here, you have done nothing but advocate for the children of River Vale,” Murphy said “... You have impacted the lives of thousands of young people and thousands of adults.”

Waldes noted she came full circle by working with Alvarez on a referendum at both the start and end of her time on the Board. The referendum approved earlier this year will fund projects including air conditioning, roof repairs, an addition and Wellness Center at Holdrum Middle School, and district-wide classroom renovations.

Alvarez praised Waldes’ leadership in several areas such as expanding arts programming, providing a laptop for every student, and noted she “recently championed efforts to provide students, staff and parents with social and emotional supports during one of the most difficult times in our history.”

Other speakers offering tributes for Waldes included Bergen County Commissioner-Vice Chairwoman Tracy Zur; Dr. Aaron R. Graham, former Executive County Superintendent of Bergen County; River Vale Town Councilmember Denise Seig (Council President Mark Bromberg was in attendance); Kathy Blazina, a former River Vale Board Member and the River Vale Township's indoor events coordinator; Glenn Haug, River Vale Education Association president; and James P. Cody, Holdrum principal and River Vale Administrators Association president, speaking on behalf of the administrative team.

Waldes also expressed her gratitude to all of those she worked with over the years.

“Thank you to the amazing community of River Vale who have trusted me with your children for 20 years on the Board and eight years as PTA president,” Waldes said. “I will forever thank the River Vale Board of Education for all that it’s given me.”

Praise for Puccio

Speakers at the BOE meeting also had kind words for Puccio, who Waldes called a “true iron man in every sense of the word.”

Signore said Puccio brought “educational experience and an important perspective to his role on River Vale’s Board.”

Puccio is the co-president of the River Vale Educational Fund and had two children attend district schools. He chaired the Personnel Committee and was a member of the Curriculum & Technology and Negotiation Committees during his time on the Board.

Fire Safety in Schools

Former River Vale Fire Chief Jerry Marsh was honored for supporting students for more than 30 years through a fire prevention program in the district’s schools. “Through your efforts, hundreds of students have been provided with information on safety and the prevention of fire,” Waldes said.

The recording of the Dec. 14 River Vale Board of Education meeting is available on YouTube.

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