Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dr. Dutt Becomes Interim North Warren Superintendent

Expanding the school community both within and outside the classrooms of North Warren Regional High School will be the goal of incoming interim superintendent Jeanene Dutt.

Currently the principal of North Warren, Dutt will take the reins of the district on July 1, when current superintendent Sarah Bilotti leaves the district.

“Portrait of a Patriot,” a program designed to include, parents, students and the community at large, is a major component to Dutt’s plan.

“I want to focus on relationships,” Dutt said. “I want students to have a voice.” The plans include additional opportunities for mentorship as well as peer-to-peer programs.

Dutt has been principal in the high school for five years. Before that she was principal at Lopatcong Middle School after serving 14 years as a teacher in Phillipsburg. She earned her doctorate in education from Centenary University in 2019.

She was appointed as interim superintendent by the North Warren Regional School District in May for a one-year term or until a permanent superintendent is named. While her title may be “interim,” Dutt said she will approach the new position from the perspective a long-term superintendent and not simply be a caretaker.

The board has yet to announce plans for an interim principal of the high school. As interim superintendent, Dutt will also be responsible for the North Warren Middle School, which is part of the North Warren campus.

“The staff has been very supportive,” Dutt said. “Everyone here is very supportive of one another.”

While she said it might be a bit of a cliché, she does appreciate “the small town feeling and environment” of the grades 7-12 district. In fact, the North Warren Regional School district includes middle and high school students from four small towns. Upon reaching grade 7, students from Frelinghuysen, Hardwick, Knowlton and Blairstown can attend in the district, which is overseen by a board of education with representatives from all four municipalities. Each town has its own K-6 school.

One of the ongoing challenges Dutt will face is the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Like just about every other school district in the state, North Warren had to make an abrupt switch to remote learning in March of 2020. The district, though, was spared some of the long-term and sporadic closings that faced other districts.

The state Start Strong Assessment program, which was intended to measure where schools stood upon returning to in-class learning, placed North Warren above the state average, Dutt said.

“We only had to close from March 2020 to September 2020,” Dutt said. “We’re pretty proud of that.”

And in reality, she added, the school never had to completely shut down during that time and was able to operate at a minimal level within state and federal guidelines.

Safety is at the top of Dutt’s list, she said. “It’s always a top priority.”

Security in the school buildings is reviewed on an ongoing basis. While North Warren has most of the same challenges as other schools, Dutt said the district focuses on issues specific to the district and an early-intervention team for at-risk students.

Part of that effort includes the Road to Success program, which offers resources for students who may not necessarily be following what is often considered to be a “traditional” education program.

And like most other districts in the state, North Warren faces the challenges of reduced state aid most years. Dutt said there was a $4 million reduction is state aid this year.

Having to do more with less is one of the reasons Dutt would like to increase participation by the community. She plans a number of “Meet the Superintendent” events for students, parents and the community.

“I really want the community to have a voice.”

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