At its regular public meeting on March 7, the Westfield Board of Education approved the appointment of LaNova Schall as Principal of McKinley Elementary School and Alex Linden as PreK-12 Supervisor of Special Education. Both appointments are effective July 1, 2023.
Before joining Edison Intermediate School as assistant principal in August 2021, Schall served as assistant principal for two years at the Van Derveer Elementary School in Somerville where she supported students and staff in a variety of ways.
Schall began her career in education in 2001 as a teacher in the New York City Public Schools. She moved to the East Orange Community Charter School in 2009, where she taught for 4 years before serving as Supervisor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Data for 4 years.
“I have the privilege of bringing an outside perspective, having worked in a variety of communities starting in the Bronx, then East Orange to Somerville before joining Westfield. I know the necessary steps to help struggling students succeed,” says Schall. “Westfield has shown me what it looks like when an entire community is committed to the success of their schools. I have learned how to collaborate with community leaders, experienced the generosity of families, engaged in productive professional discourse with colleagues, and most importantly built strong relationships and rapport with students through mutual respect. My experiences working with students, staff, and families from pre-k through 8th grade have greatly prepared me for this role.”
Schall says the pride and energy felt by the McKinley School community made her want to be a part of it.
“McKinley is the epitome of an elementary school, with its brick facade, pinewood floors, and large windows. Looking at it from the outside, one can become very nostalgic. However, it is what I know happens in the classrooms, offices, and hallways that attracted me to McKinley,” she says. “The teachers collaborate with each other to provide high quality instruction and are committed to ongoing learning and professional development. The students have pride in and take care of their school and peers. The parents work tirelessly to support students and staff through assemblies, fundraisers, and other activities.”
Schall received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Penn State University, a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University and an Educational Leadership Certificate from the NJEXCEL program. She holds a Supervisor Certificate from Seton Hall University and is currently working towards a Certificate in School Management and Leadership through Harvard University.
“During her time at Edison Intermediate School, Ms. Schall has proven herself to be a skilled, thoughtful, and fair administrator,” says Superintendent Dr. Raymond González. “Those skills, combined with her academic background and her valuable previous experience at the elementary level, make her an ideal choice to be the next principal of McKinley School.”
Dr. Jill Sack has been serving as Interim Principal at McKinley to allow for a thorough search for a successor to former principal Dr. Marc Biunno.
Alex Linden, a special education teacher for 15 years at Edison Intermediate School, served as Supervisor of the Extended School Year (ESY) Program for the past three summers and as ESY Secondary Coordinator in Summer 2019. She planned and executed a successful program for students with special needs in grades pre-kindergarten to 12.
“My experience as the ESY Supervisor and Secondary Coordinator over the last four years allowed me to oversee an entire program of over 150 students, including the hiring of all teachers, paraprofessionals, nurses, and therapists, scheduling, coaching teachers, communication with parents, and collaboration with all staff,” says Linden, who pivoted the program from in-person to remote during the pandemic before returning to an in-person schedule. “I needed to be flexible and creative to meet unprecedented challenges.”
Linden, who will succeed Andrea Lo as PreK-12 Supervisor of Special Education, says she looks forward to continued collaboration with administrators, teachers, and the community to support staff and students academically and emotionally.
“I hope to use my acquired skills and knowledge, as well as my passion as an educator, to work closely with teachers to establish best practices, professional development and to develop and expand upon the programs that are offered in the district,” says Linden.
Linden majored in Special Education and Elementary Education at Indiana University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Education in May 2008. She received a Master of Education: Reading Specialist and Supervision from New Jersey City University in December 2014 and holds numerous certifications, including supervisor and reading specialist.
“As a long-time special education teacher, Ms. Linden has educated and inspired students across all grade levels and abilities,” says González. “She honed her skills as an administrator overseeing the ESY summer program during challenging years. I look forward to her joining the district’s administration team as she works with Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services Dr. Michael Weissman to continue to provide the best educational experiences for our students.”