July 25, 2022 -
At a special meeting on July 25, the Westfield Board of Education approved the appointment of Falynn Balassone as K-12 Director of Counseling. She will succeed Maureen Mazzarese, who is retiring as of August 31, 2022.
“I am looking forward to learning about the excellent work that the counselors are already doing so that I can support its continuation and I also will be happy to bring a fresh perspective,” Balassone says.
For the past 11 years, Balassone has worked in the South Orange-Maplewood School District (SOMSD), serving as Director of School Counseling since March 2020 and as a counselor at Columbia High School since 2011. As SOMSD Director of Counseling, she supervises 15 school counselors and other department staff, oversees the college admissions process, monitors all incidents of Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB), maintains a caseload of 200 out-of-district placement special education students, and handles a variety of other responsibilities.
During her tenure at SOMSD, Balassone also developed several innovative programs.
“As part of a larger initiative to increase and prioritize mental health awareness, I am very proud to have built the "Counseling Annex" at Columbia High School -- a place for all things Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) where students can access counseling, workshops, groups, and more,” says Balassone when asked about some of her proudest accomplishments while at SOMSD. “I established Cougar Academy, an alternative program for students who benefit from a non-traditional learning environment, and revamped the Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) and home instruction processes. But I am most proud of the team mindset that was fostered amongst the counselors and ultimately benefited our students.”
Balassone also held previous positions as Admission Counselor at Drew University in Madison and Counselor/College Readiness Instructor at North Star Academy Charter School in Newark.
“We are so pleased to welcome Ms. Balassone to the district,” says Superintendent Dr. Raymond González. “I am impressed not only with her professionalism and experience but also with her sincere and demonstrated commitment to a diverse school community and to ensuring the academic success and emotional safety of all students.”
As she prepares to join the Westfield Public School District, Balassone says she would “love to grow an alumni/community network to support our schools, particularly regarding college and career awareness.”
“I'm also excited to contribute to anti-bullying and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives,” she adds. “I am mostly looking forward to having faculty, staff, students, families, and other community members identify other areas of need so that we can then build responsive programming.”
Balassone received a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Media and Communication from Muhlenberg College in May 2007 and a Master of Arts in Counseling in May 2010 from Montclair State University, while earning certification as a K-12 School Counselor. In May 2015, she received a Master of Arts in Educational Administration from Kean University and holds Principal, Supervisor, and Director of Guidance certification.
“Ms. Balassone has exhibited great administrative abilities and qualities of character in managing the daily responsibilities and activities associated with the Director of Counseling position,” says Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Dr. Michael Weissman. “She has shown her adeptness in collaborating and supervising staff within her department.”
Balassone says she is impressed by how so many people who grew up in Westfield decided to move back and raise their families here and by how invested the community at large is in the Westfield Public Schools.
“I truly believe that if we all work together our students will grow into kind, happy, successful, and impactful global citizens,” she adds. “My initial attraction to the school district only grew after having the opportunity to personally meet some of the school leaders, faculty, and staff, most of whom have worked in the district for many years. I'm so excited to be part of such a committed team of educators and I can't wait to meet everyone else, including the students, in September.”
Having moved to Westfield with her husband 11 years ago, Balassone notes that “you'll often see the Balassone crew (us and our 2 boys, ages 3 and 5) biking around the neighborhood, walking to town and supporting local businesses, or exploring Brightwood Park, so be sure to say hello!”