WERSD History

The history of the West Essex Regional School District began in the fall of 1951 when students from the District – Caldwell Township (present day Fairfield), Essex Fells, North Caldwell, Roseland – were accepted into Caldwell High School on a sending-receiving basis.

It soon became apparent that the present and future educational needs of the area needed to be determined as scientifically as possible, so the four school boards in the District joined with that of Caldwell-West Caldwell to retain the Rutgers University Extension Service for that purpose.  The resulting survey predicted 1,200 junior-senior high school students attending the District by 1961.

The first comprehensive study was submitted in 1956, and it recommended the consolidation of the five school districts and all grades from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  The communities, however, were reluctant to carry the recommendation into effect.  Heeding the communities’ hesitance, the Rutgers educators suggested the formation of a regional school district for grades 7-12 for Caldwell Township, Essex Fells, North Caldwell and Roseland.

Subsequently, in June 1957, each of the four towns appointed two citizens to serve on a study committee.  With the assistance of Dr. William S. Twichell, Essex County Superintendent of Schools and other officials, the committee submitted a report by the following September.

The study committee recommended that a referendum be held in the four towns to seek the approval of voters concerning the formation of a regional school district.  Dr. Twichell and the State Education Department approved the move, and by December 1957, the referendum was passed by voters.

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Twichell appointed the first regional district school board of nine members – two each from Caldwell Township, Essex Fells, North Caldwell and three from Roseland.

In February 1958, the Regional Board of Education was elected by the voters, with Wallace S. Jones of Essex Fells as its first president.

Around this time, a Citizens School Curriculum Advisory Committee was established to determine the educational needs of the District and make curriculum recommendations to the Board of Education. Dr. Ulrich V. Solmssen was chairman of the fifteen-member committee.

On March 26, 1958, this Curriculum Committee issued a progress report, which was superseded by the final report submitted on April 15, 1958.

The latter report contained several “basic principles,” which the committee desired to see adopted for the new high school. Among these principles were “education for all, excellence of performance though self-discipline, independent thinking, and a sense of ‘true values”. Also stressed were a staff of high quality, adequate guidance, the grouping of students, availability of electives, insistence on effective English, and a broad extracurricular program.

The report also recommended that three types of curricula be offered: College Preparatory, General Academic, and Commercial.

In July 1958, voters authorized $290,000 for a 73-acre site, of which 60 acres lay in North Caldwell and 13 in Caldwell Township. The site is located between Grandview and Passaic Avenues, directly north of Greenbrook Road.