For those who have yet to hear, after almost seven years of service, Superintendent Anthony Yankovich retired over the winter break, and in his stead is new Superintendent Dr. Robert Van Zanten, another longtime West New York educator who is proud to be back home.
"It's wonderful to be back and to see the people that were here during the first twenty-something years of my career," said Zanten.
Yankovich first served as acting superintendent from October 1999 to June 2000 when he was officially appointed to the position. He served as an educator in West New York for 49 years.
History in WNY
A long time resident, Zanten and his family first settled in West New York after emigrating from Holland.
"I was 13 years old when I came to this country, so I can relate very well to the many immigrant children we have in town," said Zanten.
Zanten family first arrived in Hoboken, but moved to West New York six months later for better employment opportunities.
"It was big and it was scary [when] I first arrived," said Zanten. "I didn't know a word of English, and when you are 13 you have already gone through a lifetime of school and you think you know it all."
Despite his initial difficult time adjusting, Zanten pressed on to have a good school career first at Public School No. 3 and then at Memorial High School, where he met his wife during junior year.
"Junior year I met my wife, who was a freshman," said Zanten. "Five and half years later we married."
After attaining his degree in Social Sciences from Montclair University, Zanten came back to West New York as a teacher for Harry L. Bain School.
Two years later he was back at Memorial High School as a social studies teacher, and also taught alongside Rep. Albio Sires.
He also, with the support of his former coach, became the coach for the school track team.
Zanten was the track coach while Sal Vega was just a student at the time.
"I became the track coach and among my five "All Americans" was Mayor Sal Vega," said Zanten.
Zanten later became the Assistant Principal at Harry L. Bain School, and Principal of Memorial High School from 1984 to 1990.
During that time he also attained his masters and doctorate in Educational Administration and Supervision from Seton Hall.
He went on to become the Superintendent of Schools for Garfield and the River Dell Regional School District, where his administration helped to turn around the district including making River Dell High School a Blue Ribbon School in 1998, before retiring from the New Jersey education system.
Not done yet
After his retirement from New Jersey, Zanten and his wife moved to Yorktown, NY, where he again served as Superintendent of Schools for five more years before officially retiring. Or so he thought.
"I was staying at home and lying next to the pool. Then my wife would come home, I'd be ready to go and she was tired," said Zanten. "A few weeks into that she said 'you have to get a job'."
Moving back to New Jersey, Zanten came out of retirement and worked as an Interim Superintendent of Schools for any district that needed him until the present.
Then following the transitions that were happening in West New York's municipal government, Zanten thought it might be time to come back home.
Although there has been some shock over former superintendent Anthony Yankovich's seemingly abrupt departure, according to Zanten, it was in discussion for sometime and had been somewhat planned for the end of the calendar year.
"He had many good years in the school district, and during the time [here] he has had many accomplishments in helping West New York [elevate] its school district," said Zanten.
Zanten also worked closely with Yankovich for years in the West New York school district.
"What many people don't know is that Mr. Yankovich was my track coach in high school," said Zanten. "And while I was principal at Memorial High School he was a vice principal there. So, we have always worked well together."
Coming back home
As Zanten was finishing up his two year term as the Interim Superintendent for the East Newark School District, Yankovich had set plans in motion for retirement, and after discussion with the Board of Education he has been named the Acting Superintendent of Schools for West New York, as of Jan. 1.
"I certainly had a great interest in West New York and we discussed it, and it coincided with what Yankovich had in mind," said Zanten. "The timing was perfect."
If all goes well during the transition period, Zanten will receive an extension and a permanent appointment as Superintendent.
In the interim, he only hopes to continue the work that has been done under Yankovich's administration including: upholding the rising state test scores; having a smooth transition with the upcoming school constructions and renovations of No. 2, No. 3; and Harry L. Bain School over the next three years; and adapting new regulations set forth by the state.
"I really never knew that [I would be back in West New York], but it was always a possibility," said Zanten. "If I retire from education as the superintendent of West New York than [my career] really comes full circle. It's a great way to end it."