JACKSON – He’s only been on the job for a little more than a month now but Jackson Liberty High School Principal Geoffrey Brignola has been looking at how he can take the school toward an exciting future.
Brignola’s hiring was made official during a May 15 school board meeting. Longtime principal, Maureen Butler, retired on June 30 and Brignola started his new role with the district a day later.
Butler had joined the school district in January 2006 having come from Red Bank Regional High School. Jackson Liberty High School opened its doors in September of that same year making it the district’s second high school.
Brignola worked with Butler for 24 years of the 30 years he knew Butler. He worked for 11 years as the assistant principal of JLHS so his transition has not been difficult. He noted that his time working with Butler and their having worked together for so long in creating the culture of the high school has made for a smooth process. He said he is eager to continue that process as leader of the school.
Prior to holding that position, he also worked at the Red Bank Regional High School for 12 years serving as a science teacher before becoming supervisor of math and science. He also served as a basketball, soccer and lacrosse coach in the district.
Superintendent Dr. Stephen Genco said he felt Brignola can “bring Liberty to the next level.”
“Having been here for the past 11 years, I have seen firsthand the tremendous job our teachers do with our students as well as the many successes our students have had. We want to continue to focus on academic achievement for our students with a goal of even more student engagement in the classrooms,” Brignola said.
Brignola said that “we will certainly continue to seek opportunities for our students and staff to be able to grow and succeed in an increasingly diverse society. We want to be sure that all students feel they have a voice, and that their voices are being heard.
“We have district and building goals to accomplish these initiatives. Obviously, we would like to see all of our students involved in co-curricular activities – whether athletics and/or clubs – so we will continue to push for this as well. Students involved in their school tend to be more successful while in school as well as in their post-high school lives. We also would like to focus on continuing to motivate and celebrate students in various aspects of school life,” Brignola said.
The district has seen an increased focus on security in its 10 schools and has a special ballot question that voters will respond to in November. That question calls for approval of hiring six additional security officers, some of whom will be armed.
Brignola said, “I think any time you can increase safety for students and staff in a school, it is a good thing. I think additional security – especially with those who have been properly trained to carry – can accomplish this goal.”
As to any changes in student scheduling, Brignola said “we will continue to adapt to a changing society and this means always looking for programs that will help our students and staff evolve in a positive manner.
“We do not have any scheduling changes planned for this school year, but among the district goals recently shared with the Board of Education was to begin the process of looking at the high school schedule district-wide to make sure we are making the most out of the school day,” Brignola said.
As to future challenges facing the high school Brignola said “there are constant changes that come about in society and we feel them at the high school level as well. Whether it’s state standardized testing, vaping issues, social media issues – some issues have been around for years, some are new and some are just different versions of past issues.”
“We will strive to stay ahead of the curve in addressing these issues to give our students the best opportunity to become successful, productive citizens, and our staff to be best equipped to help them,” Brignola added.
Brignola is looking forward to the start of the new school year but could not single out one specific area he is excited about most.
“I don’t know if there is one thing I am looking forward to most in the new school year. This year I will be entering my twenty-fifth year in education, and every year brings new challenges and excitement. I am really looking forward to helping the students and staff at Jackson Liberty High School to become the best we can be inside and outside of the classroom.”