A Shift in Power

Hopatcong School District has undergone a shift in administration beginning this 2018/2019 school year, and this change has caused a direct shift in power within the High School. Recently,  the Hopatcong BOE approved recommendations that establish Mr. Lewis Benfatti as the principal of HMS and Mr. Emil Binotto as the HHS principal.

Originally in September, Mr. Binotto was approved to be principal of both buildings, the HMS and HHS. According to Mr. Binotto, his singular position now will allow him, “more time to focus on what is going on here in the High School” and alleviate the pressure of running two buildings.

Mr. Binotto is a graduate from both Manhattanville College and Fordham University. After college, he remained in New York and jumped into the workforce as a High School level English teacher (7 years) before being promoted as assistant principal (8 years). Eventually earning a full-time principal position at Hopatcong High School, Mr. Binotto served for 12 years before being transferred to the middle school in 2012. According to Mr. Binotto, returning to the High School has rekindled some of his old acquaintances with both former students and faculty members.

The initial administration shift was a decision on behalf of the Board of Education (BOE) and Superintendent when they decided it was necessary to put together a singular vision for grades 6-12. Originally, the BOE felt sharing one principal between both schools would help achieve this goal of merging curriculum, opening up communication opportunities and coordinating activities between faculty members within both the high school and middle school. According to Mr. Binotto, each grade level essentially builds a foundation for the following grade level. Having one person to shape the vision of the secondary (6,7,8) and high school (9,10,11,12) levels would control what preparation must be done to create an educational foundation, ultimately leading to greater cohesion and continuity within the district as a whole.

When asked to speak on the most challenging aspect of shouldering two principal positions, Mr. Binotto jocosely admitted it was running back and forth between buildings. “To be in two places at once is impossible; however, splitting one’s time appropriately is essential,” he added.  

While Mr. Binotto said he had no specific schedule when it came to being in either school, he did analyze each building’s daily events and decided where he was needed more. However, his new full-time position at Hopatcong High School will eliminate the former challenge.

In contrast, when asked to speak on the most challenging aspect of beginning this school year, our principal made no hesitation to bring up the mold situation. An uncertain opening date, inability to access the building, fear of permanent damage, and last minute cleaning made August a very stressful time for Hopatcong.

Contaminating a total of 20 New Jersey school buildings this past summer, black mold infestation became small-scale epidemic. With a summer of heavy precipitation, the stage was set. Vacant spaces that lack proper air ventilation and are exposed to humid temperatures make the perfect environment for fugui/bacteria growth. Hopatcong district’s opening date was pushed back a multitude of times. According to Mr. Binotto, while it was a nuisance for students and faculty alike, it was necessary.

Mold has the potential to become very dangerous if left untreated. Black mold spores infiltrate the air and can cause symptoms in people with prolonged exposure to the area. Symptoms can vary from fatigue, irritation to the throat, lungs, eyes and nose, headaches and even rashes. Typically black mold can cause permanent damage, although Hopatcong’s buildings were very fortunate to have minimal inventory loss.

After schools were reopened, several reports of black mold pop-ups were made. Mr. Binotto, however, stated that all sightings were swiftly taken care of, assuring that there is no longer any presence of mold in our building.


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