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Celebrating Black Excellence, Educator Spotlight: Dr. Lesly Chung

West Orange High School’s Vice Principal speaks on what it means to be an Educator of excellence in West Orange
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Lesly Chung is an assistant principal of West Orange High School. She has been in the school for 19 years and has undoubtedly shaped it. However, due to the nature of her job, her impacts are harder to notice than those of other staff who interact with students more frequently. For this reason and because of Dr. Chung’s leadership skills, I was interested in an interview to learn more about her role as a leader of excellence.

The interview began with a discussion about Dr. Chung’s journey in the education field. Her high school guidance counselor motivated her to join education because, unexpectedly, her counselor was not helpful. Whenever Dr. Chung needed assistance, she was discouraged. This led to her wanting to become a guidance counselor to give the help she lacked in high school. From there, she became a kindergarten teacher in Newark to get the three years of experience she needed to become a guidance counselor in West Orange. Eventually, her supervisor, Mr. Shay, convinced her to pursue her educational career further and become a leader of the school. Eventually, she was able to become an assistant principal.

Previously, Dr. Chung was an assistant principal and dean who oversaw attendance and discipline, which means she dealt with suspensions and related areas. Now, she oversees the building management and logistics, and even though she only interacts with students during teacher observation, she does a lot for the school. She makes sure that the building is functioning, and she handles any issues. She also builds the master schedule, which means she has to observe the conditions of the courses. Additionally, Dr. Chung handles the building’s logistics and answers questions about the building facilities. Finally, she oversees the substitute teachers and ensures students are supervised. 

The workload Dr. Chung has is large, which made me curious about how she stays motivated. She says that her experience living in the West Orange community as a school counselor convinced her to do more by becoming an assistant principal. She continues to be motivated by the students of the high school, who she believes are extraordinary. Even though her workload might give way to challenges, when asked about any, Dr. Chung found the question difficult to answer. She says that West Orange is collaborative, and she works with her colleagues, such as the principal, assistant principals, deans, and teachers. When there are any problems, support systems are in place to help the staff get assistance.

Another aspect I was curious about was how large changes impacted Dr. Chung’s job, such as the change of principals last year. Dr. Chung said that, while Mr. Moore’s leadership is irreplaceable, that the staff was fortunate to have a great replacement. The change itself felt seamless, as Mr. Guerrero was able to blend in with the administration. Dr. Chung describes Mr. Guerrero as a great asset to the school, and she believes that the district is lucky to have two great leaders.

To finish off the interview, I asked Dr. Chung for any comments she had for people interested in education and for students in general. She told people interested in education that they should do science or math because they are highly sought after. She also says that these people should have a love for the students. Lastly, she said they should shadow a person with the job they want so they know what it is like and if they would enjoy it. As for high school students, she told them to put their best foot forward academically and socially. She wants more than successful students, but successful and caring citizens. She hopes that, once students graduate, the West Orange school district has helped them to become well-rounded adults.

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