After serving on the Union City Board of Education for 10 years, President Leonard Calvo will be retiring from the board when his term expires this May.
“I loved serving the board,” said Calvo. “It’s a bittersweet feeling to leave, but I feel I had a great run for almost ten and a half years. I think I have served the board and the children of Union City well.”
Calvo first joined the board as a trustee in 1997 after he was approached by then Mayor Bruce Walter, and at the age of 27 he was the youngest member to come onto the board.
“He said they were looking for new young blood. I was a product of the school system and I just really wanted to serve,” said Calvo. “I was very honored, and being on the board gave me the opportunity to work with the children and give back in different ways.”
He also served as vice president of the board from 2002 to 2004 before finally taking his position as president from 2004 until the present.
“I’ve always put children first,” said Calvo.
“There are a lot of good things you can say about Lenny Calvo,” said Superintendent Stanley Sanger. “On behalf of [myself], the board of education, and on behalf of the children and citizens of Union City, we want to thank him for his many years of service. He proved to be a true advocate of children. All of his decisions were based on what is best for the children, and that is all you can truly ask from a board member.”
A product of Union City
Born and raised in Union City, Calvo is the son of Cuban immigrants and the youngest of six brothers and sisters, who were all educated at Hudson Elementary School and Emerson High School.
During his teens, Calvo was also actively involved with the Emerson Student Council, and addressed the board on student needs.
“The school system was a second home and our safe haven,” said Calvo. “Union City has been very good to us and we have been good to Union City.”
One of Calvo’s sisters are teachers and one of his brothers is an assistant principal in the Union City school system. Calvo and his brother also serve as firemen for the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue.
Calvo, who has worked for the department since 1995, was also promoted to fire captain two years ago.
“I love Union City,” said Calvo. “I was raised here, I was educated here, and I will always call Union City my home.”
Bringing about change
Serving on the board since 1997, Calvo has been active in the positive changes going on in the district including the building of new schools and renovations to existing facilities.
“There have been a lot of changes over the past ten years, and the new high school is going to make history here,” said Calvo.
When he first came to the board, the school district was also on the verge of being taken over by the state if state test scores did not improve.
“[Calvo] helped Union City through its transformation and made improvements to be a leading Abbot District in the state,” said Sanger. “He also used his background as a firefighter to concentrate on a lot of issues relating to safety and cleanliness.”
Today Union City is one of the highest performing urban districts in the state, and some of its schools have been given State Benchmark status as a model Abbott District for the last three years.
“I have always leaned in favor of the kids and student issues,” said Calvo.
Over the years, Calvo has also had the opportunity to work with many of his school mentors growing up, including two current assistant superintendents, Gerald Caputo and Robert Fazio, who were once his teachers.
“It’s been great working with this administration and Superintendent Stanley Sanger,” said Calvo. “He has a great administrative team.”
Time for a change
Calvo’s term officially ends on May 16 at the board’s reorganization meeting.
“After 10 years on the board I feel like I need a change in my life,” said Calvo. “I want to spend more time with my wife and my children right now.”
Calvo is the father of three small children.
“They’re getting older and I’m spending less time with them when it should be the opposite,” he said. “I really don’t want to miss a tee ball game or a soccer game. I want to be there for them the way my mom was always there for us.”
Calvo had actually contemplated leaving last year, but Mayor Brian Stack asked him to stay out his term.
At the May 16 reorganization meeting, the board will also select a new president at that time.
“I believe the board will look for someone who does have some experience on the board and is aware of the contemporary issues on the board, so we can ensure a smooth transition and continue our educational services,” said Sanger.
Jessica Rosero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org