Lancaster, Merkler Take New School District Roles


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Tom Lancaster (l.) and Bob Merkler

Tom Lancaster is leaving VHS for HBW and Bob Merkler will step into his shoes.

In an email to school parents this morning, Superintendent Dr. Rui Dionisio announced that Lancaster, who has been the assistant principal at Verona High School since September 2015, will become the principal of the Olmsted House at H.B. Whitehorne Middle School. Yvette McNeal, who had held that role, retired at the end of the school year.

To fill Lancaster’s position, the district tapped Merkler, who has been director of athletics and special programs for the school district for the past five years. Merkler also led the creation of district-wide safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, monitored COVID cases, and coordinated vaccinations for district employees.

Lancaster had been an English teacher at West Essex High School and West Essex Middle School before coming to Verona, and has been both an an adjunct professor at Passaic County Community College and the director of a STEM summer program. Before his 18 years in education, Lancaster served four years in the United States Marine Corps, where he was a member of an infantry unit for the 8th Marine Corps Regiment. He has also been a baseball and basketball coach.

At HBW, he will lead half of the middle school’s students. Dr. Dionisio split the school into two academic houses in 2015 and put a previous VHS vice principal, David Galbierczyk, in charge of its Carnegie House while McNeal, who had been the sole principal, led the Olmsted House. (Dr. Dionisio explained the creation of the “house model” format in a post to MyVeronaNJ in May 2015.)

Merkler will begin his 16th year in education this fall. He came to Verona from Edison High School, where he taught physical education and also served on a committee to expand the use of education technology across the Edison school district. As athletic director in Verona, he was a constant presence on the sidelines of every Verona High School sport, sprinting from field to field on foot or in a golf cart to deliver game highlights and encouragement in a steady barrage of Twitter and Instagram updates.

“I am extremely fortunate and thankful that I was considered for this position,” Merkler said in the district’s email. “Growing up, my family always preached academics which led me to pursue a purposeful career in education. To be a small part of such a great school is an amazing feeling. I love watching our kids succeed in the classroom, on the fields and stages, and in life overall. I am beyond excited to begin my new role and continue to serve and contribute to our community in a positive way.” The email said that Merkler will also lead the search for his replacement.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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