PARSIPPANY — “In the last 14 months, we learned how to do more with less. We learned to listen to scientists especially while making policy decisions for people,” said Michael Soriano, Mayor of Parsippany-Troy Hills.
As COVID was spreading in early 2020, his key challenges were maintaining the community’s health and enforcing the best sanitization practices in the most populous township in Morris County.
“As a team, keeping egos out and doing what’s best for the community was important,” Mayor said. He proudly mentioned an example demonstrating how help was extended to local businesses: “Working with the building department’s director, site plans were approved quickly and outdoor dining permit fees were waived for restaurants.”
“Township community-supported leaders and the youth spirit was uplifting,” Mayor Soriano remembers. Residents and community organizations raised money, donated food, and created masks.
This report focuses on how such local leaders outside the healthcare profession adapted during the COVID pandemic.
At the Board of Education, superintendent Dr. Barbara Sargent prioritized transition to virtual classrooms to minimize interruption in learning. “To find out who had a device and internet connection, we conducted a survey and made the necessary equipment available.” To communicate the BOE’s decisions about school schedules consistently and regularly, during rapidly shifting information, she started a Friday Letter to all parents.
As her proudest moment, Dr. Sargent notes, “Our teachers, principals, BOE members, and administrators — Wow! They rolled up sleeves and worked with sheer will, dedication, determination, innovation, and collaborative attitude!”
“Thinking ahead and planning for what we know today while anticipating the change was critical,” recalled Dr. Sargent.
“Post-pandemic,” she said, “instructional technology innovations, such as online interactions with classroom guests, will continue.”
Police Department Chief Andrew Miller said, “Accurate inventory and sanitization of Personal Protective Equipment were critical.” The Police Department managed budgets and secured emergency funds creatively. Community members provided help by sharing business contacts and donations.
The Police Department reduced indoor staff interactions by minimizing overlapping schedules. He emphasized, “Until late 2020, there was no COVID positive case in the department!”
Because people worked from home, burglaries went down and Calls-For-Service (CFS) was reduced by 70%. This provided additional time to officers for COVID-related training. “Officers read complex medical materials and routinely consulted with experts,” recalled Chief Miller. Sometimes, officers operated with full PPE gear for 10-12 hours which was stressful.
“I am a proud Chief!” He continued with appreciation, “The officers showed great professional attitude in serving the community while overcoming stress.”
In summary, by quickly adapting during the pandemic, these leaders continued to serve and help maintain the well-being of their communities.
This article was written Aadit Tembe, a 5th grader at the Lake Hiawatha Elementary School (LHS). He enjoys singing as well as playing musical instruments. He was the winner of LHS variety show 2020 organized by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Additionally, he enjoys playing cricket & soccer.