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Verona High School (New Jersey)

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Type  Public high school
Principal  Joshua Cogdill
Faculty  48.2 FTEs
Phone  +1 973-571-2029
Color  White
Number of students  620 (2014–2015)
School district  Verona Public Schools
Vice principal  Tom Lancaster
Grades  9–12
District  Verona Public Schools
Motto  Your Future Starts Here
Lowest grade  Ninth grade
Verona High School (New Jersey)

Address  151 Fairview Ave, Verona, NJ 07044, USA
Similar  Cedar Grove High School, West Essex High School, MyVeron LLC, Glen Ridge High School, Montclair Kimberley Academy

Verona High School is a four-year comprehensive community public high school, serving students in ninth through twelfth grade in Verona, in Essex County, New Jersey, United States, operating as the lone secondary school of the Verona Public Schools. The school has been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools since 1947.


As of the 2014-15 school year, the school had an enrollment of 620 students and 48.2 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 12.9:1. There were 11 students (1.8% of enrollment) eligible for free lunch and 0 (0.0% of students) eligible for reduced-cost lunch.

The school mascot is the Verona Hillbilly, which was originally pictured with a bottle of whiskey and a shotgun, but was revised to be with a dog and a fishing pole, due to concerns of school violence and under-age drinking.

Awards, recognition and rankings

Verona High School won the New Jersey Star School Award for the 1995–96 school year. The school won the New Jersey Best Practice Award in the 1995–96 school year for Citizenship / Tolerance in recognition of its program in Prejudice Reduction. In the 1997–98 school year, it received the Best Practice Award for Citizenship & Character Education in recognition of Teaching Responsibility Through Involvement.

The school was the 56th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 339 schools statewide in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2014 cover story on the state's "Top Public High Schools", using a new ranking methodology. The school had been ranked 70th in the state of 328 schools in 2012, after being ranked 53rd in 2010 out of 322 schools listed. The magazine ranked the school 53rd in 2008 out of 316 schools. The school was ranked 47th in the magazine's September 2006 issue, which included 316 schools across the state. ranked the school tied for 133rd out of 381 public high schools statewide in its 2011 rankings (an increase of 33 positions from the 2010 ranking) which were based on the combined percentage of students classified as proficient or above proficient on the mathematics (83.7%) and language arts literacy (95.4%) components of the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).

In the 2011 "Ranking America's High Schools" issue by The Washington Post, the school was ranked 59th in New Jersey and 1,718th nationwide.

In its 2013 report on "America's Best High Schools", The Daily Beast ranked the school 718th in the nation among participating public high schools and 56th among schools in New Jersey.


The Verona High School Hillbillies compete in the Super Essex Conference, following a reorganization of sports leagues in Northern New Jersey by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). With 453 students in grades 10–12, the school was classified by the NJSIAA for the 2015–16 school year as North I, Group I for most athletic competition purposes, which included schools with an enrollment of 187 to 490 students in that grade range. Prior to the realignment in 2010, the school had participated in the Colonial Hills Conference, which was made up of public and parochial high schools covering Essex County, Morris County and Somerset County in Northern New Jersey.

The school is the host school / lead agency for a joint ice hockey program in partnership with Glen Ridge High School, under an agreement that expires at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

The boys' basketball team won the Group II state championship in 1957, defeating Ocean City High School in the tournament's final game.

The boys' soccer team won the Group III state championship in 1958 (as co-champion with Chatham Borough High School) and 1959 (vs. Jonathan Dayton High School), won the Group II title in 1957 and 1960 (vs. Irvington Tech High School both years), 1966 (vs. Morris Knolls High School) and 1976 (vs. Lawrence High School), and won the Group I title in 1981 (vs. Montgomery High School).

The boys' tennis team won the Group I state championship in 1981 vs. Pitman High School.

The football team has won the North II Group I state sectional championship in 2001 and 2008, and the North I Group I title in 2014.


The girls' track team won the North II, Group I sectional title and the Group I state championship. The girls softball team won the North II, Group I title for the first time ever, and along with the baseball team, won the Conference title. The girls tennis team won the North II Group I title and finished 2nd in the state for Group I.


The boys' and girls' spring track and field teams both won the Colonial Hills Conference Relay Championship, ending the boys' 53-year title drought. Both the boys' and girls' teams also went on to win the Colonial Hills Conference Championships, sweeping the Conference. The boys' baseball team tied the school record for most wins in a season with 21, and made it to the North I Group I sectional championship game, falling to Hasbrouck Heights High School 7–4 in the tournament final.

In the 2007–08 school year, the men's cross country team defeated Pingry School for the conference victory. It was the first in school history. The following week, the team followed up with a state sectional championship, the first since 1980 when they tied with Kinnelon for the title.

Rick Porcello of Seton Hall pitched a perfect game at the Verona High School baseball field.


The boys indoor track and field team won their first conference championship, as well as winning the North II Group I state sectional championship. The boys and girls both won the North I, Group I state sectional championship for indoor and outdoor track, a first for the boys' squad, and for the second consecutive year for the girls' squad.

In 2008, the football team finished the season with an 11–1 record and were North II Group I state champions with a 13–12 victory over Hoboken High School in the final, earning the program's first sectional title since 2001.


The boys' indoor track and field team won their second consecutive Colonial Hills Conference championship, and North I Group I state sectional championship.

The girls' basketball team won the Super Essex Conference (SEC) championship, the program's first conference title since 1976.


The football team won the North I Group I state championship defeating Cresskill High School by a score of 20–0 in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. The Hillbillies finished the season 11–0, clinching the first undefeated season in program history.


The Verona Marching Band was one of three bands to win the newly awarded Cadets Award at both the USSBA state competition and the USSBA nationals competition. The concert band was the first non-professional band to be performing at Newark's Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. In April 2016 the Verona High School Concert Band performed at the Cathedral again, under the direction of Erik Lynch.


Verona High has a long history of drama clubs and productions.

Productions began in the 1920s with Edmond Rostand's The Romancers (1926) being the final production directed by Winifred Bostwick, a long-time teacher at the school. Other shows helmed by Bostwick had included The Exchange (1922), The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife (1923) and The Knave of Hearts in 1925.

Harold Butterworth was a longtime director for the club (1936–1956). Under his direction, the drama club boasted its largest membership (137 registered members in 1945), became The Troupers in 1951 and continued to present contemporary dramas. Then, after Butterworth's tenure, The Troupers presented their first "classic" play: Thornton Wilder's Our Town, also the last play performed at the then-VHS building that is now H. B. Whitehorne Middle School.

A series of directors took the Troupers into Fairview Avenue's newly constructed Verona High School, where they performed such classics as The Man Who Came to Dinner (1958), You Can't Take It with You (1960), and Arsenic and Old Lace (1962). Sometime in this era, the title Troupers disappeared in favor of the more generic Drama Club.

In the early 1970s, classic productions dominated: Harvey (1972, directed by Ruth Garoni), a new production of Arsenic and Old Lace (1973 and presented again in 1993) and the first production of a true Broadway musical – Oliver!, combining the students of the high school and middle school under the music direction of long-time Verona band teacher, Harry Owens. Director Jim Walsh continued dramatic shows on alternate years with Scapino, Count Dracula, and The Good Doctor.

In the early 80s, Maurice J. Moran began his 27-year tenure as drama advisor and introduced both a non-musical and musical in the same school year. The Importance of Being Earnest, Mame (1982), Grease (1984), The Fantasticks (1985), Godspell (1986), The Odd Couple, "Story Theater" and The Crucible are some examples of shows done in the 80s.

In 1991, the VHS Drama Club became The Spotlight Players. In 1996, VHS joined 100 other New Jersey high schools participating in the Paper Mill Playhouse's Rising Star Awards, winning a "best actress" nomination in its first year with a repeat production of Anything Goes. New plays and classic musicals (and Star nominations) continued as the 90s closed: All in the Timing, The Canterbury Tales, and Senior Square contrasting with Gypsy, The Music Man, and Pippin.

The 21st century began with what was apparently only the second VHS Shakespeare presentation: A Midsummer Night's Dream. In that same year, parent volunteers organized themselves to help the performing arts as The Spotlight Players Parents Association. To raise funds for the theater program, the parents' group began the annual Verona Talent Night, which continues to give an opportunity for Verona students, adults, and friends to sing, dance, play musical instruments, or tell jokes without the need for competition.

In 2002, for the first time, a completely student-produced musical was presented, Bat Boy: The Musical. The show was presented by the then-recently established local chapter of the International Thespian Society, and featured a student cast, with a student director, music director, band, and choreographer. Other productions have included Godspell, You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and the 2006 presentation of Musical of Musicals, being featured in The Star-Ledger's "Young and Talented" column.

Another major change was the hiring of an outside director. After 30 years directing school musicals around North Jersey, Moran decided to give up that role and serve instead as a producer of the musicals. He continued to direct the non-musicals (Moon Over Buffalo in 2005, for example) but recent musicals have been directed by non-VHS faculty, with 2008's On the Town being the third production directed by Danielle Aldrich.

Verona's drama program expanded in 2008, with the revamping of the theater including new seats, better acoustics, and a new lighting and sound booth. A One-Act Play Festival began in May of that year, bringing the number of theater offerings to four per year.

Do Anything Nice (D.A.N.)

Do Anything Nice (D.A.N.) is a student-led organization that demonstrates the importance of acts of kindness in everyday life and leads in creative strategies for people to practice kindness in their daily lives. D.A.N. members engage in innovative new methods to bring community service to educational institutions.

Founded by a small group of senior students, VHS D.A.N. is now in its 7th year active at Verona High School. In fall 2001 the first random act of kindness was to put candy in every student's locker during the evening hours of the night. Since then the club has expanded to include a second D.A.N. chapter located at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, that is now in its 3rd year active.

GSA (Gender and Sexuality Alliance)

The GSA (formerly Gay Straight Alliance) is run by Dana Lustig and Dr. Stacey Smith.

Early in the 2014–2015 school year, Verona High School saw a social change. Three students, (one junior and two freshmen) came out as female-to-male transgender. There was very little rejection from other students. This caused the club to rethink its name and have it incorporate more people that fall under the LGBTQ "umbrella". Sexuality and gender identity fall on a spectrum; there is no exact definition for every individual's situation. Therefore, the name was changes from the very limiting Gay Straight Alliance to the more broad and all-encompassing, Gender and Sexuality Alliance.


Core members of the school's administration are:

  • Joshua Cogdill – Principal
  • Tom Lancaster - Assistant Principal
  • Notable alumni

  • Kevin Bannon, basketball coach at The College of New Jersey (Trenton State College – Hall of Fame), Rider University (Hall of Fame), Rutgers University and Saint Peter's College (Hall of Fame-Player).
  • Anthony Fasano (born 1984), tight end for the Miami Dolphins.
  • Fred Hill Jr. (born 1959), head coach of the Rutgers University men's basketball team.
  • Jay Mohr (born 1970), comedian and actor.
  • Kal Parekh, actor who appeared in the ABC TV series Pan Am.
  • The original, unaired pilot of the television show Strangers with Candy was filmed in Verona High School. The VHS signboard is also used in almost every episode thereafter to display various witticisms, although the name has been changed to that of the school in the show, Flatpoint High School.


    Verona High School (New Jersey) Wikipedia