By: Megan Roche
A process that started three and a half years ago was something that even Dr. Steven Forte would have never seen coming when he was in high school. As the Superintendent of Denville’s K-8 Schools, education is the number one thing on Forte’s mind, so much so that he recently successfully defended his doctoral dissertation and is now known around the district and Denville as a whole as Doctor Steven Forte.
Forte’s dissertation, titled “New Jersey School Funding and Referendum Passage and Analysis of Recent Elections”, focused on what things and events can affect whether or not a referendum gets passed. He specifically looked at the time of year and whether or not adding money for school security helps with the referendums passage. Getting started was the biggest hurdle that Forte had to overcome.
“For anyone who is thinking about doing a doctoral program, just start. Education is something that people can never take away from you. You can never have too much of it. It’s pretty cool to say that I’m a doctor now. It’s weird when I hear other people say it because I’m not used to it. When you see it in writing, it’s weird, but at the same time, it’s incredible.” Forte said.
Forte grew up in West Orange and graduated from West Orange High School in 1985. He headed off to college immediately after high school, only to be kicked out after freshman year. He got a job working as a security guard for Channel Lumber before he took control of his life and got re-enrolled in school. After graduating from college with a degree in education, Forte’s first teaching job was at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge as a special education teacher.
When he became the Superintendent in Denville in 2014, he inherited buildings that were damaged, the district’s finances were a mess, and many repairs were imminently needed. Thanks to his work and the working relationship he shares with the Denville Township Board of Education, the school district looks better than ever. He will be the Superintendent of Denville’s K-8 Public Schools through June 2022.
Forte chose Saint Peter’s University as his school for his doctorate due to an easy location and its athletic prowess. While the school’s main campus is located in Jersey City, Forte’s classes were held at Morris Knolls High School during the evening, a commute for Forte that took about 10 minutes if traffic was backed up on Route 46. Believe it or not, there were definitely times when Forte didn’t feel like this was as much fun as he’d hoped.
“The perseverance to push through all of this was a big thing I learned. Who wants to go into their office on a Sunday and work? You don’t feel like doing it and reading about a pretty boring topic and writing. But then, somehow, you get through it and it’s over. It stops hanging over your head and you feel really accomplished when it’s all said and done.” Forte said.
After defending his dissertation in December, the night of his defense, after all the signatures were acquired, Mr. Forte then became Dr. Forte. Saint Peter’s University will hold its graduation ceremonies at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel in May, a ceremony that Forte and his family, wife Lisa, daughter Marissa, and son Anthony will be in attendance at.
“The biggest reason I did this was for my kids, both my own and the kids in my district. I wanted them to see that you can always keep continuing to learn. I wanted them to see that you can always do better and push through every day and to teach them that mentality. It was really just something I have always wanted to do, I love challenges.”