By Steve Sears
Vee Popat, Principal of West Essex Middle School for the past six years, is departing for Greenville, South Carolina where he will assume the Director position of the Fine Arts Center.
Popat, who has 17 years experience in public education, leaves not minus a deep affection for the area and the students he served. “West Essex has been amazingly supportive!” he says. “From the Superintendent, to the parents and students, to our Faculty and Staff – everyone has been so kind to me and my family as we went through this change. I have always been treated with respect by the community – they gave me time to learn my position, supported our initiatives, and entrusted us with the education of their children. The experiences I have gained in my six years at West Essex have had a profound impact on my personal and professional growth, and I will always be grateful for my time here.”
For Popat, whose wife’s family lives in Greenville and both also have a lot of extended family there, the new location is certainly familiar. “We have visited Greenville many times and have enjoyed our experiences with the city and surrounding areas. Considering the age of my children and the importance we place on our family, this was the ideal time for us to make a move.” And the position he inherits is right up his alley. “In researching the move, it just so happened that the position of ‘Director of the Fine Arts Center’ was open. Though my career has progressed into building-level leadership, I have always maintained my passion for the arts. Outside of school, I continue to perform professionally as a jazz saxophonist, and I maintain a studio of students who I teach on a weekly basis. My children are heavily involved in the arts as well. The position I earned in Greenville allows me to continue my work as a building-level leader in an environment that offers the highest level of arts education.”
Popat first served as a teacher for nine years as a band director prior to moving into administration. The majority of his career as a music educator was in the award-winning programs of the Randolph school system, he earned “Teacher of the Year” honors in 2007 (Randolph Middle School) and 2011 (Ironia Elementary School). In the fall of 2011, he was promoted to the role of Supervisor of Arts, leading the Music, Art, Dance, Family/Consumer Science, and Mass Media programs.
“After 11 years in Randolph, I moved to the West Essex Regional School District to lead the Visual and Performing Arts Program. An opportunity came up to interview for the Middle School Principalship, and since I was very happy in West Essex, I decided to go for it. I served as Middle School Principal for six years before making the decision to move my family out of state.”
Popat and his wife Heather have been married for 13 years, and are parents to twins, Nate and Charlotte, who are 10, and another daughter, Addison, who is 3. “There is no more challenging and satisfying job than being a parent. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” he beams. He feels equitable support between he and his wife aided the move and their future. “We (he and Heather) have always supported each other in our careers and at home. We believe that we should be growing as much individually as we do together.”
Popat speaks about the value of educating. “Creating opportunities for students and educators to grow. Fostering an environment that is simultaneously challenging and supportive. To me education equals opportunity – it is the basis for a successful life, and I feel blessed to play a role in molding the future of our country.”