In his two years at , Marco Cera always was a presence in the school's halls.
The dynamic and charismatic assistant principal knew students' names and, by being visible, gave students the chance to get to know him and interact with him, Principal Greg Robertson said.
Cera died April 6 of mesothelioma at the age of 39, and Madison teachers and administrators are working on a plan to formally honor his memory, Robertson said Monday.
Current high school students did not have Cera as their assistant principal because he took a principal position in another district before they entered the school, but former students who did know him shared the news and reacted to it online, Robertson said.
Cera built strong relationships with staff members as well as students, and teachers began discussing possible ways to honor his memory, Robertson said.
Cera, who is survived by his wife and two daughters, taught in Pompton Lakes and was an administrator in Kitatinny before coming to Madison in 2006, and later took principal positions in Franklin Lakes and Mountain Lakes.
Robertson hired Cera in his third year as principal and said it was an easy decision.
"He was far and away our No. 1 choice," he said.
Cera had a strong instructional background. Additionally, he could ensure rules were consistently followed and had a "unique ability to balance that toughness and compassion with kids," Roberston said.
Staff members came to know they could go to Cera and he would support them, Robertson said.
Cera was a graduate of Blair Academy and Providence College, had a master's from Montclair State University and was pursuing his doctorate at Seton Hall University.
According to his obituary, he was an avid reader, historian, and enthusiastic golfer and sports fan.
In remembering Cera, Larry Loprete, a member of the Franklin Lakes Board of Education, who was petrified about her first week in middle school.
"On the second day of school she saw Mr. Cera, who knew her name, in the hallway and he told her he knew a shortcut to her class," Loprete said. "There was no shortcut ... but when the girl went home that day after school, she told her mom she'd never be nervous again.
"That's the kind of guy Marco was," Loprete said.