By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY
VENTNOR – The Board of Education Wednesday, June 24 honored its Teachers of the Year, those who are retiring and longtime board member Albert Battaglia during a Zoom meeting attended by nearly 30 individuals.
Superintendent Eileen Johnson declined speaking about any of them and instead allowed district principals to provide commentary about their years of service to the students and community.
Elementary School Principal and Superintendent-elect Carmella Somershoe spoke about the contributions of Teacher of the Year Kelly Winesickle, a first-grade teacher whom she said is a great collaborator with the grade level team.
“It is a pleasure to have her on staff,” she said.
Somershoe said Winsickle always advocates for students, does whatever she can to help her students, and “goes above and beyond” what is expected.
Middle School Principal Rob Baker, who is seeking a doctorate in educational leadership, said eighth grade social studies teacher Debbie Duff is exceptional at bringing technology into the classroom.
Duff is the leader of the Falcon Code of Conduct team, and “the kids love the way she brings history alive.”
“She is an amazing person,” he said. “We are grateful to have her.”
Board President Douglas Biagi thanked them and expressed regret that due to the coronavirus pandemic, the board is unable to recognize them in person.
The board also recognized retiring teachers JoAnn Farhood, Eileen Henrich, Michelle Mitnick and Jo Von Sternberg. Again, the principals spoke about each one’s contributions to the success of the students and the district.
Baker said Henrich, who came to the district late in her educational career and made changes “right off the bat,” encourages her students to “dive deep” to develop their thinking skills.
“We have had great conversations about teaching…she has made me a better principal,” he said.
Von Sternberg’s philosophy of teaching has become a way of life in the middle school, especially because of the high expectations she has for all her students, even those who struggle.
Somershoe said Mitnick took time to make changes and is always ready with suggestions that help her students perform at a higher level.
“She made learning interesting and engaging for the students,” Somershoe said.
Supervisor of Special Education Alison Ricciotti said Farhood was exceptional at helping her English Language Learning students assimilate into the school and community culture.
Biagi credited Johnson with “keeping me in line,” he said.
“She always handled things in a motherly but stern way” and faced challenges head-on.
He said she was a great problem solver, who “chose to leave at the top of her game.”
“She brought the city to a new level with education. She is an amazing human being,” he said.
Vice-president Kim Bassford credited Johnson for achieving High Performing District status, and improving security in the building.
“Our security is the best in the state,” she said.
She also credited Johnson for getting students and staff through online learning during the COVID-19 crisis.
Baker said Johnson is like a sister to him, and that she never loses.
Although political issues often see participants come to the table with their own agendas, Johnson’s “one and only agenda is what’s best for the kids.”
Baker said always “stuck to her guns” and is “leaving the district better than when she came.”
Biagi credited Battaglia, who was a school board member for many years and had extensive teaching experience, “was passionate about putting kids first.”
“That is what makes a great school board member,” he said.
Biagi thanked Battaglia, who was not in attendance, on behalf of the board for his many years of service.
In other business, Cafeteria Supervisor Patricia Pettigrosso announced the district will be providing free lunches for residents under age 18 during July and August.
The board also reviewed the Board Member Code of Conduct and the Code of Conduct for conducting online meetings.
Baker also described the procedure for holding a graduation ceremony on the grounds of the school 6 p.m., Monday, July 6. Parents of students in each eighth grade homeroom will stay in their vehicles in the parking lot, while students on the field make their farewell addresses and are promoted to high school.
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