Wyalusing's New Elementary School Opens
By David Keeler
"It’s a grand day in Wyalusing" Representative Tina Pickett
State Representative Tina Pickett described Monday’s ribbon cutting ceremony at Wyalusing’s new elementary school perfectly: “Wow! I feel excitement in the air,” she said to a crowd estimated at close to 1,000 people gathered outside the new school.
A former Wyalusing Valley High School student, Pickett said she understood the concerns over losing the four elementary schools that are now closed in Laceyville, Wyalusing, New Albany and Camptown. She said it was hard for those communities to give up their schools. “It’s an identity for those communities,” she said.
Pickett recalled the days when she was a student and numerous small schools were consolidated to form the Wyalusing Area School District. “It was so exciting but I know the trauma and all the concern from parents and all the people in the towns and all the changes that took place,” Pickett said. “But I can tell you as a student, it was fun. It was so much fun to go into that new school and enjoy all of the different things that were there. I had a wonderful education in a two-room school, but I didn’t have all of the amenities that the new school brought to us.”
To students in the audience, Pickett said: “And that’s the way you’re going to feel. I had a chance to tour this school to see all the things in there that are just going to be a wonderful part of your learning experience. I’m excited for you and I know you’re excited, too. It won’t be hard to fall in love with this school, and I think everybody involved is going to do that, from the students, families, staff and administration. I think it’s going to be a very enjoyable experience.”
Concluding her remarks, Pickett said not all communities have top-notch schools like Wyalusing. “We have schools in Pennsylvania that are doing poorly, that are not doing the job, that are not educating those kids. They’re not giving them a future. They’re not bringing them to a point where they’re able to compete in the marketplace like they will need to do throughout their lives. We can be proud that Wyalusing Valley is not one of those schools and that we are offering the best education that we possibly can to our young people. We know that they will go from this school and the other school on this campus and do a great job in life and enjoy their lives very much and be successful. I thank everybody who’s been involved. I know there’s been a lot of debate, a lot of discussion and a lot of research but we’re here. We got the school and it’s a grand day in Wyalusing.”
"Somebody Up There Was Watching Over Us" District Superintendent Ray Fleming
District Superintendent Ray Fleming served as master of ceremonies at the ribbon cutting and welcomed the large audience. He introduced current and former board members. Current board members include: Vince Amoroso, Larry Franklin, Crystal Hons, Barbara Hugo, Richard Robinson, Chad Salsman, Deborah Stethers, Tari Trowbridge and Brian Zeidner. Former board members who helped bring the new school to Wyalusing included: the late Robert Hanzok, Deborah Allyn, Tracy Keeney, Phil Swank, Keith Bluhm and Julie Paddock.
Fleming described the new school as an amazing piece of architecture. “I’m glad I had a part in it and I’m glad it happened, even though I wasn’t real excited about it in the beginning,” Fleming said. “To put a building like this together in 18 months is really quite amazing—and that’s what it took—18 months. We had a lot of good luck with weather, a lot of good luck with other things and somebody up there was watching over us as we went through this project because it went very well.”
"This is a Historic Day" Assistant District Superintendent Chester Mummau
Chester Mummau, who will succeed Fleming as District Superintendent next month, extended his thanks “on behalf of the children here in the Wyalusing Valley, to current and former board members, school employees, Mr. Fleming and the community for what you’ve done to make this building happen. The opportunities afforded here would have been very difficult to have happen in four buildings scattered in each corner of the district.”
Mummau said the “Welcome to Wyalusing” billboard on Route 6 applied to the new school building as well. “If we could bring that sign here and put it on the wall, those three words sum it up today pretty much for me: This is a historic day. It will go down in history as a historic day, it’s a progressive day, showing that this community cares about education and this school board is forward thinking. And, of course, you’re going to find friendly people inside the building. I’ve been in the building and I think when you go through this evening you’ll find ‘something new, something old, something borrowed and maybe even something blue,’ if you look hard enough. There are lots of neat things in there that I think the kids will benefit from.”
It’s Not an Ending, It’s a Beginning Board President Deborah Stethers
Deborah Stethers, school board president, said the new school completes the Max P. Gannon campus. “Tonight we recognize the many years of planning, constructing the building and fulfilling the promises that we made two years ago. The structure itself is complete, but we’re at the beginning of a new way of educating our younger students by bringing them all together under one roof,” Stethers said.
She thanked the school board’s Building Committee and the Construction Management Team for helping deliver promises of personal involvement and financial responsibility. “For the students in the crowd tonight,” Stethers said, “that also means an occasional outdoor art or library class, several new computer labs and your very own gymnasium.” She read a list of contractors and others whom she thanked for their hard work and offered special thanks to Greg Butterball of Quandel who she said was “on site to watch every detail on behalf of the school district on a daily basis.”
Paraphrasing her comments at the school’s groundbreaking ceremony two years ago, Stethers said: “Our gathering at this site today, symbolizes the ongoing task of the school board, the administration and the staff in planning for the future education of our students. We continue to keep our focus on the mission statement, which reads: The mission of the Wyalusing Area School District is to provide all students with academic and problem-solving skills central for personal development, responsible citizenship and lifelong learning. We will provide a respectful, nurturing and stimulating environment through an educational partnership among families, school, and community with an innovative curriculum that meets the challenges of tomorrow.”
In closing, Stethers emphasized the caring that went into the new school. “If you’ve ever heard of anything made in a labor of love, this is it. It’s not an ending, it’s just a beginning.”
"Bring The Compassion, Passion
And Pride to This New Place" Board Member Vince Amoroso
Vince Amoroso, who headed the school board’s building committee, said it had been an honor for him to serve the community. “Not many people have the opportunity to be part of such a challenge as conceptualizing and completing a school building,” Amoroso said. “Our core committee, which has been living with and refining the vision of this school through weekly meetings and daily emails since October 2008 has faced many decisions. We were fortunate to have the help of our knowledgeable and responsive architect and construction management team to guide us in these decisions, and we hope you are pleased with the results.”
Amoroso went on to say the thing about this project that really stood out for him is the effort and dedication of the building committee concerning the educational concept and design of the school. “We all know of the many positive features that our small community schools had to offer, but I honestly believe we accomplished our goal of taking the best features of those schools and incorporating them into this school’s concept and design. I also believe that we accomplished our goal of interacting with the staff as much as possible so that they could tailor their areas to do their jobs with efficiency and excellence.”
In conclusion, Amoroso asked teachers, support staff, maintenance staff, volunteers, parent organizations and bus drivers to carry on what has been started. “Take advantage of the benefits of being on one campus. Communicate with a positive overtone. Create new communities. Bring the compassion, passion and pride that you had a few months ago in our community schools to this new place and new beginning and use this new school as a platform for the educational success and the welfare of our students.”
"The New School is Worthy Of The Wait and Anticipation"
Architect Scott Vencil
Architect Scott Vencil praised board members for their dedication to the building project, which entered the planning stage in 2004. “Your effort early on in sticking with and by this and your determination to see this building project through is testament to you for the hard work and the dedication that you have for the students, the faculty, the staff and for this school district,” Vencil said. He described the new school as a state-of-the-art facility, complete with a very inviting lobby space, large classroom spaces with an abundance of natural light, separate gymnasium and cafeteria. Vencil noted that the new school, according to the PA Department of Education, was the second most cost-effective elementary school bid in the state of Pennsylvania for 2009. He said the new school has been worthy of the wait and anticipation.
Vencil ended his remarks by presenting the official key to the building to superintendent Ray Fleming.
"I Really Hope The Kids Enjoy Their New School"
Greg Butterball said the ribbon cutting was a great day for the community. This is one of the best days for a new school. I appreciate everyone b John eing here. There has been a lot of community support here, and I really hope the kids enjoy their new school.”
Fleming presented Butterball with a Certificate of Appreciation from the school board, saying that Butterball was a chief reason why the school was completed in just 18 months.
John Waltman of Quandel thanked the school board. “It’s been a great project and I hope you enjoy the new school,” he said. Waltman presented Elementary Principal Joe Darrow with what he described as a key to the school, which was a color enlargement of the key card Darrow uses to enter the school.
"Let’s Cut the Ribbon and Get into That Building"
Elementary Principal Joseph Darrow
Darrow, who was the final speaker of the afternoon, began his remarks by saying to his students: “Good afternoon boys and girls.”
The students loudly responded: “Good afternoon, Mr. Darrow.”
“It’s just like we never ended,” Darrow replied.
Darrow extended his thanks to all the staff in the elementary buildings “for putting up with me for the last six and a half years. I know it’s been difficult. I know at times you thought ‘where is Mr. Darrow?’ (It was kind of like finding Waldo out there). But we’re worked hard on this project to make a powerful statement for education here in Wyalusing. To everybody here tonight and to those who couldn’t be here, I say thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done for us. Now let’s cut the ribbon and get into that building.”
The high school band played the Alma Mater and Ray Fleming shouted “one, two, three, cut.” And the building was officially open.