School District Honors Derry’s ‘World Changers’

Laura Nelson, superintendent of School Administrative Unit (SAU) 10, beckoned to members of the Derry Fire and Police departments as they took the stage at the Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy. As they stood in front of the school and district administrators, one man from the audience called out, “It looks like a lineup!”

It was, but not the criminal type.

The Derry Cooperative School District held its Opening Day meeting for teachers, administrators and staff on Tuesday, Aug. 26. Part school assembly, part pep rally, part Oscar ceremony, it brought the district together to celebrate their achievements in 2013-14 and to honor the policemen and firefighters, all of whom work for the children, Nelson said, as part of “Team Derry.”

Nelson opened the rally by having each school’s representatives stand. Many were dressed in their school’s colors. She honored SAU staff, custodians and the Buildings and Grounds Department under Gary Webster, who received a standing ovation. She recognized the Information Technology (IT) professionals, noting that, like bartenders, they carry everyone’s secrets.

“They work on the fly, whatever our needs are at the moment,” Nelson said of IT.

Her opening remarks honored everyday heroes. “Each of us had our own school experience, and we bring that experience to the job. You are many things to many people, but you rise to the challenge,” she told her teachers and staff.

Nelson made recognition of her invited guests, the police, fire personnel and Pinkerton Headmaster Griffin Morse, who all sat in the front row. “You share our mission in serving others,” she said. The mission, she said, is to see that “all children are safe, nurtured and ready to learn.” Derry tuitions its high school students to Pinkerton.

Police Chief Ed Garone, Fire Chief George Klauber and Morse took turns at the podium. “I always felt it was important to work as a team,” said Garone, who has served the town for more than 40 years.

“My department cares about and is committed to children,” Klauber said, adding, “When I was growing up, the most exciting day was the first day of school.”

Morse, who arrived on campus in July, said he has had “nothing but warm welcomes” from Derry. Regarding his semi-private school and the public Derry School District, he said, “We need to sustain and increase the momentum we have, provide resources for each other, and make the walls disappear.”

Nelson honored the following employees with Longevity Awards: 30 years, Rachel Cobban, Derry Village School; and 20 years, Karen Ragoza, Barka School, Karen Bagley, South Range School, Corinna Boisvert, Barka School, Amy Landry, Derry Village School, Rose McAfoose, South Range School, Jane Richardson, West Running Brook Middle School; Mary Klotz, West Running Brook; and Linda Bradley, Gilbert H. Hood Middle School.

Each school and the district honored a “World Changer” from 2013-14. “They are special people who go above and beyond, who make a difference every day in all they do,” Nelson said.

The following people were honored as “World Changers”:

• Ernest P. Barka School, MaryEllen Stella. Principal Dan Lafleur said Stella has been the leader of the Kids Care Club, expanding it to 90 students, and has also been involved with the ski club and Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

• Derry Village School, Kristina Hunter. Principal Chris McCallum noted that Hunter literally “changes the world” with her volunteer work in Haiti.

• Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, Russell Manchester. Assistant Principal Susan Gualteri listed Manchester’s activities, including the former School In Need of Improvement committee, the Faculty Follies and curriculum mapping.

• East Derry Memorial School, Robin Jackson. Principal Kim Carpentino said Jackson performs her job as custodian very well, but goes above and beyond, frequently weeding the garden, mowing the lawn and “knowing every student by name.”

• Grinnell Elementary School, Terry Stallings. Principal Mary Hill told Stallings, “You are an enthusiastic team player, work collaboratively, always come in with a smile on your face, and are in tune with each student’s needs.”

• South Range Elementary School, Marjorie Butler. Principal Matt Olsen said of Butler, “She is an unsung hero working tirelessly behind the scenes and assisting challenging students with great success. She rolls with the punches.”

• West Running Brook Middle School, Blake Leister. Assistant Principal Bill Fox said as chorus director and assistant drama director, Leister “prepares students for life’s performances” and Assistant Principal Lorrie Belinsky compared Leister to Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”

Nelson gave the district’s World Changer award to recently-retired Derry Village School Principal Steve Miller, who served the district for 34 years as a teacher and principal.

Nelson also honored Garone, Klauber and their departments with World Changer awards. “You are the unsung heroes, like educators,” she told the safety professionals. She emphasized the need for all the departments to work together for the town’s children, noting, “We are ‘Team Derry.’”

The meeting closed with a video of the past year’s highlights, prepared by media specialist David Minkle.