By Beth David, Editor
With lots of hoots and hollers, dancing and singing, the Acushnet School community celebrated the designation of the elementary school as a “Distinguished School,” by the National ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) Program.
Last Wednesday, 1/25/23, the school held a ceremony at the Acushnet Elementary School (AES) with distinguished invited guests from the Mass. Department of Education, state elected representatives, and local officials.
AES principal Leah Chesney started the celebration with lots of praise for students, staff, and the community. The theme of the day, was that it took everyone working together to achieve the honor, which is bestowed upon no more than 100 schools nationwide, and only two in Massachusetts this year.
The school received the designation in Category 1, for exceptional student performance and academic growth in 2022.
Ms. Chesney introduced many of the officials present so students could see just “how important this really is,” she said, noting it took everybody’s dedication and hard work.
“I’m so excited,” said Assistant Principal Julianna Pasetto, and introduced the fourth graders who took the stage to give their 10 reasons that AES should be designated a Distinguished School. Their reasons included no bullies, spirit day, field day, fun Friday, and the number one reason: Sunny, the Police K9 comfort dog.
It “doesn’t happen by chance,” said Jennifer Downing, the chair of the school committee.
She said it takes an “incredible team of people,” from administrators to students to school committee members and parents.
She said superintendent Dr. Paula Bailey is dedicated to excellence and worked incredibly hard to build a positive and collaborative school culture in Acushnet.
At the core of it all, she said is the understanding that “our kids come first.”
She said during the pandemic, Acushnet was “bold” and did not settle for the status quo. They used the hybrid model that utilized the best technology so that students were “together virtually.” They went “above and beyond” and that had a positive impact on the students.
“Wildcats are distinguished,” Superintendent Bailey told students. “And we could
not be more proud to accept this…designation.”
“Wildcats, you are distinguished,” said Dr. Bailey, and said if she had her way, she would put a picture of AES next to the definition in the dictionary: a person or body of work admired for excellence.
Dr. Bailey told students that strong and healthy relationships are the cornerstone of everything they do, creating a sense belonging and a great learning environment.
“We support each other, build each other, we believe in each other. We make each other better,” she said. “We are better together.
Deputy Commissioner of the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Dr. Regina Robinson echoed that sentiment, with lots of clapping and dancing on stage.
“It is a good morning, Acushnet, isn’t it,” she said to hoots and hollers, and then she led the teachers in a “good morning” cheer, spelling out each word.
She told students that to achieve what they achieved, they all had to work hard, together as a team. She led them in an exercise of coordinated cheering to prove it.
Dr. Robinson told them they all worked hard to achieve the designation.
“I am so proud to join you this morning in saying what a great job you all have done as a team,” she said.
Commissioner of ESE Jeffrey Riley entertained both students and adults with a couple of fun stories, including a bit about his own daughter teasing him. He enlisted the help of students Xavier Esteves and Quinn Whitehead to keep him company in the front of the hall.
He promised to be quick because it was close to lunch, and he knows, he said: “If you don’t feet the students, they will eat the teachers.”
The students reveled in his jokes, especially about his daughter and the picture she reportedly sent him of a donkey and him facing off, with the caption: “Look closely, there are two donkeys looking at each other.”
He talked about how she had the help, support and love she needed to feel valued and succeed in life. When he said they did not see each other as often, the children collectively said “awww.”
He told a story about the airlines (unverified story) using a chicken to test the strength of plane windows, and how the British, using the same method, kept breaking windows and could not figure out why. They needed, simply, to thaw the chicken.
The point, he said, is that sometimes the simplest answer is the right answer,
The same is true about schools, he said. It is about personal relationships with students.
“This is about a team of people coming together to unite, to make sure that you guys get everything you need,” said Commissioner Riley, adding that the designation the school received was something “incredibly special.”
He said very few schools in the country get it, and the only way it happens is if everyone, all of the adults come together, “to work for you.”
The students then gave a standing ovation to their teachers.
Commissioner Riley told one more story, about president John F. Kennedy visiting NASA and encountering a janitor with a broom. When the president asked him what he did there, the janitor said he was helping to put a man on the moon.
“The janitor understood the importance of his contribution,” said Commissioner Riley. “He truly felt he was a valuable part of something bigger than himself.”
He was not merely a janitor, he was part of the NASA team.
“Everyone, every adult in this room, this building, is responsible for the great thing that has happened today,” said Commissioner Riley, telling students to thank them for what they do on behalf of students, whether it is custodians, front office staff, safety officer, food service workers. “None of this is possible without them as a team.”
As part of his own thank you, he gave a dollar to each of his helpers, young Xavier and Quinn, for having the courage to volunteer.
Selectboard member Bob Hinckley also said a few words, noting sthat most of what he wanted to say had already been said.
He told students they earned the award, and the adults in the room, the teachers, are the “backbone of our community.”
He personally thanked them “for giving our children a chance to thrive.”
He said his daughter, who attends AES, is eager to learn every day.
“I just want to say ‘thank you,’ for doing your best to showcase Acushnet,” said Mr. Hinckley. “It’s awesome.”
The school also showed a promotional video for AES.
After the ceremony, Dr. Bailey said that AES students did better than most during the pandemic years because of the hybrid model they used, which allowed students to learn as if they were in the classroom, and not isolated at home.
She reiterated that the recognition was a “reflection of our school community,” with everyone coming together.
The designation is not something the school applies for. The Mass. DESE nominated AES based on annual reporting information
AES was recognized “because of the success of the educational programs and the progress made by students. Specifically, the school is being recognized for exceptional student performance and academic growth,” wrote the school in a press release.
School officials will travel to Indianapolis, IN, to receive the award.
View the entire ceremony on the town’s YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tQXL4ujPbM
Click here to download the 2/2/23 issue: 02-02-23 AcushnetSch
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