Today was a wonderful day because after two long weeks recovering from Hurricane Sandy, we welcomed all of our students back to the Chester School District. It was incredibly heartening to see the students come back and the relief on their faces was profound as they resumed their normal lives and schedules. Our schools are at the heart of our community and everything seems so much better and more hopeful now that they have all come home to us.
The last two weeks were a great challenge to us all, and many of us are still being challenged as a result of the storm. But, I know that working together, we will soon return to our rhythms and routines, and our children will settle back in to continue their educational journeys. Speaking of working together, there are many people I am grateful to for their efforts over the last two weeks while we tried to keep you informed on a daily basis as to the state of our schools. This was a team effort and my deepest gratitude goes out to you all.
Mary Jane Canose, Chester Business Administrator and Brad Currie, BRMS Dean of Students/Supervisor of Instruction tweeted and updated our Facebook page in addition to my daily Honeywell Alerts. Laurie Richter, PTO President, kept the Chester Parent Facebook Page up to date and that was a tremendous help. For many of us, our Smart Phones were our only means of communication. I know many of your relied on these social media outlets for information and I think it was made very clear to us all how social media is essential to our daily lives.
I am grateful to Chief Wayne Martini of the Chester Township Police Department for staying in constant contact with me and for providing me with his assessment of road conditions and general safety in the township. Sophia Beaudin, District Transportation Coordinator, worked diligently day in and day out to create bus routes and safe travel plans for students. Rob Vincent, Director of Buildings and Grounds, and our custodial staff worked continuously to prepare the schools to re-open and to clean and repair areas of damage from the storm.
Our office and technology personnel helped communicate as information became available sometimes on an hourly basis and our plans were updated and changed. Our Chester Board of Education members and many parents who sought me out via email also helped to get the message out and to share important information with me regarding conditions in the borough and township and amongst our families that was essential to my making informed decisions regarding the schools.
The constant flexibility and creativity of our principals – Robert Mullen, Michele Stanton, Melissa Fair and Brad Currie - in planning to open the schools was a tremendous asset to our children. I must thank the teachers and the CEA Leadership Team, Patricia Cammarata, Kathy Vespignani, and Kelli Dolan. When I called them to discuss holding school on the NJEA Convention days, they didn’t hesitate for a second and all of our BRMS teachers and the fifth grade team from Bragg School started the ball rolling on Friday by opening BRMS. Even our CST Director Jeanette Krone and her team were there to help. I spent the day at BRMS and I was astounded at all they were able to accomplish with our students on such short notice and with so much success. Their lessons and activities were substantial and reflective of the dedicated team of professionals we all know them to be.
Finally, I am grateful for the kind words I have heard from many of you regarding our level of communication over the past two weeks. Your children are our children and our devotion to them in their time of need is without question. Caring, Community and Commitment were in evidence all around us these last two weeks as we all sought to help and support each other during the recovery efforts. Those values, exhibited collectively by us all for the good of the children in Chester, were my rainbow after the storm.
Dr. Christina VanWoert