MONTVILLE, NJ – State and local government officials and many other Montville community members gathered at Woodmont Elementary School on March 2 to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday and read books with the students for the National Education Association’s 19th annual Read Across America event. Senator Joe Pennacchio, Assemblyman Jay Webber, Sheriff Edward Rochford, Mayor James Sandham, members of the Montville Township Board of Education and school district, plus parents read books about inclusion, tolerance and just plain fun.

Sandham told the students in Laura Catalano’s fourth grade class that “reading can take you places you always wanted to go.” He described how he read a lot of comic books when he was growing up, but now he spends about seven hours a week reading material for work and his for job as mayor of the township.

Sandham read Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book to the students, then Maya Angelou’s poem “The Human Family,” which he had brought with him. The poem is about how humans are more alike than different, Sandham explained to the students.

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“I’m mayor of the whole town,” Sandham said. “We have differences, but it adds to how we are as a town. Some of us are better at math and others at engineering. We all come together and it adds to the town. We don’t look alike, but it doesn’t matter. It’s who we are inside, as a person.”

Catalano asked Sandham to tell the class a bit about his typical day, because they had been learning about government.

“Why did you want to be governor?” asked one student.

Sandham laughed and gently corrected, “I’m a part-time mayor. It’s my job to keep everybody safe. I do that with the help of the police department and other departments in town. I wanted to be mayor to help people.”

Over in Lisa Lazzara and Maria Aiello's third grade classroom, Rochford read Dr. Seuss with the students and talked about the Sheriff’s Department and the opportunities for women. He told the students how important reading is, telling them to take time every day to read. He also taught a mini lesson on gun safety, telling the children not to touch a gun if they find one.

Pennacchio read Mr. Lincoln’s Way with Rosemary Bell’s fifth grade, and made sure the students knew the moral of the story.

“Are you born hating?” Pennacchio asked the students. “No, you have to be taught. But people can be redeemed. They can change -- they can make a mistake, say they’re sorry and change.”

Pennacchio told the students that his day involved “a lot of paperwork and reading,” but he still remembers his fifth grade teacher because she was important in his life. He told the students to “make the best effort they can.”  Pennacchio’s now-grown children attended Woodmont School.

And the competitive spirit was strong among the politicians. For his second session of reading, Pennacchio discovered that he was in Catalano’s classroom where Sandham had read that morning and he asked the children, “Who was better?” He didn’t wait for a response. He just said, “Me! I was better!” with a laugh.

Other readers for the day included:

Assemblyman Jay Webber, who read Thank You, Mr. Falker with Brian Quinn’s fifth grade class; Montville Township Board of Education President Matthew Kayne, who read Pete the Cat with Jennifer Kelly’s kindergarten class; Board of Education member Karen Cortellino, who read Duck on a Bike with Candace Santiago’s kindergarten class; Lieutenant Detective Michael Puzio of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office who read Jumanji with Tina Janis and Margaret Beatty’s fourth grade class; Montville Township Police Patrolman Scott McGowan who read I Broke My Trunk with Candace Santiago’s kindergarten class; and Michael Soehnlein of the Pine Brook Fire Department who read I Can Read with my Eyes Shut with Dean Marra’s third grade class.

Additionally, Board Member Michael Johnson, Board Member David Modrak, Board Member Michael O’Brien, Assistant Superintendent Casey Shorter, Assistant Superintendent Andrea Woodring, Arts Supervisor Edward Fleischman, Elementary Supervisor Elise Miller, Math and Science Supervisor Sandra Schwartz, Supervisor of Humanities David Tubbs, Communications Officer Susan Marinello, School Social Worker Donna Hall, LDTC Eileen Horn, Educational Technology Coach Andrea Wallace, NJEA Secretary/Treasurer Sean Spiller, Elissa Cannilla, Denise Gabriella, Denise Goldstein, Joanne Lang, and Stacy Troia were readers throughout the day.