SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Friends, family, and colleagues gathered at the June 21 board of education meeting to honor those South Plainfield School District teachers, administrators, and support staff who retired during the 2016-2017 school year.
“Many of the people being honored here this evening have been part of the South Plainfield School District for over 25 years and, in some cases, over 40 years. Each of them have given their all to our district and have been an important part of the lives of the thousands of children who have entered through our doors,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak. “As our retirees move on to the next chapter of their lives, all of us here, the board of education, administration, and many, many colleagues, wish them a very happy retirement.”
The 2016-2017 retirees included South Plainfield High School teachers Robert Conway, Rich D’Urso, Gloria Naso, and Bruce Mikolon along with staff members Elaine Bloger and Debbie Czech; district employees Al Czech, Diane DelCampo, Sheina Drake, and Adele Veirs; Grant staff member Dawn Wallis and Principal Ellen Decker-Lorys; Kennedy teacher Ann Witkowski; Franklin teacher Rose Marie Pelton; middle school teachers Geraldine Heim and Samia Guirguis; and, from out-of-district, Lee Ann Thompson. Several were present for the meeting, honored with kind words and presented with framed certificates.
Elaine Bloger began working for the South Plainfield School District in 1991. At that time, she was an assistant to the high school’s career counselor until transitioning to the guidance department. She is a resident of the borough and the parent and grandparent of South Plainfield alumni.
“One of the great things about Ms. Bloger is she is always there to great the kids when they walk into the guidance office; she knows everything there is to know in the office; and she always brings a lot of good treats to work which is always an added benefit…” said South Plainfield High School Principal Ronnie Spring. “She is just so thoughtful, remembers everyone’s birthdays, always there to help out, and is very special not just in the guidance office but the whole high school and is going to be greatly missed.”
Spring also paid tribute to Gloria Naso, who began working in the high school’s English department back in 1999 and, through her love for theater, has helped put on dozens of productions through the years. “She is just passionate about her kids, the school, literature,” said Spring, adding that Naso is ‘very open, outspoken, and one of the funniest, most enjoyable people to be around.’ “She has one of the most infectious laughs in the high school…We are going to miss her, the kids are going to miss her and we wish her luck in her retirement.”
A resident who raised his own kids in the borough, Rich D’Urso began at South Plainfield High School in 1978 and was a graphic arts teacher who also started Tiger TV. “Mr. D’Urso is South Plainfield,” said Spring. “He influenced his students so much that they want to be like him; professionally, personally.” Spring added, “It's kind of like we are losing a fixture of the school but I know he will be back often. Thank you for all you did and everything you will continue to do and for being so much to not just the school but to the whole town.”
Ellen Decker-Lorys, on behalf of herself and Franklin Principal Ralph Errico, paid tribute to retiring kindergarten teacher Rose Marie Pelton. A kindergarten teacher at Franklin since 1977, Pelton served 40 of her 42 years in education in the South Plainfield School District.
“You are certainly the epitome of dedication. You’re commitment over the past 40 years to South Plainfield is amazing. Imagine how many children, parents and staff you've touched…Your energy, your smile, your caring for each and every child will never be duplicated,” Decker-Lorys told Pelton, adding, “Rosie, it is your time to follow your dreams, follow your heart…We wish you good health, much happiness and peace in your retirement. Relax and enjoy it because you certainly earned it [and] you will be missed more than you will ever know.”
Kennedy Principal Kevin Hajduk recognized Ann Witkowski who retired back in January, commending her for work in the district, which included serving as a teacher at Roosevelt, Grant and Kennedy schools. “You do not pick a career in education because you want to be overly rich; you choice it because you want to impact and make a different the lives of children. Ann is a true testament to this…She was dedicated to her kids at all times [and] will always be known as being very assertive…an advocate for her kids...and, most importantly, student-focused...” said Hajduk, adding, “You’re career as an educator is impressive but your love for children will always be a model for what all educators should mean to their kids.”
A longtime administrative secretary, Adele Veirs will retire at the end of the month, the June 21 meeting coincidentally marking her 27th anniversary with the district. Veirs began her tenure with South Plainfield in 1990 and spent the first six years as secretary to the assistant superintendent. For the past 21, she has served as executive secretary to the superintendent.
“When I first arrived in district for my interviews, Adele was the first face that I saw. She was the second face and the third face because I kept getting called back for interviews so Adele and I got to know each other very well,” said Dr. Lishak. “Adele knows how this district runs...Anytime I ever needed anything, Adele was right there, she knew exactly where it was and she knew exactly how to do it. I cannot imagine what is going to be like on July 1.” The superintendent added, “I wish you happiness and health, a very long, long retirement and lots and lots of travel.”
The last retiree to be honored present and honored at the meeting was Grant Principal Ellen Decker-Lorys. A lifelong resident of the borough who attended South Plainfield Schools, Decker-Lorys began her career as a teacher at the old Roosevelt School. Over the years, she also served as an assistant principal at the middle school, principal of Franklin Elementary and was a high school cheerleading coach. Additionally, Decker-Lorys is a member of the South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame.
“As a fourth and fifth grade teacher she transformed hundreds of individuals into successful adults; I am one of the individuals. Ellen was my fifth grade teacher,” said Hajduk, adding that Decker-Lorys was an ‘inspiration.’ “She is truly the reason I choice to become an educator. She is a true example of what an educator should be and I wanted to be just like her…”
The Grant School staff also paid tribute to their outgoing principal and showed the documentary created by teachers Michelle Kirchofer and Emilie Bishara. Made for the entire sixth grade class and dedicated to Decker-Lorys, the six-minute ‘Project Beautiful’ video has received more than 36,000 views since being posted on Facebook the last week of school. It can be at https://www.facebook.com/spboe.org/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf.
“Grant is a beautiful place to work and that it is a tribute to Mrs. Ellen Decker-Lorys,” said Kirchofer.
Members of the South Plainfield Board of Education also offered their thanks, congratulations and best wishes to all the retirees.
“Our district is really a special, special place. Having not been brought up in South Plainfield, but moving to South Plainfield, I am so happy we are here…” said Doug Chapman. “I wish all of you that are retiring a healthy and long, long retirement doing everything you always dreamed you wanted to do and having as much fun as you want to have. Enjoy it…”
“I believe in my life, teachers are the greatest people in the world and every single one of you are beautiful examples of what teachers represent,” said fellow board member John Farinella. “The legacy you leave with South Plainfield will live on forever and pave the way for others…You guys are awesome.”
“We have amazing teachers and administration in this district,” added board member Kim Anesh. “[You are] a testament of what this district is capable of and the people we have. Thank you everyone for all that you have done and you service.”
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