SPARTA, NJ – The Helen Morgan school was represented at the Sparta Board of Education meeting on January 29.  Principal Doug Layman introduced the students who, in turn shared the Helen Morgan community’s experience with the R.J. Palacio book "Wonder."

"“Wonder" is Mr. Layman’s favorite book,” Helen Morgan Media Specialist Stephanie Bernardo said.

“I’ve asked my self how would a kid like Augie do in my school,” Layman said. “I’ve thought about that often.”

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August “Augie” Pullman is the main character of the book who has Treacher Collins syndrome, that causes his face to be different than other children’s’.  The lesson of the book is to “choose kindness.”

The students took turns at the podium.

Lauren Tate went first, introducing the book and movie.  Brighid Fadden explained the school wide contest to earn a ticket to the movie.

Layman entered the school into the national contest to earn tickets to the preview of the movie.  They had 50 tickets, so the contest was devised to select the students who got to go and then become the Kindness Ambassadors.

Olivia Schwartz, a Kindness Ambassador, told the board members how excited she felt when the “looked under [her] desk and found the ticket taped there.” The ambassadors saw the preview and shared the experience and the message with their classmates.

Maya Laliker talked about the movie dates; for the ambassadors and then the whole school. 

“Mr. Layman got tickets for the whole school to go including the aids and custodians,” Laliker said.  “We even decorated the bus.  It was really great.”

Shannon Llody explained how the door decorating and door tour reinforced the message of Wonder. 

“People even left sticky notes on the door with ways to be kind,” Llody said.

The "Wonder" rock garden is a new addition to the landscape of the school.  Victoria Suchich said Sparta Det. McCarrick donated the rocks and the PTO donated the paint for the students to create the rocks.  The rocks were painted with a “precept or life motto” Suchich explained.

Bernardo invited the board and the community to come and see the doors and the rock garden still decorating the school. 

“The board needs to know we work in a magical place,” Bernardo said.  “Thank you for giving Mr. Layman to us.

Board of education president Kelly McEvoy said, “Thank you. You represented your school really well.”

"Everyone should read the book, or see the movie," Layman said, “The Sparta Book Store really helped us out and the Sparta Theater, especially the manager, was so accommodating.”

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