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Forestville announces ‘jackpot’ group of ‘Hornet’ hires

OBSERVER Photos by Braden Carmen Forestville Board of Education President Amy Drozdziel welcomed James Pratt, the district’s new technology teacher, at a recent meeting.

FORESTVILLE — The phrase, “Once a Hornet, always a Hornet,” was cheerfully repeated again and again by Board of Education President Amy Drozdziel at the Forestville Board of Education meeting this month as the district proudly welcomed its newest hires.

Members of the Board of Education and school administrators all stood to shake hands with each new hire as they were introduced, one by one.

“The summer was a very busy time for hiring and I feel like I hit the jackpot with this group, I really do,” said Forestville Middle/High School Principal Dan Grande.

Ashley Rokitka was appointed as an Elementary Special Education teacher. Rokitka previously worked in the Buffalo Charter School system. “One of the things that I recall from the interview that left our entire committee with a smile on their faces was when we asked why special education … she said to us that every student needs a chance, and we can’t forget that,” said Grande.

James Pratt was appointed as the district’s new technology teacher. Pratt has an extensive background in the technology field and as an educator, notably at SUNY Fredonia.

Forestville Middle/High School Principal Dan Grande greeted Alex Szymanski, a graduate of Forestville in 2016, after he was appointed as a Floater Monitor Aide at a recent Board of Education meeting.

“We’re very excited to see the different projects and different angle that he brings to our tech department,” said Grande.

Stephanie Pati was appointed as an elementary teacher as a general education Grade 6 teacher. Grande stated that Pati recently received a second master’s degree in special education from Saint Joseph’s University. “Coming off of Covid and all the (social and emotional learning) needs of our kids, it’s really nice to know that we have some people that are trained in that area that can help out,” said Grande.

Grace Sipos was appointed as a long-term substitute teacher as she works toward fulfilling her special education teaching credentials with the state. “From Day One, Grace has made a positive impact on the high school,” said Grande. “The other day, (we) received an email from a colleague of hers that has only worked with her for a couple days and is signing her praises.”

The board also welcomed Susan Woodward, who was previously approved to a full-time position in the English tenure. Woodward has already begun overseeing the middle school newspaper and helping with the school’s yearbook. “We’re very excited to have somebody with the years of experience working with our kids in ELA,” said Grande. “We know that there are some gaps in learning for our kids and it is going to take quite a few years for them to get caught up. To have teachers with a ton of experience teaching kids and knowing exactly what they need will help us get there a lot quicker.”

Gen VanZile was officially appointed as a Floater Monitor Aide, after already serving the district as a substitute in recent years. Jordyn Salgado and Collette Campese were also appointed as Floater Monitor Aides.

Alex Szymanski, a graduate of Forestville in 2016, was also appointed as a Floater Monitor Aide. “Once a Hornet, well, you’ve always been a Hornet,” joked Drozdziel.

Jessica Howes, a graduate of Forestville in 2018, was appointed as a Floater Monitor Aide, as well. “It’s so good to see our students coming back and helping out here,” said Grande.

The new hiring announcements were capped off when Patrick Valvo, who previously served as a member of the Board of Education, was announced as the newest addition to the bus drivers’ staff. “I am a Hornet,” he joked as Drozdziel welcomed him back to the district.

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