County School Boards Association honors students, board members

Head of the class

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl Justin Hanft, executive director of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition was awarded the Friend of Education Award by the Chautauqua County School Boards Association.

SUNY Fredonia’s Williams Center was recently the site of much celebration, as the Chautauqua County School Boards Association honored many special students and educators at their annual meeting and honors night. From live music to a dance performance to a delicious dinner, the evening recognized the hard work of the county’s top-achieving students — the honors students and scholarship winners — at 19 school districts.

Sylvester Cleary, Forestville school board member and CCSBA president, welcomed all in attendance. “We not only want to honor some of our honors students, but we want to honor some of the talent here in Chautauqua County,” he said. “Personally, I think we have some of the greatest talent in New York state right here in Chautauqua County.”

The evening began with a solo dance, performed by Forestville Central School senior Rhianna Nasal, this year’s valedictorian. This year was the first time that honors night included a dance performance, said Cleary. Nasal’s performance was followed by a solo “Serenata Gitana,” sung by Forestville Central School senior Adriana Burgos, who is attending SUNY Fredonia this fall to study music education. “This is a young lady that you want to keep your eyes on,” said Cleary.

Students, parents, school board members and administrators also enjoyed the musical talents of Cleary, a musician who released his first album “Love is the Way” earlier this year. Cleary shared the music video of his “Chautauqua County, a Wonderful Place.”

“Thirty-eight years ago, when I first moved to Chautauqua County, I was so excited about Chautauqua County. I was really moved by the beautiful rolling hills, the wonderful lakes and all that the county has to offer,” Cleary explained. “I was excited about the people here, and it moved me so much that I wanted to capture that feeling, so I started writing the song 38 years ago.” After “shelving” the song for 37 years, Cleary was inspired to finish and produce the song when Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello was elected, and Cleary became inspired by his work.

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl Rhianna Nasal, valedictorian of Forestville Central School, gave a solo dance performance at the CCSBA honors night.

Raymond J. Fashano, CCSBA executive director, provided the opening remarks. “We’re here to pay honor to Chautauqua County’s best,” he began. “We are here to say hard work, dedication, good character and pride in one’s accomplishments are still important in this world. It is a night of reward not only for the students, but the work that school board members, superintendents, principals and teachers put into the many meetings and events that make the schools so great in our county.”

Fashano introduced William Miller, president of the New York State School Boards Association. Miller congratulated the honors students and their school districts. “I’m going to give you a challenge,” Miller said to the administrators and board members in the room. “When I sat here and watched the talent…I challenge you that when times get rough and you’re thinking of cuts, don’t ever cut arts in education. This was just absolutely phenomenal.”

Cleary addressed the honorees. “As you reach for your goals and your dreams, you will find that the knowledge, the power and the skill will be in between the goals that you reach for. It’s the journey: that’s where the power is; that’s where the knowledge is, students. As you reach for your goals and your dreams, realize that that movement is where it all comes from,” he said. “Always remember this: There is greatness in you.”

The following honors students from each school introduced themselves, shared their achievements and accomplishments, as well as their future education plans.

Bemus Point: Madigan Howard and Kristin Kelemen; Brocton: Dylan Murphy and Madeline Brogan; Cassadaga Valley: Anna Wenger and Jordan Polley; Chautauqua Lake: Hannah Roush and Abigail Henry; Clymer: Lucas Beckerink and Tori Beckwith; Dunkirk: Hannah Saye and Jordan Francis; Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES: Brianna Dorman and Jordyn Sweet; Falconer: Drew Troutman and Janie Swanson; Forestville: Rhianna Nasal and Madison Miller; Fredonia: Kaelyn Zebraski and Maggie Mignoli; Frewsburg: Jordan Clark and Shannon Estus; Jamestown: Yalitzo Melo and Grayson Holt; Panama: Elliott Jackson and Claire Heimburg; Pine Valley: Daniel Milliman and Dawson Chase; Sherman: Faith Redlecki and Rowan Fisher; Silver Creek: Kristen Wielgasz and Garrett Castle; Southwestern: Elisabeth Meyer and Madelyn Yochim; Westfield: Grace Bodenmiller and Bethany Schaaf; Western NY P-TECH STEM College & Career Academy: Donald Warren.

OBSERVER Photo by Mary Heyl Adriana Burgos, a senior at Forestville Central School, sang “Serenata Gitana,” during CCSBA honors night. She was accompanied by Amy Gier.

Following the recognition of honors students, Fashano presented the Board Member of the Year Award to Kurt Gustafson, who serves on Southwestern Central School’s board of education. Cleary presented the Friend of Education Award to Justin Hanft, executive director of the Chautauqua County Education Coalition, president of the board of directors for the Chautauqua Leadership Network, classroom volunteer for Junior Achievement of western New York and mentor for WNY P-TECH STEM College & Career Academy.

Fashano presented the Board Professional Development Award, which is based on attendance and participation in year-round school board events, to the Sherman Central School Board of Education. Board members include Brian Bates, Jennifer Ferreira, Teresa Guzman, Colleen Meeder and Timothy Sears. Meeder, president, accepted the award on behalf of the board.

Retiring superintendents and board members were recognized, as well. Fashano thanked all for their outstanding service in their home districts and throughout the county. Retiring school board members include Thomas DeJoe (Brocton), Beverly LeBaron (Cassadaga Valley), Willowe Neckers (Clymer), Kim Weborg-Benson (Chautauqua Lake), Jennifer Capitano (Falconer), Stacey Mierzwa (Forestville), Sherry Gruszynski (Pine Valley), Pat Krenzer (Pine Valley), Martha Howard (CCSBA executive committee) and Eric Allen (Westfield). Pine Valley’s Scott Payne, superintendent, was recognized for his service to the district. He is leaving the position to become district superintendent of Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES.

Sherman Superintendent Michael Ginestre and Brocton Superintendent Jason Delcamp, president of the Far West Council of School Superintendents, presented awards to this year’s scholarship recipients for each school district. Ginestre thanked FWCOSS board members, sponsors and vendors who supported the 19 scholarships ($500 each) awarded this year to the following students:

Bemus Point: Alexander Duncanson, Brocton: Mary Ann Hosmer, Cassadaga Valley: Collin Barmore, Chautauqua Lake: Shannon McKee, Clymer: Lucas Beckerink, Dunkirk: Hannah Saye, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Hewes: Brianna Dorman, LoGuidice: Jordyn Sweet, Falconer: Janie Swanson, Forestville: Rhianna Nasal, Fredonia: Dyress Batten, Frewsburg: Danielle Gray, Jamestown: Ellen Cross, Panama: Samantha Kosinski, Pine Valley: Dawson Chase, Sherman: Rowan Fisher, Silver Creek: Kristen Wielgasz, Southwestern: Katie Brinkley and Westfield: Susanna Wolfe.


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