2019 FRIENDS OF EDUCATION AWARD RECIPIENTS
Congratulations to this year's award winners!
Bill and Betty Jean Whipple, Averill Park CSD
Bus Driver and Volunteer
According to the district, Bill and Betty Jean are instrumental in the Averill Park Backpack Program and the Food Bank Food Pantry Program, which helps provide children in grades K-5 with a bag of non-perishable, easy-to-prepare food every Friday afternoon to be enjoyed throughout the weekend. Once a week, Bill and Betty Jean drive a school bus to Latham to pick up food from the Regional Food Bank, then deliver and unload the food to Averill Park High School for use by the program. “Bill Whipple and his wife are definitely deserving of this recognition,” said Merry Lee Kraft, Special Education Teacher at Averill Park. “This is a school-wide and community-wide effort to combat hunger, and Bill and his wife play a crucial role – and they do it cheerfully!”
John Soja, Catholic Diocese of Albany
John joined the Catholic School Office as Assistant Superintendent upon retiring from a long career at the State Education Department of New York. In his role as Assistant Superintendent, he was approachable, dependable, and relational. John could make a connection with anyone he met because of his sincere desire to help. Upon retiring in 2015, John offered to continue helping the district in any way, and he has done just that.
Each year, John assists with principal evaluations. He surveys various stakeholders in the school community, collecting data and documentation from the principal, meeting with members of the School Board, faculty, student body, and parents and then finally composing a report to be shared with the principal, superintendent and pastor (if applicable.) John’s commitment and dedication to education, both public and private, make him truly deserving of the Friend of Education recognition.
Marie McBride, East Greenbush CSD
Volunteer and leader within the Columbia High School All-Sports Club
Despite not having a child in the East Greenbush district since 2009, Marie continues to volunteer, and is currently the Vice-President, in the Columbia High School All-Sports Club because she appreciates the benefits her children received through participation in the program. Since 2001, she has been active in organizing and coordinating many of the activities of the Club including the Annual Fall Season Kickoff Barbecue, the Pasta Dinner, the Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner, Homecoming, and more.
Each Spring, Marie distributes flyers of support at sporting events for the district’s annual budget. Her efforts are critical in drawing out the positive support the district needs in maintaining the program for students. Described as a “force of nature,” Marie was instrumental in raising $35,000 in fund to maintain freshman sports.
Eberhard Volmar, Greenville CSD
Retired teacher and mentor
A Greenville alumni turned English teacher in the district, Ed continued to actively support Greenville students after retirement by serving as a mentor in the elementary school to many students deemed at-risk, helping them understand the importance that education plays in their lives.
Ed is also a trustee for the Greenville Educational Foundation, dedicating years focusing on the restoration of the Potter Hollow School House and organizing annual field trips for elementary students to visit the school house.
Thoughtful and generous, Ed has given so much to his students, but his colleagues have benefited from his kindness as well. It’s not unusual to see him at a Board of Education meeting, networking with community members over a cup of coffee, or visiting local business establishments.
John Friedman, Hudson CSD
Four years ago, John, an attorney and mentor to students in the Hudson City School District, developed an idea to highlight some of the unique and successful careers of local community members and introduce them and their career paths to students. Hudson City’s Creative Career Luncheon Series was born and was a perfect fit for the district’s newly-crafted tagline of Destination Graduation to Occupation.
As a diverse, urban school district with high poverty, the district takes on the responsibility to give students as much exposure and experience possible to different career paths so they are able to graduate from the district with a chosen career path. John’s program has been instrumental in helping achieve this goal.
Cheri Vandenberg, Menands UFSD
Cheri first came to Menands as a part-time counselor in 2009 and soon she became an integral member of the school team, leading her to a full-time position. Cheri’s list of contributions to the district goes far beyond her duties as a school counselor and includes serving as district DASA Coordinator, overseeing the afterschool Homework Club, coordinating donations for students in need, and orchestrating the district’s High School Fair for 8th grade students and their parents.
She also serves as the district registrar and McKinney-Vento Liaison, acting as a resource and advocate for our students and families in transitional housing. She is a certified Therapeutic Crisis Intervention trainer for district staff and currently serves as co-president for the Menands Association of Teachers.
Laura Eggelston, Mohonasen CSD
According to Bradt Primary School Principal Leslie Smith, Laura's greatest strength is her ability to make connections and trusted relationships with the ENL families she serves. In addition to going out of her way to schedule meetings or make phone calls to connect with her families, she has also been able to supply families with essentials, such as backpacks and supplies, clothing and shoes through our Bradt Anchor Room.
Laura’s duties often extend outside of regular school hours as well. She is a mentor for new teachers, ensuring they have the necessary support to be successful in their new roles, and also volunteers throughout the year at the local City Mission, serving meals with the Bradt School team. Laura and her family also worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for one of the elementary school’s families.
Laura is also actively engaging in research that will further the district’s professional knowledge of strategies for supporting reading development in our students. In addition, she has presented at regional and statewide conferences and most recently, she presented a professional development workshop on Early Reading Comprehension Instructional Strategies for English Language Learners K-3 for the Albany Area Reading Council at Bradt primary school.
Bob Cummings, New Lebanon CSD
The job of a cleaner in a junior/senior high school is not always a pleasant one, yet Bob is responsive to every request that is made of him, never once complaining during his 25 years in the position. Taking pride in his work and in contributing professionally to his alma mater, Bob is part of a team that takes their job seriously. This results in a clean building each and every day that often elicits remarks from visitors from other schools on the cleanliness of the hallways.
During his lunch break, you can find Bob eating in the cafeteria with the students, being challenged to a game of foosball before returning to work. His attention to detail and follow through do not go unnoticed, and he is a valued member of the New Lebanon community.
Deborah Gallucci, New Lebanon CSD
During her five years as a teacher's assistant at WBH, Deborah has exceeded the expectations of the role and become a leader in the preschool program. Collaborating with preschool teachers, she has helped design a program that supports early literacy skills for the district’s youngest learners. Deborah also volunteers with the New Lebanon Arts and Humanities Foundation Board, taking a leadership role in the group’s fundraising efforts. The dollars she has raised have helped bring unique arts and humanities experiences to New Lebanon students.
Donna Belokopitsky, Watervliet
Donna served as secretary to the assistant principal in Watervliet for 30 years, retiring 10 years ago. However, she never really left. One of the first to arrive each day at the Jr/Sr High School, she coordinates all the substitute teachers. In the event a position is not filled, she steps in and has served as a teacher’s assistant, has covered in-school suspension and served as a hall monitor.
Whether she’s coordinating with maintenance staff, answering early morning phone calls, or running breakfast to the bus taking students to their CTE programs, Donna does it all with a smile. You can see her chaperoning athletic events, laundering students’ clothing, and donating gifts to underprivileged children and families during the holidays. Watervliet alumni often return to the district just to see Donna and thank her for all she has done.