What it means to be a Blue Ribbon School
By Dr. Teresa Thayer Snyder (November 13, 2014)
This week has been a momentous one for Voorheesville Elementary School. Ths school received recognition as a Blue Ribbon School by the federal government. This is no small feat. Only a small percentage of schools across the country are invited to apply for the reward. Of that number, fewer actually receive the designation. The applicant pool is inclusive of public, private, parochial, and charter schools. Voorheesville was recognized as a consistently high performing school. I am celebrating, alongside my colleagues at the elementary school, and I am very proud to do so.
Since I have come to Voorheesville, I have been impressed on a regular basis by the spirit that characterizes that learning environment. It sizzles with enthusiasm for learning. It is truly a fun place to be, and I can think of no other place I would rather see a small child educated. However, what makes Voorheesville Elementary School special is so much more than the performance of our children on assessments, or our teachers’ investment in the classrooms, or the principal’s legendary energy. What makes Voorheesville special can more accurately be described as its soul – a soul that was also highly present this week. The community lost a very important member in Cindy Abelseth. She was a presence in the environment for twenty-eight years and is known to so many of our families who accessed Kids’ Club for wrap-around care for their children. While not an employee of the District, Cindy was so visible and was an essential member of the community as a whole. She raised her own children here, and helped raise dozens more because she saw a need and filled it.
I received word of her passing from Dr. Reardon who was on his way to Washington to receive the Blue Ribbon Award. He adjusted his return flight so that he could be back in time for the opening of morning care in Kids’ Club early Wednesday morning.The faculty and staff pitched in to cover for colleagues who needed time for grieving.The entire elementary community, despite suffering a personal and profound loss, put their grieving aside to help little children understand and to make sure the children were cared for by familiar people in their stable environment. The program continues, the family and personal friends of Cindy can attend to their needs in this difficult time.What a legacy and what a tribute to Cindy’s vision that the children came first. I fully understand why Cindy Abelseth wanted to have her life celebrated at this elementary school. I fully understand why her family, despite their personal grief, wants the community to remember her presence in the school. I would say this experience speaks volumes about why this is a Blue Ribbon School, and I think Cindy Abelseth knew that for years!