Holley recognizes retiring teachers and district superintendent

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Holley Board of Education and administrative team honored these retiring staff and teachers during the BOE meeting on Monday evening, from left: Penny Cole, cheerleading coach and secretary in the junior-senior high school guidance department; Kellie Burke, English teacher and musical co-director; Sandy Smith, special education teacher; Dan Goodwin, earth science teacher and cross country and wrestling coach; Amie Callen, elementary teacher; and Suzanne Thornton, special education teacher in elementary school.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 June 2024 at 11:19 am

HOLLEY – The school district on Monday honored six retiring teachers and staff with 170 years of collective experience working with students.

The Board of Education also honored Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent the past six years, who is retiring on June 30.

Matt Feldman, the junior-senior high school principal, hugs Penny Cole, one of six retiring Holley teachers and staff members recognized during the Holley Board of Education meeting on Monday.

Feldman called Cole “the mom of the high school.” Cole worked 29 years for Holley as a secretary in the guidance department. She also was a highly respected cheerleading coach for Holley.

Feldman said Cole’s retirement “has been an insurmountable loss” for Holley. Students admire her so much they dedicated the yearbook to her.

“She cares for our students,” Feldman said. “She cares for our staff. She cares for our community.”

Suzanne Thornton, left, is all smiles when she is recognized during the Holley Board of Education meeting on Monday by Karri Schiavone, the elementary school principal. Schiavone praised Thornton for working at all grade levels in the elementary school, and for maintaining close ties with many of her students and their families for years after they leave her classroom.

Thornton retired at the end of last school year but has continued as a substitute teacher for Holley. She has an annual pool party at her home, where she invites students and their families.

Amie Callan, another retiring elementary teacher, was praised by Schiavone for inviting grandparents into the district for a special day to be with their grandchildren. Callan served the district for 35 years, and has a great sense of humor, Schiavone said.

Kellie Burke listens to Matt Feldman, the junior-senior high principal, share about her impact on students in the school during her 34-year career teacher and also as a leader of the drama program. Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent, is at left.

Sandy Smith, a retiring special ed teacher, also was praised for her commitment to students, including as a chaperone on a trip to DC and keeping an old popcorn machine working. Smith said she will gladly hand off that popcorn machine for more years of use.

Retiring superintendent: ‘My life and career wouldn’t have been the same without Holley’

Anne Winkley, president of the Board of Education, presents a gift of appreciation to Brian Bartalo, who is retiring June 30 after six years as Holley’s district superintendent.

The district also commended Brian Bartalo for his leadership the past six years. Bartalo joined Holley after working as a principal at Hilton.

He said he was happy to return to a smaller school district. Holley’s entire student enrollment of about 1,000 is less than the 1,500 at the high school in Hilton.

Bartalo acknowledged he isn’t a big risk-taker. He said he could have finished his career in Hilton but took a chance on Holley.

“It was the best risk I’ve ever taken,” he said. “My life and career wouldn’t have been the same without Holley.”

Bartalo guided Holley through the Covid pandemic. Holley in 2019 also was identified as a “target” school district in need of improvement. The district made solid gains academically and was taken off the list of target districts by the State Education Department.

Holley was put on the list in January 2019 due to low scores for seventh- and eighth-graders. Bartalo praised students, parents, teachers, administrators and board of education members for committing to improvement.

Sal DeLuca, the board vice president, said Bartalo has been “a breath of fresh air” as the district leader.

“He brough enthusiasm, a desire to succeed and a desire for those around him to succeed,” DeLuca said during Monday’s board meeting.

Bartalo is known is the district as “Bart.” He was very visible at school events and quickly became part of the “Holley family,” DeLuca said.

Bartalo also commended Connie Nenni, the district clerk, for being “extraordinarily helpful” as his “right arm” in the district office.

Sharon Zacher, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, also has been a great asset to Holley and Bartalo, the retiring superintendent said. Zacher not only oversees the district’s finances, but she helps manage buildings and grounds, food service and transportation.

“She is the finest business official I’ve ever worked with,” Bartalo said.

Karri Schiavone, the elementary school principal, will succeed Bartalo on July 1. Bartalo said he is confident Schiavone and the administrative team will lead Holley to even more success.

Bartalo was picked by the senior class to give the commencement address on June 29.