Holley school theme for year: ‘Kindness’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 September 2020 at 1:29 pm

Chet Fery, ‘The Bread Man,’ says students need love more than ever

Photos by Tom Rivers: Chet Fery of Brockport addressed Holley faculty and staff this morning, urging them to embrace kindness in respond to others, as well as themselves. Fery, who is known as “The Bread Man,” also baked a loaf of bread for each Holley school employee.

HOLLEY – The school district, which will be utilizing more technology to educate students during the pandemic, isn’t neglecting an elementary principle of treating others with kindness and love.

Kindness – a show of respect and care for others – is the district’s main theme for this school year.

“The message of kindness is especially important this year,” said Brian Bartalo, the district superintendent.

This is Bartalo’s third year as Holley superintendent. In 2018-19, the district theme was “Holley Together.” Last school year, the district embraced the theme, “Holley Cares.”

Bartalo believes the message of kindness is critical during a polarizing election cycle and a time of uncertainty and stress with the economy and a public health pandemic.

The superintendent joined staff development and orientation sessions today and welcomed one of his neighbors, Chet Fery of Brockport, as a keynote speaker. Fery is well known in the region as “The Bread Man.” He has given away more than 100,000 loaves of bread for free in the past 20 years.

Brian Bartalo, the Holley school superintendent, passes out loaves of bread baked by Chet Fery. The two live in the same neighborhood in Brockport. Bartalo noticed Fery was giving out bread from a red wagon in Fery’s driveway during the pandemic and had “Kindness” signs in the neighborhood. Very gave away free bread from the wagon for 161 consecutive days.

Fery brought 267 loaves to the Holley school district today. He gave away bread to every staff member during presentations at the high school, elementary school and the bus garage.

Fery is a retired teacher and administrator from the Gate-Chili school district. He told teachers he knows they are feeling more anxiety this school year, returning to classrooms during the Covid-19 pandemic. He said students also are feeling nervous and excitement as they come back to school.

“People are seeking kindness now more than ever, aren’t they?” Fery asked the elementary school staff and teachers.

Fery spoke recently in Dansville to the Class of 1955, which was celebrating its 65th reunion. He listened as they reminisced about teachers. The ones the best remembered were the teachers who showed they cared about their students.

“What you do makes a big, big difference,” Fery said. “Kids listen. Kids always remember how we make them feel more than the content we’re teaching them.”

He said students, even those with tough exteriors, crave love and attention.

“Their hearts are open,” he said. “Kindness has a way of changing lives.”

Chet Fery said teachers top priority this year should be connecting with students, remotely or in class, and show them they are valued.

Before the pandemic, Fery normally had three or four presentations a week, where he gave away bread and shared his message of being kind to others. When he was sidelined from speaking to groups in Western New York, he put his home-made bread in a red wagon at the end of his driveway. He did that for 161 straight days.

He also made 100 “Kindness” signs and gave them away. Bartalo noticed and asked Fery to address the staff just before the start of the school year.

Holley students will be back on Thursday and Friday for orientations. Holley will be doing a hybrid model to start the year, with students doing in-person classes two days a week and remote learning three days. Bartalo said 18 percent of the students have opted for remote only for the first 10 weeks of the school year.

Fery said educators, bus drivers and other staff need to follow 5 principles to equip themselves in spreading kindness:

1. Be Kind to You. Fery urged them to smile, eat well and exercise – be fit in the body, mind and spirit. “You’re going to need it this year.”

2. Be Kind to Others. Be sure to put that kindness in words, when communicating with others. Make it clear to others that you value them.

3. Keep Order. “We can manage the chaos or rather than the chaos managing us,” Fery said.

4. Be Together. Work as a team and reach out to others, especially if you’re feeling down. “There isn’t a circumstance that can’t be improved,” Fery said. “We need each other to get through difficult times.”

5. Find Your Happy Place. Do something you enjoy to put your mind at ease. For Fery, that is baking bread, lots and lots of loaves.

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