To say that the Graniteville School’s 2nd Annual Stepping Up Day was a mighty milestone would be an understatement.

“It has been a wonderful school year for all of us,” said Maria Petronio-McAfee, the Pre-K School’s principal. “This was our second year implementing the Full Day State Pre-K program and it was another year full of milestones for our school.”

McAfee, who was forced to move the two-part Stepping Up Day inside the Collins Avenue school due to the threat of rain, added, “In order for us to continue to move forward with academic rigor we are constantly striving to improve the quality of our program. Bright Stars, the tiered quality improvement learning system, came here to observe in the classrooms. They used the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale otherwise called ECERs. This measures program quality.”

McAfee told an attentive audience of parents and family members of 80 pre-k students who’ll enroll at kindergarten in September, “I am pleased to inform you our full day pre-k program scored an average of 5.23 out of 7 on the scale. This is the highest score we have ever received.”

Cheers of all kinds echoed through Graniteville’s jam-packed cafeteria and the applause was led by Dr. Bernard DiLullo, Superintendent of Johnston Public Schools, who offered his congratulations while emphasizing “you have all done a great job.”

McAfee, though, wasn’t through with her “marvelous milestone list” achieved inside the seemingly ageless red-brick schoolhouse.

“I am also proud to inform you that this classroom received Comprehensive Early Childhood Education Approval. We are now one of only 53 classrooms in the state to receive this certification. That means we are number 51 out of more than 2,500 classrooms in entire state.”

The principal then addressed parents, saying, “These are the teachers and staff who have cared for your children all year long. Remember, the dream begins, most of the time with a parent then moves to the teacher who believes in a child, who tugs and pushes and leads them onto the next plateau ...this warmth is the vital element for the growing mind and sole of a child. These professionals have used their skills to guide your children and to help the needs of education be planted into blossoming flowers.”

Amid the happiness that sparkled on the faces of countless family members and excitement of Graniteville’s impressive new rating, McAfee then turned up the level of excitement before announcing the 2017-18 winners of the school’s Crystal Apple Award and Teacher of the Year.

The Crystal Apple Award is given annually for excellence in education and as McAfee announced, “A special recognition of one of our outstanding educators and this unsung hero builds relationships with all our students, parents and staff and make a difference by going above and beyond the scope of her job description. She works had and takes care of our kids to in many ways.”

Graniteville’s Crystal Apple Award winner is, McAfee emphasized, “A person who loves children and the awards goes to Deborah Raspallo.”

McAfee then continued her impressive duties as the Stepping Up Day ceremony emcee by saying “it is with great pride and enthuse that I inform you that the Teacher of the Year for the Graniteville School is … Mrs. Linda Marandola, our school psychologist who in short helps students thrive.”

Moreover, as McAfee added: “Linda provides direct support and interventions to students, consults with teachers, families and other school-employed mental health professionals to improve support strategies; she works with school administrators to improve school-wide practices and policies and collaborates with community providers to coordinate needed services.”

Among her many talents, as McAfee explained while continuing to praise Marandola: “Linda is a uniquely qualified member of our school team that supports student’s ability to learn and teacher’s ability to teach. She has expertise in mental health, learning and behavior … she helps children succeed academically, socially, socially, behaviorally and emotionally.”

Marandola, McAfee said before more applause filled the cafeteria: “Has a brilliant mind that she freely uses to help our students and staff reach their full potential.”


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