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School District Shines Spotlight on Outstanding Community Members

Board Recognizes Former Trustee Laura Brown; School Bus Driver Honored With SEPTA Award

While Garden City School District is accustomed to highlighting countless student and teacher achievements at board of education meetings, last week two shining stars of the community shared the spotlight for their outstanding service to the Garden City School District.

At the board of education meeting on June 14, former School Board Trustee Laura Brown was presented a certificate of appreciation for her five years of service to the Garden City Board of Education. School Board President Colleen Foley told the audience that Brown’s departure earlier this year was due to health reasons.

“The last five years, I have gotten to know her and she’s a wonderful person. Laura brought to the trustee role her insight as a parent, her professionalism as an educator and her deep and consistent commitment as resident of this community,” Foley said, adding, “We’ll miss you.”

Foley read a motion presented by the Superintendent of Schools for consideration and action by the board of education in recognition for Brown’s service as trustee. “Whereas Laura Brown has given her dedicated and devoted service to Garden City Union Free School District for five years on the board of education. She has given generously of her time and talents for the betterment of the Garden City School District,” Foley stated.

SEPTA Vice President Melanie Donus was also on hand to present the Special Education Parent-Teacher Association’s (SEPTA) Nancy Maher-Maxwell Award to school bus driver Richard “Richie” Cappello.

The annual SEPTA Award recognizes outstanding individuals who have made meaningful contributions to the special education population in Garden City schools. The award is named after Maher-Maxwell, who was director of Pupil Personnel Services from July 2001 to May 2004 in Garden City School District.

Before bestowing the honor to the recipient, Donus explained Maher Maxwell was the epitome of the perfect educator. “With Nancy, the child always came first. She worked tirelessly for the special education population of Garden City during her short tenure even from a sick bed. This award has been established in her name to recognize an individual who has also placed our children first. A person who has dedicated himself like Miss Maher-Maxwell,” Donus said to the audience.

Donus said she has won the love of each and every student and staff for the past years. She read a statement from one parent who expressed his appreciation. “Richie pulled up in front of our house every day with a huge smile on his face waiting to welcome my son on the bus. His friendly face made my son want to go to school and just as important, made me as mom know my son was taken care to get to school safely.”

Another parent of a special education child congratulated Cappello on his award. Donus read her statement: “Being a parent of an autistic child is challenging. In a world where a child cannot speak for themselves, the burden weighs heaviest. Having Richie for my son’s bus driver, he goes out of his way to make sure he is as comfortable as possible.”

Cappello accepted the award to a standing ovation, had no idea he was there to be honored. “I feel fantastic; this is an honor. But it’s an honor to work for the school district. It’s an honor to carry those kids. They’re the ones that give me my smile. They’re telling me I give them the smile to them, but they give me the smile. I thank everybody, especially the parents,” Cappello said.

Nominated by several parents of children in the special education community, Donus said this is the first time the award has been given to a school bus driver. Cappello has safely transported more than 100 primary school special education students in the district over the past four years.