Four students selected to represent their former school district cut the ribbon during a morning assembly Thursday as part of the first day of school at the newly merged Central Valley Academy.
“It’s very symbolic,” said Central Valley Academy Principal Renée Rudd before the students cut either of the two ribbons placed at the center of the gymnasium. “There may be two students you know, there may be two you don’t know. There’s two from Ilion and two from Mohawk. This truly is a new beginning.”
The assembly was the first of special events scheduled for high school students on Thursday. The school served free picnic lunches for classes, along with a deejay providing entertainment and a visit from motivational speaker and mind reader Robert Channing. Students attended their regular schedule during the day in between events.
“I think everyone is really excited to be back in the building,” said Ian Wiernicki, a senior who was part of the Ilion school district.
Wiernicki added, “It’s exciting to be part of the first graduating class of Central Valley Academy.”
Johnna Bernard, who represented the former Mohawk school district for the ribbon cutting, agreed with Wiernicki. She also said she was looking forward to making new friends and to having more opportunities.
“I’m taking way more courses this year than what was offered previously,” she said. “I won’t have like ten study halls a day now.”
Students were grouped into their classes during the assembly. Faculty and staff members wore light blue T-shirts bearing the Central Valley logo on it. T-shirts were to be distributed to students during the day to wear for Friday classes.
Legislators, police and fire officials, school district and CVA officials and members of the school board were recognized during the assembly with a CVA pen and lanyard.
State Sen. James Seward and state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney attended the event, along with representatives from state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi’s office and U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna’s office. Hanna’s representatives brought with them a certificate and an American flag that was flown over Washington, D.C., to raise up at the new school.
Central Valley Academy Assistant Principal Richard Keeler introduced the faculty and staff to the new student body. Then the Central Valley Thunder mascot, dressed to look like the mythological figure Thor, made his first appearance in a run around the gymnasium.
Music teacher Mark Bunce also announced a contest for students to come up with a new alma mater for Central Valley. He said it should be about eight to 12 stanzas, and mention Central Valley and thunder. The first performance of the song will be during the first commencement ceremony for the school district. Bunce said the student who wins the contest will be awarded a $100 iTunes card.
Page 2 of 2 - Rudd rallied the students around the new school during the assembly.
“Together lets work at Central Valley to make it outstanding in academics, arts and athletics …” she said. “Today marks the first day in our history. Let the thunder roll and lets begin our work to achieve!”
Talks of studying a merger or reorganization between the Ilion and Mohawk school districts resurfaced in 2009. Shortly after, officials in Herkimer and Frankfort-Schuyler also got in on the same study. In January 2012, a vote for a merger between the four school districts was rejected. In October 2012, a vote between the Ilion, Mohawk and Herkimer school districts was also voted down.
Then in March, voters approved of merging the Ilion and Mohawk school districts, which now make up the Central Valley Central School District. Since then, a school board has formed, a staff was organized and busing to either of the four school buildings had to be arranged. Plus, about $980,000 in repairs had to be made to Gregory B. Jarvis Middle School after flooding damaged the building over the summer.
“A lot of people worked very, very hard to make today possible,” said Central Valley Central School District Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. during a telephone interview on Thursday. “This is what the community chose to do. The administrative staff, the faculty and the maintenance crew did heroic work to make it as perfect as it could have been.”
Tangorra said Thursday’s assembly for the high school students was important.
“It was a sign of coming together and kind of a kick-off. It’s more important in that building than any other because it’s the first graduating class in the school district,” he said. “It’s unique and it should be celebrated.”
School was also in session for the other three buildings in the merged district - Barringer Road Elementary in Ilion, Harry M. Fisher Elementary in Mohawk and Jarvis Middle School. Tangorra said some busing problems that were reported were among the usual first day of school glitches.
“With the opening day, there were glitches that we discovered,” said Tangorra. “It was nothing related to the reorganization. It was a normal opening day.”