24 Students, 17 Staff and a Literacy Program: You Are Special!

Sixteen Framingham Public School staffers and the Wilson Elementary literacy program were presented with "You Are Special" awards.

Two dozen students from the class of 2012 were among the honorees at the the Thursday night.

Framingham High principal Michael Welch told the more than 500 people in attendance that it was hard to "narrow it to just 24" students.

Honored were: Nichanan Agrasuta, Nathan Alvord, Matthew Bell, Parmeet Bhullar, Sophia DeAraujo, Renan De Oliveira, Donald Goff, Katherine Grindeland, Matt Hugo, Rachel Hulsman, , Adam Magier, Nrendan Moran, Courtney Mryglot, Shamira Nambafu, Hoang Nguyen, Parth Patel, Emma Sales, Patricia Salmeron, Selena Santiago, Tahleen Seifel, , Jennifer Wagner and Jonathan West.

Welch said 700 AP exams were taken by Framingham High students and 90% of those who took the exam scored high enough to earn college credit.

"This is a great event that really takes the opportunity to recognize a lot of those folks spending a lot of time in their community supporting Framingham High School and the Framingham Public Schools," added Welch.

The event was attended by the current and . , who will start his job in July, was invited to the event by current Superintendent of Schools Steve Hiersche.

"This is the hottest ticket in Framingham today," said Hiersche. "I actually think you could scalp seats out in the back parking lot."

Hiersche awarded 16 Framingham Public School staffers and the literacy program with "You Are Special" awards.

Honored were:

* Jayne Carney, comptroller in the for almost 10 years. She works predominately with figures and budgets. She also instructs special needs Zumba classes for youth and adults in the Framingham area.

*Jill Coates, guidance counselor at , since 2007. A resource for more than 500 students and their families, she is described as always knowing "what to do or say to make a child feel better about themselves and heir situations."

* Lisa Columbo, a physical education teacher at . Columbo manages the intramural programs and afterschool programs like the Turkey Trot, the Wellness Center and the Push Up Challenge.

* Heather Degnan, member of the kindergarten team at . She has been at the "forefront" of one of the school's most successful afterschool programs: Girls on the Move, which introduces students to a variety of fitness opportunities and healthy alternatives.

* Susan DeSimone, guidance counselor at Framingham High for the past 11 years.  She is also a Step-Up mentor to FHS students.

* Vanda Figueiredo, a devoted teacher and advocate for the Portuguese speaking parents for students in the English Language Learners programs at Fuller Middle School.

* Debrah Hobin, head teacher at , who has been in the district for 25 years and in the field of education for 37 years. She created a partnership with the Genzyme Corporation to give first graders the opportunity to read with a volunteer once a week. the program ran for 10 years.

* Nancy Hulme, a teacher at since 1998. She runs the Project Welcome program which provides trained 8th grade students the opportunity to encourage and assist 5th grade students with the transition to middle school. She also runs and coordinates the Special Olympics event at Walsh.

* Elizabeth Jeffrey, a social worker at , who implemented a Girls Empowerment Lunch Group.

* Otto Johnson, a school psychologist at Walsh Middle, began his career as an school psychologist intern at Fuller Middle school after teaching elementary for 12 years. A Mazie mentor, a volunteer with the school's Thanksgiving food drive and chaperone who is know to bust a move at school dances, Johnson also assists with the Walsh 5K road race, the PTO and the annual musical.

* Janice Laako, a special education assistant and tutor at the high school. Laako is assigned the task of assessing individual students' needs and provides one-on-one tutoring to address their needs so that they can achieve passing scores on the MCAS exam, which is a graduation requirement.

* Miriam Lapa Silva, a Portuguese bilingual teacher at Potter Road Elementary, who has taught for the past 11 years in Framingham.

* Rebecca Morrison, a guidance counselor at She is the moving force behind the school's new CARE behavior plan.

* Kerry O'Brien, a kindergarten teacher at , "who goes above and beyond to help her students reach their full potential."

* Deb Phillips, a literacy leader at , who also volunteers with the school's spaghetti dinner, annual book fair, family fun day, 8th grade basketball game and the yearly community service project, the Halloween Haven.

* Sharon Silverman, the office manager at Brophy Elementary School.

* Literacy program at "Compassion, perseverance, confidence, respect and generosity. At Woodrow Wilson, these words motivate all of our teachers and students. Vocabulary was chosen as a result of a careful study of our student data as well as research on best practices for all students, including English Language Learners. For the past two years, Wilson teachers and students have engaged in a school-wide vocabulary initiative, of which the aforementioned words are included. At Woodrow Wilson we recognize that by getting our students excited about words and carefully teaching them words that they will encounter in literature and their subject areas, we are setting them up for academic and lifelong success. When you come in our building, the vocabulary initiative comes to life. For example, students include new words in their writing, play games with words, talk about word relationships, learn word parts and set up word competitions to see which word their class uses the most. Parents and visitors to our school have often commented on the vocabulary of our students, especially when first graders so eloquently explain that they hope lunchtime is soon because they are famished."

Hiersche said the Salute to Framingham event was "an opportunity for the the community to come together and show their pride."

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