2016-12-08 / Around Town

Pell Recognizes Top Readers

By Betsy Sherman Walker


Pell School fourth-grader Bryanna Pierre, the upper school top reader in the Whooo’s Reading fundraiser, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and her parents, Natasha Pierre and Cheddy Fletcher. Bryanna wants to become a lawyer, and then a judge. And then maybe a governor. Her younger sister Elisha, a kindergartner at Pell, plans on becoming a doctor. (Photo by Jen Carter) Pell School fourth-grader Bryanna Pierre, the upper school top reader in the Whooo’s Reading fundraiser, with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and her parents, Natasha Pierre and Cheddy Fletcher. Bryanna wants to become a lawyer, and then a judge. And then maybe a governor. Her younger sister Elisha, a kindergartner at Pell, plans on becoming a doctor. (Photo by Jen Carter) A fundraising effort launched last fall by the Pell School Parent Teacher Organization that also served as an initiative to encourage students to read has raised more than $15,000 for the school. The total raised, according to PTO Copresident Kendra Muenter, was a record $15,445 – putting the group well within reach of its $25,000 fundraising goal for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Winners of the Whooo’s Reading Read-a-thon were announced at a ceremony at the school on Monday, Dec. 5. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse attended the ceremony to hand out awards, and to demonstrate to the students that, like them, he is a good reader and enjoys a good book.

Students, teachers, and parents gathered along with Whitehouse, Newport Mayor Harry Winthrop, First Ward Councilor Susan Taylor and Superintendent Colleen Jermain to recognize the top readers and fundraisers. Also attending were School Committee Chair David Hanos and committee members Sandra Flowers and Ray Gomes.

Whooo’s Reading is a popular online program that has gained national attention – and a large fan base of educators – as an effective teaching tool, with a fundraising component that motivates students to read and strengthen their reading and writing skills. The fundraiser is particularly pertinent as the Newport school district has struggled in the past year with disappointing PARCC scores measuring college and career readiness.

The total number of minutes read was 457,963. “This was the first year for the read-a-thon,” Muenter said, “and we were happy to be able to provide a fundraiser that encourages the students to do the work and aligns with the district’s read-by-three initiative.” In August, the Newport School Department announced that it had joined the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), a national movement to enhance literacy.

Before the winners were announced, Pell principal Traci Westman introduced the senator as a “special guest.” Whitehouse explained to the students that “the White House is not named after me, although it does make for some funny moments.” When a student asked what a senator does, he said, “The main thing is that a senator helps make laws. We also investigate,” he added, “to make sure the president is doing a good job.”

When asked if it was hard to be a senator, Whitehouse said, “It keeps you very busy.” And then, “It makes me very proud to represent Rhode Island in the Senate. And when you love doing something, it doesn’t feel like work.”

Displaying well-honed bedtime story skills, Whitehouse read the book “Infinity and Me” to the crowd, and then presented the awards.

In the upper school (grades two through four), the top fundraising award went to Sybil Grayko’s second graders. The three top individual fundraisers were first, Grace Muenter (second grade); second, Colby Schreiber (third grade); and third, Emma Hoag (fourth grade). The top reading award went to Tricia Donnelly’s fourth-graders. The top readers, all fourth-graders, were first, Bryanna Pierre; second, Vasean Hayes; and third, Amari Massey.

In the lower school (kindergarten and first grade), the top fundraisers – and top readers – were Kathryn Caruolo’s first-graders. First-grader Freja Doyle was the top fundraiser, followed by Kaylee Kendle, also in first grade, and kindergartner Caroline Galvin. Top readers, all first graders, were in order, Nora Gardullo, Nikolai Konichev, and John Merkel.

For every $30 a student raised, he or she also earned a raffle ticket for a Kindle Fire. Tess Margolis was the winner for the upper school, and Freya Doyle won in the lower school.

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