By Jeff Gallatin

Bay Village

An Olympic gold medal soccer winner representing a national organization was one of several officials who honored Normandy Elementary School’s One School, One Book program for scoring big with the Bay Village community.

Kelley O’Hara, an Olympic soccer gold medalist and Women’s World Cup Champion, was at a special Normandy School assembly Friday along with other representatives from the Be A Learning Hero program to give school officials a $5,000 check as an Ohio winner for the One School, One Book program. In addition, program officials designed a cartoon strip noting the achievement, which was also presented to school officials at the assembly.

“It’s a tremendous honor for all of us and a tribute to the students, their families, the staff and the Normandy community for all the work they’ve put into the program,” Dan Sebring, Normandy principal, said after the assembly. “It’s a great program because it involves the students, their families, the school and the community in the reading program.”

Sebring initiated the program at the district two years ago. In the program, a book is selected by a committee for the students to read. Special programs and activities are then set up involving the students, their families, the school and the community that are designed to encourage reading and discussion of the book. Reading about Humphrey the Hamster kicked off the program for Normandy two years ago, with Sebring saying Friday this year’s book will be revealed later this school year.

Jim Cowen, the director of the Game Plan For Success contest for Be A Learning Hero, lauded the Normandy students and staff for their work on the program.

“To succeed in the big leagues, professional athletes aim high, listen to coaches, practice hard and then test themselves on game day,” he said. “That same game plan leads to big wins in classrooms. The Game Plan For Success contest encourages schools, teachers, students, parents and community members to share their own stories where hard work, practice and high expectations paid off.

“Normandy Elementary School’s commitment to teaching high standards through listening and literacy exemplifies what it takes to be successful for the pros and in life. They have engaged students, families and their community to achieve a true sense of teamwork – and that should be applauded,” Cowen said. “We’re excited to celebrate the success at Normandy and share their story as an example to other schools in Ohio and across the country.”

A packed assembly of students chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A.” and “Kelley, Kelley” before and during the Olympian’s entry into the assembly room. She went down the middle of the aisle touching hands with the students before making remarks and answering three questions designed to keep the students working hard on the reading program and learning in general.

Sebring said Char Shryock, director of curriculum and instruction or the Bay Village City School District, told him about the program.

“Game Plan For Success was a perfect fit for Bay Schools,” Shryock said. “I think that our teachers, through activities like One School, One Book, have helped all of our students to aim high and to challenge themselves. The fact that our hard work could be recognized and celebrated with a champion soccer player like Kelley O’Hara was an added incentive to apply for the contest.

“Great things are going on in our classrooms, and the Game Plan For Success was the right opportunity to showcase those stories,” Shryock said. “Kelley O’Hara’s message to the kids was to set goals, practice and test yourself so that you can be the best student you can be. I think that winning the $5,000 prize will certainly help to support our One School, One Book initiative for both Normandy and Westerly elementary school(s) this year, but the most important part of the day today was the celebration of the challenging work that teachers and students have done together over the past year. One of the second-graders shared with me that she loved coming to school each day because her teacher is always giving her a new challenge.”

Sebring said he didn’t know initially how much seeking the grant involved, but said it was well worth it.

“It turned into a lot of fun for all of us and gave us something we can all be proud of,” he said. “We intend to use this generous grant to partially fund the One School, One Book program for both (the) Westerly and Normandy schools.”

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