Liverpool: Donlin Drive Elementary: A caring community

Visitors to Donlin Drive Elementary last Friday could find most of the school's 490 students dressed in green in celebration of St. Patrick's Day. Others wore pajamas for a school spirit Pajama Day. All seemed to be having fun -- a common occurrence at the school.

March 16 kicked off with a schoolwide assembly in which students watched a group of Irish dancers from the Ashford Academy of Irish Dance. After the demonstration, several of the girls tried to imitate the moves.

"It's a really fun school," said Nancy Lazara, a teacher's aide who works in the office. "There's a lot of school spirit here."

"The staff is really genuine," agreed Cathy DiMarco, attendance secretary. "There are no cliques. Everyone's really happy with everyone."

Brand new building

In 2003, the school completed a massive renovation. The new building is open and airy with plenty of windows, including one at the front of the office allowing the staff to see everyone who enters the building.

"It's for kids' safety," DiMarco said. "And the parents are very respectful of that."

Principal John Sardella said that the new building has helped to contribute to the culture of the school.

"We make a difference for kids," Sardella said. "We work as a team that works together, collaborating strongly as a staff."

The school's motto, utilizing the school's initials, is "Determined to make a difference, dedicated to our community and educating our future." The teachers and students work together to accomplish those goals through the school's extensive character education program.

"It connects our students to our community," Sardella said. "It's a big component of our building We try to have fun. We try to be very involved with people. We want them to feel connected."

The staff at DDE does struggle sometimes to maintain that connection; Sardella said that 20 percent of the school's population moves in and out throughout the school year.

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