By Donald Wittkowski
The Ocean City Board of Education honored a veritable all-star lineup of administrators and faculty members Wednesday night, including two who have been named the top state winners in their respective fields – Superintendent of the Year Kathleen Taylor and Teacher of the Year Amy Andersen.
At the same meeting, the board paid tribute to one of its own, Thomas Oves Jr., who died Oct. 22 at the age of 54. Oves, a retired teacher who had been a school board member since 2009, had formerly served as its vice president and was the chairman of the buildings and grounds committee.
“Those who knew Tom would describe him as a driven, exuberant, straight-shooter and one who was never reluctant to speak his mind,” Joseph Clark, the board president, said in a statement.
“Our school district is fortunate to have been the beneficiary of Tom’s keen insights and genuine leadership,” Clark continued. “He was a trusted advisor and confidant who leaves a legacy of launching our students, teachers and schools on the pathway to success.”
After extending the board’s condolences to Oves’ wife, Mary, and the rest of his family, Clark asked everyone to observe a moment of silence in honor of Oves.
“He has certainly left his mark on our schools and community,” Clark said. “We have truly lost an irreplaceable partner and friend.”
Oves was credited with helping to thrust the Ocean City School District into the upper echelon of New Jersey’s public education system.
“I do believe we’re one of the top districts in the state of New Jersey, hands down,” Clark said.
Clark and other board members said Taylor’s selection on Nov. 8 as 2018 New Jersey Superintendent of the Year and Andersen’s selection on Oct. 3 as 2017-2018 New Jersey Teacher of the Year illustrate the high quality of Ocean City’s staff.
“I believe she’s going to bring us into the national spotlight one day,” board member Cecilia Gallelli-Keyes said of Taylor.
Taylor became emotional in acknowledging the honors from the board. She said the district’s successes were the result of collaboration between the school board, the administration, the faculty, the students and their parents.
“This is an honor I share with the entire Ocean City School District community,” she said.
Now that Taylor and Andersen have won their respective state titles, they will go on to compete for national honors in their categories.
Andersen is an American Sign Language teacher at Ocean City High School. Taylor described Andersen as an inspiration to her students as well as a “true teacher leader.”
“Above all, she ignites in her students the passion for learning,” Taylor said.
Andersen was joined by other highly regarded Ocean City faculty members in receiving local recognition from Taylor and the school board Wednesday night as part of American Education Week.
At the high school level, Andersen was honored along with Patricia Horvath, a former student counselor who died in 2015.
At the Ocean City Intermediate School, the board recognized Katherine Bassett, a former librarian, Cholehna Weaver, a social studies teacher, Shannon Pruitt, a counselor, and Cory Terry, a science teacher.
Honorees from the Ocean City Primary School included Carrie Merritt, a first grade teacher, Randall Kohr, a technology teacher, and Mary Beth Libro, a third grade teacher.
Taylor called all of the honorees prime examples of Ocean City’s “exceptional faculty.” She said they are among the “best leaders (who) know how to reach a variety of people in many different ways.”
“Our excellence is not an accident,” she said. “Excellence is also connected to good leaders.”
All of the staff members who were saluted by the school board have had their names embossed on plaques that recognize them as “outstanding leaders in education.”