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Big Tree Elementary celebrates its 20th anniversary

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY — Pictured, from left: Interim Superintendent Paul Hashem, former board of education member Paul Pellicano, Technology Coordinator Deborah Gromek, Parent-Teacher Association President Tracy Conway, former board member Nancy Woods, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Myra Pinker, art teacher Debra Townsend, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Mary Ann Costello, board of education Vice President Martin Lalka, Principal Joanne Saniewski, Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon and board of education member Jack Chiappone. Photo submitted by Susan Melski.
HAMBURG — Administrators, teachers, students and guests gathered in the auditorium at Big Tree Elementary School on Nov. 20, to celebrate the school’s 20th anniversary.

Guests included former students, teachers, board of education members (both current and former), local dignitaries and more.

The celebration began with Principal Joanne Saniewski’s welcoming everyone and students leading in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Big Tree music teacher Vicki Lawson led the students in a choreographed rendition of “Trumpets Shall Sound;” the entire student body participated.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Dr. Mary Ann Costello, former board member Nancy Wood, Parent-Teacher Association President Tracy Conway, Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon and Interim Superintendent Paul Hashem, all spoke about the school’s 20th anniversary.

The “Treaty of the Big Tree” was signed in 1797, 50 miles east of the school, beneath a giant oak tree. The “middle road” divided 4 million acres of Seneca land. The middle road’s origin was near the big tree; that oak lent its name to this roadway.

The original school bell came from the first Big Tree School, which stood on the corner of Bay View Road and South Park Avenue, from 1909 – 1982. The bell was returned to Big Tree Elementary in 1993 and is located on the west side of the building adjacent to the playground.

In 2009, Big Tree Elementary was recognized by the United States Department of Education for its “academic excellence as an exemplary high performing school based on student achievement at very high levels, over a course of three years.”

A National Blue Ribbon School flag now flies next to the American flag in the school’s front circle. Big Tree also earned recognition as a “reward school” for the 2013 – 2014 school year.
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