Peg Hershfeldt, Wally Beardsley, Terrie Serrato selected as Frances Gillespie Award winners

  • Peg Hershfeldt (Courtesy photo)

  • Wally Beardsley (Journal-Advocate file photo)

  • Terrie Serrato (Journal-Advocate file photo)



Three outstanding RE-1 Valley School District staff members are being recognized for their dedication. During a business meeting Tuesday, the school board approved the following individuals for this year’s Frances Gillespie Award: Peg Hershfeldt, Wallly Beardsley and Terrie Serrato.

Nomination committee recommendations were presented by Joe Skerjanec, chair of the committee. He reminded everyone that Frances Gillespie was a beloved English teacher at Sterling High School, “she was the epitome of what we consider to be an outstanding educator.”  Gillespie committed her life to the district and with no children of her own, her students became her children.

“Sometimes I think people might wonder if this is a legacy award and it’s not necessarily, because we have people who win the award and continue to teach for many years in RE-1 Valley Schools,” Skerjanec said.

Peg Hershfeldt is the administrative assistant to Interim Superintendent Ron Marostica.

“I don’t think you can find anyone in the district who can’t say ‘thank God for Peg.’ She is so organized, she’s so very helpful and she keep’s Ron organized,” Skerjanec said. “Peg is always giving, always willing to walk down the hall the extra mile, whatever it might be, to help you with whatever you might need.”

Wally Beardsley committed most of his life to the district, with just a short time spent working elsewhere. When he first came to RE-1 he taught PE at Caliche School and then SHS, where he was also the wrestling coach. Beardsley served as assistant principal at SHS from 2003 to 2015, athletic director from 2011 to 2015 and principal from 2015 until he retired in March.

“He worked tirelessly for what he believed was the right thing to do and Mr. Beardsley does have, I think, a strong sense of what he believes is right and I think that has been a great contribution to RE-1 Valley Schools,” Skerjanec said.

Terrie Serrato is a life skills special education teacher at Sterling Middle School.

“Terrie has been an influence in the life skills department at Sterling Middle School, she takes kids from so many different backgrounds, she gives them all of her love and stretches them from the time she receives from the elementary and prepares them to not only do well at Sterling High School, but to have the life skills necessary to function in life,” Skerjanec said. “She is very giving to her staff members, to her administrators and coaching extracurricular activities.”

Awards will be presented to the recipients at the district’s back-to-school all staff meeting in the fall.

In other business, Marostica updated the board that candidates to fill the principal position at SHS, which is currently held by interim principal Mark Appelhans, were interviewed Tuesday. It went very smoothly and there are some great candidates. Incoming Superintendent Shila Adolf is in the process of doing background checks for the interview committees top three picks and she’s hoping to have some information to help her make her decision by no later than Thursday.

Interviews to fill the director position at Hagen Early Education Center, which is held by Georgia Sanders who is retiring at the end of the school year, will take place Thursday.

Marostica also addressed questions about likely class sizes at SMS and SHS next school year. At this point, there will be 448 students at SMS, with 28 certified staff members that results in a student-teacher ratio of 16:1 and at SHS there will be 508 students and with 32 teachers that results in a student-teacher ratio of 15.9 or 16:1.

In discussing distance learning, which ends this Friday, Marostica said “it has been a learning experience for all, but we’ve done an excellent job given the parameters in which we had to work.” It has given the district food for thought as it plans for what may be continued distance learning for the first semester of next school year. Principals are in the process of putting together a distance learning plan for next fall.

“We want to assure the public that we do have a good workable plan, hoping that we never have to use it,” Marostica said.

He thanked the SHS and Caliche High School principals for their work on developing alternative graduation plans, which have been approved by Northeast Colorado Health Department.

“The high school principals have done an excellent job responding and making sure that this class receives recognition, maybe not the traditional recognition that we’ve been used to, but recognition none the less given the conditions,” Marostica said.

The district is planning to offer virtual summer school for middle school students and virtual credit recovery for high school students. Marostica said district has created a plan for summer school for preschool through fourth grade students should they be able to offer it, but he is not very hopeful.

“We absolutely cannot do a summer school for the elementary in a virtual fashion. The whole point of that summer school is the relationship that students build with the 21 or 22 teachers who they interact with in that three week period and move on a daily basis into instructional groups who are advancing,” Marostica said.

He added the other thing that makes virtual learning impossible is that many of the students who are most positively impacted by the summer school program are kindergarten and preschool students headed into kindergarten, and at that age they don’t have the skills to do any kind of virtual learning that would be truly beneficial for them.

“We’ll keep the public and you posted with the eventual outcome of our elementary summer school, but at this point it doesn’t look likely,” Marostica told the board.

The board thanked teachers, staff and administrators for all their hard work during this unusual time.

“I want to express my and our gratitude for getting us through this year. This district faced an immense amount of challenges and we were under intense scrutiny and I appreciate everyone for what they’ve done to get us through this year,” Jennifer Ogley said.