Bittersweet

CASSADAGA – Ray and Elizabeth Wichlacz drove from Cheektowaga to the Cassadaga Elementary School to have lunch with their grandson Bradley Wichlacz. Bradley’s maternal grandparents Mary and Ed Sisson of Cassadaga also attended.

Ray joked, “I call it my hundred-mile hot dog.”

On Friday Grandparents’ Day, a longtime tradition at the school, was held there for the last time. For many years, students have invited their grandparents to join them for activities in the classrooms followed by lunch.

Trish Pecuch, an elementary teacher who has taught for the district for 34 years and at the Cassadaga Elementary School for about 25 of those years, recalls that individual classes would invite grandparents to come for a visit. Eventually the staff decided the whole school would participate on one day.

Both Pecuch and the building will both retire at the end of the school year. She said, “It is bittersweet for me. There are people and things I will miss. But you can’t have a beginning without an ending.”

Principal Josh Gilevski said more than 200 people were expected. The Kiwanis volunteered their time to cook hotdogs. There were donations of ice cream and chips. The Cassadaga Shur-Fine lent the school a blue and white tent to house those who chose to eat outdoors.

SUNY Fredonia music majors Ian Liedke and Kyle Scudder, who are roommates at the college, provided music during lunch. Notes of the song “Misty,” and other jazz pieces drifted through the cafeteria.

Liedke who played keyboard said, “I heard about this through my roommate. I like to play jazz and welcomed an opportunity to play.”

Scudder who played drums said, “My mom (Laurel Scudder, a teacher at the school) told me they needed music so we decided to play.”

In the cafeteria, the children were clearly enjoying the attention of their grandparents. Charlotte Couchman smiled brightly at her grandparents, Cliff Couchman and Linda and John Burton. Kindergarten student Kara Fote had as her guests her grandparents Sharon and Dan Foster plus her brother Cortland Hepfner.

Some people chose to eat outside in spite of the foggy, nippy weather. Randy and Cheryl Daughenbaugh sat with their granddaughter Katlyne. She is in second grade and like all the other children will be at the Sinclairville Elementary School in the fall.

After lunch, grandparents and children checked with school secretary Shannon Pattyson before leaving. Ace Pierce and his grandparents Sandy and Tim Kelly of Stockton made their way to a still full parking lot. Sandy, who has another grandson that attended Cassadaga Elementary School, reflected on the loss of the school and its traditions.

“It’s sad,”she said. “We have been coming here for this for five years.”

On March 11 the Cassadaga Valley Central School Board took the official vote to close the Cassadaga Elementary School. Since then faculty, staff, students and the community have been aware many traditions will be celebrated for the last time.

Cassadaga Elementary School teacher Scudder is coordinating a farewell song for the school to be held at today’s board of Education meeting at the middle/high school. All present and past students, faculty, and staff of Cassadaga Elementary school are invited to participate. Those interested should meet in the chorus room in the high school at 6:30 p.m. to practice before the 7 p.m. meeting.

The last Flag Day ceremony at the school will be held Friday. At 9:30 a.m. there will be a parade of students on Maple Avenue. A flag raising will be held as well as a little song and performance. A mystery speaker from the community is planned. The community could watch the parade and attend the outdoor flag raising.

Village Trustee Ron DeChard has called for the community to clap out the school on June 20.

He wrote, “For many years there has been a tradition at Cassadaga Elementary that the fifth grade or now second-grade class was “clapped out” on their very last day at the Elementary school. All the staff, parents, and Village residents would line up and applaud the kids on their way out the door.

“This year being the last for this school and the kids I’d recommend the Village Board invite all residents or former students to come and clap out the last class and staff this facility will ever have on June 20 at 11 a.m.”

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com