Booked! North Georgetown Elementary’s renovated library ready for opening

George Bradford, a talented artist and former custodian at North Georgetown Elementary, receives a plaque for his contribution on the mural during the unveiling of the renovated library at North Georgetown Elementary. From left, staff members Megan Foley and Adam Warner, who spearheaded the library makeover, Mr. Bradford and North Georgetown Elementary Assistant Principal Samantha Gordy.

GEORGETOWN – Following an extreme makeover, super excitement abounds among staff and administration at North Georgetown Elementary School for the arrival of the 2017-18 school year.

Ready and waiting for students: the school’s renovated library.

A summer-long journey is complete, thanks to school staff members, their children and a community connection.

“It is not only the staff in this building, but it is our community and it is our staff members’ children,” said Samantha Gordy, North Georgetown Elementary assistant principal. “You can see that we are a family here and everyone comes together when we need to. We created something that our students are going to enjoy for many years to come.”

“It is unbelievable. It was not possible without the people in this room,” said North Georgetown Elementary Principal Heather Cramer at the unveiling event.

The unveiling ceremony was held Thursday, Aug. 31, five days before the first student day on Sept. 5. Seven hundred and 98 students were enrolled as of the first day of September.

“I couldn’t be prouder to be a staff member here at North Georgetown,” said Adam Warner, the school’s computer/technical specialist who teamed with third-grade teacher Megan Foley to initially spearhead the project. “I cannot believe the outpouring of support that I got, that Megan got and we all got through this project. It was insane to see how many people stepped up and donated materials, money, time … you name it.”

On hand for the unveiling: George Bradford, the school’s former full-time custodian and renowned artist who spearheaded the wall mural painting project.

Mr. Bradford retired in 2004 after 19 years at North Georgetown Elementary. His artistic talent has reeled in numerous honors, including three winning entries in the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Trout Stamp program: 2000, 2005 and 2012. He placed second in 2018 with his brown trout entry.

The library journey began under previous principal Michael Rodriguez, who had a vision for the first-through-fifth-grade elementary school to form more partnerships with the community and the state. Mr. Rodriguez is now working for the Delaware Department of Education.

With approval from the Indian River School District board of education, library transformation began in early June. Part of the mission was to eliminate the dual-purpose as a library/computer lab. Advanced device technology for classrooms has eliminated the need for a second computer lab.

Essentially, the entire library/computer lab was emptied. All furnishings, shelving and the entire catalog of books were temporarily relocated.

Every spec of wall space was painted. That paved the way for the artistic touch.

“Then Mr. Bradford did his magic,” said Mr. Warner.

Staff joined in on the mural project.

“His paintings are amazing. We have a couple hanging in the front of the building. He does amazing work. What a great man,” said Ms. Cramer, noting Mr. Bradford remains employed as a substitute custodian in the district.

New carpeting was installed after the paint dried.

Ms. Foley recognized Jen Cotter, a substitute teacher at North Georgetown, and her daughter Megan Cotter, who attended the school. The mother/daughter combo took on a monumental task. “They organized every single book in library,” said Ms. Foley.

“Jen is a substitute teacher/parent volunteer. She is here every day regardless if she is working here or not,” said Ms. Cramer.

“We re-shelved all of the books,” said Ms. Cotter. “The library (inventory) had never been purged.”

Ms. Gordy shared the chapters of the journey.

With the help of then IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting, now the Department of Education secretary, the school formed a partnership with My Very Own Library, Scholastic and United Way last October. My Very Own Library provided 10 free books for all NGE students so they could build libraries at home.

Book fairs and family literacy nights were held.

Last November, the school formed a partnership with First Book. “They were looking for a host downstate. Again Dr. Bunting and Mr. Rodriguez said, ‘Bring it on,’” said Ms. Gordy.

A truckload with more than 10,000 books arrived.

In December 2016, the school’s fourth and fifth graders had the opportunity to meet book author Wendy Shang. “It was such a powerful moment for our students because they were able to actually talk to someone who had gone through the writing process,” said Ms. Gordy.

A series of grants resulted in the school obtaining more and more books.

Ideas surfaced about a literacy initiative.

“We want to make sure that we are helping our children become lifelong learners and have a love of reading,” said Ms. Gordy.

Enter Ms. Foley and Mr. Warner, who put their heads together in efforts to have a welcome place with plenty of space where students will want to come and read all day long.

“Those two really just took the initiative and went with it. And the staff, because of their excitement just came right on board with it,” said Ms. Cramer. “It’s very exciting to be here and be with the staff. They are all about the kids and all about providing experiences for these students.”

“They really took the charge and the ball didn’t drop,” said Mr. Gordy. “It is a lot to be a teacher during the school year, and in the summer to come in here and spend your time and give back to your students. It is really something remarkable.”

The makeover includes castle-like structures that provide additional book shelving as well as a cool place for young Golden Knights to relax and read. Matt Nein was instrumental in that week-long building project.

The school has a huge “thank you” list, including school custodians for their help along the way and the PTO, which provided funding for new tables and chairs, Ms. Foley said.

At the unveiling, Ms. Cotter donated several of her family’s books “so that these kids have the passion my kids have for reading.”

The library’s wall mural was formally dedicated to Mr. Bradford.

“Over 70 hours of his time was spent in that library,” said Ms. Gordy. “So, Mr. Bradford, we cannot thank you enough. What you are providing for our children is beyond words. So, we would like to dedicate the wall in our library to you.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.