Chagrin Falls School News
August 18, 2022 by Staff Report

At the Aug. 15 Chagrin Falls Schools’ staff convocation meeting, Superintendent Jennifer Penczarski revealed the 2022-23 school year theme of “This is Chagrin…Write the Story...

This is Chagrin…Write the Story

At the Aug. 15 Chagrin Falls Schools’ staff convocation meeting, Superintendent Jennifer Penczarski revealed the 2022-23 school year theme of “This is Chagrin…Write the Story.”

She said, “The work we will be doing this year centers around our school community sharing their stories and experiences to write a narrative for what we collectively believe and want for our students. This is a perfect statement that outlines what we hope to accomplish through the strategic planning process.”

Penczarski continued, “Core values and beliefs are the foundation of strategic planning and establishing the culture of an organization. It is what makes school a special place to learn, work, and succeed, and a school community a special place to live. Are we ready to educate the next generation of students? How will the story we write this year impact their story in the future?”

Throughout the school year, our students, staff, parents and community will be encouraged to help “write the story of Chagrin Falls Schools” in numerous ways. From participating in the creation of the district’s strategic plan to actually being an author highlighting the commitment and dedication to academic excellence and preparation of our students for the world after graduation.

Ray Markuszka 20-Year Service Award

On Aug. 15 during the Chagrin Fall Schools’ convocation meeting to welcome back staff, Director of Operations Chris Woofter presented the Ray Markuszka 20-Year Service Award to the following employees: Mary Czerr, Diane Dobies, Lisa Dugach, Lisa Janson, Diane Santucci, Bobbie Serensky and Sarah Tatarko.

Ray was a dedicated custodian on the 7-12 campus. He is best known as a loyal and hard-working man that put his heart into his daily job. In June 2000, Ray retired after 20 years of service to the district. Then shortly after his retirement, Ray suffered a heart attack that regretfully took his life.

“It is in Ray’s name that we show our appreciation to our staff members with 20 years of service,” said Woofter.

Those being honored received a gift from PTO, had their picture displayed on the digital display near the central office and were invited to a special luncheon with the superintendent.

Teacher and Staff Employee of the Year

At the Aug. 15 staff convocation meeting, Chagrin Falls Schools surprised two staff members with one of the highest awards given by the district. Mike Sweeney, a math teacher at Chagrin Falls High School, is the Teacher of the Year. In addition to being a teacher, he is the varsity baseball coach, assistant varsity basketball coach and eighth-grade football coach. The Staff Employee of the Year is Nicole (Niki) Lustig, an aide at Chagrin Falls High School.

Director of Pupil Services Jennifer Bencko presented the award to Niki Lustig. She received 13 nominations. In presenting Lustig with the award, Bencko said, “Kind, hardworking, supportive, dedicated, humble, genuine, an unsung hero. I could spend the entire morning listing positive adjectives that I would choose to describe this year’s Staff Employee of the Year. However, my opinion is not just my own. In fact, all those that have worked with this person would echo my words. Lustig has been described as “effective, efficient, able to balance diverse personalities, staying calm under sometimes stressful situations, culture builder, stabilizing force, resource for all and an integral member of the team.

Highlights of her nominations state include…

“I can’t believe this person has never won this award before. Her positive attitude lifts me and the students up.”

“She deserves this recognition even though she would never seek it out on her own. She is not boastful and does not seek praise. She simply does her job the best she can.”

“She is all around kind, caring and thoughtful. She goes above and beyond for staff and her special education students. She is simply amazing.”

Bencko continued, “When you think about how many students and staff this person has worked in her 16 years in the district, it is not surprising that the nominations were plentiful. Let me ask you a question, can you describe the process of mitosis and meiosis? Can you balance chemical equations, can you explain erosion to a struggling student? Well if you can’t, it’s okay because this person can. In fact, this person has taken some of our high school science classes 6, 7, 8 times or more. Why you ask, because this person is an educational aide, who comes to work each and every day, to support struggling learners, helping them have a positive school experience. She is an educator who just gets it.”

Athletic Director Charlie Barch presented Mike Sweeney, who has been a math teacher at Chagrin Falls High School for 23 years, with his award. He said, “He has coached at Chagrin for the same amount of time. Everytime I talk with our parents, they mention what a great coach he is, but they almost always mention what a great teacher he is as well. When I am walking with him in the halls, all the students are quick to say hello to him. Many times at the end of the school year, alumni come back and always want to stop by and say hi to him.”

Highlights of his nominations state…

”If there was an unsung hero at the high school, he would be it. Not only does he coach, he teaches many challenging classes. When commenting about being busy, he shared that he has students come in before school, during tiger period, lunch time, and labs on a regular basis.”

“He has the unique talent to be able to challenge the most advanced students while reaching the struggling learners.”