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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

ONE OF THURSDAY’S honorees, David Phelps, right, sings a song with his classmates and fellow students at Tri-Valley Elementary School during an assembly on character that used him as an example. Phelps and Richard Johnson recovered $800 left at the school and turned it in to the principal.

Boys Lauded For
Selfless Acts

By Ted Waddell
GRAHAMSVILLE — November 6, 2001 – If you found 800 bucks lying on the floor, would you turn the money in?
For most folks, the answer is pretty obvious.
But last year, for a couple of kids at Tri-Valley Elementary School, the only thing to do was take the cash to the front office.
In February, 2nd grader Richard Johnson and David Phelps, a 3rd grader at the Grahamsville elementary school, found a wad of cash in an upstairs bathroom and turned the money over to their principal, Nancy George. After a lengthy search, the rightful owner was never located, and the superintendent and board of education decided to donate half the money to charity and split the remaining $400 between the two honest boys.
On Thursday, during the school’s monthly character education assembly program, the youngsters were honored for “an exceptionally good deed done during the last school year.”
“We want to recognize a couple of young men for showing that they were very trustworthy, which is part of loyalty [the theme for Nov.],” said George as she presented the students to the assemblage of 400 K-3 kids gathered in the school’s auditorium, which is commonly known as “the hill.”
“In my 12 years as superintendent, the students of Tri-Valley have made me very proud,” said George Vanderzell, superintendent of Tri-Valley Central School.
“These young men have made me as proud as anyone in all the years I’ve been here,” he added. “Rather than keep the money for themselves, they did the right thing and turned it in.”
This year, Johnson is an 8-year-old 3rd grader, while Phelps, 9, is in the 4th grade.
Asked why he turned in the money, Johnson replied, “If we kept it and the other kids found out about it, they would tell the teachers, and if we turned it in, we thought we would get some of it,” he said.
“My mom probably won’t let me spend more than 25 dollars,” he added.
Johnson said he’s going to put the rest of his share of the reward into his savings account.
Phelps said, “It was the right thing to do,” when asked why they turned the money over to their principal last year. “We were shocked at how much money there was. . . . There was a hundred dollar bill and a fifty sticking out.”
Phelps said he’s going to open up a savings account with his $200.
Last summer, a small group of elementary school faculty consisting of Paula Creek (elementary school librarian), Aundria McMillan Humphrey (speech therapist), Caroline Schumm (teacher aide) and Mary May Schmidt (school psychologist) created a character education committee.
In this year’s character education program, the school is focusing on eight character traits: respect (Sept.), responsibility (Oct.), loyalty (Nov.), hope (Dec.), courage (Jan.), honesty (Feb.), justice (March) and love (April).
Each month is dedicated to one of the traits, and that particular trait is introduced to the whole student body at an assembly program at the beginning of the month.
As the local elementary school gears up with its character education program, several projects have been established to reinforce the idea that “Character Counts”: a character trait tree in the main hallway by the auditorium, a sign next to the principal’s office reading, “Our Children Are a Rainbow of Good Character,” notices on every school bus and a program called “Zero Bus Referrals,” in which “good kids are recognized for being good” by demonstrating they are responsible school bus riders.
“As part of our character education program, we have begun a Buddy System where older and younger children get to work and play together, and learn from each other,” said Aundria McMillan Humphrey.
During Thursday’s assembly, students from Sharon Lanahan’s 1st grade class teamed up with Jules Goldsworthy’s 3rd graders to present a brief performance exemplifying loyalty. Using a colorful cardboard dragon as a prop, the students played the part of the dragon’s scales, while the 3rd graders were dressed up as pirates. They joined together to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon,” a song about what it means to be loyal to a friend.
Allison Mehr, Tri-Valley Class of 1989, presented a three-part wooden sculpture of a bear’s head created by local woodcarver Ed Schmidt to the elementary school. Tri-Valley is known as “Home of the Bears.”
PTA vice-president Laura McNamara showed the kids the new PTA bell. She joined the assemblage in singing Peter Yarrow’s “Don’t Laugh at Me.”
“One of the goals we are striving for in character education is to get the kids more involved in the community,” said George. “We want them to see how their behavior impacts others.”
To that end, some of the buddy classes will be designing murals and placemats for area nursing homes as a way of reaching out to the local community.

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