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'You are making such a difference for these kids'

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria stands next to principal Regina Sackman as he watches kindergarten students conduct sound experiments in Springmill STEM Elementary’s Sensory Gallery. Also looking on are Superintendent Brian Garverick and Judy Forney, board of education president.

      Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction, concluded an hour-long tour of Springmill STEM Elementary School Tuesday afternoon with an enthusiastic declaration: “Great things are happening here!”

      DeMaria visited Mansfield City Schools’ award-winning pre-kindergarten program and toured the kindergarten, first- and second-grade STEM classrooms.

      “Thank you for the great work you are doing. You are making such a difference for these kids,” DeMaria told first-year principal Regina Sackman.

      Second-graders Annabelle Redman and Brayden Harvey served as student hosts, accompanying DeMaria as he toured Springmill’s classroom wing and its science and math galleries. Joining DeMaria and Sackman were Superintendent Brian Garverick, board of education president Judy Forney, chief academic officer Stephen Rizzo and special education director Jonathan Burras.

      n the Sensory Gallery DeMaria watched as teacher Nancy Niedermier led her kindergarten “scientists” in a series of sound experiments.

      “These galleries are unique. I am very impressed by them,” DeMaria told Garverick as he moved from the Alternative Energy room to the Gears, Levers and Pulleys gallery.

      In the classroom wing, DeMaria smiled broadly as a pre-kindergarten reading group displayed the different emotions described in their book. This is the second year that the pre-kindergarten program has been at Springmill.

      The district’s pre-kindergarten program, which offers both morning and afternoon classes for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, has earned a state Step Up To Quality 5-Star Rating, the highest of five levels. The Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services determined that the program exceeds quality benchmarks over and above minimum health, safety and educational licensing standards.

      Springmill STEM Elementary is the only state-designated STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school in Richland County. It opened with two kindergarten classes in 2016, added two first-grade classes in 2017 and two second-grade classes this year. When two third-grade classes are added next year Springmill will become the district’s fourth K-3 building.

      “This has been a very enjoyable experience meeting and talking with the wonderful students and great staff here,” DeMaria said as he prepared to leave.

      Shaking hands with Mrs. Forney, he added, “Keep up the good work. Great things are happening here.”

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