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Gov. Christie inducted into Hometown High School Hall of Fame

Jessica Marrone Parkes

Sunday, October 20, 2013 • 12:04pm

LIVINGSTON, NJ – The Livingston Education Foundation (LEF) inducted four Livingston High School graduates into its LHS Alumni Hall of Fame and awarded two LHS teachers with the Leadership in Educational Achievement and Dedication Award on Friday afternoon at the Wilshire Grand in West Orange.

“It’s always an honor to come to one of the LEF functions. The volunteers do a great job, the board of education is so supportive of them, and they always have such great honorees,” said Mayor Rudy Fernandez.  “The thing is if you look at the quality of the students that the education here in Livingston put out through the great effort to the current board, prior boards, and the administration they will have plenty and plenty and plenty of honorees going into the future.”

Presented early in the evening was 1999 graduate, Nikki M. James.  After graduating from LHS, James went on to create a successful acting career and is credited as an award winning off-broadway, on-broadway and television actress.

Some of James performances included “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “House of Flowers,” “All Shook Up,” “The Wiz” (which won the 2006 Craig Noel Award for Theatrical Excellence).  James also played Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” and starred opposite Christopher Plummer as Cleopatra in “Caesar and Cleopatra.”  In 2011 she won a Tony award for featured actress in a musical for “Book of Mormon” and her television credits include guest leads on “Law and Order,” “The Jury,” and “30Rock.”  James will also be playing alongside Jason Alexander, James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain in an upcoming production.

The next guest to be inducted was Governor Chris Christie from the class of 1980.  Christie arrived with several members of his staff and made himself available to guests as he greeted all that approached him, taking pictures with many.

Before Christie began speaking, guests were surprised by a sudden cameo appearance by Pastry Chef Mauro Castano from “the cake boss,” who rolled in a special giant cake created for the honorees that evening.  The cake was decorated with little figurines of each of the honorees and was enjoyed by guests during dessert.

After graduating LHS, Christie attended the University of Delaware and Seton Hall University School of Law.  Shortly after, Christie joined a Cranford law firm and was named partner.  He was also elected Freeholder in Morris County and then became the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey in 2002 where he led a notorious movement against public corruption.  Christie was sworn in as New Jersey’s 55th Governor on January 19, 2010 and has visited his hometown of Livingston twice this year, once for the Bicentennial celebration and once for this LEF induction.

Most recent graduate of the bunch, Hannah August from the Class of 2001, approached the stage next and began by joking that is was going to be tough following after the Governor.

Still young in her career, August has so far built a resume reflecting service to many substantial names including, First Lady Michelle Obama, where she has served as her press secretary since 2011.  August has also served as press secretary for Attorney General Eric Holder and Senator Bob Menendez.

August graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005 with a major in International Studies.  She told the crowd that she loved science and was certain she would follow the path of medicine.  However, at the end of the day she stayed true to herself and is happy that she found herself journeying down the road she is on today in politics.

Last of the Hall of Fame inductees to be presented was Ronnie Konner from the class of 1966. Konner is a Spanish teacher at Riker Hill and Burnet Hill Elementary Schools for grades K-5 and has been recognized time and time again for her broad spectrum of community service efforts.

Through the years Konner has worked with the Livingston P-T Council as a founder of LEF, the Livingston Public Schools (LPS) Strategic Planning Committee and Technology Committee, and the Multicultural Committees at Riker Hill, Burnet Hill and Hillside.

Konner has also been a member and has served as the President of the Livingston Board of Education and has coordinated many exchange programs with Spanish speaking schools abroad.

After learning about the inductees and hearing a personal testimony from each of them during dinner, guests settled down again with a piece of “Cake Boss” to hear speeches from John Hopton and Dr. Barbara Tamburro as they each accepted their LEAD Award.

Hopton started serving LPS in 1983 and has taken on rolls such as director of computer education and supervisor of instructional computing for K-12, principal of Burnet Hill Elementary School and Mount Pleasant Elementary School.

Tamburro has also been dedicated to LPS for many decades, starting service in 1979 and retiring in 2010.  During her 31 years with LPS, Tamburro was a strings teacher and orchestral conductor for grades 4-12, the elementary choral conductor and also taught general music classes. 

Through her career she watched the music program in the district grow from less than 40 to more than 450 and eventually established the Townwide Elementary Orchestra.  Tamburro has also written several books including “The Corda Collection” and “Great Music for String Orchestra” and has chaired the North Jersey Region Orchestra Auditions.

Her resume continues with many prestigious achievements including her role as clinician to the American String Teachers Association and Music Educators National Conference and receiving the Women’s Achievement in Educational Award from Douglas College.

The evening concluded with the drawing a 50/50 raffle by Mayor Fernandez and a thank you speech given by LEF president, Heidi Cisclo.

“It was a wonderful evening, honoring special people in a special town,” said Councilman Michael Silverman.

Every time I come to this event I learn more and more about the great accomplishments of the people of this town,” added Councilman Al Anthony.  “It really is a special town.”

The LEF Hall of Fame Reception patrons and sponsors included: Bonnie and Charles Granatir, Konner Chevrolet, Walter LeVine, Esq., Livingston Education Association, LPS Offices of Curriculum & Instruction and Staff Development, Livingston Supervisors Association, Parker’s Petals, Regal Bank, Walter Bauman Jewelers, Weichart Realtors (Diane Houmis and Marjorie Goldstein) and the Wilshire Grand Caterers.

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