Principal Jessica Nardi and Tracey Wahlers look through historic album.
Gale Bradford, teacher and former student points out her picture in Clara Brophy's album.
Class picture from inaugural class attending Berkeley School, as documented in Clara Brophy's album.
Principal Nardi and Joanne Tornambe agree that Hughes is a great environment to work and learn.
Thomas Hughes School Celebrates 60th Anniversary
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 • 12:00am
BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The 2013-14 school year marks the 60th Anniversary for Thomas Hughes School. Principal Jessica Nardi, along with the teachers, administration and families take pride in the accomplishments and environment that surround Thomas Hughes School.
“The staff and families at Hughes create a great environment to work and learn,” said Principal Nardi, who is entering her sixth year as principal at Hughes. "The teachers work well together and it’s a real team.” Joanne Tornambe, who has worked at Thomas Hughes School since 1997, added, “The overall climate of the building is a happy one.”
The sentiment of school pride is shared throughout the Hughes family. Emily Long, Thomas Hughes School Nurse said, “Hughes is a great place to work. The teachers, staff and especially the secretary, Mrs. Tornambe, have made my 14 years here filled with laughter and comradery. The parent involvement has always been a big part of Hughes’ success too.”
The doors opened to Thomas Hughes School, originally named Berkeley School, on December 7, 1953. The new school was built in Berkeley Heights to relieve the crowding issues at Columbia School. At that time, Columbia School was the only school in Berkeley Heights.
Clara Brophy was one of the first teachers at the school. She taught at Hughes for 46 years. When she passed away in 2011, her niece delivered a detailed photo album to the school. Brophy kept every class picture with a hand written caption naming each student in the photograph. A report written in 1989 by a group of fifth graders was included with the album. "The History of Thomas P. Hughes School” report was written as a special thanks to Ms. Brophy for helping this group of students.
The Berkeley School was renamed in 1983 to honor Mr. Thomas P. Hughes, who had been principal at the school for 26 years. According to the report, the school originally taught kindergarten through third grade until an addition was built in 1955. After the addition, the school taught kindergarten through sixth grade. Currently, Thomas Hughes School teaches second through fifth grade.
Gale Bradford, Special Education teacher at Thomas Hughes School, remembers when she was a student at Hughes in the 1960s. Pointing to a picture from Brophy’s photo album, she recalls, “Back then, girls had to wear dresses. However I would sneak shorts under my dress.” She adored Brophy and remembers her being a caring teacher who helped her with the multiplication tables. She also said, “Thomas Murray was the first male teacher at the school. In the 1960s, parents didn’t want their children to have a male teacher because they feared he would lack empathy for the students.” Murray taught the students about science, and it was her best year ever. She remembers Principal Hughes bringing a black and white television into the classroom for the students to watch Alan Shepard travel into space and again with Neil Armstrong.
Special Education was a new and challenging field when Bradford first started teaching. It bothered her that when she was a child, the special students were separated. She said, “The way of teaching has come a long way (referring to inclusion classrooms), I’ve always had a heart for these special kids."
Principal Nardi noted the most dramatic change at the school has been in technological advancements. She remembers the days of taking computer classes in Word. Typewriters and chalk boards have been replaced with iPads and Promethean Boards connected by WiFi network. Students have the ability to participate in classroom lessons by linking the iPad to the classroom Promethean Board. Each school in the district has at least one iPad cart of 24 iPads. The students are introduced to technology in the classroom in kindergarten.
What remains constant at Thomas Hughes School is the dedication from parents volunteering to keep long standing Hughes School traditions going. In particular, the fifth grade production of Drama Dragons would not be possible without the support and commitment of parent volunteers. Parents become playwrites, set and costume designers, and directors to the entire fifth grade class. Memories that last a life time for both parent and student.
"We are all excited to celebrate this important anniversary at the '60th Birthday Bash,'" said Tracey Wahlers, PTO Fundraising and Event Chair. The "60th Birthday Bash" adult social is being held on Friday, November 15 at Twin Brooks Country Club in Warren. Tickets are $55 per person including dinner, beer and wine. Basket Raffle, 50/50 and Superbowl Ticket Package valued at $7,400 will be raffled that evening. You do not need to be present to win. For information or questions regarding the event or raffle contact Tracey Wahlers at email@example.com.