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posted: Mon, Jun 18th, 2018

Sixth-graders Aditya Patnaik, Micah Jones, and Christopher Tava stand in front of displays of objects from Budd Lake's past

Listening to Living Voices

The sights and sounds of Budd Lake’s past came alive in a multimedia presentation developed by sixth-graders in the school’s gifted and talented program. At the core of the project were first-hand video testimonials recorded by the students that described the memories and experiences of more than a dozen long-time residents.

Because of the importance of the first-person narratives, the focus of the presentation was on the last 50-100 years. The experience took students through the town’s transformation, starting first as a farming community, then as a town with a burgeoning summer tourist industry thanks to the lake, then finally to the still-developing rural suburb it is today.

“We thought Budd Lake was just a normal town but it’s got a really cool rich history,” said Aditya Patnaik.” 

Students learned about the music halls that attracted popular performers such as Jackie Gleason, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, and Ozzie Nelson. They also learned about the long-gone iconic landmarks such as the old municipal building that sat on Budd Lake, the Wigwam restaurant (where G&T teacher Ann Greszczak’s parents met), and the merry-go-round which burned up in a fire. 

“It’s not that we opened books,” said Christopher Tava. “We got to speak with people who lived history. And we went out and found the information by visiting some of the historic places."

Noreen Risko, a retired district teacher, took students on a bus tour of historic Budd Lake. Stops included the town’s original one-room schoolhouse and the Seward home which sits on the perimeter of Turkey Brook Park. The home was owned by the brother of William Seward, the Civil War-era secretary of state who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

Providing an anecdote of pop culture importance was the visit to the Pax Amicus theater on Budd Lake. The 1983 ribbon-cutting included guests of honor Margaret Hamilton, forever enshrined in movie history as the Wicked Witch of the West, and an up-and-coming young actor named Kevin Bacon.

The sixth-graders presented their history of Budd Lake at a special gathering that included the residents that were interviewed as well as family and friends. Also included were displays of Budd Lake historical artifacts.

The girl who could fly

The star of the MOMS production of 'Mary Poppins' talks about auditioning and the theater experience

It was January and auditions for the school's production of "Mary Poppins" were approaching. Karley Sapio had been in the ensemble of the past two annual MOMS musicals. Now an eighth-grader, she had her sights on a more substantial role, partly because she felt such a strong connection to the material.

“I love the ‘Mary Poppins’ movie so much,” she said. “It’s so sweet and magical.” 

To audition, students were asked to sing one of the show’s most popular tunes, “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Karley remembers she was so nervous, she was shaking. Performers were assigned a number that would appear on the callback sheet and the final cast roster, just as in professional theater. Show director Chris Bosch, a special education teacher at MOHS, posted the casting selections online. 

“When I saw my number for the lead, I ran into the living room screaming I was so excited,” said the future Mary Poppins.

The cast and crew rehearsed for more than four months. The process intensified during the final few weeks before the May performances, with run-throughs often lasting into the evening. Of course, what helps make “Mary Poppins” so magical is that the character can fly. The flying was introduced fairly late in the rehearsal process. Professional stage experts were brought on to create the effect and ensure safety. The effect was so smooth and seemingly effortless, it dazzled the audience. 

“It was like a rock-climbing harness that strapped on and had two wires that were easy to clip on and off,” Karley explained. “I don’t really do well with heights so I was scared at first but it became fun.”

Performing opposite Karley was Tyler Hamlett. This was Tyler's first MOMS production and he brought a jovial energy and commanding stage presence to the role of Bert, a part made famous by Dick van Dyke.

"Tyler was amazing and so funny to work with," Karley said. "I didn't know him before this and now he's a really good friend. Everybody becomes a family when you work together on a show."

"Mary Poppins" includes songs with many high notes which can strain the throat. Between performances, Karley rested her voice. She wrote on a pad and mouthed words in order to communicate. But she said the experience was worth the long rehearsals and the sore throats.

“When you get on stage, everything blurs. I love that rush when you hear the applause from the audience. When you're the lead, you feel that all the pressure is on you. That was hard. But I learned through this to never give up. In the beginning I genuinely thought I couldn’t do it, but as time went on and as we practiced I found that I could. It was the best experience of my life.”

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MOHS alumnus to become middle school principal

Matt Robinson, a graduate of Mount Olive High School’s Class of 2001, has been named as the new principal of Mount Olive Middle School, beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. He replaces the current principal, Susan Breton, who has been promoted to central office and will become the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. 

“I’m excited to become part of the Mount Olive School District,” Mr. Robinson said. “It’s a homecoming for me and an opportunity to give back to the district that prepared me for success in life. Teaching and learning are my passions, and to be able to work and grow with others in a leadership role here in Mount Olive is a humbling responsibility.”

Mr. Robinson is currently the superintendent at Stillwater Township School, a position he’s held since 2016. Prior to becoming superintendent, he served for two years as Stillwater’s assistant principal. He began his career teaching fifth grade social studies and English language arts in the South Orange-Maplewood school system and later became a content area specialist there.

The veteran educator officially begins his Mount Olive principalship on August 13. 

“As principal, I will work day in and day out to ensure that every student at Mount Olive Middle School is supported and is socially and emotionally ready to learn,” he said. “I can’t wait to begin. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone very soon.

Mr. Robinson holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Ramapo College and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the College of Saint Elizabeth.

He has two young daughters, one in kindergarten and one in preschool.

Mount Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road Budd Lake, NJ 07828
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