CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- For this edition of the Western Mass News Surprise Squad, sponsored by the Hyundai Dealers of Western Massachusetts, a group of grateful parents reached out looking to recognize the staff at the St. Stanislaus School in Chicopee where in-person learning has been happening since late August.
Sister Cecelia Haier and Mrs. Karen Shea, the principal and assistant principal of the St. Stanislaus School, had no idea that we’ve got a big surprise in store for them.
“Thirty-two years. We started as a seventh-grade teaching team. We were hired the same year,” Haier said.
[Reporter: Was this the weirdest year you ever had?]
“Yes, I think so,” Haier noted.
Shea added, “It was challenging to say the least."
The duo is in charge of 283 kindergarten through eighth graders, the majority of which have been in-person for class since the start of the school year.
“The first thing they said is they were so glad to be back in a classroom with their friends,” Shea explained.
Haier added, “We have not had to shut down and we have had no internal spread in this building. It’s amazing to me when I think about that."
The two said their staff are answering the call amid this pandemic.
“We have two junior high teachers who help us after school for maintenance and they deal with the UV lighting and the electrostatic sprayers, in addition to our normal maintenance team, to make sure every night that happens in every area of this building, regular cleaning, then sanitizing” Haier said.
However, they note they can't do it alone. It takes a village for long-term success.
“Our parents, our families, our benefactors, all of them have more than stepped up to help us,” Shea said.
As we delayed inside, the rest of the squad set up the surprise outside.
The Hyundai Dealers of Western Massachusetts signed the check and students flooded the parking lot and held signs of appreciation for the matriarchs of the St. Stanislaus School.
The Surprise Squad presented Haier and Shea with a $500 gift card so they could can have a catered lunch.
Haier explained, “That’s wonderful. Thank you so much, that’s amazing.”
“Congratulations on behalf of the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers, we really appreciate all that you’ve been through and all you do every single day," said Gary Rome with Gary Rome Hyundai.
However, that wasn’t all. We also picked up some cleaning supplies and gift baskets for staff who went above and beyond.
“We wanted to acknowledge obviously you and Mrs. Shea, but Mrs. Bannister and Mrs. Dziok for facilitating the online learning. We also wanted to recognize Kelly and Rachel, who keep the office running, no matter how many times us parents bug them, and of course, Mr. English and the custodial staff, who help to keep the school safe and clean for our return every single day,” said Lisa Chapline.
Chapline and her own squad of moms all have kids who go to St. Stan's. They, and the little ones, explained to our squad why Haier and Shea deserved the surprise.
“I think we got a tear. They deserve it. They’re amazing, they're the glue that keeps everything together,” said Sarah Wallawicz.
[Reporter: What jumps to mind when you think of her?]
“Safety and love,” said Harper, a student at the school.
Chapline noted, “We've lost most of our structures, we've lost routines, we've lost a lot of things we can rely on and every day that the staff shows up, they show us we can rely on them. They're going to keep our children safe which, as parents, is the biggest thing in the world.
Liz Moran said, “She really cares about the individual families who have children here and just really wants to make sure not only the kids are learning and that they’re safe, but that they’re happy about doing it.”
“We always know we can count on her to take care of us,” said student Catherine Chapline.
“Thank you everyone. You are amazing. Thank you so much for doing all of this,” Haier explained.
Shea noted, “This is our family.”