FORESTVILLE - Ringing in the New Year generally refers to the holiday in January which begins a new calendar year. In Forestville, the custom since the 1970s has been to ring in the new school year using the district's antique bell. Forestville began classes on Tuesday which was luckily warm and sunny, allowing a pleasant outdoor event.
High school/-middle school principal Chuck Leichner ex-plained the tradition. He said, "Most of you know this tradition has been carried out for a number of years. The bell is also rung at the close of school after graduation. The senior class officers do this. It signals the end of the seniors' time at the school."
The band played the alma mater. Next, Emily Dillenburg, senior class president, was introduced and spoke briefly, welcoming the students and saying she hoped they had a great day.
"She isn't someone to public speak for a long time, but she is a great class president," Leichner joked.
Dillenburg and Adam Pleva, vice-president; Meg Phillips, secretary; Emily Markham, treasurer; and Casey Locke and Kendra Catalano, student council members, all helped to push the bell back and forth so that its distinctive ring was heard.
The bell itself dates back to 1846. The funds were raised by women of the community's bell committee whose chairwoman was Agnes Dye. The raised lettering on the bell can still be read. It says D. Curtiss Albany, N.Y. 1846.
OBSERVER photo by Diane R. Chodan
Senior class officers ring a school bell to begin a new school year at Forestville High School. Pictured left to right are: Kendra Catalano, student council; Meg Phillips, secretary; Emily Dillenburg, president; Casey Locke, student council; Emily Markham, treasurer; and Adam Pleva, vice-president.
The bell originally hung in the small wooden schoolhouse at the bottom of the hill in downtown Forestville. The school was moved to the top of the hill in 1866 and stayed there until 1928 when the brick school was built. Between 1866 and 1928, the bell was rung each school day to begin and end school.
Currently the bell is housed in a small tower near the main entrance to the high school. For the school, it symbolizes a dedication to education. Students and alumni often choose to have pictures taken there.
In addition to students, faculty, staff and the principal, a few parents and Forestville Board of Education members were present to witness the bell ringing.
Board members Sylvester Cleary (president), Bruce Ellis and Amy Drozdziel were present. Cleary said, "This event is important because it is traditional. This has long been a district which emphasizes tradition. Our goal this year is to emphasize excellence (which comes from our tradition) - not just meeting standards but exceeding them. We are asking for excellence from our students, faculty, and the entire system."
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