Every year, to mark the anniversary of the 1937 Texas School Explosion, I salute inspirational leaders who demonstrate an extraordinary sense of responsibility and commitment to the safety of children and their communities. John Obremski is a 2018 Healthy Kids Hero.
John Obremski is the Principal of the Lafayette Elementary School in Everett, Massachusetts. Parent Eleanor Gayhart nominated Mr. Obremski. She wrote, “I have worked in schools and while policies are always in place, I have never seen a principal so hands on and caring for his students and their safety. Mr. Obremski has been “very positive, energizing and supportive” of my daughter who has arthritis. He goes above and beyond each day to make sure the children in this school are safe from allergic reactions. ”
“He established rules about what can and cannot be brought in for classroom celebrations, what is served at school events, and even day-to-day food throughout the building. He truly cares for the health and well-being of these kids, and always take that extra step and extra time to make sure they are protected and healthy, included and supported. He truly is a healthy kids hero!!”
Born and raised in Everett. Mr. John Obremski has worked in the Everett school district for 25 years, the last two years as Principal at Lafayette Elementary, a K-8 school with 950 students. He brought his previous school up from Level 3 (probationary status) to Level 1 (excellent). With his wife Jennifer, who is a grade one teacher, John has dedicated his life to supporting and advocating for children in public schools. He also serves on the school committee in Melrose Massachusetts.
A Culture of Compassion
Everett Superintendent Fred Foresteire writes,
“John has spent over 20 years in education as a teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal and 11 years as a principal. Early in his career as an administrator he learned one of his students had a food allergy. Mr Obremski made it part of his mission to make certain that the student did not feel out of place at school.”
“He believes in teaching the Whole Child. His building has a thriving art and music program. His expertise in budget building and grant writing has brought millions of dollars to the district to support afterschool programs and healthy activities for students and professional development for staff.
He wrote a children’s book, The Walking School Bus” to inspire children to walk to school in groups as part of his healthy living approach to education. If you ever want to find Mr Obremski, just look for children because that’s where this champion will be. “
Health and Wellness = A Safe School Culture
Linda Sala has been active in the Lafayette Parent Teacher Organization since 2005 and is now PTO President. She says,
“Mr. Obremski gives his all for the kids, 110%. It is only his second year at the school and he knows all the kids. He is adamant about not taking any chances with kids’ safety. He has amazing relationships with the kids, parents and staff. His door is always open to every parent. His priorities are the kids’ health and wellness and their social emotional development.”
“Mr Obremski is very sincere, compassionate, and understanding. He can relate to everyone. He believes school needs to fun. He gets involved in every event. The school is very clean, well kept. The kitchen is spotless. Bathrooms are clean. Every other summer they repaint. They do a very good job on air quality.”
“He started a monthly program, Caught in the Act, that recognizes three students who show acts of kindness. In a short period of time, he has improved programs for the whole school. He has brought in sports, yoga and exercise as part of the Health and Wellness program. He has also provided up to date technology. Kids in grades 3, 4, and 5 got iPads. And he is very concerned about kids with allergies.”
As part of the school’s Health and Wellness Committee Obremski has emphasized healthy snacks. No outside food. No cupcakes or candy. He creates alternatives that the kids enjoy such as field days and in-school field trips. Students are rewarded for their achievements with stickers and privileges instead of candy.
The school provides all students with a free breakfast and lunch. Obremski recognized that the large cafeteria could be intimidating to some younger students so he decided to serve breakfast in the classroom. He increased the number of students eating breakfast from 300 to 800.
In response to seeing a remarkable increase in the number of students with allergies, Obremski made new rules starting on his first day at Lafayette. Parents no longer send in outside food for class parties. Now children enjoy doing crafts, dancing, listening to a parent read a book, in-school field trips or outside games. For teachers, it reduces the stress of constant vigilance by limiting food in the classroom.
Inclusion Based on the Friendship Model
Like Principal Obremski, many of the teachers grew up in the community. He says there is a deep feeling of home, of collaboration, of purpose, of paying it forward. The school serves over 200 students with Individual Education Plans. It is a multicultural community. Many students are learning English as a second language. The teachers pride themselves in relationship building with students and parents. They use a “friendship model” to include all students.
Obremski says his mission is to make every child feel safe everyday. “I believe that schools should be one of the safest places on earth.”
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