Accomplishments of retiring Sayreville staffers span generations

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By Matthew Sockol
Staff Writer

SAYREVILLE – Retiring staff members in the Sayreville School District received recognition for their lengthy years of service during recent school board meetings.

On May 16, the board honored the retirements of Gaetana Menzel, a lunchroom and playground aide at Eisenhower Elementary School, and Lori Rosen, a Spanish teacher at Sayreville War Memorial High School.

Also recognized at the meeting were Joseph Abruscato, a guidance counselor at the Sayreville War Memorial High School, and Joanne Young, the support secretary in the transportation department, whose retirements were also honored by the board on May 2.

The staff members’ retirements will be effective on July 1.

“I want to congratulate all of our retirees and thank them for a lifetime of service that they [have] given to the Sayreville public school children,” board President Kevin Ciak said.

According to Superintendent of Schools Richard Labbe, Abruscato has worked in the district for 34 years; 32 as a counselor in the high school and the Sayreville Middle School. He is Sayreville’s most senior counselor and has been awarded Middlesex County Vocational Technical School’s counselor of the year.

“[Abruscato] is well-known throughout the district as a very outgoing, fun-loving and humorous professional who is very popular among the students, as well as the staff and administration,” Labbe said. “He has been recognized as a leader in [the] counseling community.”

In addition to serving as a counselor, Abruscato has been an assistant coach for basketball, softball and track teams, coached the freshman boys soccer team and served as a driver’s education and home instructor, according to Labbe.

“As you can see, Joe’s talents are endless,” Labbe said. “His qualities, cooperation and integrity, respect and fairness are just a few of the many adjectives that describe his character. Mr. Abruscato’s positive attitude, sense of humor, strong work ethic, flexibility and commitment have enriched and enhanced many lives of the students, faculty and administration at the high school and the middle school. He will certainly be missed.”

The superintendent also spoke about his relationship with Abruscato.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Mr. Abruscato since I’ve come into the district [in 2014] and he’s been an absolute joy,” Labbe said. “He’s someone I would consider a friend. Being a Boston Red Sox fan and him being a devout New York Yankees fan, we’ve had some very interesting conversations about the subject matter, so I certainly will miss [Abruscato]. He’s made an indelible impact on me as well as many staff members and students in the district. We wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.”

Young has worked in the district for 17 years, according to Labbe. She first served as a paraprofessional for five years before transferring to the transportation department as the support secretary, where she spent her remaining 12 years.

“Joanne opens the office, greets everyone and never fails to brighten everyone’s day,” the superintendent said. “Her dedication to the Sayreville Board of Education has made the transition for the new director of transportation [Christine Vastano] far easier. We all will miss her sense of humor, which has been a calming force, and we would all like to wish her much health and happiness in her retirement.”

Rosen, according to Labbe, has taught in the district for 29 years and is a graduate of Rutgers University.

“Over the years, Mrs. Rosen has seen literally 3,000 to 4,000 students walk through her door,” Labbe said. “When you ask the children about her, they’ll always have the same response: she is passionate about what she does. Lori is all about the kids and has always been the consummate professional in her tenure at the high school.

“[Rosen] has called upon to wear many hats at the high school: teacher, advisor, interpreter, mentor and her biggest role, friend and colleague to many. We want her to know we’re going to miss her dearly.”

Ciak added that he and board member John Walsh had been students in Rosen’s class.

“We were part of her first Spanish class when Mr. Walsh and I were in eighth grade,” Ciak said.

According to the superintendent, Menzel has worked at Eisenhower for 30 years.

“To put her career in perspective, during her time as a cafeteria [and] playground aide, [Menzel] has worked for five different superintendents and four different principals,” Labbe said. “A parent recently commented that [Menzel] is her daughter’s favorite person at lunch. [The parent] told her that she wasn’t surprised because [Menzel] had been her favorite person at lunch when she attended the Eisenhower school. The love and appreciation for [Menzel] truly spans generations.”

Menzel received a board commendation in 2000 for saving the life of a choking student, according to Labbe.

“Principals have described her as conscientious, cooperative, a team player, effective, reliable, responsible and [an] incredibly valuable and dependable employee,” he said. “In short, [Menzel] has been an asset to the Eisenhower community and the district for the last 30 years. Her experience and dedication to the school and the children will be greatly missed.”

Contact Matthew Sockol at [email protected].