A school 'comes full circle' Byram Intermediate welcomes hosts 50th birthday bash

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  • More than 150 current and retired teachers, administrators and support personnel attended the party for Byram Intermediate School.

  • A plaque marks the opening of the school's doors.

  • Former administrators Ed Oomanico and Jim DiRenza, current superitendent Bryan Hensz and former teacher Mary Ann Risley share a moment during the party.


Byram-Past and present faculty, staff, and administrators gathered at the Byram Intermediate School on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 to throw an anniversary party, not for a person or a couple, but for the school itself. The celebration marked 50 years since the school welcomed its first students, and the luncheon was attended by nearly 150 current and retired Byram teachers, support staff, principals, superintendents, and members of the Board of Education.

Many in attendance credited principal John Fritzky for coming up with the idea to hold the party, but he said it was the brainchild of retired teacher Jim Sheehan. Sheehan, a member of the original faculty the day the school opened its doors for the 1967-68 school year, traveled from Washington state for the event.

“When we opened in ’67, the road was still under construction and the buses couldn’t come in,” Sheehan said, “so they dropped the kids off where the tennis courts are now (in front of the municipal building), and they walked across a footbridge to the school.”

Sheehan retired from teaching in 2006, having been with the Byram School District for nearly 45 years.

Fritzky, himself a graduate of the school, said “Now my children attend, so it’s come full circle. When Mr. Sheehan indicated to me that the anniversary was coming up, I did what I could to support his idea of this party.”

Fourth-grade teacher Kathy Smith, also a Byram Intermediate alumnus, helped with the planning. The luncheon included a catered meal and of course, cake, as well as a table loaded with memorabilia from throughout the school’s fifty-year history.

Yearbooks were lined up on the stage of the all-purpose room while a projector ran a slideshow of candid photos of life at the school over the years.

In addition to principal Fritzky, other administrative partygoers included Ed Domanico, Jim DiRenza and Dave Serafin- all of whom were past principals and/or superintendents- and current superintendent Bryan Hensz. DiRenza regaled those around him with an anecdote about the beginning of his tenure at the school. “We had a lot of turnover in the early 70’s,” he said, “and in a span of nine months or so, I gained a lot of seniority. But everything was changing quickly in those days- it was like we went from American Gothic to the Mod Squad.”

Hensz was thrilled at the turnout for the celebration. “It was amazing to see the smiles on the faces of people who were locking eyes with others they haven’t seen in a while,” he said, “and it’s nice for me to meet people I felt like I already knew through all the stories. It really is a family here.”

Kim Kulesa has worked in administrative support at the school for 27 years, and has seen a lot of change during her time at the school. “Right now, I’m Superintendent Hensz’s secretary, but I worked for Fritsky, DiRenzo, Oomanico -all of them,” Kulesa said, “I know all of the old faculty and all of the new, and it’s just so special to get everyone together.”

With a room full of laughter and conversation, it was clear that everyone at the party shared Kulesa’s feelings. Looking through a scrapbook on the memorabilia table, retired special education teacher and resource specialist Barbara Deleeuw said, “I was here for 36 years and the tenure of 5 superintendents,” Deleeuw said, “This party was such a great idea!”

Mary Ann Risley, who spent 28 years at the school teaching second, third, and seventh grade, and then later serving on the Board of Education, said the school was enormously important to all in attendance. “I taught here, and my kids went to school here, and we consider ourselves to be family,” she said, “I’m so glad the decision was made to have this celebration, and to invite all the retirees. I couldn’t be happier.”

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