Mt. Laurel Board of Education honors winners of 2016 School Bus Safety Poster Contest

More than 400 entries were narrowed down to 15 finalists. The winners were awarded with gift certificates and other prizes.

Just some of the finalists in the Mt. Laurel School District 2016 School Bus Safety Poster Contest. Winners were honored at the Nov. 15 meeting of the Mt. Laurel Board of Education.

School bus safety is of the utmost importance in the Mt. Laurel School District.

While the district performs routine maintenance on its buses and runs through evacuation drills similar to neighboring townships, what makes Mt. Laurel unique is the hard work of the district’s transportation staff who go above and beyond their job descriptions to promote safety, according to district officials.

Every year, members of the district’s transportation staff coordinate a contest where students can create their own poster to showcase rules and tips for school bus safety.

Hundreds of students submit entries every year, and it’s up to the transportation staff to narrow the entries so district officials can choose 15 winners, who are awarded gift certificates and other prizes that the transportation staff solicits from local supporters throughout the year.

The Board of Education honored the 2016 contest winners at its Nov. 15 meeting, with bus drivers and contest coordinators Jim Errico and Patti Heddendorf on hand to congratulate the students.

Errico said this year there were more than 400 entries, including a record number from the older students at Harrington Middle School.

Errico congratulated the students for their work and said those who won did a great job.

“We’ve been doing this for about 16 years, and it just continues to amaze us that all winners are on our buses,” Errico jokingly said to the children and their families.

Just some of the prizes awarded to students included museum passes, gym packages, gift certificates to local restaurants, free dance class coupons, movie gifts cards and even stuffed animals donated by a student’s grandfather.

Superintendent George Rafferty said he also wanted to tell students who made posters how proud the district was of their work.

“These posters were awesome. I got to judge every one of them, and I thought they were beautiful,” Rafferty said. “Thank you for taking the time to care so much to enter the contest.”

Rafferty also thanked Errico, Heddendorf and the other members of the transportation staff for putting the contest together.

Rafferty, who only started with the district as superintendent in the spring, said he had never seen anything like it where members of a district’s transportation staff would coordinate such a contest.

“It’s such a great thing to see our students from Harrington all the way down to kindergarten entering, so thank you very much,” Rafferty said.

The full list of this year’s winners include:

• Zachary Astacio, kindergarten, Parkway Elementary

• Dina Conti, kindergarten, Hillside Elementary

• Hawwa Mehmood, kindergarten, Springville Elementary

• Emma MacLachlan, first grade, Springville Elementary

• Zachary Caldera, second grade, Countryside Elementary

• Rithvika Devi Kamadana, second grade, Fleetwood Elementary

• Riya Kansagra, second grade, Springville Elementary

• Krish Mehta, third grade, Fleetwood Elementary

• Mackenzie Guillaume, fourth grade, Countryside Elementary

• Shreeya Soma, fourth grade, Fleetwood Elementary

• Katherine Vuong, fourth grade, Larchmont Elementary

• Ananya Tarali, fifth grade, Hartford School

• Aayush Talreja, sixth grade, Hartford School

• Shane Tomalinas, seventh grade, Harrington Middle

• Sejal Kunigiri, eighth grade, Harrington Middle