Medina Journal-Register — Add Avanti Pizza to the list of local businesses involved with the Medina Central School District.
Parents of Oak Orchard Elementary School students started seeing perfect attendance certificates brought home last week. The certificates showed each student’s name in colorful bold letters, but in the fine print the words “free pizza” appeared.
In fact, the award to the 204 students who achieved perfect attendance during the first quarter was a coupon for a complimentary pizza at Avanti. The program is new this year.
“By brother and I both have young kids,” said Dan Passalacqua, who co-owns Avanti with his brother, Maurizio. “This is a way to encourage kids to go to school and learn.”
Passalacqua said he wanted to have the restaurant get involved with the schools as a way of “showing appreciation” because “Medina has been really good to us over the years.”
One of Avanti’s part-time employees is Dave Sevenski, who is also a Medina School Board member. He brought up the idea of Avanti doing something with the district at a board meeting several months ago. Since Mark’s Pizzeria has the Book Mark’s program, encouraging reading was covered. Eventually, he said a discussion at the administrative level led to the decision to base the program on attendance.
“As a board member, one concern I have is making sure kids are in school, because if they’re not in school they can’t learn,” Sevenski said. He said the amount of students awarded in the first quarter is encouraging. “We didn’t know what to expect,” he said, adding that there was some surprise accompanying the total.
Passalacqua said the surprise was pleasant, though.
“Last year we were told the first marking period had about 50 kids with perfect attendance,” he said. “We’re happy with the initial success, and we view this as a win-win for the town. We don’t see any negatives.”
Passalacqua said it has been enjoyable watching youngsters come in to turn in their certificates for a free pie.
“It’s a good way to give back to the kids, and their faces light up with they see their free pizza,” he said. The certificates are then put on the wall at Avanti, and that will continue until the restaurant “runs out of real estate,” Passalacqua said.
Jeff Evoy, superintendent in Medina, said he was “very pleased” with how many students earned a perfect attendance award in the first quarter. He said the total recognized falls somewhere between 40 and 45 percent of the Oak Orchard student body, which is around 530.
Evoy shared in Passalacqua’s surprise at the total since the expectation was “maybe 50 or so.” He said the reason such a low number was anticipated is that, generally speaking, parents of younger students generally tend to err on the side of caution and keep children home more often due to sickness.
“Typically the first 10 weeks normally has really good attendance, and there may be a drop off when the weather gets bad, but hopefully we can see that number stay consistent,” Evoy said.
He added that the idea is helpful for families, as they can go and dine together and talk about the school day in a local establishment - and save parents from a night of cooking.
“I think it’s great; the more businesses we have involved with the district, the better,” he said.
Added Passalacqua, “Hopefully this is the rare thing that makes everyone happy.”