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Firestone Academic Challenge team wins championship

6/14/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Becky Tompkins

Shown with the Firestone High School Academic Challenge team’s trophy and check for $6,000 are, from left: Terri Grimm, of Westfield Insurance; team members Bijan Pakdel, Sterling Shriber and Katherine Gilbert; Alison Seefeldt, Firestone’s team coach; and “Academic Challenge” host Jason Nicholas.
Photo courtesy of Akron Public Schools
AKRON — The Academic Challenge team from Firestone High School won the 2011-12 championship in the WEWS Channel 5 “Academic Challenge” program. Firestone is the first Akron Public Schools (APS) District school to win the championship, according to district officials.

There were 78 teams that competed this year, according to APS officials.

In the final competition of the season, which was taped in April and aired June 9, Firestone’s team scored 570 points to top Hawken High School (540) and Beachwood High School (480), the other two finalists.

WEWS Channel 5 produces “Academic Challenge” as a way to spotlight academic excellence, according to APS officials. Each week, three teams battled for points by answering questions covering topics such as math, science, history and current events. At the end of each program, the points were totaled, and at season’s end, the three highest-scoring teams returned for the championship match.

The Firestone team was honored at the APS Board of Education meeting June 11. Principal Larry Petry introduced Alison Seefeldt, a retired Firestone teacher who continues to coach the team.

Students in the winning match were seniors Katherine Gilbert, Bijan Pakdel and Sterling Shriber. Alternate members include Arian Daneshvar, Rowan Matney and Alex Pica.

Seefeldt said there were 20 students on the team this year. They started practicing in September and competed against other Summit County League teams, including 12 invitational tournaments throughout the school year.

“I’m very proud of these kids,” she said. “They did an outstanding job.”

The team was presented with a check for $6,000 for the win from sponsor Westfield Insurance Co.

Also at the meeting, board members approved the hiring of Larry Johnson Jr. as principal of the new STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) high school that will open this fall in the Central-Hower High School building.

Johnson is currently the principal of the Akron Opportunity Center (AOC), an alternative program for middle school students struggling academically. Johnson and the staff piloted some of the STEM instructional strategies at AOC this year, said Superintendent David James.

Johnson was previously assistant principal at Jennings Middle School and before that taught at Innes Middle School, Barrett Academy and David Hill Elementary School.

The new STEM high school will include only ninth-graders the first year and will add another grade each year until it includes ninth- through 12th-graders.

Most of the first-year students will come from the district’s National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM Middle School, which just graduated its first class of eighth-graders.

In other business, the board honored a number of longtime staff members who are retiring. These veteran “Distinguished Emeritus” employees include Vincent Adam, who worked as office support primarily in the treasurer’s office for 40 years; Rebecca Atkins, a middle school teacher for 38 years; Dolores Jean Bell, an educational assistant for 30 years; Patricia Durkin, a 38-year administrator/principal; and Peggy Greiner, a central office administrator, including director of school improvement, for 38 years.

Others honored were Ricky Honorable, who worked in maintenance, buildings and grounds for 41 years; Janet Loew, an elementary school teacher for 38.5 years; Joyce Nave, a 39-year high school teacher; and Anna Sloan, a cafeteria manager in the child nutrition department for 38 years.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for June 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Small Administration Building, 70 N. Broadway in Downtown Akron.

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