Media center, gymnasium at Sgt. Pilla School named after Lerman, Ciarlante

Vineland Public Schools honored two inspirational men on Thursday by renaming the media center at Sgt. Dominick Pilla Middle School after Holocaust survivor Miles Lerman and the gymnasium after Vineland teacher and coach Salvatore Ciarlante.

The ceremony opened with a welcome from Superintendent Dr. Mary Gruccio, followed by an invocation from Chaplain Jason Parmer. Sgt. Pilla School students led the flag salute, and members of the school choir sang the National Anthem.

Assistant principal Ismael Bermudez then introduced the honored guests. In attendance from the district central administration, in addition to Dr. Gruccio, were assistant superintendent John Frangipani and business administrator Gene Mercoli. Board of Education president Scott English, vice president Tom Ulrich, and board member Cedric Homes were also in attendance. There were also a variety of city and state officials present, including Vineland City Council president Paul Spinelli and council members Al Vargas and Dr. Elizabeth Arthur, state assemblyman Bruce Land, and Congressman Jeff Van Drew.  

Land, speaking on behalf of state officials, bestowed joint legislative commendations to both of the families and the school district. He was followed by Spinelli, speaking on behalf of Mayor Anthony Fanucci and city officials.

Van Drew, who drove up from Washington, D.C. for the event, described the impact and lasting effect the dedication has on the community.

“This so much represents what Vineland is about, what community is about, what family is about, and what education is about,” he said. “When you think of these two individuals and the commitment that they made in their lives and the difference that they made and what that represents, there is no naming that can be sufficient enough.”

He then gave each family a Proclamation from the U.S. House of Representatives, the highest honor given by that branch of the government.

Following Van Drew was English, who knew Ciarlante as both a teacher and a coach. He remembered Ciarlante as a “man of his word” and both a great role model and father figure to all who knew him. While he did not know Lerman, he noted that the man’s reputation was so distinguished he was almost like the president of the United States.

Principal Tammy Monahan followed, providing an overview of the inaugural year of the school and highlighting the character education program, Pilla’s Pillars of Character. Photos of the school, from the groundbreaking to present, were displayed as a short video following her speech.

Speaking on behalf of the Ciarlante family were Anna Ciarlante, Salvatore’s wife, and his daughts, Sheri Finocchiaro and Judy Talarico. As related on his plaque, Ciarlante was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, a respected educator and coach, and an advocate for all students and youth in our community. He strongly believed that education was one of the most valuable things a person could possess and he encouraged people of all ages and walks of life to continue their education.

Lerman was a Holocaust survivor, optimist, and immigrant who made Vineland his home in 1947. He worked continually to improve his community. Throughout his life he was recognized as a global leader in human rights, teaching tolerance and respect among all people. Speaking on his behalf was Terry Kuhnreich, teacher of the Search for Conscience classes at Vineland High School, and Lerman’s son, David.

The Pilla Choir closed out the ceremony with a final song before the guests made their way to the media center and gymnasium for the official unveiling of both plaques.

Click the following link for a gallery of photos from the ceremony: http://bit.ly/2UTxe4A

VPS Broadcasting was also at the event, and the ceremony will be available on our YouTube channel, VLDSchoolsTV, shortly. It will also be aired on our television stations, Comcast ch. 9 and Verizon Fios 41, early next week.