Superintendent of Johnston Schools Bernard DiLullo once called the late Janice D. Acciardo Mele “a true champion of children” upon her unexpected passing on April 16.
That’s just one reason why some 21 Johnston High School Student Council members recently held a ceremony as a special show of gratitude for all the long-serving School Committee chairwoman did to make the town’s public school system the best if could be.
Moreover, as DiLullo emphasized, “Janice was a spirited and staunch supporter of public education in Johnston and fully understood what quality education should look like and what it took to ensure students receive the education they so richly deserve.”
Upon learning of the memorial dedication, Mayor Joseph Polisena said, “Chairwoman Janice Mele will always leave her legacy on the students of this town. I commend the Student Council for their compassion and kindness. Our students continue to make Johnston the best community in Rhode Island.”
It was also Spirit Week on Cherry Hill, and during the Johnston High lunch break, Greg Russo delivered an announcement over the school’s intercom system requesting that all members of the Student Council report the lobby outside the auditorium.
Being that it was one of five special Spirit Week days, the Student Council members were dressed in a variety of casual garb and quickly adjourned outside the school and assembled near a recently planted tree.
The tree, which had previously been planted by the Student Council in Mele’s honor, was donated by Dino Jacavone of Jacavone’s Garden Center.
“Our Student Council went to Jacavone’s Garden Center to purchase the tree,” said Russo, the group’s faculty advisor, “but when Dino learned why the kids wanted to purchase the tree, he quickly said, ‘It’s on me,’ and would not accept any money.”
Thus, the group had a special plaque made up to match the exterior of the school track, inscribed with a memoriam that reads: “In memory of Janice D. Mele, Dedicated October, 2019, Johnston High School Student Council.”
Under Mele’s leadership, DiLullo said, “our schools received the necessary funding for a complete education, including full-day kindergarten, upgraded science laboratories and one for computer programs, just to name a few.”
DiLullo became somewhat emotional while recalling some of the late Mele’s many milestones, then continued: “Janice was also personally very generous, often donating to many youth groups and attending school functions such as countless athletic contests, music concerts and the Student Council’s annual Battle of the Classes. Janice would be proud of what these great students did in her memory. She was a moral leader and her presence, kindness, honesty and compassion will be sorely missed.”
Russo offered a statement of his own as he and Student Council president Nicholas Petrillo placed the plaque in the ground.
“This tree is planted in Mrs. Mele’s memory,” Russo said. “It’s youthful and a prime example of how she wanted our students – and school system – to grow.”