By LindaReilly

SPIRIT correspondent

Step into the front door of the Upper Darby School District Administration Building on Bond Ave. in Drexel Hill and be greeted with a warm, welcoming smile.

Receptionist Alice ‘Ali’ Costa will extend a greeting and welcome you before finding out your destination in the building.

Costa was honored by the school board at a recent meeting and named an unsung hero. She was given the 2016 School Board Leadership Award.

“Ali was hired in 2013 and she has made a positive impact on staff members and community members alike,” Board President Kenneth Rucci said. “She always greets you with a smile and a genuine desire to help in any way she can. Her kind and caring nature can diffuse even tense situations and she has a way of making everyone feel important and welcome in the Upper Darby School District.”

The board established the Leadership Award to go to an unsung hero in 2002.

“All past recipients have served as role models for our students and community by providing exemplary, caring service in a loyal, dependable, friendly and humble manner,” Rucci said. “This year’s recipient has proven to be a perfect representative of the district and its warm and welcoming culture. Her helpful nature and polite and courteous personality make her ideal to welcome people to our district and its administrative offices.”

Costa was born and raised in Upper Darby and attended St. Alice School and Archbishop Prendergast High School. A former corporate receptionist, she worked at St. Laurence School after her two sons were enrolled, running the kitchen and serving as an aide in the kindergarten classroom. She returned to the corporate world in 1999 as an office manager for an advertising and marketing firm before her employment with Upper Darby.

“Ali is a true asset to our district,” Rucci said.

The surprised Costa could only say, “I’m in shock.”

Prior to the award the board elected new leadership naming Rucci, the former vice president, the new board president, replacing Judy Gentile, who nominated Vince Gordon to serve as vice president.

Gentile congratulated Rucci and Gordon and commented on the status of the district.

“As I step down from leadership, I would like to acknowledge those board members who have worked courageously through a very difficult time to move this district in a positive direction,” Gentile said. “We are now addressing our set of circumstances in a way that positively affirms the correctness of our decisions.

“It is important to note that during this process we did not break the Sunshine Law in any way. Also, we have not been approached by any agency or organization – local, state or federal – to investigate our educational policies. Why? Because this is an amazing educational institution. We are celebrated as an outstanding example of how to deliver knowledge to a diverse community in a way that is meaningful and successful.

“We are not perfect, but we now have established an atmosphere of unity and cooperation that will enable all of us in the Upper Darby School District to work together and move toward our goals.”

Attorney Francis Catania was reappointed solicitor for 2017 for a $12,000 retainer and an hourly rate of $140 plus reimbursable expenses.

In addition, attorney Sheri Eyer, and the firms of Holsten and Associates, Raffaele & Puppio and McNichol, Byrne and Matlawski, were named special counsels.

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Unsung hero award winner Ali Costa stands next to (from left) Upper Darby School Board Vice President Vincent Gordon and President Kenneth Rucci who presented her the Leadership Award.

In other business, the board appointed Stephanie Sitek as interim principal for Highland Park Elementary School at an annual salary of $100,000, replacing Dr. John Council now serving as substitute assistant superintendent of personnel. Sitek previously earned $63,908 as a staff member.

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