A standing ovation was given to a retiring Delaware Academy elementary school maintenance worker Wednesday at a school assembly.
Al Donato, who will end 30 years for service to the district Friday, received the applause from students and teachers, as his years of service were recognized at the regular Dignity Day activity at the school.
In introducing Donato, elementary principal Judy Byam said: “We have a very special person to say ‘thank you’ to.”
As Donato approached the microphone, students and staff members rose to show their appreciation.
“We want to thank you for everything you’ve done for the past thirty years,” she said. “He has been a friend to everyone.”
He was presented with a gift bag that included a Delaware Academy bulldogs blanket.
“I have to thank everyone here,” he said. “You guys are great.”
“It’s been a great job,” he said afterwards. He said he wasn’t sure what he’s going to do in his retirement, but at age 55 he was eligible and decided it was time.
A Downsville resident, Donato started at the school soon after he moved to Delaware County from Lake Ronkonkoma. As the assistant building maintenance mechanic, he is responsible for taking care of the building, which serves about 350 students and 70 staff members.
When asked for a highlight of his tenure, he said, “I wouldn’t know where to start. The kids and staff have been great.” He started at the high school and has been at the elementary school for 17 years.
Physical education teacher Todd Bruce was one of the those applauding Donato’s years of service.
“He will be truly missed,” Bruce said. “He not only does his job, but he cares about everybody, with character, integrity and compassion.”
Donato treated everyone with dignity and he received the same, Bruce said.
Two third grade students shared similar emotions. Zachery Finch said Donato “is really nice to children, and does a lot of things for our school.”
“He has been like a friend,” said Logan Nealis.
After the assembly, Byam said she has worked with Donato for all 30 years, first as a teacher and now as an administrator.
“He has always gone the extra mile,” she said.
Superintendent Jason Thomson said Donato is “an excellent example that no matter what your role in a school, you can have a positive impact.”
Superintendent of buildings Bill Bartlett said when Donato departs with his mechanical abilities and diligence, “he will leave big shoes to fill.”