By Patty Booth O’Neill
Long Branch — According to W.C. Fields, one should never act in a movie with dogs or children; you will always get upstaged.
That was the case on Thursday when elementary students at the grand opening of the George L. Catrambone School (GLC) welcomed Governor Chris Christie in a way that impressed and warmed the hearts of even those grinches who may agree with Fields.
Students lined the hallway and welcomed visitors as they entered the school.
“It was so impressive,” said Mary George, member of the Long Branch Board of Ed. “I choked up at how amazing the children were.”
As the Governor made his way through the hundreds of children, the school band played the theme from Rocky. Instead of feeling upstaged, the Governor embraced the kids, shaking hands, giving hugs and even signing autographs.
Christie made his way to a crowded auditorium where he still didn’t get a chance to speak, because as the city school’s slogan says, “Children Matter Most.”
Students, teachers and music director did an amazing job preparing songs to entertain the Governor and visitors.
Board President Lucy Perez handed out praise and introduced various people, then finally Superintendent of Schools Michael Salvatore introduced Christie.
“That was about as good a welcome I get anywhere,” Christie said. He added that when he goes into the State House he was going to have someone play the Rocky theme for him.
The Catrambone School, which replaced the old Elberon School on Park Ave., is a 109,000-square-foot building that teaches from preschool through the fifth grade, costing $27.5 million to constuct, although from inception to opening the final cost was $40 million.
It is named after 38-year, retired educator George L. Catrambone.
“I wish every taxpayer in the state could come and see this school for themselves,” Christie said. He said it was the first school that started and finished on his watch and he was proud.
CEO of the NJ Schools Development Authority Charles McKenna said he was confident about handing the school over to the district.
“We couldn’t have gotten this done without the help of Mike Salvatore,” McKenna said. “I know the school will be well taken care of.”
He said it was a beautiful, high functioning school. “It’s a school of the future,” he said.
The school houses 41 classrooms, four special education classrooms, a cafetorium with stage, computer room, gymnasium, media center/library, art room and music room, and currently has 852 students in attendance.
“During construction we went through Sandy and the worst winter in our history,” Salvatore said. “This school was still done on time.”
He spoke about how well the school system is doing with three free-standing preschools and 90 percent of the graduates going on to college.
The celebration ended with the ribbon cutting and the GLC was officially handed over to the district.