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CCS Staff Member Celebrates 40 Years of Dedication at Colerain Elementary School

Conley posing in front of an ocean painted wall

January 12, 2024 - At Columbus City Schools, a silent champion has devoted more than four decades to supporting students with disabilities. Through his unwavering commitment, he has not only assisted these students but has profoundly enhanced the quality of their lives, leaving an indelible impact on countless individuals.

"[Conley] is someone the kids really love hanging out with and talking to," said Chantel Mills, Intervention Specialist at Colerain Elementary. "I think that's something he's done for years, and people are more relaxed around him in general, which helps build the sense of community here."

Walking down the halls of Colerain Elementary School, amongst the fun had in the halls, you will find the familiar and friendly face of Mr. Robert P. Conley. Conley is a Child Care Attendant, a beloved staff member and a cornerstone for Colerain and its community.

Colerain is a unique school with a student population consisting of many students served by the Program for Students with Orthopedic and Health Impairments,Conley posing with students learning and growing alongside their general education peers. That unique component makes the service and dedication of staff like Mr. Conley much more valuable.

"When I saw the need of the students here, you know, it got to my heart," Conley explained.

Conley has been a constant presence at Colerain, serving as a friend to countless students and a thought partner to administrative staff. His unwavering commitment to the well-being of the school and its students has transformed him into a key member of the Colerain community.

"Having Robert here with everything he has learned throughout the years is invaluable," said Dr. Candace Nespeca, Principal at Colerain and Supervisor for the Program for Students with Orthopedic and Health Impairments. "He has knowledge specific to our program at Colerain and our students’ specific needs that is really a benefit to a great variety of stakeholders and any other person that comes to our building."

Like students, teachers and administrators need support. Conley uses his talents and people skills not only to be someone his colleagues can lean on but also to act as the biggest cheerleader for Colerain year after year.

Former students, now adults, fondly recall Conley's words of encouragement. The exact words of encouragement that propelled students to participate in his basketball games helped show them they could excel at anything they put their minds to, regardless of their disability.

"I played on Robert's basketball team when I was in school, and it was one of the times that I got to play and be included," said Mr. Brian Fontanarosa, a former student at Colerain Elementary School. "It didn't matter that I was in a wheelchair. Robert played a part in me seeing that I could do sports, which has helped me throughout my entire life."  

Programs like the basketball team allow Conley to connect with students and foster a sense of belonging and community for all. When it comes to life and sports, Conley believes everyone has a part they can play.

Conley’s eagerness to see the full potential in each student and his genuine interest in their lives goes beyond the role of a Child Care Attendant. These qualities make him a trusted confidant, source of inspiration, and friend to many.

I've had the privilege of working with Mr. Conley my entire principalship at Colerain," said Dr. Nespeca. "To have someone who has worked in the same location, in the same position, it's just really amazing to see the journey he's had.”

While Conley is celebrating 40 years of service and may be looking to step back from his daily routine at the school in the future, staff around Colerain remain reluctant to let him go.

"We just love him. We love him. And we're glad he's still here,” said Chantel Mills. "[Conley] said he will stay until I leave. So, he has to be here for another 30 years."

Undoubtedly, Conley and his legacy will continue to shape the lives of Colerain Elementary students for generations to come. For now, students can continue to see his smile, hear his infectious laugh, and ask him for encouragement for the years to come.

Power of One

Priority 1 - Whole Child FocusedPriority 2 - Equitable Opportunities for AllPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic EngagementPortrait Attribute 1 - AdaptabilityPortrait Attribute 2 - CommunicationPortrait Attribute 3 - CreativityPortrait Attribute 4 - Critical ThinkingPortrait Attribute 5 - Global EmpathyPortrait Attribute 6 - Technology