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Homestead Council honors heroic Barrett Elementary teachers

| Friday, May 10, 2013, 4:51 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Homestead council honored Barrett Elementary teachers for their part in searching a house that was on fire across the street from the school on April 2. Council president Susan Titmus presented plaques to Jonette Bost, Carole Policastro and Sue Wilder. Councilwoman Wanda Burwell and Ron Carr, Homestead fire captain and safety officer, took part in the presentation.

Homestead officials honored three Steel Valley School District teachers for their bravery in responding to a fire at a Barrett Elementary School second-grader's home last month.

Councilors presented plaques commemorating their actions to fifth-grade math teacher Carole Policastro, second-grade teacher Jonette Bost and autistic life skills teacher Sue Wilder at Thursday night's meeting.

Policastro and Wilder were finishing their work with students at their after-school tutoring program on April 2 when they smelled smoke and noticed a fire coming from a student's home across from the school along E. Twelfth Avenue.

They rushed over to the burning house to see if anyone was inside. They later found out the family was attending a volleyball game at the high school at the time.

Bost is the second-grader's teacher. She helped obtain donated gift cards and financial assistance for the family to purchase food and other goods. American Red Cross also assisted them.

Bost said her student is back in school.

“He's been a trouper through all this,” she said. “His biggest worries the day of the fire were his Easter bunnies melting, and that he wasn't going to have my homework the next day because it burned up in the fire. Those were his biggest concerns.”

Policastro thanked council for the recognition, and talked about positive work being done at the elementary school.

“We offer this free tutoring for the children because we believe in Barrett,” Policastro said. “It is a wonderful school. I want you to know there are a lot of teachers that work very hard. We're dedicated because we want to make (students) the best in the next century. We want them to represent us and themselves for a better life in the coming years.”

“I love my kids at Barrett. I treat them like they're my own,” Wilder said. “There's a difference between being nice just for the sake of being nice, and tough love. These kids need tough love, and believe me I give it to them ... What I've seen through my kids is truly phenomenal. We need to believe in them ... They make my day as much as I make theirs. It's a great school. It's a great community.”

Homestead fire captain and safety officer Ron Carr lauded the teachers, and offered words of caution when dealing with a fire.

“As a firefighter, we are trained to do what they did do,” Carr said. “There are a lot of hidden dangers with the things that they've done. They don't know what's behind that door. Things can get worse. You can open the door, and there can be fire behind that door. All it needs is a little bit of oxygen and the fire will flash. There's not too many people that live to talk about a flash. I would just like to caution everybody about that, but when you got a loved one behind the door or something, it's hard to hold somebody back. I know I would do the same thing in your position. I do commend you.”

In other matters, council unanimously accepted the resignation of Milton Williams as part-time public works employee, and terminated the employment of part-time parking enforcement officer Crystal Coleman. Council approved advertising the two positions.

The polling place for Ward 2 District 1 has been moved from the former police station along Ninth Avenue to the new fire hall along the 200 block of Ninth Avenue.

Council introduced recently hired full-time code enforcement officer Keith Evers to residents on Thursday night.

Evers was appointed to the position at last month's council meeting, and officially started working on April 29.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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