Category Archives: Staples HS

Staples Principal Finalist Meets The Public

Shelley Somers — unanimously picked by a search committee as the only finalist candidate for the principalship of Staples High School — met with parents and other Westporters this morning.

She sat with students during lunch, and will meet with administrators and staff members later today. The Board of Education — all 7 of whose members were at this morning’s forum — will meet in executive session at 5:30 p.m. today to discuss Somers’ candidacy.

Shelley Somers, this morning at Staples High School.

Shelley Somers, this morning at Staples High School.

This morning, after superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon noted Somers’ qualifications — English teacher, department chair, assistant principal and head of an arts, communications and technology school in 2 South Carolina districts; current principal at Central Middle School in Greenwich, where she was recently named Connecticut PTA Middle School Principal of the Year — she stepped up to the podium.

Somers began the session with 100 members of the public by acknowledging difficulties she had in the 1990s, when she owned a daycare center in East Granby, Connecticut. She miscounted the number of children attending an event, causing one child to remain in a vehicle.

“It’s still very difficult for me to talk about this,” Somers said. It has caused her “sadness and shame,” but also shaped her life today.

“I dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s,” she said. “This has taught me humility. I understand the importance of seeking help, gaining trust and moving on. I go to sleep with this at night, and wake up with it in the morning. I carry this with me in my heart. It has helped me very much, as an educator and a person.”

Somers noted that being principal is a “complex job.” She said that while in previous administrative positions she was hired to “fix things,” her role at Staples would be “to take a great school and figure out how to make it greater. You don’t do that by sitting in your office.”

Being a principal requires “a good ear,” she said — something she has learned to develop not only with students, but her own 4 daughters.

Board of Education members listen as a questioner addresses Staples principal candidate Shelley Somers.

Board of Education members listen as a questioner addresses Staples principal candidate Shelley Somers.

A questioner asked how she would adapt to Staples.

“I’m an educator,” Somers replied. “I don’t see myself as ‘a middle school principal.’ I have experience at all levels, as a teacher and an administrator. I’ve learned a lot about how to make good decisions.

“It was never my intent to stay in middle school — though I love it dearly,” she added.

At Central, she said, “I walked into a building with challenges. I spent a lot of time listening. I knew just being optimistic would not be enough.”

She cited her “open door policy. Parents knew I was there to help them and their children navigate the middle schools years. Parents learned I was a student advocate.”

The Board of Education may vote tonight on a new principal of Staples High School.

The Board of Education meets in executive sesssion tonight on a new principal of Staples High School.

Somers drew applause when — in response to a question about the Smarter Balance testing that was introduced this year — she said, “I don’t think junior year is the best place to put it.”

She reiterated her focus on students. “They’re the reason I got into education,” Somers said. “I am accessible to them. That’s number one with me.”

In reply to a question about a principal’s priorities, she said her top three are physical and emotional safety; availability and listening; and instructional leadership.

One questioner wondered about the “learning curve” needed for a new principal in a new school.

“Sure,” she agreed. “But I am prepared to make decisions.” She said she would talk to current principal John Dodig, and recognized the “strong administrative staff and student support teams” already in place.

Finally, someone asked Somers about the future. “I have younger kids,” the parent said. “I’ll be here for the next decade.”

“So will I,” she replied.

Collin Carroll’s Incredible Ironman Tale

At Staples High School, Collin Carroll led an active life. He captained the rugby team, and served as president of the EMS Explorers program.

Collin Carroll, as a Staples High School student.

Collin Carroll, as a Staples High School student.

He went on to the University of North Carolina, graduating a year early with a major in communications and a minor in environmental studies.

He earned certification as a personal trainer, and worked first in Denver, now New York. He’s fascinated with the human body: how it works, and how to make it better. This fall, he’ll enter Columbia University’s pre-med program.

That’s the short story: high-achieving Staples students climbs the ladder of opportunity and success.

Here’s the longer version.

In 2009, as a Staples junior, Collin was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Fortunately, the painful, debilitating disease was soon brought under control. For a couple of years, he felt good.

But in the spring of 2011 — as UNC finals started — Colin’s symptoms reappeared. His health deteriorated. He calls the 4-month period from April to August “very, very dark.”

By the 2nd week of classes in September, he’d lost so much blood he could not walk up a flight of stairs. A trip to the emergency room turned into a week in the hospital.

Fortunately — again — a drug regimen worked. Slowly, he started to feel better.

Amazingly, in the midst of his darkest days, Collin had signed up for an Ironman competition. “I wasn’t playing rugby, so I wanted a new challenge,” he explains, as if every sufferer of a severe bowel inflammation wants to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles on a bike, then run a marathon — without a break.

He could not begin training until January. But within 7 months, he was in good enough shape to complete the particularly rugged Lake Placid Ironman.

Collin Carroll competes in the Lake Placid Ironman.

Collin Carroll competes in the Lake Placid Ironman.

Competing against experienced Ironman athletes — none of them probably suffering from ulcerative colitis — Colin finished in 13 hours, 15 minutes. He was 20th in his age group, and in the top half of all competitors.

“It made a huge difference in my life,” he says — again as if this is no big deal. Though he does add, “It was just as hard as everyone said.”

The low point came midway through the marathon, he says. “You’ve finished all the biking and swimming. You’ve already run 13 miles — and you’ve still got 13 more to go.”

But, he notes, crossing the finish line was “the best I’ve ever felt. It was much better than graduating from school.”

He pauses. “I feel bad for my future wife. Marriage might not be as great as finishing an Ironman.”

Collin Carroll -- proud (and successful) Ironman finisher.

Collin Carroll — proud (and successful) Ironman finisher.

He ran the next 2 Lake Placid Ironmans too, improving to 12:45 and 10:53 respectively. (Note: Those are hours and minutes. An Ironman is quite a way to spend half your day.)

Yet Collin will not compete in Lake Placid this year. Instead he’s doing the Ironman Maryland.

He chose that Eastern Shore event because it’s linked with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Collin hopes to raise $5,000 for the organization, which works to find a cure for diseases like ulcerative colitis.


“I’m doing this for people who aren’t lucky enough to have what I have — who can’t run an Ironman because they can’t get out of bed,” Collin says.

“My time was so chilling and dark. I know what that feels like — and I know that could be me again someday. Right now, I’m just doing what I can.”

Ironman Maryland is in October. Collin’s already begun fundraising (click here to help).

But he’s also looking beyond the fall.

When the Ironman is over, Collin hopes to train people with Crohn’s and colitis, to run their own races.

Staples Players Bring “Laramie Project” To Life

When Staples Players director David Roth announced the spring Black Box Theater production — “The Laramie Project” — 80% of the actors had no idea who Matthew Shepard was.

But why would they? The oldest were 2 years old when the gay University of Wyoming student was beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in the Laramie night.

Roth and co-director Kerry Long are adept at presenting theater that educates audiences. This time, they’re educating their cast too.

“I don’t think kids in this community have any idea how tough it still is to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans in other parts of the country,” Roth says. “A lot of teenagers here don’t realize how we’ve gotten to this place of acceptance.”

Part of the reason Staples is a high school where students feel comfortable being who they are — whoever they are — is because of John Dodig. The principal has worked hard to create an environment of acceptance and inclusion. He retires this spring after 11 years at Staples — and 47 in education — so Roth and Long are proud to dedicate this year’s “Laramie Project” to him.

Sophia Sherman, Keanan Pucci and Nick Ribolla, ensemble members of “The Laramie Project.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

It’s the 2nd time Roth and Long are directing this show with Players. The 1st production was 8 years ago.

This set design is completely different. So is the use of technology, showing the use of TV cameras as world media descended on Wyoming.

Different too is that “The Laramie Project” now has a companion piece. In 2008 — 10 years after Matthew Shepard’s murder — the Tectonic Theater Project returned to the town. They interviewed many of the same people who contributed to the first play, as well as others — like Matthew’s mother Judy, and his 2 killers. All showed what had — and had not — changed in the intervening decade.

The result was another play: “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.” It recently become available for licensing. Players will be one of the first companies anywhere to produce that show next year.

Each cast member plays multiple roles in

Each cast member plays multiple roles in “The Laramie Project.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

Roth and Long are excited about the opportunity to do their 1st-ever cycle. Some of this year’s cast will audition for the same roles a year from now. It’s a challenging way for them to look at their character’s growth — and their own.

The directors savor the chance to work with an ensemble. The cast of 18 covers over 60 roles. Each actor must understand multiple, nuanced characters. The hate crime evoked complex reactions among many Laramie residents.

It’s all part of the educational process that began when this generation of Staples students first heard the name “Matthew Shepard.”

(“The Laramie Project” will be presented in Staples’ Black Box Theater on May 28, 29, 30 and 31. Click here for times, and ticket information [available starting Saturday morning].)

Nate Greenberg Scores — On And Off The Field

In late summer of 2013, life was going well for Nate Greenberg. He was heading into senior year at Union College. He’d scored 50 goals for the lacrosse team, and was now captain.

Suddenly, life changed. He was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a pediatric bone cancer.

Nate Greenberg, soon after his diagnosis.

Nate Greenberg, soon after his diagnosis.

The former Staples lax captain (and member of the state championship soccer team) endured several rounds of chemo. Surgery removed a tumor from his hip. He had a full hip replacement, and partial reconstruction of his femur.

His many friends rallied in support. The entire Union lacrosse team shaved their heads, in solidarity with their captain.

It was a brutal experience. But the disease is in remission. And this is where the story gets really interesting.

Though no longer able to play, Nate has remained active as the team’s middies coach. The other day, News10 in Albany described the profound influence he has had on the Dutchmen. Reporter Josh Sims called him “one of the most influential voices on the roster. When Greenberg talks, the team listens.”

Recently, for example, Union was losing to Nazareth at halftime of the NCAA tournament opening round .

Senior Connor Hall said Nate’s halftime speech brought tears to his eyes. “You don’t get more hyped than that.”

Nate’s message — “the tougher team is going to win” — sparked the Dutchmen to a 15-12 victory.

A screenshot of News10's interview with Nate Greenberg.

A screenshot of News10’s interview with Nate Greenberg.

Sims continued:

The word “tough” described Greenberg to a “T” after his battle with cancer.

“When he came back for games, he was pale and frail and skinny, and he wasn’t the young man that left us,” Union head coach Paul Wehrum said.

Now much stronger, Nate told Sims: “This is my time to give back to (my team) what they gave to me.”

He has a new outlook on life.

“I’m just way more focused. I know what the other side is. I’ve been close, so every day is a gift,” Nate said.

Now Nate has another gift to give.

Union College LogoA professor encouraged Nate to apply for keynote speaker at graduation. He had stiff competition — including the valedictorian — but he beat out more than 2 dozen classmates.

Learning of his selection, he told Sims, “was like scoring my first goal versus RIT. I’ve never felt anything like that, and coming from the year I’ve had, hitting that accomplishment was like nothing else.”

On June 14, Nate will address a crowd of about 10,000. He’ll tell his story. It’s sure to be inspirational. Connor Hall will probably have tears in his eyes again — along with everyone else.

Ewing’s sarcoma may have slowed Nate Greenberg down. It may have changed his college career, turning him from player to coach.

But there’s a lot more to do. After graduation he heads to Israel, then to Europe with friends. An economics major, he hopes for a career in commercial real estate.

Chances are, he’ll find time to inspire teammates, friends and total strangers for years to come.

(To see the entire TV segment on Nate Greenberg, click here.)


Brian Keane Honors B.B. King

Brian Keane has spent 40 years in the music industry. The Staples High School Class of 1971 grad has composed the music for hundreds of films and television shows, produced over 100 albums, and won a ton of Grammys, Emmys and Peabodys. He’s earned fame scoring television documentaries (including Ric Burns’ “New York,” “The Donner Party” “Ansel Adams” and “Andy Warhol.”

Brian Keane in his home studio, in Monroe.

Brian Keane in his home studio, in Monroe.

But in 1980, all that lay ahead. He was playing guitar one week night at the Village Gate, backing up jazz legend Larry Coryell. John Scofield, John McLaughlin and George Benson were also there. Brian was excited, anticipating a “shootout” between so many great guitarists.

After his set, he went backstage. There, in the dressing room, was B.B. King. He was on tour in the area, had the night off, and Benson asked him to sit in.

Brian recalls:

“B.B. was very kind, welcoming, and sweet to me. I don’t know if he actually heard me play, but he was complimentary. I was a cocky 29-year-old kid, and still considered technique and harmonic sophistication as the true measures of musicianship. I was polite and respectful, but in my mind B.B. King was not what I considered a player of high awareness music at the time.

B.B. King died Thursday, age 89.

B.B. King died Thursday, age 89.

“After I played with Larry and met B.B., I listened in the wings as guitarist after guitarist took amazing solos, trying to outdo each other. I was at a stage in my musical development where I thought of music almost like a competition. Towards the end of the night they did a blues with all the name guitarists (not me), and brought B.B. King out as a special guest.

“I was astounded that B.B. King played a more effective solo using about 3 notes than all these other great guitarists played, using about 3000 per second!

“B.B. King taught me that night that the emotion a musician conveys in his music, even if simple, can be far more powerful than I had considered — and more profound. I never looked at guitar solos, or music, in quite the same way again.

“Thank you B.B.King for your music, and for being a messenger of love, compassion and empathy to so many, for so long.”

Staples Seniors End With Class

On Monday, several hundred Staples High School seniors head off on internships. From hedge funds to organic farms, and ad agencies to pre-schools, they’ll spend 4 weeks learning about life in the real (work) world.

A week after that, they graduate.

Principal John Dodig will “graduate” with them, too. But in the last weeks of his 47-year career in education, he instituted a new tradition he hopes will last for decades.

When classes ended today for seniors, administrators invited them to a cookout on the football field. A band played (really well). Seniors ate, played, and hung out together for the last time until prom.

It was a classy end of classes, for a very classy class.

Alexander Baumann (left) and Jack Baylis both contributed to Staples in many ways.

Alexander Baumann (left) and Jack Baylis both contributed to Staples in many ways.

Will Dumke (keyboard) and Andrew Puchala (guitar) rocked the house -- er, football field.

Will Dumke (keyboard), August Densby (drums) and Andrew Puchala (guitar) rocked the house — er, football field.

Eli Mitchell Frets

When Eli Mitchell was in Staples High School last year, he admired John Dodig.

The principal said hello to him every day, asked how he was doing, and made him feel good.

Eli is out of high school now. Dodig retires next month. So, in honor of the principal — and to raise money for a Staples Tuition Grants scholarship in his name — Eli had an idea.

He’s spent the past few months designing his “Fret” (plural: “Fretz”). He patented them as “personal expression banners” — his generation’s replacement for buttons, stickers and patches. Each has a logo or message, and attach easily to anything — backpacks, for instance. You can add them to the strap, like guitar frets.

Eli with Fret on backpack - final

Eli created a set with the Staples “S,” and the words “Class of 2015.” He asked Dodig to sign some. The principal autographed 100.

Eli hopes to sell them all — to graduates, parents of grads (for gifts), and anyone else. The cost is $10; of that, he’ll donate $7 to the scholarship set up in Dodig’s name. (You can donate more to the fund, of course.)

An autographed "Class of 2015" Fret.

An autographed “Class of 2015″ Fret.

Eli’s business is just getting off the ground. He’s planning to add colleges, sports teams, flags and other designs to his “Fretz.” He hopes this 1st set will become collectibles — and that they’ll add a nice chunk of money to a fund named for Eli’s (and Westport’s) beloved principal.

(To order online, go to

Eli Mitchell, with a roll of Fretz.

Eli Mitchell, with a roll of Fretz.


Eric Gallanty Follows Big Footsteps

Eric Gallanty — a Staples Class of 2011 grad, and Syracuse University senior — has won a great award. The Sportscasters Talent Agency of America just named him the nation’s outstanding collegiate sports broadcaster.

“Eric does both TV and radio play-by-play,” says STAA CEO Jon Chelesnik. “When I watched his football, I had to double-check that Eric was still in school. He is fabulous.”

Nice — but “06880”-worthy? Isn’t that a little, um, “inside baseball”?

Normally. Except for this: The former WWPT-FM and Staples Television Network star’s honor is the Jim Nantz Award. It’s named for the veteran CBS Sports broadcaster — who was a longtime Westport resident.

Eric Gallanty (left) and Jim Nantz.

Eric Gallanty (left) and Jim Nantz.

Next month’s awards ceremony in North Carolina will not be the first time Gallanty and Nantz’s paths cross. A few years ago, while still in Staples, Gallanty and 2 other rising broadcasters — DJ Sixsmith and Brandon Edelson — were invited by Nantz to lunch at Gold’s.

They expected a quick bite. But he spent 2 hours with them, talking about sports and TV.

Perhaps one day Eric and Jim will share something even more exciting than an award (and a pastrami sandwich): a broadcast booth.

Michel Nischan: James Beard’s Humanitarian Of The Year

When Michel Nischan closed his Dressing Room restaurant in January 2014, the farm-to-table chef/pioneer said he wanted to devote his full energies to Wholesome Wave.

That national non-profit — based at the time in Westport, now in Bridgeport –helps underserved urban and rural communities gain more affordable access to healthy, locally grown foods, while supporting the small and mid-sized American farmers.

Michel Nischan

Michel Nischan

“Wholesome Wave is ready to explode,” Nischan told “06880” then. “It’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

In just 15 months, Wholesome Wave has certainly made its mark. And the world is noticing.

On Monday in Chicago, the James Beard Foundation honored Nischan as its Humanitarian of the Year.

The foundation called Nischan — also co-founder of the Chef Action Network — “a trailblazer of the sustainable food movement and celebrity chef with over 30 years of experience advocating for a more local, (healthful, equitable) and regenerative food system.”

Citing initiatives like the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program and Healthy Food Commerce Investments — and its efforts with key decision makers in states, Congress and at federal agencies — the foundation said that Nischan’s organization has become “a model for forward-thinking, imaginative solutions that go beyond charity to focus on economic viability.”

Nischan thanked the Beard Foundation for the honor, adding, “I wholeheartedly agree with James when he said, ‘Food is our common ground.’”

In other food news, Opinionated About Dining may not carry the same cachet as the James Beard Foundation. But the self-styled “leading source of global restaurant rankings for devout diners” has just unveiled its 4th annual “Top 100 European Restaurants.”

Alex Burger

Alex Burger

Sitting at #1 — up 18 spots from last year — is that “champion of sustainability and pioneer of modern Basque cuisine, Azurmendi.”

What makes that spectacularly beautiful and very cool restaurant 15 kilometers east of Bilbao “06880”-worthy is that the chef de cuisine is Alex Burger. He’s a 2004 Staples grad  who took every culinary class he could there. He honed his skills at Daniel in New York, then Asia and Malta.

After starting at Planet Pizza, right here in Westport.

“06880” is indeed where Westport meets — and eats — the world.

(Hat tips: Bart Shuldman and Cecily Gans)


Molly Procter Earns Duke Of Edinburgh Award

Valedictorian. Eagle Scout. All-America.

Those are teenage honors that everyone knows, and understands.

But the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award? Not so much.

What a shame.

Molly Procter is a Staples High School sophomore. She’s been hard at work on the project. She’s not looking for press or praise — but she deserves both.

Its website calls this “the world’s leading youth achievement award.” That’s debatable. But no one can dispute its rigor.

Molly Procter volunteers at the Senior Center.

Molly Procter volunteers at the Senior Center.

Established in the UK in 1956 by (duh) the Duke of Edinburgh for people ages 14-24, the award has spread to over 140 countries. It recently became available in the New York area.

The Edinburgh Award includes 4 “sections” that each candidate must complete: Volunteering, Physical, Skills and Expedition. There are bronze, silver and gold levels.

Molly began working toward her bronze in August. She’s about to complete it. She is believed to be the 1st Westporter to do so, and one of the first in the tri-state area.

For the Volunteering component, Molly has worked at the Senior Center almost weekly since November. She fulfilled the Physical part by playing junior varsity volleyball at Staples.

Her Skill is her passion: art. She studied with renowned Westport artist Roe Halper twice a week since November. Molly’s work was included in an exhibition of students’ work at Roe’s home in April.

The Expedition was an overnight trip that participants do in small groups after 3 training sessions. It includes orienteering, hiking 15 miles in 24 hours, and camping outdoors without a tent. Molly completed that challenge in late April.

The Award process provides opportunities to give back to the local community; empowers participants, and builds leadership, teamwork, confidence and self-esteem in young people.

Molly’s ceremony is set for tomorrow (Wednesday, May 6) at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. No, the award will not be presented by the Duke of Edinburgh — aka Prince Philip.

It will be given instead by his son, Prince Edward.

(For more information on the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award — including how to participate — click here.)

Molly Procter, surrounded by her art.

Molly Procter, surrounded by her art.