Category Archives: Teenagers

Giving Thanks

Thank you.

Thank you to Westport, for being — despite the ease and frequency with which we/I often knock it — a wonderful, warm, creative, arts-supporting, involved and ever-evolving community.

Thank you to all who make it so. As Westport prepares for the future — with new retail and residential developments on both sides of the river downtown, and in Saugatuck; with bridge repairs in various states of discussion and (in)action, and many more changes in store — we are not all on the same page. But in our own way, each of us wants what is best for our town. And, thankfully, we are nowhere near as dysfunctional as Washington.

Thank you to the people I spend so much time with: Westport’s teenagers. You are smart, passionate, compassionate and clever. You work far harder than I did when I was at Staples. You’ve got far more pressures on you than I had. Yet you handle it all with maturity and poise (most of the time). And you do it with plenty of smiles.

Thank you to the readers of “06880.” You are never without opinions, information and feedback. You feed me ideas and photos. You read my words at 5 a.m., noon and midnight. And when I tell you sorry, I can’t post a story about your lost cat/upcoming book signing/daughter’s lemonade stand, you (for the most part) understand.

Those are my thanks, this Thanksgiving day 2015. I’d love to hear yours. And — more importantly — so would everyone else in this great “06880” community. Just click “Comments” below.

Thank you!

I am thankful I live in a beautiful town. I am also thankful I'm not a turkey.

I am thankful I live in a beautiful town. I am also thankful I’m not a turkey.

Tweetless Turkey Day

Today’s teenagers don’t know life without Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook. Not to mention Twitter, Yik Yak, Whatsgoodly, streaming videos from Netflix, and — not incidentally — using laptops, tablets and smartphones for schoolwork, in class and out. Staples High School’s BYOD (“bring your own device”) policy ensures that students are connected — to the internet, and each other — 24/7.

(That’s not an exaggeration. Some kids today sleep with their phones underneath their pillows, so they won’t miss any 3 a.m. notifications.)

Technology is wonderful. But it’s also awful. It causes stress. It fragments attention. Social media in particular raises unrealistic expectations. It prevents people from actually being present — connected personally, not wirelessly — with real friends and family members, in real time.

These are not Staples students. But they could be.

These are not Staples students. But they could be.

No one knows this more than Staples’ guidance counselors. They’re on the front lines, watching students battle with the demands of social media, along with the usual stresses of sky-high expectations in a very competitive community.

The guidance department’s Resilience Project is a way to help teenagers find balance, strength and direction. Counselors regularly share videos, stories and ideas with students, teachers and parents, offering strategies to ease anxiety.

This week, they’re doing more. The Resilience Project proposes a Thanksgiving technology break. For 24 hours — any 24 hours during the holiday — Staples students (and staff!) (parents too!) are urged to step away from all social media. Including (aaargh) texting.

(Graphic/Cameron Lynch, Carla Eichler's Beginnign Design and Tech class)

(Graphic/Cameron Lynch, Carla Eichler’s Beginnign Design and Tech class)

The technology break coincides with another Resilience Project initiative: Teachers are encouraged to not give homework over Thanksgiving weekend, and to delay long-term project due dates to later in the following week.

Without that obligation, and with family and friends nearby, the hope is that for 24 hours, Stapleites can engage — really, truly, not sporadically or half-heartedly — with other human beings.

The Resilience Project suggests that teachers and students discuss the technology break during Communication Time, a 15-minute period on Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

It’s a great idea. Give it a try.

And if you can’t go 24 hours without technology, at least don’t tweet during Thanksgiving dinner.

Zito And Honeycutt Grab Radio Gold

It’s a good thing the Staples Media Lab is big. There’s room for TV production classes, a radio station and recording studio, plus plenty of high-tech equipment and offices.

Teachers and students need all that space to make magic. And, to store all the trophies they win for their work.

The latest hardware was handed out last weekend at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. As usual, Staples won several John Drury Awards — the country’s top honors for excellence in high school radio broadcasting.

But this year was extra special. Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito were named Co-Faculty Advisors of the Year. It’s the 1st time a school has had 2 honorees — and it came just a few months before both legends retire.

The pair were cited for their long service to WWPT-FM; their cutting-edge work, and their contributions to the school and community. Nominating letters of support poured in from Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick, citing the duo’s work in creating robust sports coverage; assistant principal James Farnen, attesting to their dynamic classroom environment, and past and present students, describing the instructors’ sometimes life-changing impact.

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM's Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman -- and some Drury Award trophies. Behind them is a mural -- painted by Staples art students -- on the wall outside the Media Lab.

Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM’s Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman (and some Drury Award trophies). Behind them is a mural — painted by Staples art students — on the wall outside the Media Lab.

Sunday’s awards ceremony was emotional, Zito admits. He and Honeycutt have known one each other since the 1970s — when neither was yet teaching.

Honeycutt was a musician, who built the sound system for Barnaby’s in Bridgeport. Zito was the DJ there.

“We were in and out of each other’s lives for years,” Zito says. “Then we had the good fortune of establishing the media department at Staples.”

He arrived at the high school 14 years ago, from Coleytown Middle School. Honeycutt — formerly a Long Lots Middle School social studies and Staples computer teacher — had already moved into TV, radio and recording instruction.

WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.

WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.

The Media Lab now encompasses WWPT-FM and the Staples Television Network — both after-school activities — and classes in TV, radio, film, audio production and graphics.

Broadcast coverage includes live sports events, Staples Players’ shows, Candlelight and other concerts, graduation, even elections.

“On Back to School Night and when we talk to 8th grade parents, we like to say that there are many ways kids can find their place at Staples,” Zito says. “Some do it in arts, athletics or science. Others find a home here.”

For he and Honeycutt, being honored for helping students feel comfortable — and discover a new passion, perhaps even their life’s work — is “a real nice cap to our own careers.”

But the teachers are just as proud of the other Drury Awards won last weekend.

Cooper Boardman, Adam Kaplan and Zach Edelman were honored for Best Sports Play-by-Play radio broadcast. It was not even a Staples game — the trio earned kudos for their work on the girls basketball state finals (Wilton vs. South Windsor) at Mohegan Sun.

Boardman arranged that coverage on one day’s notice.

Boardman, Edelman and Jacob Bonn came in 2nd, in the same category, for their broadcast of the Trumbull-Stamford FCIAC basketball championship.

In addition, Boardman placed 2nd (Best Sportstalk Program) for his interview of ESPN personality Jonathan Coachman; Boardman, Edelman and Bonn took 3rd for Best Sportscast (“WWPT Sports Update”). Jack Caldwell was a national finalist for his Sportstalk interview with hockey goaltender Mike Liut.


But wait! There’s more!

Honeycutt’s Audio class and David Roth’s Theater 3 class took both 1st and 2nd place for “Best Radio Drama – Adaptation.” They were cited for parts I and II of “A Christmas Carol.”

Finally, WWPT was runnerup for Best Radio Station in the country. It’s the 6th consecutive year the FM outlet was either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

It was quite a weekend for WWPT, and their advisors. So what’s ahead for the duo, once they retire in June?

Honeycutt will enjoy his grandchildren, who live nearby.

Zito and his wife head to Austin, Texas. “It’s a great music town,” he notes. “I hope to get into radio there.”

He will not win any more Drury Awards. But SXSW — watch out!

To watch the award-winning live radio adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” click below.



Players’ “Fiddler” A Show For The Ages

David Roth always liked “Fiddler on the Roof.” He just didn’t love it.

The longtime Staples Players director chose the show as his acclaimed troupe’s fall mainstage production.

Now he’s fallen in love with it. And — thanks to all that’s happening on the world stage — his high school actors are passionate about it too.

Jacob Leaf as Tevye in

Jacob Leaf as Tevye in “Tradition.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

“I knew ‘Fiddler’ was important because it exposes teenagers to what was happening at that point in history,” Roth says of the musical that opens this Friday.

“But I never expected it to resonate so much with the contemporary world.”

In the months since the show was chosen, the Syrian refugee crisis has exploded. The parallels with “Fiddler’s” story line — families and communities torn apart, then scattered all across the globe — help students connect yesterday and today.

They’re doing more than just talk about it. At the show this weekend and next, Players will raise funds to help female Syrian refugees. Women were chosen in part, Roth says, because “Fiddler” is a story of matchmaking.

“In the beginning, it was hard for kids to relate to that concept,” Roth notes.

Samantha Chachra (Tzeitel) and Remy Laifer (Motel) in

Samantha Chachra (Tzeitel) and Remy Laifer (Motel) in “Miracle of Miracles.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

When they studied the role of Chava — the eldest of the 3 daughters, who marries a Christian — he and his actors talked about religious tradition. None of the Staples students could really relate to the distress over intermarriage, epitomized by Tevye’s harsh comment, “You’re dead to me.”

But they did connect that to the current issue of same-sex marriage. Roth’s actors know that even in 2015, people are ostracized for marrying a same-sex partner. “Kids do understand what it means to go against norms and traditions,” the director says.

There’s another reason Roth has grown to love “Fiddler.”

“I’ve realized it’s an almost perfect, musical,” he says. “There’s great storytelling, songs and dance, and a fantastic balance of humor and pathos. That’s why it’s one of the most popular shows of all time.” The 5th Broadway revival opens soon.

But you don’t have to travel that far to see “Fiddler on the Roof.” The Staples curtain rises on Friday.

(“Fiddler on the Roof” runs Friday and  Saturday, November 13, 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are set for Sunday, November 15 and Saturday, November 21 at 3 p.m. Ticket sales are strong — so to order online now, click here.)

For Your Viewing Pleasure

There’s a lot to see and hear in Westport. No one can do it all.

But if you missed 2 recent Staples High School-related events, YouTube can help.

A couple of weeks ago, the music department presented a fantastic concert: “The Art of Folk Music.” One audience member said “it equaled or surpassed many a NYC production.”

To hear Luke Rosenberg’s superb choral groups, click below:

Last week, David Roth’s Theater 3 acting class and Jim Honeycutt’s audio production class collaborated on a WWPT-FM live radio broadcast of “Dracula.” It was just like 1939: the Orson Welles Mercury Theater original script, period commercials, sound effects, the challenge of conveying a story completely with actors’ voices and sound effects.

The media lab shot the show. Here you go:


AED Alert!

Less than 2 weeks ago, a high school senior — a spectator, not a player — went into sudden cardiac arrest at halftime of a Staples soccer game.

The quick actions of one parent, who had an AED in the trunk of his car; another parent, who is a nurse; an EMT who raced over from the pool, and the school’s 2 trainers — who worked together to apply the Automated External Defibrillator and perform CPR — saved the boy’s life.

It was the 2nd such harrowing experience in 20 months.

Adam Greenlee today.

Adam Greenlee today.

In January 2014, Bedford Middle School 6th grader Adam Greenlee collapsed during gym class. School nurses, administrators and 1st responders used CPR — and the school’s AED — to bring the youngster back to life.

After surgery to implant a defibrillator into Adam’s chest, his parents and friends formed the Adam Greenlee Foundation.

Its goal is to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest. It strikes over 400,000 people a year; 9 out of 10 victims do not survive.

Only 32% receive bystander CPR. A mere 2% are treated with AEDs. But when sudden cardiac arrest victims are treated quickly, survival rates climb to 38%.

Westport has taken note of these incidents. And the Adam Greenlee Foundation has taken action.

Yesterday, they announced a partnership with the Westport School District and Westport PAL. AEDs will soon be installed at all Westport public school athletic fields and gyms.

An AED on Wilton's Kristine Lilly Field. Similar devices will soon be placed at all Westport athletic fields.

An AED on Wilton’s Kristine Lilly Field. Similar devices will soon be placed at all Westport athletic fields.

Funds are also being raised to donate portable AEDs to each school, to be carried on field trips and during athletic competitions at other schools.

Every day without an AED is a disaster waiting to happen. A fundraising goal of $50,000 has been set — by November 15.

All donations are tax-deductible. 100% goes directly toward the purchase of AEDs, and the training of staff and coaches.

So don’t delay. Here’s how you can help save the life of a loved one. Or maybe your own:

Click here. Fill out your donation in the white box next to the “Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Donation.” Complete billing information; then click “Review Donation and Continue.” On the final screen click “Add Special Instructions.” In the space provided, type “The Adam Greenlee Foundation.” At the bottom of the screen, click the yellow “Donate Now” button to complete your transaction.

You can also send checks payable to “The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation” to: The Adam Greenlee Foundation, 28 Maple Avenue North, Westport, CT 06880. Note on the memo line that the donation is for the The Adam Greenlee Foundation.

Questions? Email or You can also click here, or check out The Adam Greenlee Foundation page on Facebook.

Werner Liepolt’s Ghoulish Halloween Rediscovery

In 1972, Werner Liepolt was a Bedford Junior High School English teacher. Today, as Halloween approaches, is a good time to remember those long-ago days.

Fellow Annenberg School of Communications graduate Christopher Speeth had secured a soon-to-be-demolished amusement park as a set, raised enough money to rent a 35mm camera and hired some actors. Knowing of Liepolt’s off-Broadway credits, he asked him to write a horror movie.

Werner Liepolt, back in the day.

Werner Liepolt, back in the day.

Liepolt told his 9th graders about his script. It involved a carnival that consumed its customers. He tested scenes on them, and revised it based on their reactions.

“My students were my idea of a perfect horror movie audience,” Liepolt recalls. “They were impeccable critics of the macabre.” The film that emerged was “Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood.”

It was released for a limited run at Texas drive-ins. Liepolt saw it at one screening. His students never did. The movie disappeared.

A former student managed a seafood restaurant and store. For years, every time Liepolt bought shellfish or went to dinner, he asked about the film. The teacher never had any news. But “his faith in it convinced me of its worth,” Liepolt says.

Four decades later — in 2003 — others realized that worth too. Speeth dug the movie out, sent it to Lucas and Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, and convinced them to remaster it.

In 2007 British horror film aficionado Stephen Thrower saw a screening. He gave Speeth and Liepolt’s work a chapter in his acclaimed, encyclopedic “Nightmare USA.”

Malatestas Carnival of Blood

Word spread. Amazon sold copies of the DVD.

Liepolt’s son Jamie and some classmates at College of the Atlantic unearthed it, and screened it. He alerted his dad that “Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood” was alive. (Or, Liepolt notes, “had joined the ranks of the walking dead”).

Last month, Arrow Films — which negotiated the rights to redistribute the film — asked Liepolt for an interview. A crew from LA arrived at his Westport home several days ago. They’ll use 40 minutes as part of a DVD bonus package.

“I was as surprised as they were that I remembered so much about the writing and the shoot,” Liepolt says. They may even include a digital copy of the shooting script that he preserved.

Werner Liepolt today.

Werner Liepolt today.

Liepolt also provided Arrow with photos of actors he recruited for the film. Herve Villechaize — famous for his roles in a Bond film and the “Fantasy Island” TV series — began his theatrical career in Leipolt’s American Place Theater production of “The Young Master Dante.” He said he wanted — theatrically — to commit a murder in a certain gruesome way. Liepolt obliged.

The writer also recruited Lenny Baker, who went on to headline on Broadway (“I Love My Wife”) and starred in films (“Last Stop Greenwich Village”).

“That ‘Malatesta’ emerged from the crypt astonishes me,” Liepolt says. Thrower is not surprised, though. He said it “more than deserves a spell in the cult spotlight.”

There is a Facebook page for the film, so Liepolt’s 9th graders from the 1970s can finally track down and see the film they heard about 40 years ago. There’s also a website, and Arrow promises a number of promotions.

“It’s amazing fun that people are enjoying what I helped create so long ago,” Liepolt says. “What makes me sad, though, is that there are so few remaining who helped create the film.”

Halloween is here soon. What better way to get in the mood than a screening of Werner Liepolt’s great — and now rediscovered — ghoulish cult classic?

Zoe Brown: “Chris Lemone Will Always Be A Part Of Me”

Zoe Brown graduated from Staples High School in June. Now a freshman at the University of Southern California, she’s also the author of an insightful blog, “IMO.” 

Yesterday she shared her emotions on the death of Staples’ outreach counselor, Chris Lemone. She gave permission to share her beautiful piece with “06880.”


“You’re it. Your life. Your decision.” That’s the Teen Awareness Group (TAG)’s motto.

Unfortunately though, sometimes life throws something at you that you can’t control, something that’s not your decision at all. I learned this the hard way today.

I didn’t think anything at first of the texts and calls I was getting this morning at 5 from members of Staples High School’s TAG, of which I was co-president last year and Chris was advisor of for many years. But when my little sister called me at 6 a.m. (my time), I knew it must be important.

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I really still can’t. I screamed “NO” over and over again. My whole body shook and tears spilled out uncontrollably. I couldn’t catch my breath for what felt like, and honestly may have been, an hour.

Chris Lemone was (and will remain) one of my favorite people ever. When I wrote him a thank-you note at the end of the year, I told him that I’d like to stay in touch forever, to which he said “absolutely.” I told him I could guarantee that he was someone who would be at my wedding, that we would still be close friends in 10 or so years. I even had a 30-minute conversation with him over the phone a couple of weeks ago when I was having trouble settling in to college. He made me feel a million times better, and was so happy that I called.

Chris Lemone

Chris Lemone

It’s all so ironic. Chris was one of the best guys I knew and one of the last people to deserve anything negative in his life, let alone this.

He spent all of his time working to help people and make the community a better place. He must have changed and bettered the lives of more people than I even know in total.

There’s no other way to say it besides that it’s not fair. To say it as Chris would have said it, “It’s just really f*cking unfair.”

On an even more personal note, Chris saw more in me than I ever saw in myself.  I was never able to truly express to him with words how grateful I was for his faith in me. So I tried to use my actions. He made me want to be so great that I really did live up to his vision of me.

At the end of last year he wrote me the nicest letter I’ve ever received, praising my leadership and passion. I hope he understood that so much of what I did was in hopes that it would make him proud, and that he would speak highly of me as he did of other past TAG members.

I now hang that letter next to my bed to remind myself every day to be the person that Chris saw me as.

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

Last weekend, Chris Lemone helped organize a distracted driving event at Staples. It was a huge success. (Photo/Jack Norman)

What makes this even harder is that usually, Chris is the person I would call if I was ever feeling as I do now: weak, helpless and sadder than I thought possible.

I’m usually good at giving advice but now I’m completely lost. Nothing I say can make it better or make it hurt any less, no matter how hard I try.

So I’m going to try to think like Chris would. He would throw up his hands, raise his eyebrows, lean back in his desk chair in the TAG office by the cafeteria and say with a little half-chuckle: “F*ck. Life just sucks sometimes, man. You gotta try your best to make the most of it while you’re alive.”

I don’t know if he’d say it exactly like that. But he would definitely figure out a way to throw a curse word in there. He would be blunt and honest but also positive at the same time, as always.

There’s really not much else to say. I could write about how I cherish so much the times I would skip class to sit in Chris’ office, and give and receive advice. I could talk about how overly excited we both got when one of us would see a new Broadway show, or how we spent way too long talking about plays in general. Or I could mention the secrets we had that no one would ever understand and how happy I was whenever I was around him, even when he played his crazy loud rock music during lunch meetings.

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real; everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

Chris Lemone helped organize sessions in which upperclassmen spoke with freshmen during health class. The glum faces are not for real. Everyone here is waiting for others to show up. (Photo/Kendall Rochlin)

But I don’t need to spend too long talking about any of that because I know that I will always have those memories, even if I don’t have Chris anymore.

We know he loved us and he knows we loved him. We can and will remember the good times forever, and he will live on through our memories. And in everything I do and whoever I become throughout the rest of my life, there will always be a little part of Chris in there.

It’s pretty fitting that he shared this video on Facebook last month. Without us even asking, he left us with some of the best advice out there:

A good lesson shared by an even better man.

I’ll miss you forever, Chris, and I will continue to live every day trying to make you proud of me.

(P.S. I only included curse words because I know Chris is laughing about that from wherever he is now).

Remembering Chris Lemone

Staples High School was rocked today by the death of Chris Lemone. The 49-year-old Bethel resident passed away yesterday, of an apparent heart attack.

As the town’s Human Services Department’s student outreach counselor since 1998, Lemone touched many students. He was a strong, steady presence for those who had personal issues. He was also the guidance force behind the Teen Awareness Group. One of the most visible organizations on campus, TAG is best known for its annual sponsorship of Grim Reaper Day. Coming just before proms and graduation, it’s a crucial reminder of the dangers of drunk driving.

Just last week, TAG led a campaign against texting while driving.

Chris Lemone

Chris Lemone

Between his work with individual students and his tireless efforts with TAG, he saved countless lives. The exact number can never be known — but Lemone’s impact on Staples is clear and strong.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said Lemone “will be sorely missed by his co-workers, high school parents and, most importantly, the many students at Staples High School for whom he was an outstanding source of comfort and guidance.”

Human Services director Barbara Butler added:

TAG has become a part of the fabric of the Staples High School community, and Chris was justifiably proud of the TAG students and what they accomplished year after year. His thoughtful guidance was a key element in the group’s success. Chris was a wonderful man, teacher, counselor, mentor, and friend.

On behalf of the Town of Westport, his fellow employees, and the numerous young people who Chris worked with and inspired, we mourn with Chris’ wife, children and family.  As a community, we will work together to give them our support during this difficult time in the same way that Chris supported the children and families of Westport throughout his career.

Details on services are incomplete.

Folk Music Returns To Staples

I seldom publicize Staples High School concerts. The quality of the choral groups, orchestras and bands is superb. But parents know all about the events, and they make up much of the appreciative audiences.

This Wednesday though (October 21, 7:30 p.m., Staples auditorium, free admission), there’s a choral concert that should not be missed.

Director Luke Rosenberg’s various choirs will perform “The Art of Folk Music.” Featuring American, Irish and Scottish songs, it promises to be a wonderful night.

Rosenberg explains, “Traditionally, folk music has been sung as a means of celebration, praise, mourning, or to express love or affection.

Choral director Luke Rosenberg in action. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Choral director Luke Rosenberg in action. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

“To me it made perfect sense to put together a choral concert that both celebrates our own music of yesterday and that of our friends across the Atlantic, as well as give our students a chance to gain a new understanding of past culture, while keeping these treasured tunes alive within the voices and hearts of our youth.”

Earlier this fall, when the singers first received their music, the response was mixed. Some loved the selections and theme; others were skeptical.

It did not take long, Rosenberg said, for all to enjoy learning about “these musical treasures from the past. They’ve embraced the idea of using different styles of vocal production, to create the sound appropriate for each song.”

Highlights of the concert include arrangements of well-known tunes like “Shenandoah” and “Danny Boy,” along with lesser-known titles like “The Crawdad Song” and “Fionnghuala.”

If you’ve ever seen a Luke Rosenberg concert, you’ll know to expect the unexpected — and be wowed.

If you’ve never been to one: You have no idea what you’re missing.

Folk music poster