Tag Archives: Dr. Elliott Landon

Staples Students Take Over Town Hall

For a town that celebrates arts in every way, our Town Hall has been a bit art-free.

Until now.

For the past few weeks, Sue O’Hara’s English 3A students have worked on a multi-disciplinary project. All year long, the Staples High School juniors studied the intersection of literature, art and life. Now they’ve put their knowledge, insights and research skills to the test.

Noah Staffa, Daniel Perez Elorza, Graham Gudis, senior intern Allie Benjamin and Staples English teacher Sue O'Hara describe the research and writing process. The

Noah Staffa, Daniel Perez Elorza, Graham Gudis, senior intern Ale Benjamin and English teacher Sue O’Hara describe the research and writing process. The “Westport scenes” shown behind them are located just inside the entrance to Town Hall.

They scoured the town’s vast art database for intriguing paintings, drawings and photographs. They plucked their favorite pieces from wherever they were — storage, private offices, whatever — and installed them in Town Hall corridors.

But that’s not all. They dug deep, to learn about each artist and piece of art. They delved into history, culture and social development. They figured out which works would be appropriate where. And they designed multimedia effects — narrations, poems, songs, sound effects — to go along with each, via QR codes.

Liam Abourezk, BK Browne and Jack Sila, with superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon, using QR codes on their smartphones to access more information on the illustrations outside the educator's office.

Liam Abourezk, BK Browne and Jack Sila, with superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon, using QR codes on their smartphones to access more information on the artwork outside the educator’s office.

For example, the Town School Offices on the 3rd floor are now graced by 2 Stevan Dohanos Saturday Evening Post covers — both drawn in Westport, one of the 1946 Staples High School band — as well as a number of photos showing children playing.

Two 1946 illustrations by Stevan Dohanos -- both using Westport models -- hang on the 3rd floor of Town Hall.

Two 1946 illustrations by Stevan Dohanos — both using Westport models — hang on the 3rd floor of Town Hall. “Star Pitcher” shows a gang of boys waiting for their friend to finish mowing, so they can play baseball. “Big Game of the Season” shows the Staples band in action. Both were Saturday Evening Post covers.

Around the corner on the 3rd floor, outside the town’s Finance Department, the art is different. “Westport is about politics, culture and money,” say students in the group overseeing this section — and the art there shows it.

Of course, Town Hall was not totally artless before yesterday. Several large murals already hung above the auditorium, and outside the first selectman’s office and Westport Community Theater.

O’Hara’s students researched each mural, and wrote in depth about what those murals mean to Westport.

Thanks to the Stapleites, Town Hall looks a lot jazzier today than it did before.

And that’s fitting. The nerve center of town — housing not only our chief politicians and educators but also planning directors, engineers, election clerks and the tree warden, among others — was not always municipal offices.

For decades it was Bedford Elementary — a school.

[UPDATE: As Thomas Greene notes in the “Comments” below, he was the boy mowing the lawn in the Stevan Dohanos illustration. All the boys used as models were 6th graders at Bedford Elementary School. So that piece of art now hangs in the building where it began.]

Shelley Somers Withdraws As Staples Principal Candidate

Central Middle School principal Shelley Somers has bowed out of consideration as Staples High School’s new principal.

In an email to parents, the lone finalist for the position said:

Good morning. After a long day yesterday at Staples High School, I have withdrawn my name for consideration for the principal position. As I talked with the various groups of stakeholders in Westport, I realized how important Central and Greenwich are to me.

I look forward to working to create a safe and challenging environment at Central Middle School that meets the needs of all of our students. I feel certain that in collaboration with you, my leadership team, and my teachers and staff, Central will continue to grow and to thrive.

Shelley Somers met with administrators, staff members, students and community members yesterday at Staples. She has since decided to withdraw from consideration as Staples' next principal.

Shelley Somers at Staples yesterday. She has withdrawn from consideration as Staples’ next principal.

Westport superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon said:

I think this is a tremendous loss to the children, staff and families of Westport. The search committee and I unanimously recommended Shelley Somers because we had great faith that she would continue the great tradition established by John Dodig.

Landon said that the search for a successor to Dodig — who retires in June after 11 years as Staples’ principal — will now focus on an interim appointment.

Landon said that the interim principal would not be someone from inside the Westport school system. “Choosing someone from inside does not allow for a full and open process” when a choice is then made for a permanent principal, he said.

However, he noted, current district administrators and employees are welcome to be part of the search process.

Jeremy And Dustin Say: “Teach Here!”

This past spring, Staples students Jeremy Dreyfuss and Dustin Lowman were casting about for an interesting end-of-the-year senior internship.

Media production teacher Jim Honeycutt wanted something real, authentic and important for them.

Meanwhile, superintendent of schools Elliott Landon and director of human resources Marge Cion needed a video to show job candidates — potential teachers — what the Westport school district is all about.

It sounded like a great idea.  But it turned out nothing like what the educators expected.

Whew.

“I originally thought it would be a recruitment-type thing — very factual, not real personal,” Dr. Landon says.

That’s not what Jeremy and Dustin had in mind.

The longtime friends decided to revisit their old schools, and talk to former teachers.

They took their video camera to King’s Highway Elementary  School and Coleytown Middle.  There — and of course at Staples — they conducted interviews and shot film.  They researched the schools and town, added special footage, and produced a professional-looking video that gives anyone considering teaching here a unique teenage/inside view of the system.

Which, now that the Westport educators think about it, is entirely the point.

“This really makes a memorable impression,” Dr. Landon notes.  “Their personal insights and affection for the district really come across strongly.  It’s very creative and different.”

In the video, Jeremy and Dustin say that they continue to visit former teachers.  They add, “some of our deepest connections” were made in school.

They filmed a wide variety of teachers:  men and women of different ages, backgrounds and subject matters.

The seniors asked questions like “How did you end up in Westport?”  And, “What do kept you here?”

The answers — delivered in each teacher’s personal style — include concepts like “the environment,” “the experiences,” “the challenge,” “being in the forefront” and “learning from colleagues.”

And — over and over and over again — “the kids.”

Dr. Landon proudly posted the video on the district website’s human resources page.

Before clicking “play,” prospective teachers learn that students here are empowered to use their creativity.

Once they watch the 12-minute video, potential applicants are even more impressed.

“If someone is looking for an environment in which kids themselves say they had a fabulous experience — they loved their teachers, learned a lot and grew here — that will have a real positive impact on the type of people we’re trying to attract,” Dr. Landon says.

Who will then influence the next generations of Dustin Lowmans and Jeremy Dreyfusses, who in turn…

Westport, Weston Schools In Early Talks On Consolidation

Back to the future?

“06880” has learned that Westport and Weston school officials have started preliminary negotiations to consolidate the 2 districts.  The reason:  substantial budget savings for both towns.

The plan would involve Weston High School students attending Staples.  With approximately 1,700 students at Staples, and 800 at Weston, double sessions may be needed.

Weston High, meanwhile, would become a middle school for students from both towns.  Coleytown would be the obvious choice for closure, due to its proximity to Weston.

Coleytown El may also be shuttered.  Students would be distributed throughout Westport’s 4 other elementary schools.

The two Coleytown schools could then be sold, presumably to private developers.  One possible use — though no one will say so publicly — is for a new YMCA.

Weston High School

“Weston students went to Staples until 1970,” Westport superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon said.  “This sounds radical, but it is something that the 2 towns did for many years.  In today’s economic climate, we have to look at every option.”

The proposal is far from firm, Landon emphasized.  He did confirm that talks have been held with his Weston counterpart, Jerome R. Belair.

“I think this is the kind of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking that we encourage all our students to engage in,” said Staples principal John Dodig.

“I don’t know much about Weston, but the superintendent has asked me to find out.  I’m sure they have areas of strength that we could build upon, just as we have a number of strong programs that Weston students could benefit from.”

“We either consolidate buildings, or cut personnel and programs,” explained Westport Board of Education chairman Don O’Day.

“Is this a solution I would choose?  No.  But in today’s economic climate, we may have no other choice.”

The 2 towns have cooperated educationally long after Weston High opened.  Two examples:  the high schools field a Staples-Weston co-op ice hockey team, while for several years the Staples gymnastics team practiced in Weston.

“06880” will provide updates as the talks continue.  But we wonder:  If Weston rejoins Westport, what about Wilton?  Until 1955, Wilton students attended Staples too.

(For more on the proposed Westport-Weston schools consolidation plan, click here.)