Dan Sullivan — a longtime teacher and administrator, who had a profound impact on the Westport Public Schools — died Monday, surrounded by his family. He was 81.
Sullivan (not to be confused with the Staples High School Latin teacher with the same name) began his career here in 1964, as a Long Lots Junior High School math teacher.
He was named department chair in 1969, then vice principal in 1973. In 1986 he moved to Coleytown Elementary School as principal. He retired in 1997; served as a special assistant for building, planning and construction, then returned full-time in 2001 as principal of Greens Farms Elementary.
Those are the facts. But they don’t convey the warmth, empathy or great good humor that made Dan Sullivan a legend in Westport education.
I was not exactly an Einsteinian math pupil. But I had Mr. Sullivan in 8th grade, and he made math actually fun. Like any great teacher, he loved his subject. But he understood that not all of us would be mathematicians — and that was okay. He also had a wicked sense of humor.
Later, when I was a substitute teacher, Long Lots was a favorite school. Mr. Sullivan fostered a warm, loving schoolwide environment. I saw how he treated every student sent to the office as a special individual, worthy of his time, his ear and his respect.
In the 1980s and ’80s, Long Lots had a very complex schedule. Classes were varying lengths: science labs were long and met only a couple of times a week; foreign language classes were short but met often, for example.
Because of those time periods, very few classes let out at the same time. The halls were never crowded — the bane of any school.
It was a brilliant schedule. It was devised completely by Mr. Sullivan — all by hand. Many schools could have benefited from the setup. Of course, no other other had a Dan Sullivan to create and implement it.
And — this would never happen today, for many reasons — he allowed a neighborhood dog the free run of school. One day Doozer wandered in to Long Lots, and never left. He roamed the halls, sat in on classes, and lay down in the cafeteria.
Most vice principals would have called Animal Control. Mr. Sullivan turned a blind eye (when he wasn’t petting him). It helped make Long Lots feel not like a school, but a home.
Mr. Sullivan had a similar impact on colleagues throughout the Westport Public Schools. He was an innovative thinker, a wise mentor, and a very funny guy.
Dan Sullivan graduated from Milford High School in 1957. He earned a BS from Southern Connecticut State College, an MS in secondary supervision from the University of Bridgeport, and certificates in advanced studies for administration and supervision from Fairfield University and Teachers College, Columbia University.
He later became an adjunct professor at both the University of Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University.
Mr. Sullivan is survived by 4 children: Kevin of Los Angeles, Maureen and Lorna of Philadelphia, Daniel of Fairfield, and 6 grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Lorna.
Today, Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice updated the community on Westport Public Schools’ immediate future, quarantine practices, supports for quarantined students and distance learners, transportation, travel guidance and COVID reporting.
He also added a few personal thoughts on what we might expect over the horizon. He wrote:
The Immediate Future
As projected in October, community infection rates increased sharply over the past month. Meanwhile, our schools have shown a remarkable resilience in halting any spread of the virus in our buildings. I am confident that vigilance in maintaining our mitigating measures (i.e. masks, distancing, hand hygiene, etc.), as well as keeping the density of our schools at 50% capacity, have ensured this measure of success.
Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)
We have identified nearly 80 positive student and staff COVID-19 cases in our schools since September. As a result, nearly 1,500 students and staff have been asked to quarantine.
Yet there has been little to no spread of COVID-19 once positive cases have been identified in our schools. The lack of positive COVID-19 tests of those in quarantine is affirmation of our ability to halt the spread of the virus once it enters our schools.
We will return to on-site schooling in the hybrid model on Monday (November 30) at all of our schools. There will be just over three weeks until our next break beginning December 24. As I mentioned in my last message to the school community, I see this year in 4-6 week increments.
Public health experts project high transmission rates until the start of the new year. It is critical that parents and those in the community partner with us to maintain the same vigilance that is evident in our schools in order to keep our schools open for on-site schooling. An outbreak of the virus, or staffing challenges, can put all of our schools into a fully remote model.
Sharpening Our Quarantining Practices
Quarantining is a necessary mitigating measure in preventing the spread of COVID-19 once a positive case has been identified. As the number of positive cases dramatically increased over the past few weeks in our community, placing Westport into the high risk category, we took a conservative approach with our contact tracing efforts in the schools. This approach led to recommended quarantines for large numbers of staff and students.
Again, our mitigating measures have been extremely effective resulting in a very limited number of positive cases through in-school transmission. This fact is most significant. In reviewing data related to the number of quarantines associated with close contacts in our schools, it has been determined that spread in our schools has been extremely rare.
Despite the “second wave,” in-school transmission of COVID-19 is very rare at Staples High School, and throughout Westport.
For example, of 508 classroom exposures recorded at Staples High School through November 23rd, only one is believed to have led to an additional positive case within the school. This success in controlling the spread of COVID-19 allows us to modify our current approach to contact tracing, specifically in the middle and high school, which will help limit the number of students and staff needing to quarantine.
With support from the Westport/Weston Health District, and our medical advisor, Dr. Norman Weinberger, we intend to take a more precise approach when determining “close contacts” and recommending a self-quarantine. These changes will be in effect after we return from the Thanksgiving break.
Instructional Support for Distance Learning and Quarantined Students
As the number of students in distance learning and quarantine increased, new challenges were posed for our school district. I suspect we would have concluded last summer that an increase in distance learners (i.e. from 168 in K-5 on October 30 to an anticipated 207 on November 30) and those in quarantine would coincide with a move to fully remote instruction. However, given the resilience demonstrated by our schools, and the encouragement of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, our doors remain open for on-site schooling in the hybrid model.
In order to address the number of students in need of instruction in distance learning or quarantine, I am very pleased to share that we have secured the services of multiple certified teachers to provide support for these programs. These resources should be in place to start following the Thanksgiving break.
The provision of transportation is guaranteed for each public school student. However, given the complexity of transportation during the pandemic we encourage parents to transport their children to and from school whenever possible. Decreasing density on our school buses will minimize the need to quarantine students when a positive case is identified on a bus. Of course we will continue to transport all students in need of transportation.
Socially distanced school buses (Photo/Amy Schneider)
Travel guidance has been issued. Interstate and international travel is forbidden without following the guidelines. Failure to comply with Connecticut’s travel policies (https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/travel) may result in a civil penalty of $500 for each violation. Please take this seriously and adhere to the guidelines issued by the CDC and Connecticut Department of Public Health.
COVID-19 Reporting Hotline
As a reminder, we have developed a COVID-19 reporting hotline to report positive cases only. The number is (203) 341-1016. Also, an email can be sent to PositiveCovidReport@westportps.org. If your child has tested positive for COVID-19 please use one of these two methods to communicate to the schools. You may also contact your school nurse for any follow up information. See this link for more information.
Over the Horizon
As challenging as this year has been, and as dark as it is expected to get over the next 8 weeks or so, I am more optimistic now than I’ve ever been about our future.
Although we have used rather primitive methods to confront this pandemic (i.e. physical distance, masks, etc.), the ubiquity of biotechnology breakthroughs is close to catching up. Treatments have emerged for those infected. Proactive surveillance testing is becoming a reality, and not just for the NBA and the most exclusive colleges and private schools. Vaccines are racing towards the finish line with success rates that match the aspirations and hopes of recent biotechnology promises.
With that, I would like to bring your mind to the other side of this pandemic, which could be within reach in a matter of months. Although I do not expect a “war is over” declaration, I do anticipate that these breakthroughs will conspire with our collective purpose to turn our exclusive attention towards the work of teaching and learning, towards the work of preparing all learners for the challenges of the modern world, and towards building a system that enables all students to thrive and make positive contributions to their world.
A return to “normal” school could be oaround the horizon.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, for this reflective moment, for this optimism, I am most grateful.
In closing, I’d like to share one of my favorite pieces on the purpose of education. As you contemplate the other side of this pandemic and a potential renewed vision of our schools, may these words rise within you and inspire you to action.
In 1947, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote this essay for his school newspaper at Morehouse College. Although published nearly 75 years ago, it rings as true today as it did then.
Have a restful and peaceful Thanksgiving,
Tom Kretsch sure does. The longtime Westport photographer has just published “Touching Maine.” The hard-cover book’s 93 pages of images and text capture the essence of that special state: its water, rocks, fog, islands, structures, dinghies and abstract impressions.
A signed copy is $50. For $100, you’ll get a signed copy plus one of the 8×10 prints shown below. Email email@example.com, or call 203-644-4518.
Lindsay Shurman is searching for a holiday gift for her husband. And she needs “06880” readers’ help.
She wants to give him Walter Einsel’s iconic “Save Cockenoe Now” poster (below). Back in the 1960s, it was everywhere — and played a role in the town’s purchase of the island off Compo Beach, saving it from becoming a nuclear power plant (!).
A few are still floating around. But The Flat sold the one they had. And Lindsay just lost a Westport Auction bidding war.
“Any idea where I may find an original?” she asks.
“Maybe someone is willing to part with it for a price. Or a donation made in their name to a favorite cause. I could even settle for a reproduction. I just need an original to scan.
“Any help would be so appreciated. I’m obsessed with this poster, and gifting it to my husband this holiday season!”
If you’ve got a lead, email firstname.lastname@example.org. And sssshhhh … don’t tell her husband!
Melissa Joan Hart has been very busy lately.
The Westport resident produced, directed and starred in 3 new Lifetime holiday films.
“Feliz NaviDAD” — yes, the name of the classic song by Westonite Jose Feliciano — premiered Saturday. “Dear Christmas,” with James Priestley, airs this Friday (November 27, 8 p.m.). “Once Upon a Main Street” follows on Sunday (November 27, 8 p.m.). (Hat tip: Dick Lowenstein, via Connecticut Post)
Jason Priestley and Melissa Joan Hart, in “Dear Christmas.”
Distance education isn’t new to Taylor Harrington. The 2015 Staples High School graduate works at Akimbo, a company that creates online learning experiences.
The pandemic — as awful as it is — has created opportunities. Taylor and her team saw a chance to help young people looking to grow.
The first 2 sessions were powerful. The next is set for January 4-8. Young leaders — or anyone knowing one — can click here for details. Applications close December 1.
And finally … back in 1961, teenagers were doing (supposedly) the “Bristol Stomp.” Len Barry, lead singer of the Dovells — the band with that hit — died earlier this month, at 78. Four years later, he had another smash with “1-2-3.”
Yesterday, Governor Lamont announced that 145 of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities are in the red zone alert level, the highest of the state’s 4 alert levels on the weekly COVID-19 Alert Map. This indicates municipalities with an average daily COVID-19 case rate over the last 2 weeks of more than 15 per 100,000 population.
This week Westport is calculated at 33 cases out of a population of 100,000, compared to 22.4 cases last week.
According to the CDC, more than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the United States over the last 7 days. This is alarming, and demonstrates that we must remain vigilant. We must anticipate that cases will continue to spread as individuals travel, return home from college, gather and shop in the weeks ahead. Wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gatherings is a must if we are to control this pandemic.
This year, many traditional activities surrounding Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays have the potential to threaten our health and safety. I urge all residents to refrain from typical large holiday gatherings.
This Stevan Dohanos Saturday Evening Post cover — modeled on a Long Lots Road home — shows a scene that (for many reasons) will not be repeated this year.
As of November 6, the statewide cap on gathering in private residences is 10, down from 25. Please keep your Thanksgiving celebration to no more than 10, and preferably celebrate at home only with the people with whom you live. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of contracting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
Avoid crowds on Black Friday, or prepare for strict adherence to the 50% capacity rule at retail stores. Consider Cyber Monday as an alternative. Always maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and wear a face covering.
Review the CDC and state Department of Public Health guidelines for the Thanksgiving holiday, including traveling, gathering, and alternatives to gathering and protocols for college students returning to or visiting Connecticut:
For information on testing sites, please click here for a list of local test sites, or click here for the state-wide listing.
If you have a pending test due either to symptoms of COVID or exposure to COVID, please refrain from going out into the community until you have received results.
St. Vincent’s Health Center is one of several places offerin COVID-19 tests. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)
Much of the increase in COVID cases and the resulting school closures are a result of gatherings, parties and sports team activities. Effective Monday (November 23), the governor has ordered all club and team sports, including CIAC sports, to postpone all organized events until January 19.
Staples High School, and Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools, are on distanced learning through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Westport Public School Superintendent Tom Scarice and I remind everyone that the ability for our schools to remain open for in-person learning depends primarily on the actions of our entire population. We continue to urge all to follow the appropriate protocols so that our community can remain open, but safe.
Nick Mathias is a hands-on guy. Last year at Staples High School, he loved Mike Sansur’s Technology Education class. They built things in what was once called “wood shop.”
Recognizing Nick’s passion for doing and touching, guidance counselor Vicki Capozzi suggested he look into J.M. Wright. He was intrigued.
The Stamford school — one of 15 in Connecticut’s technical education and career system — offers 9 career education programs: automotive, carpentry, culinary arts, digital media, electrical, health technology, information technology, plumbing and heating, and tourism, hospitality and guest services management.
Students alternate one week learning jobs of the future, and another week of academics. They come from 8 Fairfield County towns. In 17 years at Staples, Capozzi had never sent one from Westport.
“Kudos to Nick’s parents,” Capozzi says. “They wanted to learn more.”
The usual path to Wright Tech begins with an application in 8th grade. Accepted students spend freshman year rotating through all 9 trades, then select one to concentrate on beginning as sophomores.
Nick applied during his freshman fall. His first choice was carpentry, but there were no openings. There was a spot in plumbing and heating though. He took it, and entered Wright Tech as a rare midyear transfer.
It was a big decision — but a great move.
Nick — a Star Scout with Boy Scout Troop 36, and an active member of his Saugatuck Congregational Church youth group — is thriving, both academically and socially.
He has learned all about commercial plumbing. Now he’s studying residential plumbing. He’s learning how to install sinks, showers, boilers and sewage pumps.
“You can’t outsource plumbing,” he says of his future trade. “I’m really passionate about this.”
His teachers combine theory with practice. They let students work at their own pace.
Just as importantly, they prepare teenagers to work independently, and solve problems, in the workplaces they’ll soon join.
“They treat us like they’re our bosses,” Nick explains. “They make everything realistic, so when we go to a job site we can function on our own.”
His teachers’ mantra: “Do a job the same way you’d want it done at your house.”
JM Wright Technical School.
Capozzi is thrilled to hear Nick’s feedback. She says that Wright Tech is an excellent place for “kids who like to tinker. Not everyone wants to sit in a classroom all day.”
Nick notes that Wright Tech encourages students to consider college. But, he says, “if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to. You’ve already got the skills you need to have a good job.”
She urges middle schoolers who may be interested to begin the process in 8th grade. Bedford, Coleytown and Staples guidance departments and school administrators will do all they can to help.
Nick is still only a sophomore. He’s unsure what he’ll do 2 1/2 years from now.
“I may go into engineering,” he says. “College would be important to learn how to manage a job site, or a full construction job. I may start out at a community college. I don’t know yet.”
He has plenty of time to figure that out. In the meantime, he’s happy where he is.
Nick, his parents and the guidance staff at Staples are happy to talk to anyone who might be thinking of all that Wright Tech offers. They know there are many ways in life to learn.
Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice is conducting a master class in communication. Today he provided these updates to the community:
COVID Update On October 13 I shared with the community that the public health experts we consulted projected a significant spike in rates of infection in the subsequent 4-6 weeks. The following chart of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people illustrates the fulfillment of those projections.
As the rates of positive COVID cases increase in the community, cases enter our schools.
However, since we returned in September, we have been able to mitigate the spread of the virus, maintaining safety in our schools.
That said, I cannot say the same for other settings in the community. In full candor, the ability to maintain in-person schooling is largely dependent on the vigilance of the community to apply the same mitigating measures your child experiences each day in school.
Our cases are widely related to lapses in the community. Local public health experts are not reporting widespread outbreaks in schools, but they are uncovering outbreaks in informal settings (e.g. youth sports, informal gatherings/parties, car pools, etc.).
This is not intended to cast aspersion on such activities, but only to implore those in the community to support our efforts in anticipation of a long winter confronting this pandemic. We will continue to work as vigilantly as we can to enforce our measures as well.
Staples High School On Full Remote Through Thanksgiving, Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools Return to Hybrid Monday November 16
Due to a staffing shortage as a result of significant quarantines, Staples, Bedford and Coleytown Middle were all placed on remote learning for November 12 and 13.
Staples will remain on remote through Thanksgiving, and the middle schools will return to the hybrid model on Monday November 16. Click here for full details.
How Do Mitigating Measures Work?
At the expense of oversimplifying the use of mitigating measures, perhaps this graphic captures it best from the Cleveland Clinic.
Can My Child Get a Negative COVID Test to Return to School From Quarantine?
No. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. During this time, even after a negative test, you may develop symptoms and become infectious within this 2-14 days time frame after exposure. This is based on consistent guidance from the CDC and the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Can My Child Return to School After a Positive COVID Test if They Subsequently Get a Negative PCR Test?
No. A student can return to school 10 days after the onset of symptoms or 10 days after the date of the positive test. A subsequent test does not negate a previous positive test.
Does My Child Need a Negative COVID Test to Return After a Quarantine Period?
No. If your child does not develop symptoms they may return to school after the 14 day quarantine period. If your child does develop symptoms, it is best to have your child see their pediatrician.
Next Steps We will continue to monitor our ability to mitigate virus transmission in the schools and maintain our staffing levels so that we can receive students on-site safely. However, it is possible that an intermittent or extended remote learning period may be implemented if necessary for our schools.
The State of Connecticut has implemented a color-coded map indicating the average daily rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population by town.
Based on a 14-day rolling average, Westport’s rate is 22.4. That places us well within the “red” category, of 15+ cases per 100,000.
Connecticut’s COVID map.
Given this status, the state Department of Health recommends that:
High risk individuals stay home and stay safe.
Others should limit trips outside of the home and avoid gatherings with non-family members.
Organized indoor activities, as well as outdoor activities where social distancing and mask wearing cannot be maintained, should be postponed.
Gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people.
1st Selectman Jim Marpe notes:
“The new COVID cases are primarily a result of large gatherings, parties and organized sports activities. As such, the Westport Public Schools, Westport businesses and restaurants and other public facilities will continue to operate under the State’s Phase 2.1 guidelines.
“The Parks and Recreation Department acknowledges that it is important for individuals and families to get outside and exercise. As a result,
Fields, beaches and parks will remain open with reinstituted rules regarding court usage. Facility users are expected wear a face covering if a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained with those who do not live in the same household. Higher risk sports, such as boys lacrosse and 11-on-11 football, should not take place.
The Compo Beach skate park and basketball courts will remain open, but may be closed if proper guidelines are not followed.
The Longshore golf course remains open. Beginning Saturday, November 14, golf cart rentals will go back to single rider only (unless in same household).
The Parks & Recreation Department has revoked field permits, and will not issue new permits until further notice.
Permits for use at the Wakeman athletic fields have been revoked..
The Westport Library will remain open with its expanded hours and services. All Library events will continue to be virtual. Click here for details.
Yesterday, 2 officials advised Westporters about the rapid increase of coronavirus in town.
Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice said that while COVID cases have been discovered in the school population, administrators’ swift response to new cases has resulted in “little to no widespread COVID contamination.”
However, new cases require immediate attention, like quarantining and contact tracing. While the lack of spread demonstrates that the processes in place are working, the schools are continually challenged by new cases resulting from outside activities.
These include recent large gatherings, parties and sports activities involving students or parents. Photos and social media posts caused 1st Selectman Jim Marpe to ask Parks and Recreation director Jen Fava to consider reinstating earlier COVID-related policies at local parks, fields and recreation facilities.
Marpe says: “The ability for our schools to remain open for in-person learning is dependent on the actions of our entire community. I urge all residents to follow the appropriate public health protocols so that our community can remain open, but safe.
“Please refrain from contact sports, wear a mask, social distance, avoid gatherings and practice good hygiene. Residents are strongly urged to avoid gatherings where adherence to social distancing and mask wearing cannot be accomplished.”
Anyone awaiting test results, whether taken because of symptoms or COVID exposure, should not go out into the community until receiving those results.
Staples Players have done most rehearsals for their radio shows remotely. When they do get together, they are diligent about wearing masks. (Photo/Kerry Long)
The Westport Library’s Holiday & Winter Book Sale is always eagerly anticipated by gift givers.
The bad news: COVID-19 has knocked out in-person shopping. This year it’s all online.
The good news: It’s already there.
Fiction, mystery, arts, biographies, photography, cookooks, sci-fi, puzzles, kids’ books, plus CDs, puzzles an games — they’re all available from the comfort of home.
Click here to browse. All books are available for pickup by appointment at the library’s upper parking lot, 7 days after purchase.
New items are added weekly. So bookmark the page, and check back often.
Speaking of holiday gifts: This is my favorite so far.
Savvy + Grace — the wonderful, whimsical Main Street gift shop across from Rye Ridge Deli — sells some very cool Westport-themed items. What stands out is a fleece blanket, featuring an 1890s topographic map of the town.
Click here to check it — and much more — out. In-store shopping, curbside pickup and shipping are all available.
Savvy + Grace’s Westport blanket.
And finally … today is Friday the 13th. Just what we need in 2020!
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