Category Archives: Staples HS

Clueless About The Arts

At School of Rock, kids who love ’60s and ’70s music find a home. They learn to play it — and perform in public. And they meet other young musicians just like them.

Several years ago, Staples High School juniors Zach Rogers and Jake Greenwald joined with Fairfield high schoolers Andrew Wasserman and Francesco Perrouna, and Coleytown Middle School’s Ethan Walmark, to form Clueless.

In a band of standout musicians, Ethan really stands out.

A keyboard prodigy, his “Piano Man” video has nearly 2 million views (and Billy Joel called the intro “better than mine”). Ethan has sung the national anthem in front of 25,000 fans. He’s appeared with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Elton John.

He’s also on the autism spectrum.

Zach first befriended Ethan at Fairfield School of Rock.

“He was so amazing to be around,” the guitarist says. “He’s incredibly talented, and a dynamic performer. As I got to know him more, I realized how great it is that he’s found his expression in music.”

Clueless is (from left) Ethan Walmark, Francesco Perrouna, Andrew Wasserman,
Mike Chapin (drums), Zach Rogers and Jake Greenwald.

Zach helps Ethan at Hebrew School. “Watching him grow up is special,” the older boy says.

“He’s taught me to be positive all the time. The way he lives life so fully is inspirational.”

The Clueless rock/funk/fusion band headlined a fundraiser for Autism Speaks. They’ve performed in front of 30,000 people at Jones Beach, and opened for Lez Zeppelin, the 4-woman cover band.

Next up: “Clueless About the Arts.”

The Sunday, June 24 show (7 to 10 p.m., Fairfield Theatre Company) will raise money to provide free music lessons and education workshops for under-served Fairfield County youngsters.

Classic rock lives. And young local musicians are using the power of music to help others.

Clueless clearly has a clue.

(Click here for tickets, and more information on “Clueless About the Arts.”)

 

Pop! Go The Concerts

If you missed last Friday’s Staples High School concert, you weren’t alone. Tickets went faster than “Springsteen on Broadway” (and, being free, for a lot less cash).

But you don’t have to wait a year for the next one.

Here, thanks to the indefatigable Jim Honeycutt, is the entire show.

The symphonic band and orchestra, jazz band and choral group Orphenians — they’re all here.

So is a special tribute to retiring orchestra director Adele Valovich. The show is narrated by actor/director James Naughton.

Bravo!

BONUS REEL: As if that’s not enough, here’s the recent spring concert, featuring Nick Mariconda’s Staples jazz band, and their Bedford Middle School counterparts, led by Gregg Winters.

Skip Lane Gets His Super Bowl Ring

Two games into the 1987 NFL season, the Players Association struck. The issue was free agency.

To break the union, team owners hired replacements. For 3 weeks, they played.

One of those substitute athletes — derisively called “scabs,” though “replacement player” is the preferred term — was Skip Lane.

He was well known in Westport. Lane was a 1979 graduate of Staples High School — where he starred at quarterback for his father, legendary coach Paul Lane — and then at the University of Mississippi.

Yet with only 5 Canadian Football League games behind him – and brief stints with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, after college — he was unknown to much of the football-loving American public.

In 1987 Lane was out of the game, working in commercial real estate in Fairfield County — a job he still holds.

But he excelled as a safety with the replacement Washington Redskins. They went 3-0 during the strike, culminating with a Monday Night Football win over a Dallas Cowboys team filled with veterans who had crossed the picket line.

Some fans wanted familiar players back.

When the 3-game strike was over, the Redskins released Lane. They went on to win the Super Bowl — but neither Lane nor his fellow replacements received a championship ring.

That story was part of an ESPN “30 For 30” documentary that aired in September. “Year of the Scab” explored the lives of the 1500 replacement players. They were “caught in the crosshairs of media fueled controversy between owners, players and fans alike,” the network said.

Lane was featured frequently in the video. He mentioned his “buddies from Westport” who attended the game against the Giants. There were only 9,000 fans that day.

Over the years, Lane had no contact at all with the Redskins.

But the ESPN documentary created a groundswell of support for righting a wrong: getting rings for the replacement players. Washington probably would not have reached the Super Bowl without them.

Yesterday — in a brief ceremony at the Redskins’ practice facility — Lane and his former teammates got their rings.

It took 31 years.

But it sure looks good.

Skip Lane shows his Super Bowl ring to current Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith.

Making The “Case” For Saugatuck El

Last night, Staples Tuition Grants handed out $304,000 in scholarships to 113 high school seniors, and graduates already in college.

The event marked 75 years of STG financial help. It’s always uplifting and warm — a celebration of promise, purpose and community.

As usual, the Staples library was packed with recipients, donors, and proud family members and teachers.

But this time, there were younger faces.

The first-ever Saugatuck Elementary School Community Award was given. It’s a project of the school’s Caring Council — 4th and 5th graders who volunteer for philanthropic causes — and they were there to see “their” honoree.

They and their classmates walked a combined 2,501 miles this year, in a fundraising effort. They mapped their miles “across the USA,” with “stops” at universities attended by their teachers.

Caring Council members who attended last night’s ceremony were thrilled to meet awardee Case Videler. An SES graduate himself — now headed to the University of Delaware — he embodies the Caring Council mission.

Case Videler, and members of the Saugatuck Elementary School Caring Council.

Saugatuck El and Staples Tuition Grants share even more ties than Case, though.

This year’s 13th annual walk-a-thon kicked off with a speech by DARE officer Ned Batlin — a former STG recipient.

And a powerful video celebrating the organization’s 75th anniversary was created by Westport’s own Doug Tirola — a former SES parent.

It was a night that the 113 scholarship recipients will always remember.

And one that some future grads — members of Staples High’s classes of 2025 and 2026 — won’t forget either.

(For more on Staples Tuition Grants, click here.)

“The Hate U Give” Brings Schools Together

There’s tons of talk about the vast gulf between school districts in Connecticut. Westport and Bridgeport — just a few miles apart — offer particularly stark differences.

Much of the time, it’s only talk.

But a collaboration involving 2 schools, 4 English teachers, and 95 students this year showed what happens when people try to bridge the gap.

The project began with Staples High School librarian Colin Neenan. He thought The Hate U Give — a popular young adult novel about a girl who becomes an activist after witnessing the police shooting of her unarmed friend, and exists in both her urban neighborhood and a wealthy private school — would be a great vehicle to bring suburban and city students together.

Danielle Spies and Barb Robbins — who teach 3A and 2 Honors English respectively at Staples — were selected from among several volunteers. Neenan and co-librarian Tamara Weinberg connected with Fola Sumpter and Ashley LaQuesse, Harding High teachers who were enthusiastic about the collaboration.

First, Westport students went to the Bridgeport school. They met their counterparts, and discussed the first 26 pages of the novel.

One of Robbins’ students was nervous about meeting new, “different” people, the teacher says.

After the first session though, she told Robbins, “They’re just like me. We had so much to talk about.”

Staples literacy coach Rebecca Marsick — who was also involved in the project — adds, “They’re all teenagers!”

Staples and Harding High School students work easily together.

A dramatic reaction came from a Westport girl. She was stunned to hear Bridgeporters say that nearly every day they heard of a friend treated unfairly by police — and at least once a month, someone they knew was shot by an officer.

“I couldn’t think of even one person who had a really negative interaction with the police,” she said.

“I never doubted that people of color constantly face racism. I just never heard about it face to face. It’s crazy to me that I can live a town away from them, and have such a different life experience.”

The next step involved Flipgrid, a video education platform. For 6 weeks the teenagers exchanged videos, posted questions about the novel, and shared responses.

They also read articles about race relations throughout history, explored current events, and studied pop culture and poetry. The common thread was themes that both unite and divide communities.

After 6 weeks, the Harding students came to Staples. They gathered in the library for lunch, free-wheeling discussions, and a special activity.

They created “body biographies”: mapping out what various characters from the novel held in their heart and backbone, for example, and what their eyes focused on.

Collaborating on a “body biography.”

They dug deep — and shared their own lives and experiences too.

“The book is not easy. There are some hefty topics,” Robbins says. “But the interactions were sensitive, and very respectful.”

Then they all posed for a group photo.

The final project was to write stories about current events, and share them with everyone.

Some students said the project was the most important experience they’d ever had in high school. One called it “the most important event of my life.”

“It opened our kids’ eyes to their opportunities here,” Robbins says. “But they also saw how much they have in common with the Bridgeport kids.”

Last fall, two Staples girls wrote research papers on inequality in educational opportunities. To actually see that gap with their own eyes, they told Robbins, was “really compelling.”

The Staples instructor echoes her students’ reactions.

“It took a lot of work. There were logistical issues, and tons of preparation. But this is one of the best things I’ve ever done as a teacher. I learned so much!”

Fola Sumpter — one of the Harding teachers — adds, “This project gave my students confidence as readers, writers and collaborators. They have a new perspective on people, and I am seeing them operate as thinkers on a whole new level.”

A group shot, in the Staples library.

The collaboration may not end. Among other ideas, students from both schools talked about forming a book club.

That’s a great idea. But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“In Westport, if we want to add a book to our curriculum, we pretty much can,” Robbins says.

“In Bridgeport, they have a tough time even funding the books they already study.”

Justin Paul Wows “Booked” Crowd

During its first 19 years, the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraising event has included many A-list names.

Tom Brokaw, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Alan Alda imparted wisdom to sold-out crowds.

Patti Smith and Nile Rodgers entertained them.

But “Booked” has never seen — or heard — anyone quite like the 20th honoree.

Justin Paul — the Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award-winning, white-hot songwriting star and proud Westport native — kicked the Library’s signature evening into the stratosphere last night.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate thrilled, inspired and paid homage to a crowd of 500 at Rolling Hills Country Club. (The library was unavailable, due to its ongoing Transformation project.)

Weaving together 2 themes — the importance of libraries (especially Westport’s), and his hometown’s longtime embrace of arts education — Paul was visibly moved by his “Booked” honor.

The Westport Library, he said, “nurtured my love of learning, and enhanced my understanding of the world. It’s a hopeful and beautiful place.”

Justin Paul entertained and inspired last night’s “Booked for the Evening” crowd.

Teachers like Ben Frimmer showed the “left out” middle schooler who he could really be. At Staples, Alice Lipson, David Roth and others helped him find his voice, and his life’s work.

He also cited influences from Long Lots Elementary School, Music Theatre of Connecticut, and Chris Coogan.

Of course, he’s still quite young. After videos of his life, and tributes from the likes of Hugh Jackman filled the screen, Paul joked about watching “the retrospective of a 33-year-old. Not a lot of people have their grandmother at their lifetime achievement award.”

Paul acknowledged that not everyone grows up in a town like Westport. He urged the audience to pay attention — and provide resources — to youngsters in the many places that do not provide the opportunities, and access to the arts, that his hometown does.

He then launched into 3 of his best-loved, and most meaningful, compositions: “For Forever” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “City of Stars” (“La La Land”), and “This Is Me” (“The Greatest Showman”).

Paul — who, with his songwriting partner Benj Pasek writes beautiful, hopeful music for stage and screen — is admired by countless fans, young and old, around the globe.

But he’s a special hero to Staples students. Two generations — recent college graduates and current performing stars Mia Gentile, Tyler Jent and Michelle Pauker, along with today’s Orphenians — joined Paul on stage.

The mood was joyful. But the “Booked for the Evening” star wore the biggest smile of all.

Justin Paul at the piano, with fellow Staples graduates and current student stars.

BONUS REELMark Platt, the producer of “La La Land,” was one of the many big names appearing on video. He made a special announcement: He’s funding a new recording studio, now under construction at the Westport Library.

It will be named for Justin Paul.

Pulitzer Prize Winner Photographs Westport Protest

Tyler Hicks — the globe-trotting, Pulitzer Prize-and-many-other-honors-winning New York Times photographer — was in his hometown of Westport today.

If there’s a newsworthy event, he finds it.

Several dozen people — including Congressman Jim Himes and State Senate candidate Will Haskell — stood on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown.

They held signs deploring the separation of children from families at the US border; the detention centers those young kids are placed in, and the government’s refusal to let even a US senator investigate conditions.

(Photo/Tyler Hicks)

From his current home in Nairobi, Tylel Hicks roams far and wide. He covers deadly conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Russia, Bosnia, the Mideast, Chechnya and across Africa.

In 2011, he and fellow Westport Pulitzer Prize winner Lynsey Addario were kidnapped in Libya.

This protest was quieter than those he usually sees.

But the cause — the treatment of human beings — is as important as anything else Tyler shoots. As Rep. Himes said: “This is not a political issue. It’s a moral issue.”

So — as he always is — Tyler Hicks was there.

Tyler Hicks’ sister Darcy turned the tables, and photographed the photographer as he photographed the protest. (Photo/Darcy Hicks)

Pic Of The Day #417

Okay, so it isn’t a picture. But it’s still worth far more than 1,000 words.

Here’s Adele Cutrali Valovich — Staples’ beloved orchestra director — leading the Symphonic and Sophomore Orchestras a few minutes ago in “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

It was the finale of Staples’ 3rd Annual Pops Concert — and the final performance of Valovich’s 36-year career in the Westport schools.

She sure went out on a high note! (Click the arrow below to play video.)

 

BONUS PHOTO: Here’s a small section of the jam-packed Levitt Pavilion:

 

Jackson Delgado Wins Staples Key

In the crush of end-of-sch00l-year news, a big announcement like the winner of the Staples Key often gets overlooked.

It shouldn’t.

The Key is the high school’s highest honor. Presented annually for decades — courtesy of the Westport Kiwanis Club — it goes to a senior who combines academic excellence and community service with the respect of teachers and peers.

“The Key winner is our vision of what a Staples graduate should be,” says principal James D’Amico.

“And because the 3 nominees are selected by the staff, and voted on by students, it’s especially meaningful.”

This year’s winner — announced last night, at the school’s annual awards ceremony — is Jackson Delgado.

Jackson Delgado

He’s president of both Student Assembly and the debate team. He tutors for Caroline House in Bridgeport, and Top Hat Tutors in Westport. He’s also a drummer in a percussion ensemble.

“I’m not sure there’s a common link. But I enjoy everything I do,” Jackson says.

In debate, he notes, “there are never right or wrong answers. It’s cool to construct an argument, use it against your opponent, and then have to see the other side.”

Student Assembly — the school government — allows Jackson to help plan schoolwide events, while tutoring is personally fulfilling. Caroline House serves youngsters in Bridgeport, while Top Hat is for Westporters. In both roles, Jackson enjoys talking about concepts he finds interesting, while helping others understand them too.

He has a host of favorite Staples classes. Advanced Placement Chemistry, Calculus BC and Multivariable Calculus appeal to his problem-solving mind. It’s intriguing, he says, to realize that different paths can lead to the same solution.

English Language and Rhetoric helped him dissect arguments — a valuable tool in debate — while Economics connected him to “the real world.”

Jackson’s educational influences stretch back to Saugatuck Elementary School (Peter von Euler) and Bedford Middle School (Anitha Bolar and Kathryn Sicbaldi). At Staples, he cites Heather Wirkus (Biology), Will Jones (Chemistry), Noreen McGoldrick (English Language), Drew Coyne (Economics), Robert Papp (Multivariable Calculus) and Robin Sacilotto Hurlbut (Calculus).

But, he adds, “every teacher I’ve had has been important in different ways. I could name 50 of them.”

Though Jackson has earned a host of honors — National Hispanic Scholar, National AP Scholar, National Merit Commended Student, Connecticut Governor’s Scholar Semifinalist, and awards from Harvard, Brown, Fairfield University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute — he says he never chose classes with grades in mind. He took those that interested him.

Asked to give advice to younger students, he says, “It’s important to focus on academics. But it’s just as important to surround yourself with good people, and be happy. Staples is a great place to find out what you enjoy. And it’s true: Four years go by fast.”

In previous summers, Jackson has interned at a Yale lab, attended the Haw Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit, and studied engineering at the University of Michigan. He’s doing his senior internship closer to home: at Bedford, with his former math and science teacher Ms. Sicbaldi. It’s a nice way to complete his Westport educational career.

Oh, yes: There’s another big honor for the Harvard University-bound senior. He’s already been named valedictorian.

Which means you can hear him in action, giving a graduation address on June 22.

(“06880” would love to hear the stories of previous Staples Key winners. If you’re a past recipient — or know someone who was — please let us know. And add a few details of post-Staples life!)

Staples Names New Football Coach

The Coach P era is over.

Today, Staples welcomes Coach T.

Phil Treglia is the high school’s new football coach. He succeeds Marce Petroccio, who in 25 years brought a moribund program to state renown.

Petroccio resigned in January to become head coach at Trumbull High School, his alma mater.

Treglia was recommended enthusiastically by a search committee of administrators, teachers, coaches and parents. Most recently he was offensive coordinator at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. With a quarterback who threw for 30 touchdowns last fall, the Crusaders won the New York AAA Catholic state and league championships.

Phil Treglia

Before Stepinac, Treglia spent 5 seasons as head coach at the Hackley School. When he took over, the small private school in Tarrytown, New York had 18 players. He more than doubled that number, to 42, and added a junior varsity program.

In 2012 the team won the Fairchester League championship, the school’s first football title since 1971. The next year they went 8-0. In 2015 Hackley was named the #1 small school program by MSG.

Treglia went to Hackley from Woodlands High School in Hawthorne, New York, his first head coaching job. The Falcons reached the league championship in 2010, and Treglia was named Coach of the Year.

He started his coaching career as offensive coordinator at Iona Prep High School in New Rochelle.

Treglia takes pride in growing programs, celebrating every player’s accomplishments, and creating a family atmosphere.

In addition to football, he is currently head junior varsity basketball coach at Bronxville High School, head junior varsity baseball coach at Scarsdale High School, and assistant varsity track and field coach at Iona Prep.

His day job is guidance counselor. He has a bachelor of science degree from the State University of New York at Cortland, with a major in business economics and a minor in international business, and a masters of school counseling from Mercy College.