Tag Archives: Bedford Middle School

Unsung Heroes #68

This week’s edition of “Unsung Heroes” comes courtesy of several Coleytown Middle School parents. They do not want to be named, because they say they speak for many families. They write:

Two weeks ago the administrators, teachers, paras, nurses, custodians, counselors, food service employees and secretaries at Coleytown Middle School began to deal with a crisis. Staff and students reported illnesses, leading to a temporary closing of the school. It quickly morphed into a relocation.

Change can be challenging. But in the face of great change the adults at CMS have shown tremendous flexibility, leadership, and support for the children and families of the Coleytown community.

Familiar, smiling faces greet Coleytown students at Bedford and Staples every day.

As Westport superintendent of schools Dr. Colleen Palmer recently said, “A school is not just the building. A school is the staff. A school is the counselors, the administrators. It’s all the caring adults.”

CMS families sent our children off to different schools — Bedford Middle for 6th and 7th graders, Staples High School for 8th graders. Knowing they were heading to the caring adults they have come to know calmed nerves.

Knowing they were heading to caring communities eased minds too. Hearing that the world language teachers at SHS moved classrooms, that the BMS nurses and secretaries made space for the CMS nurses and secretaries proved that, at the end of the day, we are Westport Public Schools. Separate buildings may divide us physically, but not in spirit. 


Coleytown Middle School security guard Terry Morgan is always ready with a smile and fist bump. That has not changed, despite moving to new digs at Staples High.

Parents and students alike wonder about extra-curricular activities. There is great optimism that they will continue. CMS principal Kris Szabo said that clubs and activity advisers will communicate with families and students regarding schedules and locations.

Coleytown Company’s production of “The Lion King” had already begun meeting. They were entering auditions and rehearsals when the shutdown and move were announced.

Director Ben Frimmer and company manager Sarah Webster wasted no time getting things up and running after the move. The production is scheduled to open as planned. “I think it’s important to try to provide the students in our community as much normalcy as possible in light of the upheaval they’re going through,” Mr. Frimmer said.

Sarah Webster and Ben Frimmer are making sure the Coleytown Company 6th graders can jump right back into “The Lion King.” Other extracurricular activities will start soon.

The crackerjack team of custodians, led by Joe DiPalma, has been spread out, still caring for CMS while assisting at BMS and SHS. Their dedication and busy-ness makes it hard to pin them down for a photo, but families are singing their praises for their dedication to the community.

School is about learning — and one of the things we are all learning is resilience. To handle adversity and the unexpected with grace and without compromise is one of the most valuable skills a person can have in life. The adults of Coleytown Middle School have always modeled these skills for our children, but never more so than now.

This modeling is evident in high school students asking 8th graders they know how things are going. At BMS, students look out for the “new” kids in their hallways, pointing the way to classrooms when needed.

People in town have begun referring to the BMS building as Westport Middle School, and the 8th grade wing at Staples as “The Academy.” Whatever the future holds, we are thankful to all — especially to all the Coleytown Middle School staff. They have not skipped a beat.

Honorable mentions are in order for the caring adults at Bedford and Staples who have opened their doors and spaces to Coleytown Middle School, the bus drivers who shepherd our kids to their new spaces, and the myriad others behind the scenes who may have escaped mention here — but who care no less for our children and their ability to learn in a safe, supportive environment.


And — in the aftermath of last night’s powerful near-tornado storm — here is a Bonus Unsung Hero story. It comes courtesy of Brian and Lisa Power:

I’d like to nominate Alex Ducruet as an Unsung Hero this week. Last night during the severe rainstorm, my car stalled in a flooded area a half mile from our home.

As my husband and I tried to quickly figure out the best thing to do, we received a knock on our car window from a neighbor, Alex Ducruet. We had never met Alex, but he quickly became our hero!

He not only offered to help, but did so gladly. He went above and beyond by helping my husband push our car the half mile up a hill to our home. My husband said this was one of the most physically grueling things he’s ever done (and he recently finished his first Ironman Race!). He said there was no way he could have done this without Alex’s help.

We were so grateful for Alex’s assistance in our time of need, and couldn’t thank him enough. His response to us was simple: “I’m a neighbor. This is what we do.”

When my husband and I insisted we wanted to do something to show our gratitude, his only request was that we spread the word about his business. So: When your windows need washing, please contact Alex Ducruet at Gold Coast Window Washers. No doubt Alex will go above and beyond for you — just like he did for us.

A thousand thanks to Alex Ducruet for being our hero!

Pic Of The Day #525

Today could have been tough. With their building closed due to possible mold issues, Coleytown Middle School 6th and 7th graders moved to Bedford Middle School. Eighth graders headed to Staples High. No one knew what to expect.

The day went great. Staff adapted. Students smiled. There were warm welcomes all around.

And it started even before the Coleytown youngsters entered their new schools. This sign outside Bedford said it all.

(Photo/Michelle Howard)

[OPINION] As Coleytown Moves: Be Adaptable, Flexible, Welcoming

Marcy Sansolo is the administrator of What Up Westport. Usually, she and the 3,000-plus members of her Facebook group share comments and photos about life in Westport. There are notices about upcoming events, observations on life at Whole Foods, and quirky photos.

Marcy is an upbeat, glass-half-full woman. What Up Westport mostly steers clear of controversy.

But as Coleytown Middle School 6th and 7th graders prepare to move today to Bedford Middle School, and 8th graders to Staples High, for about a month — while experts explore whether mold or mold remediation has caused dizziness, nausea, itching and headaches — they’ve faced another issue: pushback from some parents at the host schools, concerned about the impact on their own buildings.

Coleytown Middle School

Marcy did not want to post anything that would fan the flames. But she did not want to downplay the situation either. What she wrote deserves the broadest audience possible. So, with her permission, I’m re-posting it here.

S— happens. Kids who are faced with adversity will become more resilient kids and eventually resilient adults.

This is my free advice, and you don’t have to take it.

If you have a student who is in one of the 3 schools, have them look at this as an adventure.

An opportunity to meet new people, to experience a new setting, to be a host, to help thy neighbor.

Children are incredibly accommodating and figure things out quickly.

They will take their cues from you. You stay positive, understanding, friendly and flexible, and so will they.

For those students who require more emotional or physical support, their support team is there for them.

Have faith in your kids and those making the decisions.

Bedford Middle School 2

Bedford Middle School

Reaction was quick, and largely positive.

“Amen!” one woman wrote. “Kids adjust much more easily than adults. Parents, give your kids the chance to deal with a problem, disappointment, and adversity. Make this a positive and they will be better for it.”

Another noted: “Westport has a history of coming together and making things happen — big and small — from buying the Longshore Club to banning plastic bags in stores. As someone who sells this wonderful town to new residents, I love sharing these stories. This can be one more of them. We control the narrative about how we come together as a community and handle this.”

A third said: “This is one town, these kids are kids, they adjust, they are resilient, they are friends in their swim teams/ basketball/ ballet/theatre, they will be in Staples together, their moms take the same spin classes at the Y. This is ONE town. Let’s just all show love and not scare these kids with our own negativity, because they know better.”

It won’t be easy for the Coleytown students, as they move to a new school (for the 6th graders, their 2nd in a month). It will be hard — but certainly less difficult — for those at Bedford and Staples.

It will be a learning experience for all — staff as well as students. Let’s hope the lessons of welcoming and adaptability are taught everywhere — not just in school.

Staples High School (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Pic Of The Day #515

Bedford Middle School

Bedford Science Olympians Score At Nationals

Olympics are not just for athletes.

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team finished 1st in the state last month — earning them the right to represent Connecticut at the 34th annual Science Olympiad national tournament

It was held last weekend at Colorado State University.

So how did our guys and girls do?

Here are 2 reports. The first — from parent Danielle Teplica — sets the scene:

It was a fantastic experience — a deep and extreme immersion into a much higher level of science competition than they had yet been able to fathom, let alone experience.

They had the chance to feel what it’s like to respect awesome competition, and perform their best against it.  It was a non-stop, fast-paced 4 days, packed with parades and pageantry, bright lights, loud music, big arenas, learning how to run from one event to another across a university campus, high altitude, little sleep and lots of science.

Plus live tarantulas, turkey costumes, CalTech professors — a lot to take in.

Hannah Even and Anja Gubitz represent Connecticut, at the opening ceremonies.

The team bus arrived at BMS Monday around 2 a.m. None of them had napped on the plane or bus. They were still excited by what they’d just done.

What had they done? Read this report, from parent chaperone Trudie Gubitz:

They performed exceptionally well. The team brought home 2 medals: 6th place for Mystery Architecture, and 1st place for Rollercoaster! In the 34 years of Nationals competition, no Connecticut team had won a gold.

Overall, Bedford finished 25th out of 60 teams — the highest ever for a team from our state. That’s a wonderful achievement — especially because BMS had competed at nationals only once before (in 2015). Most of the top 20 teams are regulars.

For me, the most inspiring thing was the team’s cohesion. These kids have  worked, built and studied for this event for almost a year. Over this time they have created a bond that is hard to describe in words.

They laugh and play while working to a common goal. They support each other when things do not go as planned, celebrate each other’s successes, and pick each other up from disappointments.

The Bedford Middle School Science Olympiad team.

Fifteen children competed in the 23 diverse events: Microbe Mission, Hovercraft, Dynamic Planet and Road Scholar, to name a few.

Another 9 students and their parents also formed part of the team as alternates, showing enormous support.

The support extended further to BMS alumni, who came from Staples to help during preparations. One was even there at 2 a.m. to cheer the returning team bus.

Staples High School Science Olympiad students — and Bedford Olympiad alums — sent this encouraging photo to the BMS team in Colorado on the morning of the competition.

The children had a wonderful time. That speaks to the amazing guidance provided by the 3 teachers who support this program: Arthur Ellis, Dr. Daniel Cortright and Kathryn Nicholas.

Thanks too to all the Westporters who donated to help get the team to Colorado (and back).

Now get some sleep. 

And then get ready for next year!

Coach Art Ellis

Bedford Actors Take “Higher Ground”

On May 11 and 12, Bedford Acting Group will present a controversial play about bullying in middle school. It’s a hot topic now, all over the country.

Co-directors Karen McCormick and Ryan Smith have planned “Higher Ground” for a while.

It’s not the first time they’ve addressed the issue.

In 2010, then-8th grader Will Haskell played the lead. He’s now running for a state senate seat — and will speak to the cast during rehearsals.

Will Haskell, in Bedford Middle School’s 2010 production of “Higher Ground.”

The play deals frankly with important issues like body image, race and sexuality. Characters are taunted for various reasons, before banding together and standing up in the end.

One boy is teased, harassed and assaulted after he shrugs off a misunderstanding about whether he is gay or straight. Other students are bullied for their weight, ethnicity, dress, interest in academics and being in special education.

“Higher Ground” was written in 2008 by Sherwood, Oregon middle school teacher Jennie Brown. Her principal called it “too mature,” and ordered it rewritten. Students countered that it depicted middle school life accurately, and refused to perform if it was censored.

The show was canceled. But the community rose in support, and “Higher Ground” enjoyed 3 sold-out performances at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts.

Eight years ago McCormick found the script online. With the full support of BMS administration, the play was presented. It earned raves.

Brown has updated the play to reflect today’s technological and social media environment. But the message remains the same.

And it’s one every Westporter should see.

(“Higher Ground” will be presented on Friday and Saturday, May 11 and 12, at 7 p.m. in the Bedford Middle School auditorium. Click here for tickets.) 

Top row (from left): Ryan Porio, Alex Waterworth. Bottom row: Sydney Gusick, Quinn Mulvey, Isabella Roberts.

BMS Science Olympians Strike Gold

When I hear “science competition,” I think of nerdy kids next to poster boards, explaining styrofoam experiments to nerdy judges.

When Bedford Middle School students hear it, they think of Science Olympiad. Which is pretty similar to the actual Olympic Games.

Instead of swimming, boxing, biathlon (and curling!) though, there are events like anatomy and physiology, hovercraft and towers.

Body tape and energy bars are replaced by duct tape and battery chargers.

But — just like the Summer and Winter Games — events are timed. Adrenaline runs high. There are big prizes for the winners.

Last month, BMS placed 1st and 3rd at the state competition in Farmington. The gold winners now represent Connecticut at the 34th annual Science Olympiad national tournament. It’s May 18-19, at Colorado State University.

Hail to the champions: Bedford Middle School’s Science Olympiad stars.

That’s no small achievement. 15,000 schools participate across the country. Teams of up to 15 students compete in 23 events, covering science, technology, engineering and math.

Some require constructing a project ahead of time. Others involve on-the-spot skill-solving. Like athletes, “SciOly” teams train for hours each week.

Fortunately, Bedford is led by a coach who is John Wooden, Geno Auriemma and Pep Guardiola rolled into one.

During the day, Art Ellis — the first student at Princeton University to seek a combination degree in engineering and public school education — teaches design and engineering.

Teacher/coach Art Ellis in action.

After school, his classroom transforms into the Science Olympiad workshop. Middle schoolers build, study, perform lab trials, make mistakes and hone their performances.

After a dinner break, he opens the room again. Students focus on different events.

On weekends he’s either at BMS, or in Glastonbury coaching his flyers for the SciOly “Wright Stuff” event.

Many of this year’s Olympians worked during school breaks — including last summer vacation. They’ve been inspired by Mr. Ellis, who teaches them exactly how competitions work.

Once the students understand how good their opponents are — and they’re very, very good — they’re hooked on beating them.

But there’s no trash talk or foul play. Bedford wins with grace. They congratulated the runners-up profusely. After all, Mr. Ellis reminded them, if the other team wasn’t their rivals, they’d likely be their good friends.

After winning a gold medal, two Bedford Middle School Science Olympians show their joy.

Mr. Ellis also coaches the Staples High School Science Olympiad team. Formed last year, they’ve already snagged a pair of 3rd-place finishes. Coleytown Middle School competed at the state meet this year too, and earned an individual medal.

There’s only one thing Mr. Ellis can’t do: create money out of thin air. The cost of sending 25 students and 5 advisers to Colorado is $35,000. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to Bedford Middle School, 88 North Avenue, Westport, CT 06880 (put “Science Olympiad” in the memo line).

Congratulations to BMS Science Olympians Jackson Benner, Julia Berg, Tavan Bhatia, Aalok Bhattacharya, Kristina Chaney, Rhea Choudhury, Joshua Deitch, Tatiana Dragun, Hannah Even, Amy Ginzburg, Tanvi Gorre, Sharmila Green, Anja Gubitz, Finnbar Kiely, Lucy Livingstone, Emma Losonczy, Annabelle Luo, Colin Morgeson, Alexander Pirkl, Jeffrey Pogue, Ishan Prasad, Naomi Rosen, Zachary Rybchin, Samira Saad, Kaitlyn Seo, Tegh Singh, Clara Smith, Mallika Subramanian, Maxwell Tanksley, Whitman Teplica and Jy Xu, plus Mr. Elllis’ fellow coaches Kathryn Nicholas and Dr. Daniel Cortright.

Good luck going for another gold. And have fun along the way!

(Hat tip: Danielle Teplica)

[OPINION] Some Kids Need Lessons In Kindness

An alert “06880” reader — and disappointed middle school parent — writes:

I am grateful every day to raise my children in our wonderful town. They go to public schools staffed by caring, enthusiastic teachers.

Yet something happened this past Saturday at Bedford Middle School that made me ask myself, “What can we do to make our town even better?” I’m asking “06880” readers that question too.

During the 7 p.m. performance of “Alice in Wonderland,” several 6th grade students in the audience heckled the actors. They gave them the L “loser” sign, the middle finger, and booed.

Several actors were in tears. One would not get back on stage. Another missed his lines.

I hope the heckling students get more than a central detention. I would like to see them get a lesson in kindness, and make amends.

As with other school performances in town, the students and teachers of BMS spent months working on and rehearsing “Alice in Wonderland.” Teachers Karen McCormick and Lynne Karmen, assistant stage director Ryan Smith and parent volunteers spent days, nights and weekends coordinating the many aspects of the show: teaching students the fine points of acting, creating  and setting the stage.

In addition, 8th grade actors and stage crew dedicated up to 60 hours of their time, helping younger students learn about lighting and sound, memorize lines and gather the courage to get on stage.

They deserved applause and support, not heckling.

Bedford Middle School used 8 Alices, to include as many 6th graders as possible in the show. (Photo/January Stewart)

I hope there will be a truly sincere apology directed to the actors and teachers. Each heckler could write a letter to an actor, and read it on stage as actors and teachers sit in the seats.

Or perhaps those apology letters could be printed out and posted on the auditorium doors.

Hecklers could also pick up trash for a few days in the school cafeteria after lunch, or after the next school performance.

No one is looking for harsh punishment for those hecklers. Kids make mistakes. We all make mistakes.

We as a community need to build up our children when they make mistakes, not break them down. We as a community need to help each other find solutions that help our youth adopt kinder behavior, make proper amends and learn from their mistakes.

To BMS actors: You had the courage to be on stage. You did a great job at the show. Don’t let detractors get you down. We hope to see you at the next performances!

To BMS teachers, parent volunteers and 7th and 8th grade volunteers: Thank you for giving our 6th graders a chance to grow and shine, each in their own way. Thank you for your dedication!

To Westport: What can we do better to teach our kids and our friends to be kinder to one another?

Any suggestions?

Staples, Middle Schools Observe Walkout Day; Nursery School Celebrates Friendship

This morning at 10, students across the country walked out of class. They honored the 17 slain students and teachers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and demanded sensible gun legislation.

At Staples High School, well over 1,000 teenagers poured into the fieldhouse. Working with administrators and police, student leaders planned — and pulled off — a powerful program.

Superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer praised the high schoolers for their organization, passion and sincerity.

A portion of the large crowd in the Staples High School fieldhouse. (Photo/Charlie Colasurdo, courtesy of Inklings)

Nationwide, educators working with younger students grappled with how to handle the day in an age-appropriate manner.

Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools held their own assemblies.

Children at Green’s Farms Nursery School are young enough to be shielded from the horrors of school murders.

But they honored the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students at the same time — 10 a.m. — with a “friendship assembly.”

They observed a moment of silence, sang a friendship song and read a special story.

Then they created a friendship mural, to send to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Greens Farms Nursery School students create a “friendship mural.”

Alices In Wonderland

“Alice in Wonderland” is a great play for kids.

But Bedford Middle School director Karen McCormick was still surprised when 77 students auditioned for her school’s 6th grade-only production of that classic tale.

Because she wants to give as many youngsters as possible a chance to perform, she cast all 77.

That took some creativity.

But McCormick is nothing if not creative. Which is why, when the curtain rises on March 23, 24 and 25, audiences will see 8 different “Alices.”

All in the same show.

Bedford Middle School’s 8 Alices include, back row: (from left): Sarah McCourt, Iva Radman, Sarah Himes, Maggie Montoya, Dagny Dahl. Front: Samantha Edwards, Grace Power, Maya Cohen. (Photo/January Stewart)

The actors — including cards, queens, oysters and more — are having a great time.

Theatergoers will too. Young children and their parents are invited onstage after the 2 matinees (March 24 and 25).

A special “Mad Hatter Tea Party” is planned for Saturday, March 24 (1 p.m.). Parents and children will be served tea and crumpets by characters from the play. All funds raised go to Bedford’s drama partner, Jettie S. Tisdale School in Bridgeport — which performs their own “Alice in Wonderland” in June.

No word yet on how many Alices they’ll use.

“Alice in Wonderland” will be performed at Bedford Middle School on Friday, March 23 (7 p.m.), Saturday, March 24 (2 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and Sunday, March 25 (2 p.m.). Click here for tickets.