Tag Archives: 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.

Bedford Backs Leah’s Birthday Bash

Pirate costumes, swords, crowns and scepters; a life-size Glinda the Good Witch cutout; Alice in Wonderland costumes for this spring’s production — all that and more is moving from Bedford Middle School to Kolbe Cathedral High.

Bedford is happy to give it up. The props and costumes are headed to a photo booth at “Leah’s Birthday Bash.” The annual carnival — raising thousands of scholarship dollars — is one of the most important dates on the Bedford calendar.

Leah Rondon

The event honors the memory of the 6-year-old daughter of longtime science teacher Colleen Rondon. When Leah died in a tragic accident 2 1/2 years ago, Bedford teachers rallied to hold the first carnival. The middle school staff will be in full force this Saturday (February 3, noon to 4 p.m.).

Current and former BMS students, including Jamie Mann and Jasper Burke, perform too.

Visual arts teacher Lynne Karmen, library media specialist Kelly Zatorsky and costumers Paula Lacey and Elisa Smith Pasqua are all helping with the elaborate production — complete with tripods and LED lights.

Science teacher Jason Frangenes and math teacher Laurie Gray again runs the ping pong toss. Last year, Frangenes provided hundreds of goldfish as prizes.

Theater teacher and stage director Karen McCormick — who helps supervise the moving of all those props and costumes to Kolbe — says the Bedford faculty dives in to help because they believe so strongly in the event.

“We all want to support Colleen,” McCormick adds. “It’s a great way to keep her daughter alive.”

Rondon’s husband Henry is Kolbe’s principal. The carnival’s proceeds benefit the Leah Rondon Memorial Scholarship Fund.

(Kolbe Cathedral High School is at 33 Calhoun Place, Bridgeport. For more information on the carnival, click here.)

 

Mike Rea Explores A First Selectman Run

Growing up on Evergreen Avenue, Mike Rea attended almost-in-his-back yard Bedford Elementary School.

His alma mater now serves as Town Hall. And Rea is trying to figure out whether he wants to work there full time.

He’s done many things since graduating from Staples High School in 1970. Rea helped found Festival Italiano, was a Parks and Recreation Commission chair, headed the Bedford Middle School building project, spent 12 years on the RTM, and now serves as vice chair of the Board of Finance.

He’s formed a committee to explore a run for first selectman. If he enters the race, he’ll challenge incumbent and fellow Republican Jim Marpe.

“For years, people have asked me to run,” Rea says. “I owe it to myself to see if the interest is out there now.”

Mike Rea (left) after his first Board of Finance victory. On the right is current 2nd selectman Avi Kaner.

A Bronx native who came to Westport at age 4, Rea has long been active in town. Soon after his Staples graduation, he opened Mr. Sandwich — a popular lunchtime restaurant — on Bay Street.

He attended Norwalk Community College at night. He married Carla, spent a brief time in real estate, and for the past 34 years has worked for Gen Re. He’s currently vice president of corporate services and global real estate.

His first political activism came before he was a teenager — for the Democrats. “Thelma Ezzes and Ruth Soloway got me to sell tickets for a JFK memorial concert,” he recalls. “Thelma always said I slipped through Democratic fingers.”

He later joined the Young Republicans, and became state national committeeman. He chaired the Republican Town Committee, and was a 2-time John McCain delegate at national conventions.

Mike Rea at the 1978 Republican state convention. In the background is longtime political leader Ed Capasse.

When Rea’s sons Michael and Alex were young, an earthquake devastated Italy. Rea was part of a Westport group that raised $250,000 to help, then brought 21 youngsters and their mayor from a small town to Westport.

The Sons of Italy rose from that group. They sponsored the Italian Festival, a summertime Saugatuck staple for over 25 years.

Mike Rea (left) with the Sons of Italy group, at an early Festival Italiano.

When his boys played sports, Rea got involved in a project to build more athletic fields. First Selectman Doug Wood appointed him to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Wood’s successor Joe Arcudi named Rea chair.

Under his direction, Parks and Rec helped develop Wakeman Park, renovated Ned Dimes Marina and brought a skating rink to Longshore.

Gene Cederbaum — a Democratic Board of Education member — recruited Rea to head up the Bedford Middle School building project. Rea and his group — including “fantastic volunteers” like Russ Blair, Howard Lathrop and Joe Renzulli — “brought new construction techniques and accounting principles, and combined them with state and local educational specs and budgets,” to produce a handsome school on a former Nike missile base.

Rea is proud that another Democrat — Wally Meyer — called him “Mr. On Time and Under Budget.”

In his 6 terms on the RTM, Rea chaired the Finance and Environmental Committees, and served on the Ethics Committee. “I really enjoyed the give-and-take from ‘the citizens’ podium,'” he says.

Mike and Carla Rea (2nd and 3rd from right), with their children and granddaughter.

He left the RTM to run for Board of Finance. Rea was elected twice, in 2011 and 2015, when he was the top Republican vote-getter in town.

So why might he challenge a fellow party member for the top spot?

“Why not?” he replies. “I wouldn’t run against Jim. I’d be running for Westport, and myself.”

His exploratory committee will examine whether issues like the condition of the beach, and finance and planning, are areas he could address.

“I’m a business guy, a facilitator, a project manager,” Rea says. “That’s my wheelhouse. It’s not a question of bad management now. It’s a question of, could I do better? When you commit large sums of expenditures to education, parks facilities and public works, you have to make sure you’re doing it right.”

Rea calls Marpe “a very capable, nice, down-to-earth guy. I really like him. He’s not doing the job wrong. I just think with my years in public service, and my skill set that augments the first selectman’s job, I might do better.”

Rea also says he’s friendly with Jonathan Steinberg, the Democratic state representative who is exploring his own run for first selectman.

Rea concludes, “I like people. I love Westport. I think I’d be good for the town. This is just the first step on a journey.”

That journey started decades ago at Bedford Elementary School on Myrtle Avenue. It may wind its way back there, in November.

(Tomorrow: Jim Marpe talks about his campaign for re-election.)

Glenn Hightower Memorial Set For Saturday

The life of Glenn Hightower — educator, civic volunteer and coach — will be celebrated this Saturday (January 21, 2 p.m.) at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road.

The longtime Westport resident died New Year’s Day, age 76. Throughout his life he was devoted to his wife Beverly, and his daughters Holly, Julie and Heather.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Glenn graduated from Mangum High School as valedictorian and class president. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University, his master’s degree at Kansas State University and his Ph.D from the University of Iowa.

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn Hightower at the former Bedford Middle School (now Saugatuck Elementary).

Glenn and Beverly moved to Westport in 1969. He spent over 30 years as principal of Bedford Middle and Junior Schools, serving briefly as interim assistant superintendent.

He led through times of both consolidation and expansion, including working on the design of the new Bedford school on North Avenue.

During 8 years as principal of Westport Continuing Education, he expanded programming and grew enrollment. Glenn was committed to music, the arts and technology. He created compassionate learning environments that valued students and enabled them to excel.

Glenn was an avid sportsman. In junior high and high school he captained varsity football, basketball and baseball teams. He played handball competitively, served on the Bridgeport YMCA Board of Directors, and enjoyed playing in recreational basketball leagues around Fairfield County.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn Hightower, during a Westport Road Runners race.

Glenn was often seen running throughout town. He competed in Westport Road Races, and completed 16 New York City marathons and 10 ultra marathons. Glenn was a competitor, but most of all he cherished lifelong friendships created along the way.

Actively involved in the Westport YMCA board of directors and Water Rats swim team, as well as the Staples High swim team, Glenn and Bev spent many days by the pool.

When his daughters played team sports, Glenn coached rec basketball. He helped grow Westport Little League softball, coaching for over 10 years. He later returned to a sport he loved, football, to coach middle school PAL football players.

Glenn served in the Rotary Club, and over many years dedicated himself to the United Methodist Church as a Sunday School teacher, lay leader and chair of the Administrative Council, among other activities.

Glenn was known for his warmth, kindness, generous spirit and devotion to his family. He held an unwavering belief in the power of public education and the importance of helping others. Glenn encouraged people to do their best, whether with their family, school, work, faith or on the ball field.

Glenn was predeceased by his wife Beverly. In addition to his daughters he is survived by 4 grandsons, and brothers Richard and Phillip and their families.

In honor of Glenn, the Hightower family encourages everyone to take time to talk with and truly listen to their children, look for the good in those around us, and strive to make a positive impact on our communities.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the United Methodist Church of Westport/Weston, 49 Weston Road, Westport, CT 06880; Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881, or Magnum High School Alumni Association (c/o Mary Jane Scott, 414 South Robinson Avenue, Mangum OK 73554).

Mary Martinik Hangs Up Her Whistle

For 41 years, Marty Martinik has loved her job.

First in Darien, then Trumbull — and from 1992 through now, in Westport — she has taught middle and high school physical education. (With a 3-year stint out of the gym as  Staples’ director of athletics, and the town’s district coordinator of health and PE.)

Mary Martinik

Mary Martinik

From 2001 on, Martinik has been at Bedford Middle School. She’s worked with the adapted physical education program, served as a special area liaison, advised the student council, and been a student teacher and  high school intern mentor.

She’s been recognized at the state level for her work with Hoops for Heart, and her service to professional organizations.

On November 30, Martinik retires. David Gusitsch — the Westport school district’s K-12 health and physical education coordinator — says:

Mary has brought energy and enthusiasm to her classes and students, all the way up to retirement. She has a true passion for her profession.

Her 40 years in public education — 25 of them in Westport — have been filled with more than just teaching. Mary truly believes in the benefits of movement, wellness, and building physical literacy before, during and after school. She has had a positive impact on the lives of tens of thousands of students. For that, we are grateful.