Tag Archives: Coleytown 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 #531

Put me in, coach! Soccer bags, water bottles — and just a hint of fall — this morning at Coleytown Middle School. (Photo/Jeff Manchester)

[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)

“You Are All Loved”

Nearly every day for the past few years, students arriving at Staples High and Westport’s 2 middle schools have been welcomed by “Happy Birthday” signs. Parents rent them — and choose an appropriate character or theme — on their kids’ big days.

This week, the messages are different. At Staples, a Valentine’s heart tells students: “You Are All Loved.”

“You All Matter” greets Coleytowners. At Bedford, it’s “You Are All Important.”

Bedford Middle School sign

(Photo/Lily Bloomingdale)

The idea came from a group of parents. At a tough time — following the suicides of a Staples teacher and student — they want our kids to know how much they are cared for.

They didn’t have to pay. Critter Cards — the company that supplies the birthday billboards — donated them.

It’s a small gesture. But the smiles this week — from students and staff members alike — have been big.

UPDATE: Temple Israel Threat Ends; Lockdown Ends At Coleytown

Earlier today, Westport police were called to Temple Israel. Preliminary reports say there were concerns about 1 or 2 people with weapons. Apparently, none were found.

The temple was the site today of a “Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Women’s Luncheon.” IDF officers — including an Israeli Air Force captain — were to discuss the roles of women in that country’s military. It appears that 1 or 2 people planned to disrupt the event.

Nearby Coleytown Middle School was locked down as a precaution.

Coleytown Middle School principal Kris Szabo sent this message to parents:

This afternoon our school was in lockdown for 45 minutes at the request of the Westport Police Department for an external threat at Temple Israel.  All ended well and our students returned to Homeroom where they were given an opportunity to debrief and ask questions. We thank the Westport Police Department for its immediate reaction and concern for the safety of all our children.

Temple israel

It Was 20 Years Ago Today: Coleytown Consoled Oklahoma City Kids

In April 1995, online providers like CompuServe and Delphi charged by the hour, and by modem speed.

So it took a tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing — on April 19, 1995 — for Westport realtor Mary Palmieri Gai to spend time on the fledgling internet. She felt compelled to see what other people were thinking, and find emotional support.

Many in the Oklahoma City area flocked online too. Students in particular were very afraid.

Suddenly, Mary had an idea: bring together local youngsters, and those 1500 miles away. Her daughter Melissa helped facilitate an important, human connection, through the computers at Coleytown Middle School.

To see what happened, click the YouTube video below:

(If your browser does not bring you directly to YouTube, click here.)

Adam Riegler: Shrek, The Assistant Director

When most middle schools put on a show — let’s say, “Shrek the Musical” — it looks like a middle school “Shrek.”

Coleytown Company’s production will not be like most middle schools.

For one thing, this is Westport. We do things — particularly arts and kids things — in high-powered ways.

For another, director Ben Frimmer has got Shrek helping “Shrek.”

The real Shrek.

That’s Adam Riegler. A Staples sophomore, he spent nearly a year playing Young Shrek.

On Broadway.

Adam Riegler, aka Young Shrek.

Adam Riegler, aka Young Shrek.

Adam has plenty of other credits: a role in “David Copperfield” at the Westport Country Playhouse (directed by Joanne Woodward). Pugsley in “The Addams Family” (alongside Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth and Brooke Shields). A role in the film “The Way, Way Back.” He just returned from South By Southwest, and the premiere of his latest film “Premature.”

But right now, Adam is playing a new role: assistant director.

He brings a deep knowledge of “Shrek” to Coleytown. For a year before its December, 2008 opening Adam was involved in its workshops. He saw what it takes to get a show off the ground. He dealt with writers and directors, and worked with accomplished professionals.

He performed in “Shrek”‘s out-of-town tryouts, then made his Broadway debut. All along, he watched and learned.

“It’s got awesome music. It’s very funny, for kids and adults alike,” he says of the show. (Now that he’s older, he understands more of the jokes.)

Adam Riegler, un-Shrekked.

Adam Riegler, un-Shrekked.

At Coleytown, he helps Frimmer with directing ideas, like scene blocking. He also gives notes and tips to the young actors. “Ben is an amazing director,” Adam says. “But I can help, because I’ve seen so many versions of ‘Shrek.'”

Adam calls the young actors “very talented. They’ve got excellent voices, and great attitudes. They really are working hard at being team players too.”

Are the Coleytown Company actors impressed with his Broadway resume?

“I’d say excited, rather than impressed,” Adam answers. “They’re happy I can help.”

Adam, meanwhile, enjoys being on the other side of the stage. This is his first experience as a director, and he likes the ability to “be creative, change things, and see immediate results.”

So what’s his next role?

He may take Staples Players director David Roth’s directing course in the fall.

(“Shrek The Musical” will be performed at Coleytown Middle School on Thursday and Friday, April 3 and 4, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, April 5 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Click here for tickets; use the search term “Westport”.)

Middle Schoolers Rack Up Robotics Titles

Following the path blazed by Staples High, Westport’s  middle schools’ robotics team snagged 2 first-place medals at last weekend’s First Lego League state championship, held at Central Connecticut State University. They also picked up cash, from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The boys — yes, unfortunately, they’re all male — topped nearly 200 teams to win both the Robotics Performance and Robotics Programming categories.

It’s an impressive accomplishment for 12- and 13-year-olds. The event is technically difficult, and highly competitive. They worked for months after school, researching, designing and programming their robots. (They also have many other activities — 7 of the 9, for example, play soccer.)

The winning robot.

The winning robot.

What makes the gold medals even more impressive is that their coaches — Steve Diorio and Mike Durkin — know absolutely nothing about robotics or programming. The boys teach themselves, by reading and watching YouTube videos. The adults basically say, “Way to go, guys.”

There’s one more intriguing element to this story. Despite Westport’s now-global reputation in high school robotics — Staples’ team has won a world championship — there is no high school robotics course. There’s no corporate sponsorship of the club (which itself does not even have formal status).

The Middle School Robotics Club — now in its 2nd year — marks the first formal school system support of the activity.

The 1st-place team is called the Mechanical Masterminds. Members include Coleytown 7th graders Nick Ambrose, Rob Diorio, Nicholas Durkin, John McNab, Daniel Westphal, Josh Zhang and Andy Zhang, and Coleytown 7th grader Justin Schmidt and 8th grader Sunil Green.

A 2nd Westport middle school group — Team SNAP — took home the 2nd place Champions Award. They’re completely independent. Members include Coleytown students Theo Davis, Dan Kleine, Nathanael Metke, Kiran Nandagopal and Luke Sauer. The coach is Terry Sauer.

Congratulations to all the young champions. And their robots, too.

The Masterminds and SNAP robotics teams.

The Masterminds and SNAP robotics teams.

Re-Imagining Westport, 8th-Grade Style

Plenty of time and energy has been invested in re-imagining downtown Westport — deciding what’s needed to inject a little life in the ol’ place.

There’s been much talk too about the importance of developing Westport students’ critical thinking, 21st-century skills.

Downtown Westport has gotten a bit grungy lately.

The twain met today at Coleytown Middle School.  Five teams of 8th-grade students — winnowed down from a few dozen who began the project — presented their plans for making downtown both prettier and zippier.

Analytical thinking — not to mention a great grasp of history, government, finance, town planning, the environment, Google Earth, Photoshop, Excel, writing, video-making and presentation skills — was on full display in the auditorium.

The 5 groups (4-5 students each) unveiled their ideas before a group of judges that included the 2nd selectman and superintendent of schools.  (Also, me.)

Using maps, 3-models, full-color handouts, detailed financial projections — and, most importantly, foresight and creativity — the middle schoolers introduced a variety of ideas.  For example:

  • Improved landscaping, including flowers and more trees (planted and maintained by volunteers, lowering costs and increasing a sense of community)
  • Adding birdhouses (built by volunteers) and old-fashioned lampposts
  • A movie theater in the current YMCA building, showing now-available-0n-DVD films (lowering costs)
  • More street festivals
  • A greenbelt replacing the current one-lane exit from Parker Harding Plaza
  • More restaurants (family-style, multicultural, a diner…)
  • Minibus transportation from outlying parking areas
  • Improving and lighting the tunnel from Main Street to Parker Harding (also done by volunteers)
  • Renovating the boardwalk across from Oscar’s, extending it further into the  Saugatuck River and making it more inviting (the money would come from sales of planks, with donors’ names on them)
  • Developing the river’s west side into a “community complex,” with restaurants, an arcade, community theater, snack shop/bakery, teen center, and kids’ center (a “West Bank Development” could provide financial incentives)
  • 2-level parking
  • Bike paths
  • Mini-golf and a full-sized basketball court (near the Imperial Avenue lot).

Those are great ideas.  Some are easily doable; some would take work; a few are probably impractical.  All, however, show a depth of understanding and sense of community not often associated with 8th graders.

Now let’s  start working on the best ones.

How to begin?

Hire the Coleytown kids as consultants.

The boardwalk by the Saugatuck River is nice. But when was the last time you used it?

Westport Girls AreThisClose To Justin Bieber

Back in the day, if you entered a contest to win tickets to see your favorite singer — Frank Sinatra, say, or Paul Anka or Bobby Sherman — you sent in a dozen postcards, crossed your fingers, and hoped for the best.

Of course, you never won.

Win this boy for some Westport girls.

Today Michael Jackson and Rick Springfield have been replaced by Justin Bieber.  And if you want to win a nationwide contest to see Usher (and the world’s) favorite 16-year-old Canadian — or at least his new movie — you have to make a video that everyone and her sister votes on.

Alexa Davis, Kendall Rochlin, Emma Boland, Colby Kranz and Olivia Lev have done just that.

The 8th graders want to win tickets to the premiere of “Never Say Never,” which apparently will be to 2011 what “A Hard Day’s Night” was to 1964.  According to Alexa’s mother Lee, the girls are in 1st place, neck and neck with a bunch of Floridians.

What’s as impressive as their chance to actually win, Lee says, is the video the 13-year-olds created.  With quick cuts, fast forwards and a clever cardboard cutout of Justin himself, it’s as professional as any music video I’ve seen.  (Not that I watch a lot of them.)  (Or listen to pop music).

The Westport girls' Justin Bieber video (and their Justin Bieber cutout).

When Lee asked Alexa — who goes to Coleytown Middle School — where she learned to edit video, her daughter said, “We just figured it out.  And, oh yeah, we also learned to do this in school.”

Duh.

If they win the contest, the girls promise to give some of their tickets to the Boys and Girls Club.  The most clicks win — so click here, play the video, then pass the link on.

What else are you going to do on a snowy day?  Listen to Justin Bieber tunes?