Tag Archives: Greens Farms Elementary School

Westport Students Honor Vets

For several years, Westport schools have been in session on Veterans Day.

At first, the move was controversial. Why, some residents wondered, did our students and staff not get the federal holiday off, to honor all those who have served our country?

Of course, that’s not what most people do on Veterans Day. If you’ve got the day off, odds are you spend far less time thinking about America’s vets than you do about going to the gym, walking the dog and what’s for dinner.

Things are very different inside our schools.

Many make the day meaningful, by prepping students with special programs.

Jay Dirnberger, with a plastic helicopter made for him by a Bedford Middle School student. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Every year on or around the holiday, Bedford Middle School invites veterans to meet, in small groups, with 8th graders. The vets talk about their experiences, and lessons learned. Students ask questions, and have meaningful conversations.

Jay Dirnberger has participated for the past 8 years. He always looks forward to it — especially the attentiveness of the youngsters, and their insightful questions.

Sometimes, he says, they help him uncover long-forgotten incidents or emotions.

Jay and his wife, Molly Alger, always look forward to the thank-you notes that arrive from students a few days later. They are detailed and meaningful, she says. Every year, one or two bring her to tears.

Ted Diamond is a longtime participant too. The World War II Army Air Corps combat navigator was there again last Friday — at age 102. So were 96-year-old Larry Aasen, and 95-year-old WWII vet Leonard Everett Fisher.

Leonard Everett Fisher, at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/January Stewart)

“This is a terrific program,” Molly says, “particularly in a town that does not have a lot of family members on active military duty.” She thanks Courtney Ruggiero, David Deitch and the social studies staff for organizing this event for “the future leaders of our country.”

Bedford Middle School student thanks a vet. (Photo/January Stewart)

Veterans at Bedford Middle School. (Photo/Bob Fitzpatrick)

Greens Farms Elementary School usually holds a Veterans Day event on the actual holiday as well. This year, due to scheduling issues, it was last Friday.

For the past 7 years, 3rd grade teachers have run an all-school assembly. That’s no coincidence: instructors Amy Murtagh, Karen Frawley, Dan Seek and Michelle DeCarlo all have immediate family members who are veterans.

Murtagh’s husband is on active duty in the Marine Corps Reserves. He recently returned from a year-long deployment, including 7 months in Afghanistan. He presented GFS with a flag flown over his base.

Capt. John Murtagh, UMSC, and 3rd grade teacher Amy Murtagh. (Photo/Jenn Falik)

Frawley’s mother is a retired Air Force member. It’s important, Murtagh says, that Greens Farms students meet a female vet.

Seek’s father is also retired from the Air Force — and a former POW. DeCarlo’s father-in-law is a veteran too.

Every year, the GFS program begins with a reception. Veterans, their family and school students or staff members they’re related to swap stories.

Clockwise from bottom: Greens Farms 3rd grader Lily Jumper; Lily’s mother Lauren; Lily’s grandparents Marie Jumper, and James Jumper, electrician’s mate 3rd class, US Navy. (Photo/Jenn Falik)

The 3rd graders then run the assembly for the entire school. There is a Pledge of Allegiance, national anthem, and a discussion of why Veterans Day  is important. Then everyone sings songs from each branch of service.

Third graders teach the rest of the school about something related to the day. Past lessons have included a Missing Man table, and discussions of the Oath of Enlistment and the sacrifices veterans and their families make.

This year, the subject was the importance of our flag — including flag-folding. That was especially poignant. The ceremony was conducted by 2 vets who recently returned from deployments to Afghanistan. One — Lt. Ryan Weddle of the Navy — is the father of a current 3rd grader. On Friday, he folded the flag with Capt. John Murtagh of the Marine Corps

After the ceremony, each veteran was presented with a flag that had already been folded the traditional way. Each vet’s background and honors was noted.

Among the attendees this year: a female veteran, a Purple Heart recipient, a Combat Action Medal recipient, and veterans from multiple wars.

Veterans at Greens Farms Elementary School. (Photo/Jenn Falik)

Like Molly Alger, Amy Murtagh believes that honoring veterans in schools takes on added significance here. “Westport doesn’t have the biggest military presence,” the GFS 3rd grade teacher says. “So this is an incredible learning opportunity for our students.”

Meanwhile, it’s a regular — if special — school day today, in Westport. But Colin Corneck won’t be in class this morning.

The Staples High School senior — a member of the boys soccer team, boys swim team captain, and recipient of a Naval ROTC scholarship — will deliver the address at the town’s annual Veterans Day service.

The program begins at 10:30 a.m., with a patriotic concert by the Westport Community Band. In addition to Colin’s remarks, there’s an invocation and benediction by the Rev. Alison Patton Buttrick of Saugatuck Congregational Church; remarks from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe; placing of a memorial wreath by members of VFW Post 399 and American Legion Post 63; taps played by Community Band trumpeters, and the “Armed Forces Salute.”

Colin will represent all Westport students well. They won’t be there, because school is in session. They wouldn’t have been there if school was out, either.

But thanks to the work of teachers and staff at all levels, our youngsters today have a great knowledge of — and appreciation for — what today is all about.

Meet Stacy Fowle: Westport’s Teacher Of The Year

Growing up in Westport, Stacy Jagerson was fortunate to have many superb teachers: “legends” like Dave Harrison, Sarah Herz, Nancy Roche and George Weigle.

She also had Jo Ann Davidson and Karen Ernst, at Kings Highway Elementary and Bedford Middle School, respectively. Both are former Westport Public Schools Teachers of the Year.

Stacy — now Stacy Fowle — moved back to Westport nearly 20 years ago. Her children have gone through the Westport schools. Last year, Enia Noonan — Fowle’s daughter Addy’s Staples High Italian teacher — was selected as district Teacher of the Year.

Every fall, a different educator is chosen Teacher of the Year. The newest honoree comes from Greens Farms Elementary School: 5th grade teacher Stacy Fowle.

She’s clearly learned a lot from her former instructors and current colleagues. But her career path was not always clear.

Stacy Fowle, with her Block “S” from the Staples High School soccer team. “That’s the last award I won, before Teacher of the Year,” she jokes.

At Staples she captained the 1984 soccer team, and sang in choir. But although she looks back on her 13 years in the Westport schools “very, very fondly” — and calls her education here “amazing” — Fowle was not always a standout student.

“There were some rough patches,” she admits.

She attended St. Lawrence University, but dropped out before graduation. She traveled in India for 6 months, then volunteered as an English as a Second Language instructor in New York City.

That inspired her to take grad school courses to become a teacher. But first, she realized, she needed an undergraduate diploma.

She completed her degree at Sacred Heart University, then entered the Bank Street program.

Fowle calls the school’s progressive approach “transformational.” Her educational philosophy — “very child-centered, not top-down lecturing” — was honed there.

Stacy Fowle

Fowle taught for 7 years at PS 234 in Tribeca. She spent the next 7 as a literacy consultant, helping teachers build reading and writing curriculums.

She was living in Brooklyn on September 11, 2001. By December, Fowle, her husband and 3 young children had moved to Westport. “We were ready,” she says.

She was ready too for a new challenge.

“Consulting is lonely,” she notes. “You’re an outsider. And you’re not always received well by teachers.”

Fowle missed having her own class, and “being on a team with colleagues.”

Meanwhile, she wanted to put all the ideas she was talking about into practice.

Fourteen years ago, she got that Greens Farms 5th grade job. She’s been there ever since. This district is a great fit, she says, for her child-centered approach to education.

Stacy Fowle (3rd from left), with her Greens Farms Elementary School “team”: Mary Ellen Barry, Chris Chieppo and Christine Theiss.

Teachers of the Year do not know who nominated them, or why. But Fowle suspects she was selected in large part because of her work around sustainability, and the composting program she helped develop at her school.

Students, staff, parents, cafeteria workers and custodians — all are involved. The concept has spread to other schools in the district. Non-school organizations have taken note too.

Fowle’s environmental consciousness comes from her family. Her mother, Sherry Jagerson, began composting in the 1970s. (Decades later, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve). Her brother Ty is a leader in the solar energy field.

Stacy Fowle with her brother Ty and mother Sherry, at the New York Climate March.

Fowle praises Westport school administrators — at her school, and the town school office — for their “full support” of Greens Farms’ composting initiative.

And — much like Miss Americas take on causes like civil rights or HIV education — Fowle is using her Teacher of the Year platform to raise awareness of sustainability.

In her speech at the public schools’ convocation — the first district-wide event of the year — and last night, when the Board of Education feted her, Fowle spoke passionately about the power of students to take on “hard work” like climate change.

“It’s real. It’s our future,” she says. “We need to talk about Westport schools as a leader not just in academics, arts and sports, but the environment.”

Greens Farms students avidly join in the “zero waste” effort.

Her words have already had an impact. At a restaurant the other night a Staples teacher recognized her, and came to Fowle’s table.

“She said she’s composting now. And she’s changing the way she works,” the Teacher of the Year says proudly.

Of course, Fowle adds, the school district honor is not hers alone. It recognizes “our initiative, and the work being done by so many kids and colleagues.” She also cites administrators, parents and community members, for their support.

So what’s been the reaction of her students, to the news that their instructor is Teacher of the Year?

Not much. After all, they’re only in 5th grade.

Besides, they’re too busy composting.

Pics Of The Day #793

On Monday, 5th graders from Greens Farms Elementary School had an “after-graduation party” at Compo Beach.They just hung out, enjoying the setting sun away from their parents, close to friends who will disappear for the summer. They’ll return as middle school students in late August. Meanwhile … (Photo/Nico Eisenberger)

Here’s the flip side of life at Compo. Too many people don’t pick up after themselves. This was the scene yesterday morning: a Parks & Rec employee doing what all of us should do ourselves whenever we are at the beach. (Photo/Matt Murray)

Unsung Hero #95

The Westport school district is filled with fantastic administrators. To a man (and woman), they go far beyond their job descriptions to give personal, authentic, honest and loving devotion to everyone in their buildings.

Particularly kids.

“06880” hates to single out any one principal or vice principal for special mention. So, while we honor Kevin Cazzetta — because the Greens Farms School head has been named Elementary School Principal of the Year (and will be honored at a dinner on May 2) — he symbolizes so much that is good about our district. Today’s Unsung Hero award goes to Mr. Cazzetta, and all his fellow school building administrators.

Kevin Cazzetta

The GFS lauds him for his “even-handed approach to addressing difficult situations, and his balanced perspective in considering everyone’s near- and long-term needs, while always maintaining a focus on what is best for the students and his staff.”

He is accessible and responsive. He meets with parents on any topic. He knows each child’s needs, and works hard to figure out how best to support them.

One specific example of his hands-on approach: When a tree was planted as a memorial at GFS, the principal watered it, and tended diligently to it.

He’s also the elementary school representative on the Community Advisory Committee, representing all 5 schools in analyzing options for the coming year.

This has been a tough year for students, staff, parents and administrators. Congratulations to Kevin Cazzetta, and all his colleagues, for all they’ve done to keep all our schools on top of their game.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Unsung Hero #93

Alert “06880” reader Tracy Porosoff nominates this week’s Unsung Hero. She writes:

Nina MacMillan stands at the front door of Greens Farms Elementary School every day. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, she greets every child with a smile and a friendly hello.

Nina MacMillan

Nina has suffered through bouts of bronchitis without complaining.

She is there for early morning orchestra, chorus, band and gym. She never scolds kids when they’re late.

She starts their school day with kindness, friendship, and a sense that they are welcome and eagerly awaited.

To have our kids receive such warmth each and every day is truly a gift for which we are grateful.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

 

Pic Of The Day #701

Alert “06880” reader John Noble writes:

In Westport visiting my mom from Utah (where I now live), I decided to show some out-of-towners a hill where we used to sled as kids.

Sadly, this was the scene we came upon. The entire place was littered with broken plastic sleds and trash.

I still love my hometown Westport. But this was just ugly all around.

(Photo/John Noble)

Tyler Jent Helps “Lion King” Roar

Everyone knows “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”

But the song took on new meaning recently. As Greens Farms Elementary School prepared for its first-ever musical production — of, yes, “The Lion King” — it got a big boost from a very special alum.

Tyler Jent — who graduated from GFS  in 2006, and Staples High School 7 years later — returned to his alma mater to help prepare the young actors and dancers. He spent every Monday for 2 months with them — then more intensely as showtime neared.

This was way cool. After starring in more than a dozen Staples Players productions, then graduating from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Tyler launched his professional musical theater carer. He just finished a run in the national tour of “Kinky Boots.”

Tyler Jent — and a future Broadway star?

The Greens Farms kids were already in great shape. Westporter Laura Curley Pendergast — a former actress and dancer — had spent countless hours, along with teachers and many others, working with the cast and crew.

Tyler just gave them an extra Broadway boost.

“It was so emotional for me returning to GFS,” he said. “These kids are amazing. It’s been a blast helping Laura pull this show together.”

“The Lion King” opens tonight (March 7, 7 p.m.). It continues tomorrow (Friday, March 8, 7 p.m.), and ends Saturday (March 9, 4 p.m.). Tickets are available at the Greens Farms Elementary School door.

“Sing Daily!” Again — All Year Long

A year ago New Year’s Day, Suzanne Sherman Propp embarked on an ambitious project.

The Greens Farms Elementary School music teacher started “Sing Daily!” Each morning she posted a song on her website — and emailed it to subscribers.

Every genre was represented. Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Pete Townshend, the Indigo Girls, Billy Joel, Joan Baez — and a few of Suzanne’s original tunes too.

It was a labor of love for the 1981 Staples graduate and former Orphenian who went on to earn an MBA at Columbia University, then worked in the music industry for more than a decade before beginning her second career in education.

But “Sing Daily!” is a labor. Suzanne spends 3 to 4 hours every Sunday picking songs for the coming week. She strives for a blend of styles. She wants to set just the right mood. And of course she celebrates holidays, birthdays, anniversaries — you know, the soundtrack of our lives.

Suzanne Sherman Propp

(Because she also posts lyrics to each song, she’s meticulous about finding them online without typos. “I was an English major,” she explains.)

Suzanne ended the year with over 1,600 subscribers (and many more who are entertained on social media without subscribing.)

Which has motivated her to keep “Sing Daily!” going for Year Two.

When she began a year ago, Suzanne’s goal was to have “enough positivity and feedback to make a few people happy.”

Some days, no one comments.

But most days at least one person reacts. Just one “thank you” or email saying “my dad sang that song all the time!” makes her work “totally worth it,” Suzanne says.

The clever “Sing Daily!” logo was created by Nan Richards.

She also hears nearly every morning from her mother. The indefatigable 79-year-old Ruth Sherman will text “I love Doris Day!” or say something pithy about a lyric.

A BBC producer in London sends frequent comments too. With the time difference, they’re the first things Suzanne wakes up to.

Once, a friend of hers and a friend of her husband Peter Propp randomly met in South Carolina. A song came up in conversation. Both realized they heard it through “Sing Daily!”

That feedback keeps Suzanne going. So do notes from former Staples teachers Dave Harrison and Gerry Kuroghlian, and principal Kaye May — all of whom were instrumental in helping her switch careers.

“Sing Daily!” has succeeded without any kind of business plan. Suzanne does not sign anyone up. They find her organically — often through word (or song) of mouth.

Speaking of no business plan: Suzanne not only does not make money from her project, she actually loses it. She pays web hosting fees and subscriber software herself.

As 2018 ended, Suzanne was not sure whether to continue the project. The 3 to 4 hours she spends every Sunday are precious time away from her family.

Suzanne Sherman Propp and Peter Propp, ukeleles in hand.

But her husband encouraged her to keep going. “You love it!” he pointed out.

So “Sing Daily!” will entertain subscribers — and other music-lovers — for another year.

It will surprise them too.

As it did me.

On my birthday, Suzanne chose a song with a soccer theme. It was a wonderful, amazing gift.

The same one she delivers to all of us every morning, 365 more days this year.

Click here for the “Sing Daily!” website. You can also follow on Facebook, Instagram (@singdailydotcom) and Twitter (@singdailydotcom). 

(“Waka Waka” by Shakira was the official song of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This was Suzanne Sherman Propp’s Song of the Day on my birthday.)

Green’s Farms United: Neighbors Band Together

Greens Farms means many things, to many people.

It’s filled with rolling hills, old homes, a small beach, a friendly train station and post office, and a stately elementary school.

That school sits on the northern edge of the neighborhood. It’s an area that residents feel is under siege.

Just across the Post Road, a 94-unit apartment building is quickly filling up. Twelve apartments have been constructed on the site of the former Geiger’s property, with 32 assisted living apartments being built next door.

The bank/office complex at the Post Road/North Morningside corner has just been sold. That too may be converted into apartments.

Now 19 townhouses have been proposed for 20-26 South Morningside — the Historic District directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School.

Green’s Farms United created this map to show recent and planned housing developments near Greens Farms School.

A group called Green’s Farms United has had enough.

Energized families created a website and GoFundMe page. They’re on Facebook and Instagram. They organized an email list, alerting Westporters about upcoming hearings.

They hired an environmental engineer. And a lawyer.

They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.

They want everyone to know what’s coming up — and what’s come before.

They’ve seen the effects after the Morningside South developer removed trees near Muddy Brook in 2017: soil erosion and flooding increased.

But something else happened.

“We started as a group of Greens Farms families, concerned about the 20-26 Morningside Drive South future,” says one of the organizers, Aurea de Souza.

“We are now a group of friends and neighbors fighting for a cause, while enjoying and appreciating meeting so many incredible people on the way.”

They take heart from neighbors on the other side of town, who are battling the proposed 6-story, 81-unit apartment complex between Lincoln and Cross Streets, off Post Road West.

They are Green’s Farms United.

That’s more than just their name.

It’s their neighborhood.

And their lives.

The current view of 20-26 Morningside Drive South (left), directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School, and an overlay of where the proposed 19 townhouses would be built.

Pics Of The Day #484

Lucky lifeguard chair, a couple of hours ago … (Photo/Nancy Axthelm)

… and the view by the cannons… (Photo/Jen Greely)

… plus this full hemi rainbow … (Photo/Seth Goltzer)

… and a pot of gold at Greens Farms Elementary School. (Photo/Kurt Dasbach)