The subject evokes dull concepts like capital cities, rivers and mountain ranges. It’s not the sexiest subject on the planet.
But that rep is wrong. Geography captivates Sid Kumar. The Greens Farms Elementary School 5th grader has used it to learn about music, religions, cuisines, currencies and much more.
And it’s earned him a trip to Quebec City next spring. Sid finished 11th nationally in the International Academic Competitions’ geography championship.
Sid Kumar, with flags of the world.
Entering both the elementary school and junior varsity divisions, he answered multiple rounds of long, detailed questions about history, statues, resources — all the things that make the world so exciting for Sid.
His journey began in preschool. His parents, Dinesh and Shilpa, got him US and world puzzles. That led to geography-related toys, then books, atlases, and music, flag and travel videos.
Along with the entertaining, educational Geography Now YouTube channel.
Sid quickly discovered that “geography” involves politics, culture, and so much more.
Including money. Among his many other interests — like guitar, karate, swimming and ice skating — Sid has already collected currencies from 106 countries.
Of the dozen or so countries he’s been to, Sid can’t pick a favorite. Each, he says, has something making it special.
Of the places he has not yet seen, Cuba tops the list. Among its attractions: beaches, and “the style of Havana.”
Sid will no doubt get there, some time. But first comes a trip north, to Quebec.
It’s a city with great food, plenty of history — and a challenging, exciting international geography competition.
I’m sure you’ve covered this in the past. But I’m curious about the history of the boat “Gloria” that I pass every day as I ride through Longshore. And what might the future hold for this venerable vessel? (John Richers)
Short answer: Yes, I’ve written about Gloria many times. Click here for some of those stories and photos.
Longer story: Alan Sterling built the wooden oyster boat himself. He named it after an old girlfriend, and took it oystering on 150 acres of beds, between Compo Beach and Cockenoe Island. It was a tough job, but Alan — a Staples grad — loved it from the day he began, in 1964.
Alan moored Gloria in Gray’s Creek, between Compo Beach Road and the Longshore exit. Some winters, he lived on the boat. It was cold — but it was home.
On July 4, 2014, Alan died of a heart attack.
After that, Gloria drifted. Michael Calise took care of it. Earlier this year, it washed up on shore. Its future is uncertain. It’s an old boat that’s seen a lot, and given many Westporters years of joy.
I am new to Westport, from Brooklyn. I know there is talk about revitalizing downtown, and bringing in businesses to fill some of the vacancies. I’m curious if there has ever been a survey of what people would like to see downtown? I am interested in business ownership, and really being part of the community. I wonder what type of businesses folks think would be needed and supported. (Travis Rew-Porter)
Travis, this is awesome. I don’t know of any consumer/user survey. It’s a great idea.
And readers: If you’d like to work with Travis on a business or revitalization project, click “Comments” below!
What kind of businesses do Westporters want? Great question! (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)
Does Public Works have any input into local traffic lights? The timing at Morningside Drive/Post Road has changed to prioritize the Post Road more dramatically. The green light for Morningside lasts just 3 seconds. It is impossible to cross on foot. Help! (Amy Bedi)
Unfortunately, nearly every light in town is on a state road. Those balls are in the Department of Transportation’s court.
Click here for a link to report issues to the DOT. But don’t hold your breath.
Town officials — including the 1st selectman and Department of Public Works — are in contact with the state about traffic lights. They can sometimes push things along. But they don’t hold their breath either.
Can Westporters use the track at Staples to run, jog or walk? If so, is it time restricted? Do you need a pass? (Carmen Castedo)
The Laddie Lawrence Track at Paul Lane Field (the first time I’ve written that!) is open to all — except during the school day, or when it’s used after school by the track team, or if there is another sports event going on.
No pass is needed. But keep Fido home!
The Laddie Lawrence Track, at Paul Lane Field. (File photo; the track is now blue.)
What happened to the time capsule that was buried at Greens Farms Elementary School for the bicentennial? I heard that at one time 3 people had plans and permission to dig it up. There is a new road in front of the school. You have a lot of fans who were involved in the project. (A passive-aggressive reader: This was sent by mail, with no name or return address.)
I addressed this in 2012. The answer was the same then: No one knows. (Click here to see.)
But one reader responded with a back story:
I remember the time capsule at Greens Farms El in 1976. It was buried in the front lawn. All the classes/grades were asked to participate in drawings (I think that I was in maybe 3rd grade & our class drew pictures of ourselves and described our lives. We all mused how fun it would be for people 100 years later to see how we lived).
A crane dug a deep hole, and there was quite a bit of ceremony around the time capsule being buried. I’ve told people about it over the years, only to wonder if anyone else remembered it, as well:)
If anyone can dig deeper (ho ho), click “Comments” below.
Has anyone seen my time capsule? (Photo/Seth Schachter)
Some 80 years ago I lived on 573 Imperial Avenue, at the corner of Wakeman Place. The numbers have been reset, but the house is still there. My brothers and I used to swim in the river. I remember diving off “White Rock,” which was close to the shore. Is it still there, or am I dreaming? (Karl Taylor)
You’re probably not dreaming, but I have not heard of it. Wakeman Place residents: What’s the deal?
Wakeman Place at Imperial Avenue. Karl, was this your house?
Why did the state Department of Transportation remove and replace the trees, bushes and buffering hills from the northbound side of the Merritt Parkway, near the Westport Weston Family YMCA? It cost a lot of money. Was the outcome worth the expense? (Jacque O’Brien)
I asked State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, who serves on the House Transportation Committee. He says that location was a major staging area for projects up and down the Merritt.
Now that equipment and material has been moved in and out, it’s time to replace what was lost.
New trees on the Merritt Parkway, near the Y. (Photo/Bob Mitchell)
What first inspired you to start “06880,” and did you ever think it would keep you this busy? (Jack Krayson)
Wow! I didn’t expect an “06880” question on “06880.”
I started the blog in March of 2009. I was a columnist for the Westport News (I still am!), but realized the future of print journalism was, um, iffy. I wanted to continue to write about town people, issues, events and history. Someone suggested I start a blog.
“No way!” I said. (That’s also what I said about cell phones, when they came in. And computers, before that.)
But he showed me WordPress, a great blogging platform. I learned the basics in a weekend. Here we are, 13,000+ posts (and 136,000+ comments later).
I never dreamed it would keep me this busy. If I knew then what I know now …
The pandemic was tough. At times, it was hard to believe the sun would come up tomorrow.
But it did. We persevered. And now we’re reaping the rewards.
Among them: a production of “Annie Jr.” by Greens Farms Elementary School 5th graders.
The show — on June 4-6, outdoors near Bedford Square — is a collaboration with TheaterCamp4KidsBroadwayAcademy.com. But it would not have been possible without help from throughout the community.
Many were available only because of COVID.
“We have the most wonderful young actors, parents, and theater and dance professionals,” says Laura Curley Pendergast, TheaterCamp owner and artistic director.
Volunteers include a Rockette, a former choreographer for “Disney on Ice,” professional actors and set designers, and others.
In true the-show-must-go-on style, TheaterCamp faced — and overcame — many challenges. Among them: Though they earned nearly $10,000 in ticket sales after the March 2020 production of “Beauty and the Beast” at GFS, the ticket company never paid them.
“After many attempts we finally gave up. The cost of an attorney was just too expensive,” Pendergast says.
“We thought we could not do a play this year for our very talented 5th graders, who had been waiting in the ensemble for 2 years for their turn to star.”
Rehearsing “Annie Jr.” at Bedford Square.
But many Westporters stepped up. Among them: David Waldman, who provided space to rehearse and perform at Bedford Square.
Tecknow’s Phil Levieff lent musical equipment for rehearsals — along with technical know-how.
Professional film and stage actor Emily Hooper serves as musical director. David Hoffman, a Dartmouth student and accomplished actor, is assistant director and stage manager. Staples High and middle school students are interning with the show.
Professional actor Jim Lauten — also a talented painter and builder — donated all of the rolling sets.
Costumes were provided by designer Pam Beaudoin, who lives at Bedford Square.
Parents Jenny Perlman and Laurie Ginsberg handle ticket sales — not an outside company. (Pendergast learned her lesson.)
She is grateful for the help of other locals with impressive resumes. Kristine Nielsen (a GFS parent) is a professional dancer who choreographed “Disney on Ice” for years.
Former Rockette and Knicks dancer Kelly Potter McHale is another “Annie Jr.” choreographers. So is Kim Porio.
Costumes have been handled by a hard-working trio: Marisa Zer, Taran Gulliksen and Shobana Mani-Lorenzato.
Volunteers help the young actors make magic.
One of the first rehearsals was at the GFS basketball court in cold and rain. After seeking shelter on the school’s front porch, the young actors found a way to make it a fun day. It remains a favorite memory.
The sun eventually came out. And so — next week — will the young actors and dancers in “Annie Jr.”
(“Annie Jr. is performed Friday, June 4 at 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 5 at 2 and 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 6 at 2 p.m., outdoors near Bedford Square. Tickets are $18 each. They can be purchased by Venmo (@laura-pendergast-2), PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or check (payable to “TheaterCamp4Kids,” c/o Laurie Ginsberg, 209 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880). Questions? Email email@example.com. To help via GoFundMe, click here.)
Meanwhile, the fledgling Saugatuck Elementary Theater Club also struggled with how to continue this year.
They too decided the show must go on. They chose “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”, with a twist. They’d record parts individually, and create a movie in lieu of a live show.
With a small cast and cartoon quality, it lent itself to green screens and graphics, rather than props and elaborate costumes. That was a great fit for the pandemic.
Luckily, local Broadway star Jaden Waldman — who just happens to be a Saugatuck 5th grade — had some COVID-induced time on his hands. He’s a perfect Charlie Brown.
Jaden Waldman as Charlie Brown, Phoebe Nunziato as Lucy.
Other roles were double cast, to provide more opportunities for the young actors. The 2 casts were called “Saugie” and “Tuck.”
Rehearsals were held on Zoom. Leads recorded practice songs each week, then uploaded them to receive feedback.
Blocking was recorded by director Katie Bloom, and shared via instructional videos.
Each child sang alone. Vocal tracks were then layered together. Zoom recordings were deconstructed and reconstructed. Microphones and green screens were juggled between cast members’ houses. When possible, they came together for a socially distanced scene or two.
The “Tuck” cast rehearses via Zoom.
The project required dedication and responsibility seldom demanded of 10- year-olds.
It all culminates Wednesday (June 2) in a big way: the big screen at the Remarkable Theatre. Congratulations to all the good men — and women, and children — who helped make “Charlie Brown” a reality.
(The Remarkable Theater opens at 6:30 p.m. The show starts at sunset, and costs $40 per car. A pizza truck will be on the premises. For tickets — or to stream the show on June 4, 7 p.m. —click here.)
(Hat tips: Jenny Perlman Robinson and Pamela Long)
Posted onMay 11, 2021|Comments Off on Greens Farms Book Gifts: The Sequel
Yesterday, “06880” reported on Greens Farms Elementary School’s great project. Students solicited pledges by reading books. Funds raised went to “Read For Change” — a program organized by parents Leigh Cataudo and Liz Leary to purchase books for students at Bridgeport’s Luis Muñoz Marin School. Every student could select 2 new books of their own, at a Scholastic fair.
On Friday, Leigh and Liz watched with smiles as 7th and 8th graders chose their books.
Yesterday, it was younger students’ turn.
“I wish we could have bottled up the excitement appreciation and pure joy of these kindergartners, 1st and 2nd graders to share with our students,” Leigh says.
“It was nothing short of magical. This was the first time in over a year most students were able to physically interact with books. The school library was closed due to COVID, and any classroom library that would be accessible is still ‘packed up.'”
Leigh and Liz received countless hugs of thanks, which they were asked to pass along to GFS families.
They plan for a second “Read For Change” next year. And they’d like to bring some Greens Farms students with them, to share in the magic.
Comments Off on Greens Farms Book Gifts: The Sequel
Dan Sullivan — a longtime teacher and administrator, who had a profound impact on the Westport Public Schools — died Monday, surrounded by his family. He was 81.
Sullivan (not to be confused with the Staples High School Latin teacher with the same name) began his career here in 1964, as a Long Lots Junior High School math teacher.
He was named department chair in 1969, then vice principal in 1973. In 1986 he moved to Coleytown Elementary School as principal. He retired in 1997; served as a special assistant for building, planning and construction, then returned full-time in 2001 as principal of Greens Farms Elementary.
Those are the facts. But they don’t convey the warmth, empathy or great good humor that made Dan Sullivan a legend in Westport education.
I was not exactly an Einsteinian math pupil. But I had Mr. Sullivan in 8th grade, and he made math actually fun. Like any great teacher, he loved his subject. But he understood that not all of us would be mathematicians — and that was okay. He also had a wicked sense of humor.
Later, when I was a substitute teacher, Long Lots was a favorite school. Mr. Sullivan fostered a warm, loving schoolwide environment. I saw how he treated every student sent to the office as a special individual, worthy of his time, his ear and his respect.
In the 1980s and ’80s, Long Lots had a very complex schedule. Classes were varying lengths: science labs were long and met only a couple of times a week; foreign language classes were short but met often, for example.
Because of those time periods, very few classes let out at the same time. The halls were never crowded — the bane of any school.
It was a brilliant schedule. It was devised completely by Mr. Sullivan — all by hand. Many schools could have benefited from the setup. Of course, no other other had a Dan Sullivan to create and implement it.
And — this would never happen today, for many reasons — he allowed a neighborhood dog the free run of school. One day Doozer wandered in to Long Lots, and never left. He roamed the halls, sat in on classes, and lay down in the cafeteria.
Most vice principals would have called Animal Control. Mr. Sullivan turned a blind eye (when he wasn’t petting him). It helped make Long Lots feel not like a school, but a home.
Mr. Sullivan had a similar impact on colleagues throughout the Westport Public Schools. He was an innovative thinker, a wise mentor, and a very funny guy.
Dan Sullivan graduated from Milford High School in 1957. He earned a BS from Southern Connecticut State College, an MS in secondary supervision from the University of Bridgeport, and certificates in advanced studies for administration and supervision from Fairfield University and Teachers College, Columbia University.
He later became an adjunct professor at both the University of Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University.
Mr. Sullivan is survived by 4 children: Kevin of Los Angeles, Maureen and Lorna of Philadelphia, Daniel of Fairfield, and 6 grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife Lorna.
The big day is Tuesday. Nearly 6 months after closing — and a week after the original date — students return to Westport schools.
Many things will be different. They’ll attend in shifts: half in classrooms, half studying remotely. Desks will be 6 feet apart. Some hallways will be one-way. And those are just a few of the changes COVID has wrought.
Some youngsters have not even driven past their schools in half a year. To remind them of what they look like, here is a special “Friday Flashback” drone gallery. All images are courtesy of multi-talented and spectacular Staples High School senior Brandon Malin. (Click on or hover over any photo to enlarge.)
To start off, here’s the school he’s headed back to:
Bedford Middle School
Coleytown Middle School (construction project)
Coleytown Elementary School
Greens Farms Elementary School
Kings HIghway Elementary School
Long Lots Elementary School
Saugatuck Elementary School
Bonus feature: Greens Farms Academy (All drone photos/Brandon Malin)
The “Buddy Bench” at Greens Farms Elementary School is a gift from the 5th grade Class of 2014. If someone feels lonely, they sit there. Other students are invited to join. These days, we all need a Buddy Bench! (Photo/Seth Schachter)
Each morning while on a coffee run I drive by Greens Farms Elementary School. I see the same person holding a stop sign to control traffic, and ensure the safety of children crossing the street.
This has been going on for years. It is a tribute to our school system, and the Westport Police Department that controls the program.
The other day I stopped and talk to the crossing guard. Jerry Meehan told me he had been doing this for nearly 8 years.
Jerry Meehan at work …
He had just helped Case and Jasper get to school. Jerry normally chats with moms and dads after assisting children. Today he also gave a dog a little treat.
The old adage for mail carriers applies to them, though modified slightly: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers (school guards) from the swift completion of their appointed rounds (tasks).”
Every day the guards protect our children for 2 hours before the opening of school, and 2 hours after it ends. Jerry works from 7:05 to 9 a.m., and 2 to 4 p.m.
The program is run by Lieutenant Jill Cabana of the Westport Police. There are 6 crossing guards, and 1 alternate. All have been working for at least 3 years, except Brienna Meier who started this fall.
… which also includes chatting with parents, and giving a dog a treat. (Photo/Bob Weingarten)
“They all do wonderful jobs,” Cabana says. “They are at school crossings on sunny days and inclement weather. The guards are another set of eyes and ears for us, making sure that everyone get to their destination in one piece.
“They are polite. They chitchat with moms, dads and kids, and are really unsung heroes. They deserve recognition.”
Let’s recognize them by name:
Jerry Meehan (Greens Farms Elementary School, at Morningside Drive South)
Richard Space (Kings Highway Elementary School at Post Road West and Burr Road)
William Wanat (Long Lots Elementary School at Maple Avenue North and Hyde Lane)
Joan Lasprogato (Long Lots Elementary School at Hyde Lane and Long Lots Road)
Mary DelFlorio (Coleytown Elementary School at North Avenue and Easton Road)
Brienna Meier (Kings Highway Elementary School at Post Road West and Lincoln Street)
Kathryn O’Reardon (alternate).
Westport’s children, parents, teachers — and drivers: Thank you all!
(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
In 1925, Edward T. Bedford contributed most of the funds to build Greens Farms Elementary School. The handsome building on the corner of State Street (Route 1/Post Road) and South Morningside was designed by architect Charles Cutler. (He also built Westport Bank & Trust, now Patagonia.)
It brought together pupils from 3 schools: East Long Lots, West Long Lots, and Lower Greens Farms.
That “lower” school was located at 37 Clapboard Hill Road — with funds previously donated by Mr. Bedford. It started as 2 rooms; he later added 2 more. In 1916 it looked like this:
According to Kitty Field Graves, who grew up in the house (and lived there from 1944 to 1960), for several years after the new school was built, the Clapboard Hill property became “a kind of boarding house or single room occupancy.”
During the Depression, an interior designer purchased the house and incorporated stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, mahogany paneling and more from the demolished Wendell Mansion in New York.
The building still stands, as a private residence. It’s a bit larger than when it was a school. But it’s just as graceful — 21st-century style.
Thanks to alert “06880” reader/amateur historian Seth Schachter, for the postcard of the school, and today’s image via Zillow.
Click here to help support “06880” via credit card or PayPal. Any amount is welcome — and appreciated! Reader contributions keep this blog going. (Alternate methods: Please send a check to: Dan Woog, 301 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Or use Venmo: @DanWoog06880. Or Zelle: email@example.com. Thanks!)