Tag Archives: Greens Farms Elementary School

Greens Farms Dares Other Elementary School: Take The ALS Pepper Challenge!

Every holiday season for years, Greens Farms Elementary School students, staff and parents have raised money to purchase gifts and necessities for needy Westport families. One of their major fundraisers is a Walk-a-Thon.

Patty Haberstroh — the Department of Human Services program specialist in charge of the town holiday giving program — has always supported the Walk-a-Thon, and all of GFS’ efforts, fully and enthusiastically.

Each year, she tells the kids how wonderful their contributions are, and how much they’re helping neighbors in need. She inspires everyone, of all ages, to do as much as they could.

Now Patty’s been diagnosed with ALS. And Greens Farms El is supporting her just as energetically as she’s done for them.

The other day, students, teachers, administrators and parents — some of whom no longer have children at the school — came together.

The event was the #ALS Pepper Challenge. Principal Kevin Cazzetta, assistant principal Christopher Breyan, phys. ed teacher Lisa Thomas, music teacher Suzanne Propp and seven parents ate hot peppers — after, of course, soliciting funds to do it. Money raised will benefit ALS research.

In the video below, parent Melissa Levy explains how much Patty means to Greens Farms. Then parent Kathryn St. Andre mentions the song the Walk-a-Thon participants always sing with Ms. Propp: “I Wish.”

The highlight comes at the end of the video. Greens Farms students challenge all the other elementary schools in town — well, the staff and parents there, anyway — to take the ALS challenge in honor of Patty.

Game on!

(Click here for the Haberstrohs’ hot pepper challenge donation page.)

Suzanne Sherman: Sing Daily!

Suzanne Sherman Propp loves to sing.

At Staples High School, the 1981 graduate sang in the Orphenians and choir. (She also played violin in the chamber orchestra, acted in Players, and was a cheerleader. She does not realize there are only 24 hours in a day.)

At Colgate University — where she majored in music and English — Suzanne led the a cappella Swinging ‘Gates group (and continued to play violin).

She then spent a year in Utah, working at an Alta ski lodge in the bar, at the front desk, and playing music.

Back in Westport, she accompanied herself on guitar at coffeehouses like Grassroots.

Suzanne went on to earn an MBA at Columbia University — and leveraged it to work in the music industry. She worked in new business development for a record label, and for Mark Spector — a Westport resident who was Joan Baez’s manager.

A casual conversation with 3 of her former Staples teachers — Dave Harrison, Dick Leonard and Phil Woodruff — at a Christmas carol sing (!) inspired her to change careers. They wondered why she wasn’t teaching.

Suzanne was certified in 1998. The next year she was hired to be Greens Farms Elementary School’s (surprise!) music teacher. She’s been there ever since.

Suzanne Sherman Propp

Suzanne’s more-than-24-hour days — which included raising 2 children — leave her plenty of time to spend on her newest project: Sing Daily!

Every day, Suzanne picks a song. She posts it on her website, and emails it to subscribers. After (hopefully) warming up their voices, everyone is invited to sing her Song of the Day.

“Singing makes you feel better,” Suzanne explains. “It livens your spirit. I see it every day in school. It’s been proven by studies. Everybody should sing every day!”

Suzanne Sherman Propp (center, in back wearing a hat) with young singers.

But — the morning shower aside — we don’t really know what or where to sing. And — lacking Suzanne’s beautiful voice — most of us are intimidated belting out a tune.

So Suzanne helps us along. She’s curated a varied list. There’s “Home on the Range,” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love?”

Every genre is represented. There are songs by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Pete Townshend, the Indigo Girls, Herman’s Hermits, Billy Joel and (of course) Joan Baez. She includes a few original songs too, but downplays their importance. “I’m not trying to sell anything,” Suzanne notes.

Sometimes there are obvious tie-ins. On her husband Peter’s birthday, Suzanne wrote a special song for him. (Of course — why not?! — she also created an accompanying YouTube video).

She’ll celebrate holidays and special occasions. But sometimes, they’ll be secret. For example, the Greens Farms principal loves “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” That will be the Song of the Day on his birthday — though no one will know why.

Suzanne welcomes suggestions. “There are 365 days in a year. That’s a lot of songs!” she says.

She launched her project without a lot of publicity. Still, it’s found plenty of fans. One is her mother, Ruth Sherman. “She’s not a singer,” Suzanne says. “But she loves it!”

That’s the whole idea. You don’t have to be a singer. You just have to sing.

Actually, I’m wrong.

“Everyone is a singer!” Suzanne insists. “Try it. Your life will change!”

(Click here for Suzanne Sherman Propp’s Sing Daily! website.)

“In Wonderful Westport…”

When technical difficulties prevented a video of 2nd graders singing Westport’s praises from being shown at last night’s swearing-in of town officials, most of the Town Hall audience probably breathed a sigh of relief.

There’s a thin line between cute and cringe-worthy. Very few of the board, commission and RTM members wanted to test it.

But 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had an ace up his sleeve: Suzanne Sherman Propp,  and her Greens Farms Elementary School music students.

The song — which she and the kids wrote, with Cheryl Buck — is catchy and clever. It covers tons of Westport people, places and history. The 2nd graders are not the Vienna Boys’ Choir (for one thing, there are girls), but they carry a tune better than I do.

And the video — produced by Josh Margolis — is first-rate. Newcomers, old-timers and (especially) ex-pats will love the fast-paced photos. (It’s also clever. When the kids sing about famous families and come to “Sherwood,” there’s a shot of the diner.)

So go ahead. Click below. Enjoy the show!

Pic Of The Day #66

School is almost out — and these Greens Farms Elementary graduates Matthew Bukzin and Aiden Schachter could not be happier. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Pic Of The Day #20

Greens Farms Elementary School (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Friday Flashback #32

The Westport Historical Society’s “School Days” exhibit — highlighting Westport education from 1703 to the present — closes tomorrow. Visitors give it high marks.

Westport schools have come a long way in 3 centuries. Two in particular are worth noting.

Today, Saugatuck Elementary School is located on Riverside Avenue. It’s the same building that previously housed Bedford Middle School. Before that, Bedford Junior High School. And before that, it was Staples High.

Yet Saugatuck El started out on Bridge Street. That building is now “The Saugatuck” — senior housing.

But that’s the 3rd incarnation. Prior to Saugatuck Elementary, a wooden building on the same spot was called the Bridge Street School.

The postcard above was printed before 1916. That’s when a new wing was added.

Meanwhile, across town, the handsome, Charles Cutler-designed Greens Farms Elementary School we know so well opened in 1925.

But it too was not the first school on the site. Here’s the original building:

That building was not torn down when its replacement was constructed. Like so many other structures in town, it was moved. It is believed to still stand, not far away on South Morningside or Turkey Hill.

[UPDATE: According to alert “06880” reader Chris Woods, the structure is on Clapboard Hill Road, between Morningside and Turkey Hill. It’s currently being renovated — again.)

(Postcards courtesy of Jack Whittle)

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #97

The letters shown in last week’s photo challenge — “GF” — narrowed the prospects considerably. Clearly, they were somewhere in Greens Farms.

But where?

Only one “06880” reader — Susan Huppi — knew they could be found on Greens Farms Elementary School. Not Greens Farms Academy, the post office or anywhere else nearby, as others guessed. (Click here for the photo, and all the comments.)

Wrong readers were consoled by this great info, posted by Seth Schachter (who also took the photo). He wrote:

The building that is presently Greens Farms School was built in 1925 by Charles E. Cutler, a hands-on architect. It is the only Tudor Revival school building in Westport, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It was originally designed for a student population of around 200.

Charles Cutler built several notable buildings in town including Westport Bank and Trust (now Patagonia), the “Lindbergh house” on Long Lots (they only spent a summer there), Governor Lodge’s houses and several Beachside homes.

Additions to GFS were done in the 1950s and then the ’90’s. As with the older Greens Farms School on Clapboard, philanthropist Edward T. Bedford helped fund the new school (in addition to Bedford Elementary School on Myrtle Avenue, currently used as Town Hall).

In 1983, due to declining student enrollment, GFS was closed as a school and converted into a home for the Westport Arts Center and Senior Center. In the early 1990’s, with an increase in student population, Westport spent over $16 million to renovate and expand the building. In 1997, GFS was reopened for school use.

So now you know.

And now on to this week’s photo challenge:

(Photo/Peter Tulupman)

(Photo/Peter Tulupman)

If you know where it is, click “Comments” below.

Here’s a hint: Peter Tulupman took this gorgeous shot on a morning walk.

School’s Open. Be Careful Out There!

It took exactly one day from the opening of school for the first drivers to race by, totally ignoring a stopped bus and causing an accident.

A Greens Farms Elementary school bus pulled up to the Regents Park curb around 3:40 p.m. this afternoon. The stop sign was extended, yet cars in the opposite (westbound) direction roared past.

The driver honked. One car hit its brakes. But the 2 cars behind were going so fast, they could not stop. The result: a 3-car rear-end collision that sent one person to the hospital.

Police and fire trucks responded quickly. Still, it was quite an experience for at least one kindergartner, whose parents described the scene.

Two of the vehicles in this afternoon's Post Road East crash.

Two of the vehicles in this afternoon’s Post Road East crash.

There are 2 issues here. One is the law: When a school bus is stopped, all drivers must stop too. That’s a no-brainer. The safety of our kids trumps your need to get wherever you are late going.

The second issue is that this section of the Post Road — Regents Park, Balducci’s, and nearby areas — has become increasingly hazardous. Condo residents believe it’s just a matter of time before a tragedy occurs.

There are no stop signs, lights or crosswalks. But there are 2 active driveways and parking lots on opposite sides of the highly trafficked 4-lane street, with cars often exceeding 40 miles an hour.

Interestingly, a police car was parked this morning in the Zaniac parking lot, monitoring this situation during the school bus pickup.

Residents of Regents Park (right) worry constantly about this dangerous stretch of the Post Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Residents of Regents Park (right) worry constantly about this dangerous stretch of the Post Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Traffic will not get better. Last night, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved plans for a 4-story, 94-unit rental property not far away: on Post Road East, opposite Crate & Barrel.

On the other hand, the proposal includes affordable housing units that will help the town earn a 4-year moratorium on complying with the state’s 8-30g statute.

Kindness Rocks

In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre — and at a time when political discourse seems impossibly polarized — it’s nice to hear about a few elementary school students who believe “kindness rocks.”


Visitors to Compo Beach recently noticed a pile of colorful rocks. Looking closely, they see that each bears a message: “Happiness.” “Love.” “Hope.” “Be yourself.”

Kindness Rocks 1

A sign near the rocks urges anyone to take home a rock that they like — and perhaps create one of their own, to leave it for others to find.

“Take one, leave one, give one!” the sign says. “Kindness is contagious!”

The “Kindness Rocks Project” is the brainchild of Greens Farms Elementary School teachers Karen Frawley and Michelle DeCarlo. They run a group called Long Neck Leaders — 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who get to school early twice a month, and come up with ideas to make a difference. Last year, they created a schoolwide “Patches Plunge” and raised $6,000 for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Karen heard about the Kindness Project — meant to promote “random acts of kindness and inspiration to unsuspecting recipients” — and pitched it to the kids. They loved it.

Long Neck Leaders (from left) Michelle DeCarlo, 4th grader Arthur Skatoff and Karen Frawley.

Long Neck Leaders (from left) Michelle DeCarlo, 4th grader Arthur Skatoff and Karen Frawley.

Sure, it’s a little thing.

But isn’t it nice to read this, rather than another story about another mass murder?

And wouldn’t it be nice if we followed these elementary school students’ lead?

(Hat tip: Suzanne Sherman Propp)






Westport Arts Center: Susan Malloy’s Living Legacy

In her 91 years, Susan Malloy was an exceptionally generous presence in Westport. Her time, energy and financial contributions aided countless organizations in town. The accolades pouring in after her death yesterday morning are heartfelt, well deserved, and broad in scope.

It’s hard to quantify which of so many institutions benefited the most from Susan’s generosity. But at least one most definitely would not be here today without her.

In 1947 a group of Westport artists began meeting informally — “and riotously,” according to a 2002 New York Times story — at various locations in town.

By 1969 they’d evolved into the Westport-Weston Arts Council. Their home was a tiny office in Town Hall.

In 1984, Joyce Thompson told the Times, the group needed its own home. They asked to use the former Greens Farms Elementary School — shuttered a few years earlier, when the student population declined.

After a year of negotiation, they agreed on a lease: $1 a year.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center first real home.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center’s first real home.

The newly named Westport Arts Center had to raise plenty of money, though. An oil tank had to be buried; steps needed to be installed — in addition to classrooms being converted into studios, halls painted white to use as a gallery, and the auditorium converted into a performance space.

The new center hosted art exhibitions, chamber concerts, children’s sculpture workshops and jazz jams.

But in the 1990s, the Times reports, the school population rose. The town wanted its school back. The Arts Center countered that they’d invested plenty of money in the building.

WACAfter heated negotiations the town paid the WAC over $500,000 to break the lease, and reimburse them for their improvements.

The Arts Center went on the road. They held concerts at the Seabury Center, the library and school auditoriums. They hung paintings wherever they could.

What they really needed was a home.

Heida Hermanns, a concert pianist who settled in Westport after fleeing the Holocaust in World War II, had set up a foundation to fund the Arts Center. But it wasn’t enough. And the settlement from the town had been designated for programs.

Susan Malloy stepped into the breach. “I could see the search was going nowhere,” the Times quoted her as saying. “Nothing was right. This place was too small, another wasn’t even in Westport, so I finally said, ‘OK. I’ll stake the arts center.”

Susan Malloy -- an artist herself -- helped the  Westport Arts Center survive.

Susan Malloy — an artist herself — helped the Westport Arts Center survive.

Her funds covered the rent for 2 years. It also inspired more donations. The result: In June of 2002, the Westport Arts Center opened its own home, on Riverside Avenue.

It’s been there for 13 happy, fruitful, artistic years. The WAC is now as permanent a part of the town as the library or Historical Society (2 other beneficiaries of Susan Malloy’s largesse).

It’s easy to forget the past. In Susan Malloy’s case, she wasn’t looking for praise, or even thanks. She simply saw a need, and filled it.

Think of that the next time you go to the Westport Arts Center. Or drive past it.

Or the next time someone asks you to help out your town, in any way you can.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.