Tag Archives: Greens Farms Elementary School

“Annie Jr.” And “Charlie Brown”: Elementary School Actors Shine

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 (curleylaura@hotmail.com) or check (payable to “TheaterCamp4Kids,” c/o Laurie Ginsberg, 209 Greens Farms Road, Westport, CT 06880). Questions? Email anniejr2021westport@gmail.com. To help via GoFundMe, click here.)

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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)

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.

(Photos/Leigh Cataudo)

Remembering Dan Sullivan

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.

Dan Sullivan

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.

A private service will be held tomorrow. Donations can be made to Alzheimer’s research, in his memory. Click here to send condolences to his family.

Election Day: Long Lines, Excitement And Hand Sanitizer

8,000 Westport voters mailed in or dropped off ballots before Election Day.

But thousands of others did not.

Before dawn today, they lined up at polling places around town.

At Greens Farms Elementary School, the line snaked all the way around the perimeter of the parking lot.

Greens Farms Elementary School this morning … (Photo/Matt Murray)

A man in his 50s who grew up here says, “I have never had to wait a minute to vote at Coleytown El. I got here at 6:11. This line is amazing.” As at Greens Farms, it stretched far into the lot.

,,, and Coleytown Elementary School … (Photo/Dan Donovan)

When the Saugatuck Elementary School doors opened, approximately 200 people were already waiting.

The process was very efficient. A voter who joined the line near the football field was done voting 15 minutes later.

… and Saugatuck Elementary School … (Photo/Chip Stephens)

By 6:15, more than 50 men and women stood outside the Westport Library. By 6:45, they stretched through the police station parking lot, to Jesup Road.

… and the Westport Library.

Inside the library, poll watchers — including several high school students — offered voters hand sanitizer (optional) and gloves (mandatory).

Others checked names, and directed them to (socially distanced) voting stations.

The mood was cheery, and civic-minded.

In many ways, it was an election unlike any Westporters have ever seen.

In others, it was just a bunch of Americans doing what we always do.

Friday Flashback #208

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)

Pic Of The Day #1142

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)

Unsung Heroes #133

Alert “06880” reader Bob Weingarten writes:

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 dwoog@optonline.net)

Friday Flashback #175

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.

Photo Challenge #258

Last week’s Photo Challenge was perfect.

Tracy Porosoff’s image of a stone bridge over a small creek drew a number of varied responses. (Click here to see.)

Readers thought it might be on Richmondville Avenue, near Willowbrook Cemetery; at Burying Hill Beach, or nearby across Beachside Avenue; at Winslow Park; Bridgewater headquarters by Ford Road, or Gorham Island.

All good guesses — and all wrong.

But an equal number of readers knew exactly where it is: Morningside Drive South, at the Post Road.

It’s the bridge over Muddy Brook — near Greens Farms Elementary School, just east of the Barnes & Noble shopping center — that floods often, and high.

Kudos to Matt Murray, Bobbie Herman, Morley Boyd, Bob Stalling and Jonathan McClure. You know your bridges!

Today’s Photo Challenge was taken just about 3 weeks ago. (The seasons change quickly around here.) If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/David Vita)

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.