Tag Archives: Pierrepont School

Roundup: Common Ground, Affordable Housing, Lyman Aid …

Common Ground — the Westport Library’s project to bring civility back to civic discourse — launches this Tuesday (May 2, 7 p.m.).

The event includes a conversation with former Congressman Roy Blunt — a Missouri Republican known for his bipartisan work — and attorney Steve Parrish, whose consulting firm specializes in corporate social responsibility and public affairs.

The aim of the initiative is to host positive, productive conversations on how we work together as a civil society, encouraging respectful, constructive dialogue while tackling challenging, controversial issues.

The Library leads the effort, with community leaders representing a wide array of constituents and views. Click here for more information.

Senator Roy Blunt


A follow-up on the Representative Town Meeting’s recent “Community Conversation on Affordable Housing” promises to be as important and illuminating as the first.

“Our Town’s Affordable Housing Needs and Solutions: What Westporters Should Know and How They Can Help” will be held — virtually — on May 17 (7:30 p.m.).

RTM moderator Jeff Wieser will lead a panel of men and women who know the topic intimately: State Senator Ceci Maher, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin, RTM Planning & Zoning Committee chair Matthew Mandell, and Westport Housing Authority director Carol Martin.

As with the first session — which drew 200 people — there will be plenty of time for public questions.

Click here to join the Zoom meeting.

New construction at the Wilton Road/Kings Highway North intersection — opposed by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission, but allowed by a judge based on Connecticut’s 8-30g affordable housing regulation — is on many residents’ minds.


The final Westport-sponsored project in Lyman, Ukraine has been successfully completed.

Thanks to $252,000 raised — in just 3 weeks — over the holidays, Westport has helped our sister city in many ways. They include:

  • Repairing 6 apartment buildings, housing 132 people
  • Purchasing and delivering 2 patrol cars, and communications and other equipment, for the police department after their station was destroyed
  • Purchasing and delivering 2 trash trucks, to haul away debris and garbage that piled up during 5 months of Russian occupancy
  • Purchasing bulletproof vests and other protective gear for utility works, who restored electricity near the front lines
  • Delivering food kids to hundreds of family, including holiday meals for 1,000
  • Delivering Christmas presents for nearly 500 children
  • Supplying 2,940 families with seeds for their farms and gardens.

Non-monetary support included 200 cards and artwork, created by Bedford Middle School 7th graders.

There’s still time for other Westport students — and their families — to add to the packages, which will be delivered next month.

Letters, drawings and posters of encouragement can be dropped off on the front porch of 2nd Selectwoman Andrea Moore’s house: 2A Baker Avenue (between Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue). Blue and yellow balloons (Ukrainian colors) are on the mailbox.

The deadline is May 5. Questions: Email amoore@westportct.gov.

More monetary help is needed. A new drive will begin soon. In the meantime, watch “06880” for news of a giant “thank-you” party for Westport. Save the date now: Sunday, July 9.

PS: To donate now, click here (and select “Westport” from the “Where it is needed most” dropdown menu.

Lyman apartments, under repair.


The other day Wynston Browne — the non-speaking autistic Staples High School student who has made spectacular progress since learning to communicate less than 2 years ago — wowed the crowd of 200 people at the Circle of Friends celebration.

The event — celebrating teenagers who model inclusion and service to the community, by providing social experiences for children and teens with special needs — featured Wynston and his communication partner Elisa Feinman.

He earned 2 standing ovations, as he described his journey. Once thought to be intellectually disabled, he now shares deep insights about himself and the world, with many people who are eager to listen.

Also honored: Westporter Stephen Schwartz. Jenn Falik served as MC; 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Circle of Friends founder and director Freida Hecht, and Caroline Caggiano and James Dobin Smith, co-presidents of Staples’ Circle of Friends Club, offered remarks.

Wynston Browne (center) with his brothers BK (Staples High Class of 2016 graduate) and Harrison, a Staples junior, at the Circle of Friends celebration.


Pierrepont – the small, non-traditional and very low-profile private school on Sylvan Road North at Post Road West — invites everyone to a big, non-traditional but very intriguing Arts Festival.

The event begins Thursday, May 4 (3 to 5:p.m.) with lectures on raga and contemporary opera, plus poetry. There’s a 5:30 p.m. reception, then at 7 p.m. music from Voices of Hartford and a raga ensemble.

Friday, May 5 includes a 4:30 Urban Bush Woman Workshop, 5 p.m. reception and 7:15 p.m. dance performance.

The 3-day festival concludes on Saturday, May 6 with 8:30 a.m. coffee, and 10 a.m. “Conversations in Art.”

Click here for many more details on each event.

Pierrepont School, on Sylvan Road North. The entrance faces Post Road West.


“The Gospel of Soul” comes to Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church tomorrow.

The Empire Voices — regular performers at the Metropolitan Opera, on Broadway, and back-up for artists like Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Pete Townshend and David Bowie — will take the Branson Hall “stage” at 5 p.m.

The church’s own Choristers will be make a guest appearance. A reception follows.

Organizers says, “This concert will fill your soul and have you on your feet.” Click here for tickets, and more information.


As outdoor dining returns to Church Lane, the Westport Downtown Association is finalizing its summer concert series. Musicians will provide over 35 evenings of entertainment, al fresco.

A GoFundMe collection will help offset the cost of the singers and bands. Click here to help.


The Levy Family of Westport will lead the 18th Annual STAR Walk & Roll fundraiser on Sunday, May 7 at Sherwood Island State Park.

The Levys have supported STAR — the 70-year-old not-for-profit that serves over 700 people with disabilities, from birth to their senior years, and their families –since their daughter Ariel began attending its day program.

Over the past several years, the Levy Family’s “Team Ariel” has raised over $100,000 for STAR.

The Walk begins at 10 a.m. May 7 with a 1k route suitable for any ability (walkers, strollers, wheelchairs and baby joggers are welcome). There’s a continental breakfast, and family activities including live music, arts and crafts, Bollywood dancing, a photo booth, face-painting and food trucks. Click here to register for the walk, or donate to Team Ariel or other teams. To learn more about STAR, click here.

Ariel Levy (center) with her parents.


When you live on Myrtle Avenue, sooner or later nearly everyone in town passes your house.

When you post a sign, it better be a good one.

This isn’t just good, though. It’s great!

(Photo/Ed Simek)


Former Wesptorter Marie “Tina” Jennings-Kamber died April 15 in Sarasota, Florida. She was 98.

Tina came to the US from Venice, Italy in 1948 as a war bride.  She established and ran a Ridgefield children’s clothing store, the Cortina Shop.

She married Sereno Jennings of Westport, where they eventually settled. She was a member of Greens Farms Church.

They spent winters in Islamorada, Florida. The couple built the first tennis club, “The Net,” in the Keys, then moving to the mainland in 1983.

After her husband’s passing she met United Nations Diplomat Hans W. Kamberg. Because of their European connection they became close friends. and married soon..

Tina is survived by her step-grandchildren, including former daughter-in-law Ruth Jennings of Westport.

In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Resurrection House, 507 Kumquat Court, Sarasota, Fl. 34230.


When you live in Westport, you get used to cormorants.

Still, William Whitmal says — today’s “Westport … Naturally” photographer — he’d never seen so many as the other day, in the Saugatuck River.

(Photo/William Whitmal)


And finally … April Stevens, who won a Grammy Award in 1963 for “Deep Purple,” died last week in Arizona. She was 93.

I knew the song was a duet with Nino Tempo. But until I read her obituary yesterday, I had no idea he was her brother.

(From here to Lyman, “06880” is where Westport meets the world. Please click here to contribute, and help us do keep doing it. Thank you!)

Pierrepont: School Without Grades Offers A+ Education

It sounds like a Zen koan: If you go to Pierrepont School worrying about getting into a top college, you won’t engage with your education in ways that will get you into a top college.

That’s the magic — and surprise — of the very small, virtually unknown K-12 Westport institution.

It’s hidden in plain sight. The Mediterranean mansion (and former offices of Lindblad Travel) is tucked high on the Sylvan Road North hill at the Post Road West traffic light.

But for a certain type of student (and parents and teachers), it is a model for what education can and should be.

Pierrepont School, on Sylvan Road North. the entrance faces Post Road West.

Founded in 2001, Pierrepont has long kept a low profile. In a town dominated by outstanding public schools, and equally outstanding private Greens Farms Academy, Pierrepont does not “compete” for students. Their main marketing method is word of mouth.

A certain kind of student, Pierrepont figures, will find them.

A biology student draws a detailed neuron.

Those students are willing to dive way deep into subjects that interest them — and those they are totally unfamiliar with. They’re okay with the “process” of learning, rather than the “product.” (That is very important. Pierrepont does not give grades, class ranks or other “honors.” And there are no AP classes.)

Pierrepont students enjoy preparing well for class, and speaking up in discussions and debates. (Also important — with 6 or 7 students sitting around a classroom table, there’s no place to hide).

They are students who are okay without having sports teams to play on, or big musicals to act in. Instead they’ll create a dance performance, or collaborate on a computer science project with someone in Nigeria.

Young students perform an interpretive dance at Pierrepont’s graduation.

And they must be comfortable with diversity. Belying the stereotype of private schools, 47% of Pierrepont’s 130 students (grades K-12) are of color.

They come from 35 towns and cities throughout the region. But 40% are from Westport.

“You can’t develop intellectually, wholly and deeply, unless you’re in a community of difference,” says head of school Sarah Marchesi.

She notes that race and ethnicity are not the only types of differences. Pierrepont strives for diversity of religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomics and political points of view too. Financial aid is available.

The faculty is equally diverse. Of 52 teachers, 46% are of color.

Almost none live in Westport. Most commute from New York or New Haven.

Very few have teaching degrees. But at least 60% have at least one post-graduate degree.

“They are not trained teachers,” Marchesi notes. “They don’t have a pedagogical orientation.”

They are, however, “deep in their fields.” An English instructor is a published poet. A dance teacher runs her own Brooklyn dance company. A music teacher is writing 2 operas. A number are former college professors. They teach courses like Latin, Mandarin and African Dance (all required).

A high school theater class.

Faculty members are attracted by the chance to work collaboratively across disciplines with a non-standardized curriculum, and by the lack of letter grades. Students are accountable for their own learning.

Accountability is big — sometimes in ways unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, to parents.

“We limit direct contact between parents and teachers,” Marchesi says. “We ask teachers to be accountable to their students, and administrators to be accountable to parents.”

There’s a “sense of defensiveness” if teachers must constantly post grades and assignments, Marchesi says. That gets in the way of the learning environment Pierrepont hopes to foster.

Above all, the school prizes curiosity and learning, for learning’s sake.

“Grades create ceilings,” Marchesi points out. “Getting an A is not necessarily great. Some kids can do very little, and get A’s.”

Instead of letter grades, Pierrepont students receive detailed written assessments 3 times a year, in every class and from every teacher.

The lack of grades has not hurt seniors’ college chances. Though Pierrepont does not focus on preparing students for the most selective schools, those universities know how deeply and broadly its graduates can think, analyze, synthesize, write and create.

A piece of art from middle schooler Dereje Tarrant, on the Pierrepont wall.

“Colleges look for authenticity,” Marchesi says. So — back to that Zen koan — the students who go to Pierrepont not worrying about getting into the “top” colleges often do.

The small graduating class sends students regularly to the Ivies, and schools like Stanford and the University of Chicago.

And — because this is Pierrepont — several have gone to Deep Springs, the tiny, demanding, self-governing school in a Nevada valley.

Meanwhile, back in Connecticut, Pierrepont does what it does best: empower a diverse faculty to teach and learn with a diverse student body, in rigorous, inclusive, empathetic, intimate and ambitious ways.

Student musicians — from kindergarten through high school — rehearse for a concert.

It’s not for everyone. But for the students and staff who seek it out, it works.

For over 2 decades it’s worked — quietly and effectively — right here in Westport. And under most Westporters’ noses.

Now, Pierrepont School prepares itself for the decades ahead. This fall they closed on the purchase of the Sylvan Road property they’d rented for years.

That Mediterranean mansion on the hill is now their permanent home.

(Chances are, you won’t learn about a school like Pierrepont from media other than “06880.” To keep stories like this coming, please click here to support your hyper-local blog.)


Roundup: P&Z; Ospreys; Justin Paul; Bridge Lights; More

This Thursday (July 21, 5 p.m., Zoom session), the Planning & Zoning Commission considers 3 COVID-related items.

Two are text amendments aimed at striking a balance between promoting economic vitality and protecting nearby residents.

One would extend the current temporary outdoor dining regulations through March 31, 2021. The other would allow fitness businesses to use certain outdoor spaces, enabling them to serve clients in a socially distanced way.

In addition, Pierrepont School is seeking to use additional space at 220 Post Road West — across the street from its current home at 1 Sylvan Road North — to provide more social distancing space for its approximately 48 students in grades 7-12, and staff.

The meeting will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and shown on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Public comments may be sent by noon on Thursday to PandZ@westportct.gov, and during the meeting as well (PandZcomments@westportct.gov. For full details, click here.

Outdoor dining has been successful on Railroad Place.

Yesterday’s Roundup featured a photo of the Fresh Market osprey fledglings.

A bird-watching friend writes about other osprey platforms in town. They include:

Two on the exit road from Longshore. One is along Gray’s Creek at the back of the out-of-town parking lot for the marina. The other is along the exit road just past Gloria’s mooring, opposite the 12th green.

Two are at Sherwood Island. One is north of the Nature Center in the salt marsh between the island and Beachside Commons; the second is on the west side of the island, in the marsh alongside Sherwood Mill Pond, north from the end of the second bridge at the tidal gates,

One more is off Beachside Avenue, east of Burying Hill Beach and Harvey Weinstein’s former home.

All 5 are occupied, and have 2 or 3 hatchlings each. They’re practicing flying and fishing prior to their late summer migration to South America for the winter.

A local osprey nest (Photo/Jen Greely)

Staples High School 2003 graduate Justin Paul has gone on to fame (and many honors) for his off-the-charts songwriting (“Dear Evan Hansen,” “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman”).

But he has not forgotten his home town. He recently volunteered as a judge for the Norwalk-to-Bridgeport Project Census Throwdown contest, encouraging high school students to write creatively and educationally about the 2020 Census.

Justin was very impressed with the winning rap submission, from Elijah Atkins of Bridgeport’s Bridge Academy. He encouraged Elijah to further explore his gift for lyrical structure and creativity.

Congratulations, Elijah — and thanks, Justin!

Justin Paul

A few spots remain for the Earthplace Summer Teen Volunteer Club. Daily activities include animal care, special event preparation, and maintaining the Earthplace private preserve.

Sessions run July 17-August 7, and August 10-21. For information, click here.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association has decorated the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown with summer-color lights: blue, green and white.

Pretty lit!

And finally … Happy 72nd birthday, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam). There are so many songs to pay him tribute. Here are 3. What’s your pick? Click “Comments” below.

Photo Challenge #261

Pierrepont’s building is well known.

The school itself is not.

Last week’s Photo Challenge showed a bit of handsome Mediterranean architecture. A slew of “06880” readers knew immediately that it was the building at the foot of Sylvan Road North, by Post Road West.

Some identified it by name. Others just noted the location.

It’s been home to Pierrepont School since 2002 — 3 years after the private school’s founding. With just 159 students in grades K-12, a 3-to-1 student/teacher ratio, and a rigorous yet flexible curriculum, it’s Westport’s best-kept educational secret.

Before Pierrepont, the building served for many years as international headquarters for Lindblad Expeditions. Andrew Colabella — the first reader to correctly identify the photo — calls it “the old Colgate building.” I’ve never heard that before, and have no idea if it refers to the toothpaste, the college, or something else entirely.

Peter Barlow says it’s the “Post House” — named for the builder, a man named Post.

Besides Andrew and Peter, other correct responses came from Jonathan McClure, Fred Cantor, Rich Stein, Michael Calise, Seth Braunstein, Mary Ann Batsell, Torrey Brooks, Susan Siegelaub Katz, Diane Silfen, Linda Amos, Carol Hanks, Daryl Styner-Presley, Darcy Sledge, Tom Ryan, Stephanie Ehrman, Christine Freeman, Seth Goltzer, Jessica Newshel and Karen Root. Click here for the photo (and all the wrong guesses too).

Last week’s Photo Challenge came courtesy of Amy Schneider. She shot this week’s image too, making her a rare back-to-back Photo Challenger. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Amy Schneider)