Tag Archives: Saugatuck Elementary School

Hockey Champ Brings Cup To Westport

Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup.

Big deal.

Rebecca Russo and the Metropolitan Riveters captured the Isobel Cup.

And Westport’s got Rebecca Russo.

Yesterday, the National Women’s Hockey League champion brought her prize to her alma mater: Saugatuck Elementary School.

She held the cup while posing for photos with students — and former teachers like Peter van Euler and Amy Howland.

Rebecca Russo, the Isobel Cup, and Saugatuck Elementary School 5th graders.

Then she headed off to Bedford Middle School.

No word on whether the Riveters are headed to the White House too.

Rebecca Russo and her former 5th grade teacher, Peter von Euler.

Making The “Case” For Saugatuck El

Last night, Staples Tuition Grants handed out $304,000 in scholarships to 113 high school seniors, and graduates already in college.

The event marked 75 years of STG financial help. It’s always uplifting and warm — a celebration of promise, purpose and community.

As usual, the Staples library was packed with recipients, donors, and proud family members and teachers.

But this time, there were younger faces.

The first-ever Saugatuck Elementary School Community Award was given. It’s a project of the school’s Caring Council — 4th and 5th graders who volunteer for philanthropic causes — and they were there to see “their” honoree.

They and their classmates walked a combined 2,501 miles this year, in a fundraising effort. They mapped their miles “across the USA,” with “stops” at universities attended by their teachers.

Caring Council members who attended last night’s ceremony were thrilled to meet awardee Case Videler. An SES graduate himself — now headed to the University of Delaware — he embodies the Caring Council mission.

Case Videler, and members of the Saugatuck Elementary School Caring Council.

Saugatuck El and Staples Tuition Grants share even more ties than Case, though.

This year’s 13th annual walk-a-thon kicked off with a speech by DARE officer Ned Batlin — a former STG recipient.

And a powerful video celebrating the organization’s 75th anniversary was created by Westport’s own Doug Tirola — a former SES parent.

It was a night that the 113 scholarship recipients will always remember.

And one that some future grads — members of Staples High’s classes of 2025 and 2026 — won’t forget either.

(For more on Staples Tuition Grants, click here.)

Unsung Hero #9

In 2004, Brendan and Jenna Baker moved to Westport from London.

They’ve got 4 children. The youngest son – 8-year-old Henry — is battling leukemia.

Brendan and Jenna Baker with (from left) Henry, Riley, Mary and Shea.

First diagnosed at 2, he endured 40 months of chemotherapy — and beat it.

But last October, Henry suffered a relapse. He’s in the midst of 24 more months of chemo.

He spent most of last year at Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven. But he was home schooled, and looks forward to moving on to 4th grade at Saugatuck Elementary School this fall.

Yet Henry’s dad is not nominating him as our “Unsung Hero” of the week — though he is certainly heroic in our eyes.

Instead, Brendan writes about a “Team Henry” party the family hosted recently, at Compo Beach. It was the Bakers’ way of thanking everyone in the community who supported them through a very difficult time: family, friends, neighbors, and so many people at Saugatuck El.

As part of the celebration, the Bakers hired Phil and Tom Ice Cream — “the Good Humor Men” — to treat all the kids.

“Joanne and Peter Topalian were absolutely fantastic,” Brendan says. “They happily served almost 150 ice cream treats to a lot of happy kids.”

Peter and Joanne Topalian, with one of the many “Team Henry” guests.

A couple of weeks ago — at 8 p.m. — the Bakers’ doorbell rang.

In the driveway were Joanne, Peter, and their gleaming white Good Humor truck.

“They stopped by simply because they wanted to do something nice for Henry,” Brendan says.

“They were touched by his story. They said they constantly think of him, and had stopped by a few times since the party. Unfortunately we weren’t home.”

Henry and his sisters were beyond excited to go outside, and pick out a treat from the truck.

Peter and Joanne Topalian and the Baker family

Peter and Joanne, and the Baker family.

“They did not have to do this,” Brendan notes. “It is a wonderful local business, run by genuinely good people who simply want to make a difference in the life of a young Westport boy fighting cancer.”

The timing was perfect.

The next day, Henry headed to New Haven for an afternoon of tests and chemotherapy.

A few nights later, the Topalians were back again.

Thanks, Joanne and Peter — aka “Phil and Tom, the Good Humor Men” — for a tiny gesture that meant a ton.

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

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)

Happy Columbus Day!

Columbus Day is a holiday that’s fallen out of favor.

Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. It was here all along, as every Native American knows.

He wasn’t even the first outsider to find the continent — not by a few centuries.

Today, Westport schools were not even closed.

Back in 1957 though, Columbus Day was a Big Deal.

In Mark Groth’s Saugatuck Elementary School 2nd grade classroom, Pat Bonardi — a 1st year teacher — had her students create a replica of the Santa Maria. They used packing crates, drawing paper and flower pots.

The Westport Town Crier immortalized their work:

Mark Groth stands proudly on the far left of the Santa Maria. Next to him are Ann Denues, Doug Golden, Paula Cairo, Sarah Waldo and Richard Fell.

Mark Groth stands proudly on the far left of the Santa Maria. Next to him are Ann Denues, Doug Golden, Paula Cairo, Sarah Waldo and Richard Fell.

Mark thanks his mother for saving that clipping, 59 years ago. He also thanks — and remembers — Miss Bonardi.

“When the time came around to pick 2 students for the Audio-Visual crew (rolling 16mm or filmstrip projectors around to classrooms), I had my hand up first,” he says.

Now he’s just retired — after 40 years as media producer at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

He worked with all kinds of fancy equipment there. And 2nd graders today — at the “new” Saugatuck El, on Riverside Avenue — probably use desktop animation software and tablet apps to create a 2016 version of the Santa Maria.

If they still teach about Christopher Columbus in school.

A Postcard From The Ages

The other day, alert “06880” reader Sheila Flinn was reading a book she’d checked out from the Westport Library.

It had nothing to do with history. But suddenly, out slipped a postcard.

A very old postcard.

Staples postcard - front

That’s the original Staples High School, on Riverside Avenue. Built in 1884 — and demolished in 1967 — it was located approximately where the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium is today.

(The “new” Staples — today it’s the central section of Saugatuck El — was built in 1936. An addition, including the cafeteria and gym, was completed in 1948. In 1959 Staples’ North Avenue campus opened, and the 2 buildings on Riverside — the one shown above, and the newer one — became Bedford Junior High. The building that was previously Bedford Junior was remade into Kings Highway Elementary School. Got all that?)

This is the clearest photo I’ve encountered of the original building. But it may not be entirely accurate. I never saw an image of the school that included a bell tower.

The photo was taken no later than 1913. We know, because the message side of the postcard shows this:

Staples postcard - reverse

“I hope to see you this summer,” wrote Grace Marvin. She sent the card — postmarked 6 p.m., June 2, 1913 — to George Miller, Box 3, “Huntington Sta., Long Island.”

Our original high school is long gone. But — for reasons we’ll never know — this 102-year-old postcard survived.

Saugatuck School Shenanigans

An alert “06880” reader — not the same one who wrote yesterday about the towing of cars during last weekend’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival — emailed this morning:

I was at Saugatuck Elementary School around 7:30 p.m. tonight. Parking was terrible. A PAL football practice was just ending, and Back To School Night was going on. The 2 events overlapped by about 30 minutes. Clearly, Saugatuck Elementary is not intended for that quantity of vehicles.

Nonetheless, there was legal parking on the street. People had to walk a bit, though.

What surprised me was the number of cars that drove over curbs to park on lawns, regardless of sprinklers. The amount of double-parked cars, cars parked clearly where no parking existed, in fire lanes and crosswalks was astonishing.

I even saw a Range Rover blocking in a Maserati. At least the Range Rover left its flashers on.

Saugatuck parking - 1

Saugatuck parking - 4

 

Saugatuck parking - 2

Saugatuck parking - 3

Saugatuck El Loves Its Librarian

Melissa Augeri loves her librarian.

She loves her enough to nominate Rae Anne Locke of Saugatuck Elementary School for an “I Love My Librarian” Award.

Rae Anne Locke

Rae Anne Locke

And the Carnegie Corporation of New York and New York Times loves Rae Anne enough to name her 1 of its 10 winners — chosen from over 1,500 nominees at school, college and public libraries around the nation.

Rae Anne receives a $5,000 award, 2 plaques (one for herself, one for her library), and a trip to last night’s awards reception, hosted by the Times.

In her nomination letter, Melissa said:

Since 2002, Rae Anne Locke has poured her heart and soul into planning, creating and growing the Secret Garden Library, a vibrant, warm and inviting place that is much more than a school library. It is truly the learning hub for our entire school community.

With a collection of over 20,000 titles, the library is the place where everyone in the school wants to be, due to Rae Anne’s unique ability to cultivate meaningful relationships with students, staff and parents. It is through these relationships that she knows and “grows” her students — matching each child to just the right books.

Her innovative, “outside the box” thinking has greatly enhanced teachers’ work with students both in and out of their classrooms. Rae Anne’s collaborative projects have challenged students to meet our district goal to develop their 21st century skills.

Teachers love to work with Rae Anne, thanks to her “contagious” enthusiasm and excitement.

Kids GuideFor example, she collaborated with the 2nd grade team to produce “The Kid’s Guide to Westport.” Students interviewed town leaders, then worked with graphic design students from Staples High School to produce and publish a unique work.

She also helped 5th graders create digital, multi-dimensional “book trailers.”

Melissa explained that project:

Reluctant readers and writers were able to shine because they were able to proudly share their story through their own photographs and music selections instead of the traditional, written book review. Her strong relationships and intimate knowledge of each of the 5th grade students helped to guide them from the book selection process to the digital posting.

Rae Anne also collaborates with the technology teacher to produce the Saugatuck Seal News – a monthly digital school news program.

There is much more to learn about Rae Anne. Click here to read it all.

Stop The Presses: Kids Walk To School!

Last Friday, a couple dozen students walked to Saugatuck Elementary School.

In another time — even today, in much of the world — this would no more be news than “breathing is the key to life” or “the Duggars have a shitload of kids.”

Here, in 2012, it rated a photo on WestportNow.com.

Last Friday’s remarkable walk to Saugatuck Elementary School. (Photo/Gina Beranek for WestportNow.com)

I understand this post will strike nerves. I am sure some people will be appalled that these kids walked once to school all year — when of course the sun was shining (and they were probably monitored all the way by cell phone). They may even have had a police escort.

I am sure some other people will cite very legitimate reasons why kids no longer walk to school regularly, such as that Riverside Avenue now resembles the Indianapolis Speedway (though without the safety features), and that it is amazing kids can walk at all, seeing as one requirement for entering 1st grade is buying a backpack and filling it with 120 pounds of books bricks god knows what’s in there.

Me, circa 6th grade. Those were the days.

So I will not take sides in this issue. I will, however, recount my own experiences in the school year of — well, you really don’t need to know. Let’s just say Burr Farms Elementary School had not yet been dismantled, and sold as scrap metal.

The summer before 6th grade, a few friends and I decided to celebrate our upcoming final year by walking every day to school, and back home. We could take a bus, mind you — we always had — but now we decided to hoof it. No matter what the weather, we would walk.

Our parents said 2 things. The 1st was, basically, “You are far stupider than we ever thought.”

The 2nd was, “Meh.” Or “Whatever.” Or whatever the 1960s version of those words were.

My buddies and I all lived on High Point Road. We had 2 routes to Burr Farms. One took us through back yards — Moss Ledge, Elmwood, Linda Lane, Adams Farm — until we crossed North Avenue, trooped up Blackberry, and arrived at the Burr Farms gym.

We trespassed on dozens of properties. No one ever said a word.

The alternate route took us across the Staples field hockey field, past the newly constructed 9 building, out the high school south entrance, down North Avenue, and through the fields that once belonged to Farmer Rippe (and now, in an architectural homage, are silo-sporting homes on very randomly named Greystone Farm Lane).

Burr Farms Elementary. Buses were for wimps. (Computer image by Steve Katz)

We set a goal, and we achieved it. Every single day, from September through June — in glorious fall and spring, through rain and wind and sleet and every kind of weather — we walked to and from school.

When it snowed, we tromped across the Staples fields. We arrived at Burr Farms wet and cold, but we didn’t care. We were the walkers. We were cool.

I have no idea what we talked about on those 180 days, back and forth, back and forth. The conversations were probably the same as the 4 kids in “Stand By Me.” When you’re 11 years old and you walk with your friends, you talk about nothing. And everything.

The “Stand by Me” kids could have been us (without the sleeping bags and canteen).

The next year — 7th grade — we moved up to Long Lots. We walked again. This time we had no choice. The school was at the end of our road. It was half a mile away — a mile, for Glenn, Ricky and Charles.

Sometimes we walked with older kids — the 8th and 9th graders. Sometimes they bullied us. Sometimes they told us about sex. Sometimes what they said might even have been true.

When I got to Staples, and got my license, I actually drove to school. I’m embarrassed now — it took far longer to drive than walk — but that’s the way the teenage brain operates. That’s why today I never mock kids who do the same thing I once did. (Though in much spiffier cars.)

I said I wouldn’t take sides in the walking-to-Saugatuck El-once-is-a-newsworthy event?! issue.

But if you’ve read this far, you can figure out that I firmly believe you’ve got to walk the talk.

You Can Take The Girl…

Sophie Blondeau was born in Paris.  Growing up and living in Switzerland, London, Sydney and New York City, she felt like “a citizen of the world.”

So when her husband was offered a great job “up in Connecticut” — too far to commute to New York — she felt some trepidation.  The family chose Westport, because it was close to his new job — and close enough to New York, for when Sophie needed her city fix.

The November 2008 move to suburbia was as hard as she’d imagined it would be.  It was late fall; everyone stayed inside.  Driving her kids to Saugatuck Elementary School, she didn’t see “a soul” outside.

Sophie Blondeau

Because she’d moved so much, Sophie knew she had to take the 1st step.  Soon after arriving, she called the PTA president.  She learned there was a newcomers’ cocktail 2 days later.

Submerged in boxes, making chitchat was far from Sophie’s mind.  “That was the last place I wanted to go,” she recalls.

She went.

“It was fabulous,” she says.  “I met lots of women in the same situation.”  Four of them quickly became her support system.

Sophie enjoyed commiserating sharing stories with them.  But she had another outlet too:  blogging.

Her “Take the Girl” blog — as in, “You Can Take the Girl Out of NYC But…” chronicles her sometimes rocky, sometimes satisfying, always instructive transition from city dweller to suburban mom.  It is insightful, funny — and, for longtime suburbanites, not always easy to read.

Sophie has blogged about isolation, homogeneity, the lack of walking, and missing New York.  Her audience is primarily city people, though she gets occasional “I can relate” comments she suspects are from similarly still-adjusting women in the burbs.

One of the biggest reactions came when she wrote about the new experience of shopping at Costco.  “I was so not trained!” she laughs.

Sophie says the blog is “a good way to keep me honest.”  It also ties her to her city friends.  “We always used to joke about moving to the suburbs,” she says.  “I wanted to show them if this was as bad as we said it could be.”

In the beginning, it was.  Over the past few months though, Sophie says her writing has become “more balanced.”

During the recent storm, she wrote admiringly of the CodeRED emergency alerts.  Last week she admitted her feelings about SUVs have evolved.  Describing carting 3 kids and countless bags of lawn refuse, she asked:  “Can you imagine how many trips to the dump I would have to make if I owned a Mini?”

“My feelings have changed,” Sophie says.  “The pain of moving has lessened.  I see the benefits more.”  Still, she says, “I’m probably more detached from Westport than most people.”

Among the benefits:  “I love my neighbors.  I live in a real community, not a McMansion.”

She enjoys the beach — a 6-minute bike ride away.

Sophie has “come to like  having a house, to a certain extent.  It’s nice not dealing with upstairs neighbors or landlords.”

She also appreciates Saugatuck Elementary; the Westport Country Playhouse and “the sense of arts here,” as well as “the larger than expected global community in Westport.”

The move to Westport enabled Sophie to get out of the “advertising rat race” she’d been in for 15 years.  She now works as a life coach — a benefit she credits to moving.

But of course New York still holds allure.  Sophie gets in to the city every 2 weeks or so.

And yet…

“Driving everywhere kills me.  I don’t like that people are rude when they don’t have to be — they’re not grateful for what they have.  Westport is less spontaneous than the city.  I don’t think I realized how homogeneous Westport is — it’s a little sanitized.  And the isolation is still hard.”

Sounds like another blog post just waiting for Sophie to write.