Tag Archives: Staples High School

Roundup: School Traffic, Football, Yarn Day, More


Sure, half of all Bedford Middle and Staples High School students are not on campus, at any given time.

But with most parents opting to drive and pick up their youngsters — some buses reportedly carry only 1 or 2 kids — traffic on North Avenue and nearby streets has been heavy, at the start and finish of the school days.

It may take a few days to sort out what works. Until then: Avoid those areas at those times if you can.

Bedford Middle School traffic, yesterday afternoon. (Photo/Adam Vengrow)


It’s a win-win: The Westport Library and the Ruden Report.

Ruden — a Staples High School graduate whose website, Instagram and Facebook platforms are the go-to sources for coverage of Fairfield County high school sports —  are collaborating on a new project: The Ruden Report Live at the Library.

The show debuts today (Thursday, September 10, 7 p.m.) from the Library’s Forum. Tonight’s topic: the recent decision to cancel this year’s high school football season. Guests include noted New Canaan High coach Lou Marinelli, St. Joseph’s Jack Wallace (2019 Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year), and Jeff Jacobs, sports columnist at GameTime CT and Hearst Media CT.

Upcoming Ruden Reports will be recorded in the libary’s media studios. Some shows will be streamed live.

Ruden has been a sportswriter for over 35 years. He has written for the New York Times, and worked at ESPN and CBS Sports. 

Dave Ruden at work.


Speaking of sports: Staples football players joined hundreds of others from around the state yesterday in Hartford. They protested the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and state Department of Public Health decision to cancel this fall’s high school football season.

Tonight at 7 p.m., former CNN, NBC Sports and Fox News anchor (and Westport resident) Dave Briggs interviews Wrecker head football coach Adam Behrends on Instagram Live. You can hear the discussion @WestportMagazine.

A small part of the large crowd in Hartford yesterday. (Photo/Dave Briggs)


This Saturday is Local Yarn Store Day. And Westport’s local yarn store — called, appropriately enough, Westport Yarns — is celebrating big time.

The shop across from Fresh Market offers free 45-minute lessons at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. Three people (12 years old and over) will get yarn and needles, and learn how to knit. At 12 and 2 p.m., there are free crochet lessons. To register, call 203-454-4300.

In addition, there are hand-dyed yarns for purchase. Earlier this year, a similar trunk show sold out quickly.

Rumor has it that Westport’s yarn bomber may stop by. No promises, but hey. You never know.

One of the yarn bomber’s first works, at fire headquarters. Westport Yarns is just a few yards away. (Photo/Molly Alger)


Speaking of cars: After a careful look at COVID requirements and a review with town officials, organizers have canceled the Concours and “Cars & Coffee” events set for October 4, in downtown Westport.

However, the “Tour d’Caffeine” is still on. The socially distanced ride through Fairfield County’s back roads ends with lunch at the Redding Roadhouse. It is limited to the first 25 who sign up. Click here to register.


And finally … in honor of Local Yarn Store Day:

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 #1220

You may remember Flight Simulator — Microsoft’s video game from 1982 through 2006.

If so, forget what you remember.

The brand-new iteration uses satellite imagery from around the world. It applies algorithms to detect where buildings should be, and creates 3-dimensional models of them. Users fly over their neighborhood. and can actually recognize buildings.

The other day, Nicholas Weiner strapped himself into the virtual cockpit. Here’s what he saw: Staples High School, the athletic fields to the east, and Bedford Middle School to the north.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. Enjoy the view!

(Photo/Nicholas Weiner)

Roundup: Staples High School, Book Sales, Eversource, Landmark Preschool, More


“06880” seldom reports “survey” results. Best Nail Salon in Fairfield County, Greatest Towns for Beach Strolling — those stories land in my inbox every day. Clickbait, all of them.

But I’ll make an exception for this one. It comes from a legit source — and it involves one of our town jewels.

USA Today just published a list of the best public high school in every state. Criteria included student and parent survey responses, teacher absenteeism, standardized test scores, and other measures of academic performance.

The Connecticut representative — complete with a handsome photo — is Staples.

Congratulations to all. At a time of so much educational uncertainty, it’s great to get even a glimmer of good news.

Staples High School. (Photo/Jennifer Kobetitsch)


The Westport Library Book Sale lost its spring and summer dates. But they sold “book bundles” online — and that encouraged them to open an online book store.
that it has opened an online book store.

They’re opening with a curated selection of “Surprise Book Bundles”: used books and CDs in various categories, for adults and children. More categories and items will be added soon. Click here to “enter” the store.

Purchases are available for pickup, by appointment, within 7 to 10 days after purchase, at the library’s upper parking lot.

The Westport Library Book Sale is operated by Westport Book Sale Ventures, a
nonprofit enterprise that supports the library, while providing employment for adults with disabilities.


During Tropical Storm Isaias, Frank Accardi got tired of seeing this message:

“OUTAGE UPDATE: Eversource crews are working hard to safely restore power as quickly as possible. While we always provide the best information possible, sometimes we may need additional time to provide our estimated times of restoration.”

He suggests this replacement, for customers to send after receiving their next bill:

“PAYMENT UPDATE: Westport families are working hard to safely restore solvency as quickly as possible. While we always provide the best information possible, sometimes we may need additional time to provide our estimated time of financial recompense to Eversource.”


Landmark Preschool in Westport reports that 23 new students have enrolled since June. While the school on Burr Road provides in-classroom learning, it also provides “parallel remote learning” from home, via classroom cameras and monitors.

Students will stay in small cohorts; hand washing will be increased, and ventilation improved; there will be additional cleaning crews and disinfecting foggers; faculty and staff will be given special training, and every teacher will be provided a special COVID sanitation kit, and clear face masks so youngsters will not miss visual cues.


And finally … folk/Latin/rockabilly singer Trini Lopez died this week, from complications of COVID-19. He was 83.


 

Roundup: Showers, Library, Cash, Kayaks, More


Staples High School is open today (Monday, August 10) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., for Westport residents to use hot showers. Everyone must bring their own towels and toiletries. The Community Emergency Response Team will assist with scheduling and social distancing.

Yesterday, CERT volunteers delivered food to seniors in need.

The Westport Library is open from noon to 6 p.m. today too, so residents can charge their devices. Everyone must wear a mask, maintain social distance, and limit their stay to an hour.


Need a place to work?

Office Evolution — the work space in the office building opposite fire headquarters — offers a low rate for this week: a $50 day pass for a private office; $25 for socially distanced co-working, with no additional or hidden fees, and free Starbucks coffee! (Strict safety protocols are of course in place.)

Interested? Email Westport.CT@officeevolution.com or call 203-635-8770 and leave a message. They respond quickly. For more information on Office Evolution, click here.


A reader writes:

“Hocon is a big problem. This is the second storm where they  let us run out of propane when we have a partial generator. My husband started calling them Thursday to say that we had 55% in the tank and would run out by Sunday. He called Sunday 5 times explaining that we’re not getting power till Tuesday midnight or Wednesday. They promised to come today, without an estimated time, but never came.

“I have a heart condition, atrial fibrillation that gets very exasperated by heat.  We have a couple of fans going. When the generator dies, which will happen within the hour, we will have nothing to deal with this heat, and tomorrow’s heat.

“It’s so frustrating to have invested in a generator and not be able to get propane when we need it. This is so upsetting.”


Like many Westporters, John Karrel has been struck by the sudden necessity for actual dollars, quarters and dimes. He writes:

“A week ago, all bets were that cash was on its way out in our world. Yesterday I picked up dinner at March Burger Lobster. I’m now sitting outside Donut Crazy with my iced coffee. Both establishments: cash only!

“The volatility of a pandemic. The shorter-term volatility of a severe power outage. For sure, not our last power outage. Maybe cash does remain a viable Plan B.”

It sure does. Provided your ATM has power.

(Photo/John Karrel)


A reader writes: “Could you provide an update on Optimum, the local cable/internet monopoly? How widespread is their outage? When will they get back online? They are not answering calls or calling back.

“By the way, when I called to cancel part of my service due to an exorbitant monthly fee (before the storm hit), they told me they closed their cancellation department.”

I don’t have any info from Optimum (or Altice, the parent company). I don’t have any sources there either. If any readers knows the answers — or has a special number to call — please click “Comments” below.


You may not have had power. But Mystic Bowie and Talking Dreads had plenty of it yesterday.

The popular band rocked Westport, in the 2nd of back-to-back sold-out “Supper & Soul” shows at the Imperial Avenue parking lot.

Everyone — the powered-up and the power-less — had a fantastic time. Kudos to Mystic and the Dreads. And of course to the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Which should probably change its name to “Chamber of Concerts.”

A small part of the large crowd last night.


For the past few days, Westport was up the proverbial creek, without the proverbial paddle.

But grab those paddles. August 14-31 are the dates for the 5th annual Paddle for the Sound. This year it’s virtual, so even the most land-locked lubbers can join.

For 17 days, Save the Sound will help participants raise awareness and funds to find and fix pollution sources, while leading habitat restoration projects throughout the Long Island Sound region.

Prizes will be awarded to 1st place finishers in the Paddle/Kayak, Sail, and Run/Walk divisions for total distance traveled or time spent doing their sport over the span of the event. Prizes also go to the top fundraisers.

Participants will start their virtual races from self-selected launch points, tracking their miles and time with each excursion. Those interested in supporting without racing can “raise their paddle” in an online virtual auction featuring private boat excursions, local artisan products, and a signed New York Giants jersey. For more information and to register, click here.


Local photographer Michael Chait, whose photographs are part of the permanent collection in the Brooklyn Museum, has an outdoor photo show and sale closer to home.

It’s next Sunday (August 9, 12 to 5 p.m., in the outdoor courtyard at 11 Riverside Avenue). It’s an eclectic, “kooky” exhibit of photos through several decade, including classic cars and cityscapes. All are framed and ready to hang.

A classic car photo, by Michael Chait


Back in action, and with power: (among many other businesses): Granola Bar, Ignazio’s, and Joey’s by the Shore Featuring Elvira Mae’s Coffee Bar. We are getting back to normal!

PS: For the past few days, Kawa Ni has operated a food truck.

 

And finally … utility crews have arrived in Westport from all over. I haven’t seen a Wichita lineman — but I had a great chat Saturday with 2 from Neosho, Missouri, just a few miles from the Kansas border. They drove non-stop to get here, and are driving back and forth from their hotel — which is in Chicopee, Massachusetts (north of Springfield). Westport owes a huge thanks to all the linemen (and linewomen), working hard for us from all around North America.

4 Months In: Pandemic Reflections

It’s mid-July. We’re now 4 months  — 1/3 of a year — into a world we never imagined in those innocent days of late winter.

When Westport schools suddenly closed on March 11, we were told “2 weeks.” That stretched into mid-April. Finally, the inevitable announcement: School was done for the rest of the year.

We’d already endured a lot. A “super-spreader” party landed Westport in the national spotlight. On the first nice weekend, hundreds headed to Compo. Within hours, town officials closed the beaches.

We foraged for toilet paper, figured out how to find curbside food, watched our hair grow.

Jeera Thai, downtown across from Design Within Reach, was an early adopter of curbside dining.

Those early days seem like a thousand years ago. The time before the pandemic — say, March 10 — belongs to another universe.

But this is the town, the country and the planet we inhabit now. Four months in to our new (ab)normal, here are a few thoughts.

My nephew and his wife had a child last week. What is it like to be born at a time when everyone a baby meets wears a mask? How can he make sense of the world without seeing smiling faces admiring his every move? And it’s not just newborns I worry about. The longer we all must wear masks, the harder it is for any of us to make the human connections so vital to all our lives.

Momentous world events shape the young generations that live through them. The Depression, for example, scarred people forever. For decades, men and women who now had plenty of money ate everything on their plate, because they still worried where their next meal would come from. They turned off lights in empty rooms, to “save electricity.” It’s too early to know how the pandemic will etch itself into the brains of young people, but I can’t imagine they’ll have a positive, adventurous view of the world.

On the other hand, it’s been fun watching so many families embrace the outdoors. They walk together, all over. Teenagers who seldom exercised took up running. Bikes were hauled up from the basement. The town is reopening now, but I still see more outdoor activity than ever.

. (Photo/Anna Kretsch)

I was impressed too by the number of teenagers who used their time away from school productively. I suggested to the players in our Staples High School soccer program that they try new activities. I expected eye-rolling. What I got was a number who learned how to cook, play guitar or write code.

We held weekly Zoom calls with our returning players. A couple of weeks ago, I asked what they have learned about themselves. The results were insightful — and inspiring. “I learned I need structure in my life. I wasn’t happy just sleeping until noon,” one said. “I had a great time with my siblings,” another noted. “I learned not to be afraid of spending time alone,” said a third. “I realized I really like myself!”

No one knows yet what the fall sports season will look like (or if there will be one). But when I return to the soccer field (whenever that is), I know I will be a different coach than before. I already feel things shifting. Little things that used to drive me up a wall — a referee’s call, or canceling a training session at the threat of rain that does not come — will no longer seem worrisome. Our players, and the joy they get from the sport, will become more important than ever.

With so many new rules and regulations, meanwhile, will many old ones seem insignificant? Does it really matter if, in the winter, dogs are unleashed on one part of the beach and not another? Or if, during the summer, we have bottles and cans at Compo?

As for the beach: One unintended consequence of the pandemic is that Westporters discovered Sherwood Island. The 232-acre gem — with walking trails, wildlife, a Nature Center and the state’s 9/11 memorial — has sat right there, virtually unnoticed by most of us, for decades. The secret is out now. And did I mention that for anyone with a Connecticut license plate, it’s free?!

Sherwood Island (Photo/Roseann Spengler)

Until the Y reopened for swimming, I spent an hour or two every day biking. It was great exercise, and with little traffic on the roads, I no longer feared for my life. My goal — which I did not meet — was to ride up and down every side street in town. There are lots of them! (Nearly every one ends in a cul-de-sac.) And boy, are our roads in terrible condition. Soundview Drive is smooth and newly paved. Everywhere else — well, I had a new reason to fear for my life.

From the start, we knew some restaurants would not survive. It’s so sad to think of those we’ve lost, like Da Pietro’s, Tavern on Main and Le Penguin. And Chez 180: The patisserie across from Jeera Thai opened just a few days before the coronavirus hit. Everyone raved about it. The doors are shut now; new furnishings and gleaming cases sit forlorn and empty. The timing could not have been worse.

Closings like those have made us realize the importance of so many (mostly non-Westporters) to our lives. Restaurant cooks; the folks who stock shelves and work registers at CVS, Walgreens, Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s; mail carriers, and FedEx and UPS deliver persons. There are literally thousands of others. Some lost work; others worked harder than others. Until March, we pretty much saw through and past them. Now we understand that they’re the men and women who make Westport go.

Volunteers also make Westport go. Many organizations lost fundraisers this year: A Better Chance. The Westport Woman’s Club. Sunrise Rotary. They do so much good for our town. They have not complained at all — but I’m surprised so little attention has been paid to their collateral damage.

A few days ago, I went inside Staples High School. Even in summer, it usually bustles with activity. The emptiness this time was overwhelming. A school without people is not really a school.

That same day, I saw a Dattco bus. I have no idea why it was on the road, or where it was going. But it made me wish — almost — that once again I could be stuck behind it, creeping along as it stops every 5 yards to serve one eager, backpacked (and unmasked) child at a time.

Minutes after the second plane struck the 9/11 tower — when it was clear the US was under attack — I had one overpowering thought: Our world has just changed forever. I did not know how — who could have imagined the effects on our airports, immigration system and political process? — but there is a clear, defining line. There was life before 9/11, and life after.

I had the same thought in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, that realization has become a reality. Once again, I am not sure what life post-pandemic will look like. But everything — from daily school bus rides and summers at Compo, to the way my 2-week-old great-nephew relates to his parents, peers and the entire planet — will be different.

Those are my admittedly random, very personal thoughts. What have you learned — about yourself, our town, the world — since March 11? Click “Comments” below.

 

Stormy Weather

It’s been a while since we saw the heavy rains and heard the thunder we got this weekend.

Late this afternoon, storm clouds rolled in …

(Photo/Sophie Pollmann)

(Photo/Betsy P. Kahn)

… and after the much-needed downpour, the skies cleared. Then we saw this.

Schlaet’s Point (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Staples High School. (Photo/Jennifer Kobetitsch)

Pics Of The Day #1120

The weather was all over the place today: rain, sun, cold, warm. Jennifer Kobetitsch captured these clouds over Staples High School, just a couple of hours apart.

Hey, at least it didn’t snow!

(Photos/Jennifer Kobetitsch)

Distance Learning Begins: A Message From Staples’ Principal

In his first year as Staples principal, Stafford Thomas has earned high grades for his quick understanding of the school, his warm and upbeat manner, and his care and concern for all students.

When he was hired last summer, he never imagined one task would be overseeing distance learning.

Today — with schools closed at least through March 31 due to the coronavirus — the Westport district begins “distance learning.” It means different things for different grade levels.

There are bound to be questions. Administrators in the central office and each building have been communicating with students and parents about what it all means. It is still — as it is nationally — a work in progress.

Staples students have a better idea now though, after a video from their principal.

He begins — as he often does on the announcements — with shout-outs to students. Then he explains what distance learning is, and why it’s important. He ends with some tips on staying healthy (teenage style).

Click below to see how Westport’s high school students are beginning a difficult — but important — part of their educational journey.

 

(Hat tip to Staples media teacher Geno Heiter, who produced the video. It’s part of “70 North,” the high school’s great media platform. Click here for many other videos.)

Meet Stafford Thomas: Staples’ New Principal

Stafford Thomas’ life is filled with intriguing twists and turns.

But if Stanford University had not lost his grad school application, he might never have ended up at Brown — and gone into education.

And he undoubtedly would not have landed in Westport, where he is just settling in as Staples High School’s new principal.

Thomas spoke easily and at length the other day about the journey that brought him from St. Croix to North Avenue. He’s got plenty of time to figure out where he’ll take Staples — he’s just starting to meet with administrators and staff members, and students don’t return until late August — but much of what he’s done in his life had led to this point.

Even if he didn’t realize it as it happened.

Stafford Thomas, with an autographed photo of Don Mattingly.

Thomas’ mother taught reading in the Virgin Islands, through the Vista national service program. That’s where she met his father, a native of Dominica who ran a driving school. (“I got behind the wheel of a car when I was 5,” Thomas laughs. “And alone at 8.”)

His mother moved back to the States to teach in a private school. Thomas spent his tween and teen years in Manhattan, Queens and Long Island.

Georgetown University wanted him for football. But he was used to getting up at 3:30 a.m. to work construction, so he switched to crew (and early morning rowing practices) there.

After a study abroad year in Florence, Thomas interned on Capitol Hill for the non-voting congressional representative from the US Virgin Islands.

Many Georgetown grads were going into consulting. Thomas did not see himself on that path. His mother — a career teacher — advised him not to go into education. He applied to Stanford’s graduate school for public policy. But he also applied to Brown’s Master of Arts in Teaching program.

Stanford misplaced his forms. So 2 weeks after graduation, Thomas was in Providence. Part of his coursework included teaching and coaching basketball at Lincoln School, a private institution for girls.

Stafford Thomas addressed the Board of Education last month, after his appointment as Staples High School’s new principal.

That Brown degree led to a job at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, New York. The staff was young, and he was mentored well.

The next steps in Thomas’ professional development included a dual program at Boston College. He took law classes during the day, and studied educational leadership at night. Highlights included studying the achievement gap in Brookline public schools, a practicum with the principal of a K-8 Catholic school, and a stint at a Shanghai teachers college.

“I was busy,” Thomas says with understatement.

His new degrees led to a position as associate director of policy for Providence mayor (now Rhode Island congressman) David Cicciline. A chance meeting there led to an offer to work with a renowned principal at Barrington Middle School.

Thomas was all of 26 years old.

He learned leadership skills there, and at 30 was handed more responsibilities as an administrator at Mystic Middle School. He worked with talented department heads, and helped start unified arts and sports programs.

Staples principal Stafford Thomas shows off his Wrecker hat.

Eight years ago, Hillcrest Middle School in Trumbull hired Thomas as principal.

This year, the Connecticut Association of Schools honored it as Middle School of the Year. The award noted that students, faculty, administrators and parents combined to create a community known for innovative teaching strategies, after-school programs and high academic achievement.

Middle school, Thomas notes, is often a difficult time for tweens and young teenagers. His goal was to make the school comfortable (“like a family”) for students, staff and parents. He made sure that staff members went beyond simply knowing students. “Connections are so important,” he says. “It’s all about communication and openness.”

Thomas brings those experiences — as a team leader, communicator and innovator — to Staples. “I can’t imagine a better position in secondary school administration anywhere,” he says.

His new school is esteemed for its academic, art, athletic and extracurricular achievements. But pressures are strong. With students spending their final 4 years there (and at home) before heading into the real world, there’s plenty of emotion and uncertainty. Thomas is mindful of the need to make high school a comfortable, welcoming place for all.

“This is a home away from home, for students and staff,” he says. “We can’t control everything. But we can control what goes on here. We can do all we can to make this a positive, happy time.”

After his appointment was announced, Stafford Thomas met with staff members who came to the high school to welcome their new boss.

He’ll spend this summer meeting with administrators, staff and community members. He’ll ask what works for them, what’s needed, and how he can support them.

(He’ll also spend time with his wife — a kindergarten teacher in Trumbull — and 3 1/2-year-old son. He’s an avid tennis player, and just stopped playing softball.)

“The field of education is about people,” Thomas says. “Communication and transparency are big components of dealing with people. From there, you get to a position of trust.

“Everyone may not agree with every decision. But people need to know how a decision was made. That’s worked well for me in the past.”

He’s been in Westport just a few days. But he knows the town’s expectations are high. “People here want the best for everything — including education. They support the budget, the programs, the facilities. We owe it to them to give them the best.”

Everyone at Staples should have high expectations too, he says. “I’m glad that’s where we are. We should be on the cutting edge. I look forward to all the support and passion. People are very positive.”

Stafford Thomas is too.

And in August, the Staples community will be positively excited to welcome their principal to his new home.