Tag Archives: Staples High School

Board Of Ed: Police Patrols, New Roofs

A police officer will monitor the Westport schools. And he or she will do so in buildings with new roofs, and more staff.

Those were some of the decisions made at last night’s Board of Education meeting.

Brian Fullenbaum reports that the Westport Police Department plans to assign an officer to patrol outside the 7 elementary and middle schools. The officer could go inside as needed, offering a chance for students to see the police in a good positive light.

The board will vote on more specific policy regarding this topic in the near future.

The Staples High School roof replacement project will begin immediately after graduation. The total project budget is $5,577,512.

Funding of $1,519,000 was approved for the Saugatuck Elementary School roof project. It will be completed next summer.

The Board of Finance is in the process of approving soft costs, and securing funding.

Board of Ed members also saw a 5-year proposed capital forecast. Including multiple projects and other expenses, the total for the fiscal year 2021-22 was $7,243,707.

Since the spring, the Westport Public Schools have hired 4 new administrators, 39 teachers and 35 non-certified staff members. That’s up 13 teachers and 17 non-certified staff, compared to last year. Interviews were once again done live.

A heath report showed that there were 10 COVID cases last week in the Westport schools. That brings the total since the start of the school year to 34. However, there has been little to no transmission within the schools, said supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur.

A new roof is coming soon for Kings HIghway Elementary School,

 

Photo Challenge #344

The Photo Challenges I think will be impossible get answered correctly within nanoseconds by multiple readers.

The ones I figure are slam dunks stump nearly everyone.

Welcome to Sundays in “06880”-ville.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time at Staples High School, and know the fieldhouse so well. I thought many Westporters of many ages would recognize last week’s image as the outcroppings on what from 1958 through 1981 was the outside wall of the gym.

When a renovation project brought 9 separate buildings together under one roof, that outside wall was enclosed. It’s now at the top of the steps, leading from the fieldhouse to the fitness center, offices and locker room below.

John D. McCarthy, Vanessa Bradford, Clark Thiemann, Michael Pettee and Adam Schwartz were the only readers to get it right. Carissa Simon Baker was close. All are Staples grads.

A similar architectural touch was seen on the outside wall of the auditorium, from 1958 until the new school was built on the site of the old one, in 2005.

Legend has it that for a senior prank, the Class of 1979 collected empty beer cans and alcohol bottles throughout the entire year. (Or maybe just one weekend — you never know.)

The night before graduation, they hoisted themselves up the side of the auditorium and gym walls, and put hundreds of bottles and cans on those outcroppings.

By the time the prank was discovered, it was too late. Thousands of spectators were passing by, on their way to the ceremony. Cheers!

Which leads us to this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/JC Martin)

 

Photo Challenge #339

I whiz by the site of last Sunday’s Photo Challenge often. I never see it.

Then again, I time my Staples High School comings and goings so I’m not stuck in the early morning and/or mid-afternoon crawl through the secondary (south) entrance, on North Avenue.

That’s the narrow lane with the unmarked speed hump and the stop sign hidden by leaves.

If you wait there, you probably have time to look around. And notice the door in the fence that allows access to and from Willow Walk.

Amy Swanson, Andrew Colabella and Jonathan McClure — 3 Photo Challenge regulars — knew exactly what Seth Schachter’s shot showed. (Click here to see.)

Now the question is: Has anyone ever actually used the gate?

This week, we continue with the Seth Schachter-shots-of-wooden-fences-we-pass-every-day theme. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Seth Schachter)

“06880, The Podcast”: John Dodig

As Pride Month begins, there is no better LGBTQ role model than John Dodig.

An educator for 47 years, it was only in his last 11 that he was out publicly as a gay man. But what an 11 years those were.

As principal of Staples High School, Dodig fostered an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance for all. He was admired and adored by students, staff, and the entire community.

But it took a lifetime of struggle for Dodig to get there.

The other day, I sat with him in the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum. We talked about his career in education, his journey as a gay man, and what it all means for him and our community today.

As always, Dodig was clear, honest, incisive, and very funny. Click here for the newest “06880: The Podcast” interview.

Happy Pride!

Screenshot from John Dodig’s podcast interview.

[OPINION] Full-Time In-Person At Staples: One Student’s View

Last Thursday, Staples High School returned to full, in-person learning for the first time in over a year.

Though around 20% of the approximately 1,900 or so students have opted to remain full-time distance learners, the halls once again seem crowded. The classrooms, library and cafeteria pulse once more with energy.

Brian Fullenbaum is a Staples junior. He plays varsity squash, and is involved with both the Service League of Boys and the LINK Crew mentorship program with freshmen. He writes:

This is a landmark for the community. My friends and I didn’t see this
coming, because we just switched to 75% capacity a few weeks ago.

Although I would rather be home some of the days to grab the extra 45 minutes of sleep, quarantining has forced me to understand that it is actually easier to learn when attending school in person.

Brian Fullenbaum

I woke up as slow as ever last Thursday, but I was excited to see people I haven’t
seen in months.

When I pulled into the Wakeman parking lot, I was stunned by the number of cars. The traffic jam was similar to the times my brother navigated us through the parking lots each morning more than a year ago.

I think all of the students were anxious to experience school at full capacity. The second I walked into Staples, it was odd to see so many masked, covered faces in one enclosed place.

But there was a sense of warmth and nostalgia. Almost every seat was filled. I thought back to my freshman days, when I was eager to be called on and itched to be a part of a class conversation.

Students could now walk both ways in the hallways, instead of having to follow one-way arrows around the school. It was lonely with the arrows, since all I could see was the backs of heads staring at me.

I wasn’t sure if I would even know how to react to my friends walking towards me on the other side of the hallway, but I was psyched to see them. I was finally giving smiles (under my mask) and head nods as they walked towards me.

Weeks ago, I had classes where I was the only kid in the classroom and everybody else was online. Now the entire setup was flipped. Sitting back down in a full classroom of juniors felt more studious. Students were working with each other on assignments, creating a more interactive learning environment.

My teacher forgot to tell the one Zoom student that the class was going for a mask break outside, which I am sure left that student in confusion as he stared into a silent camera for 10 minutes.

But for the most part, teachers are doing a great job adjusting back to full capacity.

The cafeteria felt more crowded than it did pre-COVID. Usually students eat outside, but because it rained the day before and those seats were wet, everyone huddled around each other in the cafeteria.

I felt for the teachers as I watched them constantly break up groups of students and tell them to “please socially distance.”

The parking lot at Staplels was more crowded than in this drone shot from last spring.

The packed lines reminded me of the time I raced my friends from the 3rd floor all the way over to the sandwich line. Although I didn’t race anyone this time, I finally experienced that sense of urgency, as I rushed to the lunch lines.

One might describe the total capacity lunch as a socially distanced nightmare, but as the excitement of returning to school and seeing friends diminishes, I am sure things will settle down.

Opening up to full capacity was a huge change in the way of life at school. I will need to figure out how to get more sleep.

But I think that Staples is making the best of what they have. I am happy to be back full time.

Meghan Ward Charts A New Path

At most schools, the assistant principal handles discipline. He — and it’s often a male — breaks up fights, hands out suspensions and tracks down truants.

Staples is not most schools.

There, assistant principals have a wide range of tasks. They handle every aspect of student life, from curriculum and the daily calendar to clubs and activities. They’re involved in attendance, academic integrity, even proms.

That’s just part of the job description. Meghan Ward, for example, oversees online courses, the independent learning experience and Pathways, Staples’ alternative school program. She works with academic support classes, and — particularly this year, with COVID complications — collaborates closely with guidance counselors, pupil personnel services, social workers and psychol0gists to keep students on track.

All of those skills and experiences will help Ward when she leaves Staples this summer. The assistant principal has been named principal of John Read Middle School in Redding.

Meghan Ward (Photo/Dan Woog)

It’s a homecoming of sorts. Ward attended Joel Barlow High School — which her new school feeds into — and loved it. Among other activities, she was Student Council president.

She enjoyed an introductory education class at Providence College, but graduated from Southern Connecticut State University as a political science major.

Her first job was with US Tobacco in Greenwich. Working in governmental affairs, she met an intern who headed back to school for a master’s in education.

That piqued her interest. Ward shifted gears, got her own master’s at Sacred Heart University, and student taught in social studies at Trumbull High, under Jon Shepro.

In 2004, 2 positions opened up a Staples. Shepro and Ward filled them both.

Ward spent 9 years in the classroom. She credits “awesome administrators” with allowing her to “take risks and try new things.” Student-centered classrooms encouraged students to think for themselves.

“I was given a gift to be creative and independent,” she says. “We teach to common standards, but the way we deliver education is our own. The 25 kids in my classroom may be very different from the ones next door.”

Along the way, Ward became certified as an administrator. When she and her husband moved to Maine, she was hired as dean of students for a regional high school.

She loved the opportunity to get to know both “the whole student” — not just the one in a Global Themes or US history class — and the entire sophomore class. The challenges — academic, social, interpersonal, family dynamics — were fascinating. Her principal and administrative team were “totally student-centered.”

The school included an alternative program. It was Ward’s first experience with teenagers who — though school was “not their thing” — followed a positive path.

“Every kid had a passion for something,” Ward says. “One of them loved welding. We figured out how he could get credit for it. Creativity can change the course of someone’s life. If you listen and believe in them when they’re at their lowest point, they’ll respond.”

Ward’s next position was assistant position at Old Orchard Beach High School. She was involved in the alternative education program there too.

She moved on to the principalship of York High School. “An amazing experience!” she says. “The staff and Board of Education were very supportive. The amount of time they committed to kids was incredible.”

She left with regrets, when her family returned to Connecticut. Fortuitously, an assistant principal’s position opened up at Staples, in the fall of 2016.

Ward worked with then-principal James D’Amico to develop the Pathways program. Among her dozens of responsibilities, it’s been among the most rewarding.

The main classroom at Pathways. Other rooms — and the lounge — branch off from here.

She takes the “path” idea literally. “We can actually help create a way for each kid to get what they need to succeed,” she says.

Returning as an administrator to the high school where she once taught was eye-opening. She gained a deeper understanding of the interrelationships between all staff members, and the importance of listening closely to others in order to make the best decisions for “the student, the building and the town.”

Staples is the only Connecticut school building Ward ever worked in. She is grateful for the support and opportunities she’s received, from “special, incredible” colleagues.

Now she heads to a different one — and with a different age group.

“After embracing 9th graders coming to Staples, I’m excited to work with middle schoolers,” Ward says. “Fifth through 8th graders: What do those pathways look like?”

As usual, she’ll listen — to students, their families, the community.

Then Ward — the mother of a 5th and 7th grader herself — will take the lessons she’s learned in Westport and Maine, and apply them to John Read Middle School.

A new path awaits.

Staples: Full In-Person Learning Begins March 25

More than a year after going fully remote — and after beginning the 2020-21 school year at 50% capacity, then transitioning to 75% this winter — Staples High School returns to full in-person education on March 25.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice says:

The district maintained a very conservative approach to our schooling models for the first half of the year. Nearly 7 weeks ago, based on our local experience, input from our public health partners, and a projected drop in infection rates, we reopened our elementary and middle schools for full in-person learning.

Additionally, on March 1, Staples High School increased access for students by implementing a 3 day a week, 75% in-person model.

Since then, our faculty and staff have done a remarkable job and we have experienced great success. The work of our professional educators this year simply cannot be overstated.

We continue to maintain a responsibility to minimizing virus spread in our community. Yet we must balance that responsibility with our obligations to overall student wellness, most significantly, their mental and emotional well-being. As a result, on Thursday March 25, Staples High School will reopen for full in-person learning.

Staples High School’s parking lots will be more filled on March 25. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

Contact Tracing and Quarantines 
In reviewing local data, I found that we have contact traced and quarantined over 2,800 students and adults this year. Out of the 2,800+ quarantined, only 6 who were determined to be close contacts (.002%) have tested positive for COVID.

Additionally, to our knowledge, of the 232 students who have tested positive for COVID, there have been zero known cases of “student to adult virus transmission,” and zero known cases of students experiencing serious health complications as a result of infection.

As a result of this data, we engaged the health district to seek support for revisiting the definition of a close contact, and the duration of quarantines.  Currently, close contacts are defined as being within 6 feet of a known positive COVID case for an accumulation of 15 minutes, while quarantines for close contacts are 10 days in length.

Based on our data, we will now begin to define close contacts as those within 3 feet of a known COVID positive case, not 6 feet. Recent literature has pointed to this change in guidance. Considering that our entire population is masked at all times, our local health district and medical advisor support this change as well.  We will continue to monitor our practices and make adjustments as needed.

However, given the trends in data collected by the health district, we will continue to recommend a 10 day quarantine for those determined to be close contacts. Although the CDC allows for a 70day quarantine following a negative test on day 5, the health district shared that there are more than a few cases in the community, not in our schools, in which a close contact tested positive after day 7. A change was made to reduce the length of quarantine in December from 14 days to 10 days. This standard will remain for the foreseeable future.

“Sophie in Quarantine” (Claudia Rossman)

Early Dismissals
In an effort to provide additional time to support our distance learners, and to accommodate our teachers who have taken on additional responsibilities during arrival and dismissal, the Wednesday early dismissals will continue for the foreseeable future.

However, Staples will begin to provide in-person learning on our Wednesday early dismissals beginning on April 21 within the new full in-person model beginning March 25. Our middle schools are working to revisit their schedule following the April break. More information will be forthcoming about any potential changes to the middle school schedule in the near future.

Travel Guidance 
On March 19, 2021, Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 9S regarding travel will change from an executive order to a recommended practice. Under this order, anyone traveling outside of New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island, for a period of time longer than 24 hours, requires a negative COVID test within 72 hours of return to CT, or a 10 day quarantine.

If using the testing option, an individual should remain in self-quarantine until a negative test is obtained. In collaboration with the WWHD and our medical advisor, the district will continue to support this practice. Please contact your school nurse if you have any questions.

Ending the Year with Normalcy
We have placed a high priority on ending the year with as much “normalcy” as possible. Our thinking is that the more normalcy we end the year with, the easier it will be to start the new year with normalcy. As we plan our end-of-year events and the daily operations, we will look to continue to bring a sense of normalcy to our schools.

Board Of Ed: Pupils, Projects And More

The social, mental and physical health — and the health of several school buildings — were the focuses at last night’s Board of Education meeting.

On the student side, Brian Fullenbaum reports that townwide health and physical education coordinator Chris Wanner and Staples phys. ed. teacher CJ Shamas presented an update on social and emotional learning.

Embedded in the high school curriculum for juniors, it addresses social and emotional skills from a growth mindset point of view. Video testimonials showed students enjoying the health classes.

Board member Elaine Whitney and Westport Public Schools chief financial officer Elio Longo provided an update on capital projects.

Paving is needed at Greens Farms, Coleytown and Long Lots Elementary Schools, plus Bedford Middle and Wakeman. All roads there are at least 20 years old.

The $1.6 million estimated cost is significantly lower than expected, due to a partnership with the town’s Department of Public Works.

The Saugatuck Elementary roof project is out to bid. Work is scheduled for this summer. It should proceed without state assistance, because the roof is beyond its useful life.

A new roof is planned for Saugatuck Elementary School.

Staples’ roof replacement can be deferred for a year. State assistance may be available.

In the area of capital maintenance projects — from $500,000 to $2 million — superintendent Thomas Scarice noted that outside companies can help maximize value, and stay on schedule and within budget. He would like to create a school modernization master plan, then use help from an OPM to get through the process, including larger maintenance projects. The board discussed collaborating with the town on capital projects.

The board approved a new policy for minority staff recruitment. It updates the former document with more inclusionary language.

Supervisor of health services Suzanne Levasseur’s COVID report noted a slight uptick in cases in Westport schools last week, to 13 cases. The district’s first vaccination clinic for staff — run in conjunction with Weston and Easton — is scheduled for tomorrow (Wednesday, March 3) in the Staples fieldhouse. 250 people are expected to get shots.

Roundup: Mars Robot, COVID Testing, Citibank, More

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The tagline says “06880: Where Westport meets the world.”

Today, it’s “where Westport meets the solar system.”

When Perseverance — NASA’s $2.7 billion robotic explorer — landed successfully on Mars yesterday, it got a boost from a 2012 Staples High School graduate.

Alexandria Rosa spent more than 2 years helping source one of the spacecraft’s arms. She’s a mechanical engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena.

Nice to know there’s now a little bit of Westport on the red planet!

Alexandria Rosa

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The St. Vincent’s/Hartford Healthcare testing on Long Lots Road — a very popular location for several months — now operates only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (8 a.m. to noon).

On March 1, it will close permanently as a testing site.

The scene at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Long Lots Road, a few days before Christmas. (Photo/Randy Ford)

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Another closure: Citibank’s Post Road East branch — the one by Walgreens — will officially close on April 30. It has been shut for a while, during COVID.

An email to customers says “we assure you that you will receive the same great service, now at a new location.”

The email does not explain where that “new location” is. It does, however, say that “it may be convenient” to use the 399 Post Road West branch.

Many banks have closed branches during COVID. For example, none of Bank of America’s 3 Westport locations are open.

The Citibank branch, in the Walgreens plaza.

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Greg Naughton’s new film, “The Independents,” will be released virtually to art house cinemas on February 26. The wider on-demand release comes March 9.

But there’s a special screening — with Q-and-A afterward — at Fairfield’s FTC on Saturday, February 27.

That’s close to here. But the film has an even closer connection: Some of it was shot in Westport.

“The Independents” is a comedy/drama about 3 solo artists who collide at the same crossroads and discover harmony. They share a rollercoaster ride across America for a shot at musical glory.

The film stars (and was inspired by) the real-life folk-rock Sweet Remains. The Hollywood Reporter called it “an extremely engaging film (that) subverts all the clichés of the star-is-born story and proves there are plenty of offbeat ways to satisfy audiences without hewing to formula.”

Naughton — a longtime Westport resident — had quite a bit to do with “The Independents.” In addition to writing, directing and producing, he stars in it.

Click here for tickets and more information. Click below for the trailer.

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Today’s New York Times carries an obituary of Bruce Blackburn. The graphic designer — famous for creating both the NASA “worm” logo and the American bicentennial star — died in Colorado, at 82.

He also designed the logo for the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Weston, of which he was a longtime congregant, the Times says.

However, the logo appears only once on the church’s website: on the home page.

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And finally … happy 58th birthday to Seal!

Roundup: Vaccines, Liquor Stores, Real Estate, More

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How many Westporters have been vaccinated?

As of February 1, 2,289 Westport. That’s 8% of our total population.

According to Westport Patch, we have 2,094 residents over the age of 75 — the first group in line for the vaccine (along with medical personnel and first responders). Nearly 54 percent — a total of 1,095 — have received their first dose.

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Westport has plenty of small, independently owned liquor stores. Nearly every Westporter has a favorite.

Now a “superstore” has entered the mix.

Yesterday, trucks delivered supplies to BevMax’s new outlet in the former Pier 1 store — the Julien’s Pizza shopping center on Post Road East. In other words: directly opposite Castle Wine & Spirits.

BevMax has 8 locations in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, plus a nationwide shipping office in Stamford. There’s a BevMax in Norwalk, near Stew Leonard’s.

They bought the license of Saugatuck Grain + Grape, which had relocated from Railroad Place to Post Road West. The owner of a liquor store can move anywhere in Westport that zoning allows.

Last year, plans were underway to convert the entire Julien’s shopping center — except for the Bluepoint Wellness medical marijuana dispensary — into medical offices. The plaza has since reverted to retail use.

(Photo/Jack Krayson)

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The other day, “06880” posted a few “sizzling real estate” statistics. Here are a few more:

January saw a continued swift pace, despite the decrease in months of supply in inventory. Here is a quick snapshot of this past month:

  • $70,956,000 total sales, vs. $33,796,846 total January 2020 sales — a more than 100% increase.
  • 40 single-family and condo units sold in January; 25 single-family and Condo units sold in January 2020 — up 60%.
  • $1,318,000 was the median home sales price; in January 2020 it was $1,012,500. That’s more than a 30% rise.
  • The home inventory supply was 2.4 months; a year ago it was 9.3 months. That’s a 74% decrease.

The highest sale in January was a 5-bedroom, 8-bathroom home listed with Brett and Jean Lieberman at 4 Bluewater Lane: $5,125,000. (Hat tip: Jody Peters, the Riverside Realty Group)

4 Bluewater Lane

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Seven Staples High School athletes signed letters of intent yesterday to play sports at NCAA Division I universities.

Congratulations to (from left in photo below): Kevin Lynch, University of Massachusetts lacrosse; Julia DiConza, Lehigh University lacrosse; Carter Kelsey, Seton Hall University baseball; Autumn Smith, Marist College soccer; Laine Ambrose, Boston College field hockey; Shira Parower, James Madison University lacrosse; Sam Milberg, College of the Holy Cross football.

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Speaking of Staples: Composting has come to the high school cafeteria. It’s an initiative of the school’s Zero Waste Committee. Students will serve as monitors.

Composting is already underway at several Westport schools.

Greens Farms Elementary School offers 3 choices for waste. The same options are now available at Staples High.

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MoCA Westport and Up|Next Teens are partnering to present a Winter Lights Festival at MoCA. It’s set for Saturday, February 27 (noon to 6 p.m.).

The Festival features a maker and crafts space in a large outdoor tent, with supplies and step-by-step instructions for families to work together to create winter-themed decorations. The decorations will be incorporated into a walk-through Light Path, to be lit at sun down. The public can view the experience through the following weekend.

Also planned: live performances by high school musicians, food from The Melt truck, and hot cocoa.

The Festival includes free entry to MoCA ’s exhibition “Hindsight is 2020,” showcasing nearly 200 high school student artists from across the region.

Click here for tickets.

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And finally … happy birthday to Alice Cooper. He was born on this day in 1948. In other words, he’s no longer 18.