Much like many of its neighbors, the Darien school district kicks back into gear next Monday. The Darien Times spoke to administrators about what’s new this year.
Darien administrators will continue to work in Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, to improve teaching methods. Currently, the district emphasizes methods that allow students to think independently, grow from their strengths and apply their knowledge to the real world.
Darien principals shared their thoughts about the coming school year. Here are some of the changes and exciting events they will oversee.
Darien High School
80 High School Lane. Interim Principal Arlene Gottesman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-655-3981.
Principal Arlene Gottesman is excited for the 2012-13 school year. She replaces former principal Dan Haron. This summer, Gottesman got to know the high school building and met with teachers to prepare for the year. She said that most of her work will be maintenance until a permanent principal is named.
“I’ll continue to push the good work that’s being done in the building [including] the PLC work that is being done district wide.” Gottesman will meet with students who have requested additional clubs
Dr. Jacob Greenwood, formerly the science department chair at Ridgefield High, will fill the assistant principal position vacated by Michael Sullivan. Sullivan will take on his new role as Darien director of athletics, physical education and health.
There will be six new teachers, plus one part timer. LaRusso, Elise Dardni, Adam Wallenfang and Marissa Gallin will start as English teachers. Kathy O’Brien will teach math and Kate Sutton, foreign language. Lin Sellon will be a part-time psychologist for the high school and at Middlesex Middle School.
Gottesman said that the newly renovated fitness center and team room looked “phenomenal.” The fitness area has many new pieces of workout equipment installed.
Freshman orientation will take place on Friday, Aug. 24, followed at 6 p.m. by an Ice Cream Social hosted at The Depot teen center. The social is part of the school’s Big Brother/Big Sister program, which pairs a freshman with an upperclassman mentor. The high school will also have an open house on Sept. 20. Spirit Week will take place between September 24 – 27, concluding at Homecoming on the 29. DHS will continue it’s tradition of hosting a Chinese delegation at the end of September.
Enrollment is at 1,354 since the end of July, with 162 special needs students. The budget for fiscal year 2012-13 is $11,728,523, a 2.12% increase from last year. It is about 14% of school spending. The school expects to raise $112,000 in activity and parking fees.
203 Hollow Tree Ridge Road. Principal Debi Boccanfuso, email@example.com, 203-655-2518.
“One size does not fit all” is this year’s theme according to Principal Dr. Debi Boccanfuso. The teachers are “eager” to return to their classrooms to continue improving their methods to fit all ranges of learning. Boccanfuso said that professional learning communities will emphasize team work to improve learning.
The middle school will have one new part time teacher to replace another who left to teach at Darien High. Students will see some new technology in their classrooms. The school purchased 25 Smart boards that will be shared between science, social studies and math teachers.
Families can look forward to a “Back to School” night in September. There will be an open house for sixth,seventh and eighth grade on September 10, 12 and 13, respectively. The middle school parents association will have its first meeting on Sept. 19 at 9:30 a.m.. The annual sixth grade trip in the fall to nature’s classroom will allow students to learn from the natural world. Incoming eighth graders will also get a chance to travel. Their trip to Boston is a 30-year tradition.
Middlesex’s budget for 2012-13 is $9,687,545, up 1.55% from last year. Enrollment is at 1140, about 12 students above what was expected. Middlesex will have 137 children with special needs.
10 Nearwater Lane. Principal Rita Ferri, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-655-1323.
Hindley School replaced its welcome desk with a more comprehensive welcome center last year, and Principal Rita Ferri said it is thriving.
“It really is the pulse of the school,” Ferri said. “It’s extremely functional and a great benefit.”
Parents volunteer in 1.5-hour shifts, and the center includes a lost and found service, a community bulletin board, and serves as a drop-off point for parents to bring their kids items that were left at home. Ferri said the school would like to eventually get a computer screen that highlights all happenings across town.
Kindergartners have the first day of school to spend one hour to be introduced to their teacher and their schedule, Ferri said. On the second day of school, Hindley will have an opening share, or assembly, welcoming everyone back to school. They will go over the kids’ code, which reminds the children to be kind and accepting, honest and responsible, safe and peaceful. They will also talk about the code of conduct and sing songs, Ferri said.
The Hindley parent teacher organization provided a new sound system for the school in the common room. The new edible gardens are also in full bloom, bearing tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and other delights. Families kept the garden healthy during the summer with weeding, watering and irrigation, Ferri said.
The garden will be used in various curricula in each grade, utilizing the soil and vegetables to discuss science and healthy eating. Last year’s fifth grade class donated two picnic tables as its class gift, and these will be used as a lab site for children to dissect green beans and examine seeds.
School blacktops were recently resurfaced, and the parent teacher organization is working on enhancing the kindergarten playground.
“The grounds have been very well taken care of this summer,” Ferri said. “The shrubbery is very well kept, as well as the edging around. It is really looking very nice.”
On Thursday, Aug. 23, at 11, parents new to town with kids attending Hindley are invited to the school’s lemonade social in the kindergarten playground area. The Hindley Bash happens on Friday, Sept. 14, and is considered a grand opening event for the Hindley community, Ferri said. It happens after school closes, and is a chance to welcome families back to school.
“It’s a really nice event for everyone,” Ferri said. The event usually has games and is entertained by a deejay.
Ferri advised parents new to town to get involved quickly in their school community. “At Hindley, there are numerous committees that parents can join,” she said. To contact the Hindley School PTO, e-mail co-chairs Elizabeth FitzPatrick, email@example.com, or Alison Moffatt, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This was the second year Hindley has been using duel fuel burners, which cost $25,000 last year to upgrade. This enables the school to choose between fuel oil or natural gas, depending on which is cheaper.
There will be 54 special education students enrolled this year. The budget is $2,942,105, 2.56% higher than last year. Hindley is 3.5% of the district’s budget.
18 Hoyt Street. Principal Paula Bleakley, email@example.com, 203-353-4731.
This year Holmes teachers will continue to create a curriculum that tailors to each child. As part of the district’s “learner centered” goal, students will have reading programs specific to their level. Other subjects will utilize the workshop model. Principal Paula Bleakley estimates that it will take about two years to create completely new curricula according to the district’s guidelines.
“The best thing about Darien is that we don’t rush into anything,” Bleakley said. Though Darien schools have to follow the district’s plans, each school has a distinct “personality.”
“The number one factor in the child’s learning is the quality of the teachers,” Bleakley said. “We have extra strong teachers at Holmes.”
This will be Bleakley’s second year as principal at the school. Last year, she learned that the community is very involved and caring. She looks forward to meeting with more families.
The parent teacher organization-sponsored gardens are ready to visit. The irrigation system is in place and the seeds are growing. Bleakley will work with teachers to use the gardens for teaching and school-related activities.
Parent coffees will take place after Labor Day. They will host many of the annual events, like the Halloween Parade.
Holmes school has a budget of $2,510,233. It constitutes 3% of district spending. There will be 41 special education students and a total of 430 students enrolled.
133 Mansfield Avenue. Principal Keith Margolus, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-655-0044.
“Our halls sparkle, classrooms gleam, and libraries stand in wait for our community to assemble again,” Principal Keith Margolus said in an e+mail to the Times. “We look forward to greeting our approximately 415 kindergarten through fifth graders each morning.” Kristin Neike is a new addition to the school, taking a fourth section of first graders. This will be Margolus’ second year as principal.
Royle School will focus on the district-wide plan of learner-centered environment, which encourages young minds to “share responsibility for their own learning and encourage the learning of others.” Royle’s curriculum will continue with reading and writing workshops. The workshop model will be integrated into the math program. Margolus says Royle’s teaching methods have advanced since last year.
The parent teacher organization-sponsored garden is not yet ready for kids as the plans were only approved at the start of the summer. Construction and planting will be done in the next few weeks. Royle will watch how the other schools utilize their gardens when it is in full bloom.
Margolus praised the janitorial staff for getting the building itself ready after a “brutally hot” summer. There were renovations on two of the first grade bathrooms.
Royle’s enrollment will be four students more than last year at press time. The budget is $2,468,932, a 6% increase from last year. It is 2.9% of school spending.
395 Mansfield Avenue. Principal Luke Forshaw, email@example.com, 203-655-2579.
For his first year as principal of Ox Ridge, Luke Forshaw will welcome an array of new staff. The school hired an assistant principal, a speech language pathologist, a special education teacher and two classroom teachers. Assistant principal Kristin Goldstein joins Ox Ridge from Greenwich public schools where she was a teacher and an administrator. Forshaw was previously the assistant principal at Ox Ridge. He took over from John Rechi.
Teachers will work in their professional learning communities to focus on how students learn. ”We’re really helping teachers to develop skills and strategies to support the range of students that they have in their classrooms,” Forshaw said. Faculty meetings will be used to make decisions about how Ox Ridge students are learning, particularly in special education.
Collaboration is encouraged so that there will be an integration between special education and regular education “to provide a continuum of service to students.”
The district hired four Spanish teachers over the summer but it still needs a fifth, Forshaw said. Once the Spanish teachers are available, the language program will be developed over the year, one grade level at a time.
The garden at Ox Ridge was built in the spring so visitors will see many vegetables growing. Parents alternated in taking care of the plants over the summer.
Forshaw said that the custodians and facilities staff worked hard to make some improvements to the campus. They updated the playgrounds and gave the school a new coat of paint.
New families are invited to have coffee on August 31 at 9:30 a.m. Parents of returning third and fifth graders can learn about the coming year over coffee on Sept. 5 at 9:30 a.m. The coffee meeting on Sept. 7 at 9:30 a.m. is for second and fourth grade, and September 10 for kindergarten and first grade.
On Saturday, Oct. 20 the PTO will host “Oxtoberfest,” a fundraiser for the school, at Darien Country Club. The event will include dinner, entertainment and silent and live auctions, according the Ox Ridge PTO website.
The school has 488 students enrolled as of July 31, 34 over projections. There were 23 students registered between June and July. Ox Ridge added two new sections to accommodate extra Kindergarten and fourth grade classes. They will have 28 special needs students.
The budget is $2,752,278, a 1.93% increase from last year. That is about 3.3% of the district’s budget.
7 Old Farm Road. Principal Mary Michelson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-655-9666.
Tokeneke has had little change in its staff. “This year it’s very nice to start with the same group,” Principal Mary Michelson said. She is now settled in at Tokeneke and ready to start her second school year. There will be one new kindergarten teacher, Kristine Fitzpatrick, who previously taught in Greenwich.
Tokeneke will focus on developing it’s teaching methods for math classes and growing it’s literacy workshop models. Michaelson said that they are aiming for “higher level thinking.”
Michaelson says that their garden flourished over the summer and will likely be part of their science curriculum. The second grade already studies dirt and the earth, while the third grade learns about recycling.
There will be a Pumpkin Carnival on Saturday, Oct. 13. In February, Tokeneke will have their “Passport Around the World” cultural celebration. The diversity committee will organize the event. She looks forward to including the new language program into the celebration.
The special education/early learning program orientation will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 29. New parents can have coffee and take a tour of the school on Thursday, August 30.
Tokeneke will have 464 students and 48 special needs, as of July 31. Enrollment went up by 24 students between June and July. There are 40 new students entering above kindergarten. The budget is $2,641,067, a 6.04% increase from last year and 3.2% of district spending.