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BOE Celebrates Retirees, CABE Student Leaders, And 2024 Demi-Decile Students In Meeting



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The Board of Education honored retiring staff, CABE student leaders, and the top five percent of the 2024 NHS graduating class in their annual Celebration of Excellence during their Tuesday, June 4 meeting at Reed Intermediate School library.

The audience was filled with family, friends, and colleagues, who were excited to show their support for the honorees with applause and bright smiles. The Celebration of Excellence started by honoring retiring staff from Newtown Public Schools, with Superintendent of Schools Christopher Melillo saying that he “bids them a fond farewell” and offering his sincerest best wishes to them going forward.

“Tonight we express our deepest gratitude for retiring teachers who have dedicated their careers to shaping the minds and hearts of our students. Their unwavering commitment, dedication, and passion have undoubtedly left a mark on our school community,” Melillo said.

Retirees were called by name to pick up their award and stand at the front of the room as their history and career in education were read out loud. Seven retirees were honored, with a collective total of 197 years teaching in Newtown and a total of 219 years in education overall.

The first retiree honored was Head O’Meadow first grade teacher Anne Annesley. She began her teaching career in Newtown in 1988 as a second grade teacher at Sandy Hook School, eventually transferring to teach first grade at HOM. Annesley has 34 years in education in Newtown.

The next retiree honored was Middle Gate Elementary School physical education teacher Laura Cooper, who was hired in 1991 as a physical education teacher at MGS. Beginning her teaching career in 1974, Cooper has a total of 43 years in education, with 33 years in Newtown.

SHS math/science specialist Kristine Feda was honored next, who began her teaching career in 1985 as a second grade teacher at Hawley School and moved to first grade at Sandy Hook in 1992. She began working as a Math/Science Specialist in 2005, and has 49 years in education in Newtown.

While only the previous three retirees attended the BOE meeting, the other four were still honored and had their history in education read out.

Newtown High School social studies teacher Lisa Burke was hired as a social studies teacher in 2011. She previously taught at New Milford High School for five years, marking a total of 18 years in education with 13 years in Newtown.

NHS math teacher Lisa Carpenter was hired as a math teacher in NHS from 1984 to 1992, and also worked as a tutor in the Reading/Math Center from 1992 to 2003. She returned to a full-time math position in 2003 for a total of 31 years in education with 29 years in Newtown.

NHS science teacher Tim Smith was hired as a .5 physics teacher in 2019, having taught at Pomperaug High School for two years, with seven years in education overall and five of those being in Newtown.

The last retiree was Newtown Middle School English teacher Chester Washburn. Hired in 1989, Washburn held two English long-term substitute positions at NMS before going on to teach English and Project Adventure. He has a total of 37 years in education overall, with 34 being in Newtown.

The next group honored at the meeting was the four CABE Student Leadership Award recipients, who were NMS students Ali El-Awa and Jessup Burton and NHS students Aadit Jerfy and Isabel Khazadian.

According to Melillo, these awards recognize students who exhibit leadership skills based on their concern for others, capability to make difficult decisions, willingness to take on challenges, and other criteria.

The Celebration of Excellence concluded by recognizing the demi-decile students graduating this spring from NHS. Being in the top demi-decile means that they are the top five percent of their graduating class.

NHS Principal Kimberly Longobucco had the honor of officially introducing the demi-decile students to the BOE and the community as they were called up, received their awards, and shared where they were going to college. The list of the 2024 demi-decile students, including the valedictorian and salutatorian, was previously listed in an article titled “NHS Announces Class of 2024 Demi-Decile Students,” which was released in the Friday, May 24 issue of The Newtown Bee.

Beyond the Celebration of Excellence, BOE Chairman Alison Plante briefly addressed the search for a new superintendent in her Chair report. She thanked the community for the 331 responses to their superintendent search survey, which questioned Newtown residents on the qualities, experiences, and characteristics that they desire in a new superintendent. This information gathered from the survey was presented to the Board in a special online meeting they held last week.

Plante added that the BOE, acting in the capacity as the personal search committee, will deliberate this week on applications they have received and will begin interviewing candidates for the position next week.

BOE member Donald Ramsey discussed a general overview of the Grade 6 science curriculum as part of his Curriculum and Instruction/SEL subcommittee report. Said subcommittee had a meeting last week, where sixth grade science teacher Todd Stentiford gave a presentation on the curriculum “in a manner of grace and sophistication,” according to Ramsey.

The presentation went over three main areas of the curriculum, which include properties of matter, earth and space science, and climate and weather.

Ramsey said that he was impressed throughout the presentation, and the level of dedication and passion Stentiford had with every aspect in presenting the curriculum.

“With all of the interactive projects that the kids would be involved in ... it’s all those things connecting with the age group that needs it the most,” Ramsey said. “That’s when their curiosity is peaking.”

He also said that the curriculum connects well with nationally recognized Next Generation Science Standards, and that it tackles concepts with an interactive approach.

Reporter Jenna Visca can be reached at jenna@thebee.com.

Seven retiring teachers were honored during the annual Celebration of Excellence at the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, June 4. Superintendent of Schools Christopher Melillo (left) stands next to the three retirees who attended the meeting, HOM first grade teacher Anne Annesley, MGS physical education teacher Laura Cooper, and SHS math/science specialist Kristine Feda, alongside BOE Chairman Alison Plante. —Bee Photo, Visca
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