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School Board 'Celebration' Cites Students, New Administrator, And GE Capital Expert



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Following an executive session on Monday, June 30, the Board of Education announced the unanimous selection of James Ross as Newtown Middle School’s new assistant principal.

Mr Ross, who has been teaching seventh and eighth grade math at NMS since 2008, was welcomed by school board Chair Debbie Leidlein and applause from the audience after the unanimous vote.

Before coming to Newtown in 2008, Mr Ross worked in Norwalk and Bethel as a math teacher.

During its meeting, the school board also recognized Newtown High School 2014 graduate Mitchell Girgasky as one of Newtown’s two Connecticut Association of Board of Education (CABE) Student Leadership Award winners. NHS 2014 graduate Sarah Clements also earned the award, but was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, said the CABE Student Leadership Award is a prestigious award, and recognizes students that both take on and meet challenges, who are capable of making difficult and appropriate decisions, who have the ability to work with others, who have the ability to understand issues, and who honor commitment.

A number of representatives of NHS’s Odyssey of the Mind team, which earned sixth place out of the 50 teams in its Problem & Division at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in May at Iowa State University, were also recognized by the school board during its meeting.

The NHS team achieved the highest showing of any Newtown team ever attending world finals, according to team coach Robin Fitzgerald, who also attended Monday’s meeting. Team members Hannah Fitzgerald, Ryan Fitzgerald, Jake Emmerthal, and Zach Weiland appeared before the school board to explain their accomplishment. Member Jesse Sailer could not attend.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Ms Fitzgerald said of her team, after explaining that Odyssey of the Mind teams take on everything themselves with no assistance from nonteam members.

“A Light At The End Of The Hallway” 

“Our celebration of excellence will end with comments from the Board of Education and comments from the first selectman in regard to Joni Capoccitti, who has been an extraordinary addition to the town of Newtown,” Dr Erardi said later. “And sadly we returned her last Friday to the real world.”

Ms Capoccitti is the final member of a four-person team of General Electric specialists who arrived in Newtown weeks after 12/14 to help, to return to her work at GE. Newtown’s Recovery Program leader Anne Alzapiedi, Elizabeth Rollo, Tom Kelleher, and Ms Capoccitti all served Newtown in the wake of the tragedy.

In honor of Ms Capoccitti, a number of people in attendance at the meeting wore her favorite color, purple. And purple cupcakes were served next to flowers as another way to honor Ms Capoccitti for her work and demeanor.

Ms Leidlein called Ms Capoccitti a “light at the end of the hallway,” who added a spark to the work day.

“We wholeheartedly appreciate everything that you have done for us,” said Ms Leidlein.

When Ms Capoccitti came to Newtown, school board Vice Chair Laura Roche said, there was a lot of sadness, and Ms Capoccitti helped to bring the town to where it is today.

“We’re going to miss you a lot,” said board member Keith Alexander.

First Selectman Pat Llodra presented Ms Capoccitti with a proclamation and a pewter bowl with the town’s seal on it.

“Joni, you brought such a sense of fun and joy to the office environment, which is quite extraordinary,” Mrs Llodra said.

The selectman also said it meant a lot to her that Ms Capoccitti always checked on her, bringing a bar of chocolate or Mrs Llodra’s favorite food, Cheetos. Ms Capoccitti also provided an extraordinary effort in helping Newtown to “lift its load,” Mrs Llodra said.

Before Mrs Llodra read the proclamation, she promised the dark blue frame was as close to purple as possible.

Ms Capoccitti’s fellow GE team members were also present at the meeting.

“She consistently makes sure you don’t feel invisible, no matter who you are,” Ms Alzapiedi said.

Later Ms Capoccitti offered her own goodbye to the town of Newtown, in the form of an “ode.” In her ode, Ms Capoccitti thanked her fellow GE colleagues for selecting her to work in Newtown, former superintendent of schools John Reed, Mrs Llodra, and Dr Erardi, and everyone she has worked with or met.

“It has been a privilege, an honor, and a pleasure,” Ms Capoccitti said. “For Newtown and my new friends are each such a treasure. So I take my leave, but it’s not forever.”

GE Capital’s Joni Capoccitti, second from right, was presented with a proclamation and a pewter bowl with the Newtown town seal from First Selectman Pat Llodra, center, during the Board of Education’s June 30 meeting. Standing with the pair, from left are GE’s Anne Alzapiedi, Elizabeth Rollo, and Tom Kelleher.
James Ross, left, was unanimously selected as Newtown Middle School's assistant principal during the school board's Monday, June 30, meeting. Standing with him is NMS Principal Thomas Einhorn.
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