September 16, 2022
Dear Families and Faculty,
We began our week with a Board of Education meeting. We opened our meeting with three students, Laila Arias, Katie Estabrook, and Teresa Silveri, accompanied by Josh Sette (new teacher highlighted in our update last week), singing “Imagine” by John Lennon. What a way to start a meeting! You can watch a highlight of our talented freshman below. Ms. Gillette also shared how our theme “Imagine” came to be, and how “Imagine” will resonate throughout our District, PK-12.
I was reminded on Monday evening, and while writing this memo, how lucky we are to have Alison Pratt covering many of our events, producing meaningful content and snapping great photos along the way. For those of you who may not know or recognize Alison, here she is! Thank you, Alison, we couldn’t keep our community well informed without you.
There are so many fun events happening across our schools, it’s hard to keep up. One highlight was last weekend's freshman dance at RHS. I wasn’t invited, BUT, eyes on the ground shared plenty of sweet videos and pictures. Participation was amazing, and the fact that our upperclassmen volunteer for the evening (some running from their own sports/extracurriculars), is a testament to who our students at RPS are. #proud
Have a great weekend.
Susie Da Silva, Ed.D
Quote of the Week
Being able to listen well is a superpower. While listening to someone you love, keep asking them, “Is there more?” until there is no more.
A Retired Superintendent
Ridgefield High School is proud to announce that seniors Nathaniel A. Carter and Michelle Kim are 2023 National Merit Semi-Finalists. This earns them them the opportunity to continue in the national scholarship competition.
Clean and Green
Did you know that RPS participates in the Green Cleaning Program? A green cleaning program means that we use environmentally preferable cleaning products as defined by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) for all state-owned buildings, schools, and facilities. DAS currently requires that environmentally preferable cleaning products be independently certified by one of two third-party-certified organizations: Green Seal or Eco Logo. Find out more here.
News from the Transportation Department: Drivers Wanted!
Soon, all families will be receiving a letter from the transportation department advising them of a study that RPS will be conducting over the course of the year (and possibly into next year) on transportation efficiencies. While conducting this study, there may be some pick-up/drop-off time and bus number changes. If this is the case, we will provide families and students with ample notice, and with as many details as possible. Stay tuned!
Hiring Drivers! RPS has two new vans and is looking for substitute drivers to transport students in or out of the District. Please email: Transportation Director Billy Gramajo at email@example.com if interested.
Lights! Music! Action! You?
Theater/Musical Enthusiasts…Ridgefield High School is looking for a Vocal Director and a Pit Conductor for their upcoming production. This is a paid position. Please contact Sherry Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
In the Classroom
1, 2, 3, FORE! Golf Ball Challenge Helps Build Problem-Solving Skills
Recently, East Ridge seventh graders spent their math class in the school library working on a Golf Ball Challenge that tested their problem-solving skills and patience. Media Specialist, Tanya Anderson and 7th-Grade Math Teacher Anna Pirri challenged students to keep their golf balls on a pegboard for as long as possible without the ball coming to a rest. The team with the longest time at the end of class won. The grand prize-winning team consisted of Aaron P. and Harry M. (photo) with a total of 19 seconds. “We didn’t expect victory," said Aaron and Harry. "But the class was a lot of fun. It was much more challenging than we thought but knowing we had to keep trying ultimately led us to victory.”
Students received a bag of materials to custom-make their peg boards. Teams could try as many different strategies as time allowed, but they had to attempt at least three different approaches, draw diagrams, and write about what worked, what didn't work, and why they made changes. The point of the game wasn't a "hole in one," but like golf, angles, surfaces, and the rough were all factors for the players to consider when vying for Golf Ball Challenge greatness.
Does Tragedy Unite or Divide Us? A 9/11 Middle School Lesson
Seventh-grade social studies teacher Christian Peterson showed his class a few informational videos on the 9/11 tragedy including a short version of the "Man in the Red Bandana". The students then responded to the writing prompt, "Does tragedy unite or divide people?" The students had some thoughtful responses. One student reflected: "In these past few classes, I have learned a lot of solemn, but powerful information. The cruel attack and tragedy of 9/11 changed this country, and along with it, it changed us, the citizens. It was a dark time, but it brought us together. This bond, of 300 million people, was stronger than any terrorist attack. 9/11 united our country in such a way that kids like me who weren't involved in it, could not wrap their heads around. Our country cried together, cleaned up together, and remembered together."
Grades K-2 Have Fun Learning Foundations of Reading
Second graders in Ms. Isola’s class don’t realize the cute puppets they just met are part of RPS’s new literacy resource. Echo and Baby Echo, two owl puppets, help teachers and literacy coaches connect with our youngest students learning to read. Beginning this year, RPS Kindergarten-Grade 2 teams are using the Wilson Fundations program to teach early literacy skills. ”Based on the Wilson Reading System principles," explains Director of Elementary Education Linda Johnson, “Fundations provides a research-based approach to teaching and learning phonics— an essential component of a comprehensive approach to teaching reading. Other critical foundational skills emphasized in Fundations include phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension, spelling, and handwriting."
Caption: RPS Literacy Coach, Michelle Pagliaro reviews letter sounds with the students in Ms. Isola's classroom.
RPS Pre-School Starts the Year Laughing and Learning
Preschool and Elementary Supervisor Christina Salvestrini reports, "We had an exciting week in Preschool. Lots of fun, laughs, and new learning experiences!" Please see more photos from the start of the program in "This Week in Photos" below. For more information about the Ridgefield Public preschool, please visit the website.
New Teacher Feature: "RPS Is the Perfect 'Second Home'"
An Interview with Marie Vergara, Ridgebury Elementary Special Education
1. What did you do prior to working at RPS?
I worked in a different district for 17 years. I was at the same school for the whole time, first as a paraeducator, and then as a special education teacher. It was like a family or a home. When I started my degree in education, I was set to teach middle school science. Then everything changed, when I took the position as a Special Education paraprofessional. From day one of working with students I knew that this was the path I was meant to take. I have been able to help students build skills and confidence, which they will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives. The truth is, all of my students have taught me just as much. I carry them with me. It’s a special profession (hence the name) that I am lucky enough to be part of.
2. What brought you to RPS?
I’d heard such wonderful things about the tight-knit community. I wanted a change. It was a risk because I was so comfortable in my work.
3. Any observations you have had about the district in your first few weeks on the job? I received some great advice when I first arrived, which was that “the community is very supportive. There is always someone there to lend a hand. You are never alone.” I have really found that to be true. It has been so welcoming. I saw many familiar faces at Convocation. I worked with Keith Margolus (Branchville Elementary Principal) and Mary Scalise (Ridgebury Elementary Principal). It’s been nice to reconnect with some familiar faces in the RPS Central Office. Ridgefield is the perfect second home.
4. Do you have any special passions, skills, or unique family experiences you would like to share with our audience of families and faculty?
I teach summer school but every summer, I carve out two weeks in Block Island with my family. I love it there and it’s a time where we can reconnect. Striking the right work/life balance is important. Running is my other passion, and I love to read.
The HeARTs of RPS
Photo above: Scotland Elementary's All-School Collaborative Mural inspired by artist Jen Stark.
Beyond the Classroom
RHS Athletics : First Friday Night Lights Tonight; Tickets Here!
Ridgefield High School fall athletics are in full swing! Tonight, RHS faces perennial rival Greenwich in the first home football game of the season. See New England and State-Championship RHS Dance Team and our spectacular Cheer at half-time. Please purchase tickets ($6) in advance and find all information on the RHS Athletics website. Athletic Director Dane Street reminds families to make sure students have access to those tickets on their phones before dropping children off.
PTAs Are Vital Partners: Join Today!
From big bashes with dunk tanks, dry ice science projects, or ice cream socials to small acts of kindness and curriculum support, Ridgefield Public School PTAs enrich the experiences of students, staff, and families. See photos from some great PTA-sponsored events in "This Week in Photos" below. Please join your PTA by clicking here.
Ridgebury Parents Dig Deep and Upcycle to Transform Courtyard
The story of the Ridgebury Elementary Courtyard’s transformation from “overgrown” to “awesome” is one of friendship, thought, leadership, persistence, and the generosity of Ridgefield. RES parent Elizabeth Long reports that she and fellow parent Jen D’Amico had a great time completing this four-year project.
“Originally, Jen enlisted her daughter’s scout troop (50585), and fellow scout leader Heather Candullo, along with RES 1st grade classes and me,” writes Long. “The scout troop donated flowers, a beautiful planter, and many hours of work. We had moms and dads and kids - everyone helping. And then COVID hit.”
But Long and D’Amico’s will did not falter. As soon as they were able to get back into the school, they rolled up their sleeves, newly determined to “make the Courtyard as low-maintenance as possible, while still providing a beautiful space for the kids.” They thought of “up-cycled flowers constructed from pans, light fixtures, fans, cooking pots, flower pots," says Long. “You name it, if we could find a way, there was no limit to what we would use.” They also continued to clear all the overgrowth and trees to plant a grassy area for the kids to gather.
Long and D’Amico are grateful for the donations from Ridgefield residents - on the Buy Nothing Facebook group, from the Thrift shop, and with RES families lending a hand. “The RES PTA provided us with funds for a lot of spray paint, building materials, and grass seed;” reports Long, “But, we tried to be as true to the up-cycling endeavor as possible. The stems are made from the boards of my old deck and the leaves from a putting green that was donated on the Buy Nothing site. Many people even donated unwanted spray paint to our little enterprise.”
Voila! Three years later, RES has a sweet and sustainable Courtyard. New RES Principal Mary Scalise writes, “Thank you to Elizabeth, Jen, the RES and Ridgefield communities for their generosity in creating this wonderful outdoor space.”
Caption for photo below: before and after shots of the Ridgebury Elementary courtyard.
RPS in the News
Click on the photos below for links to articles about RPS in local and national media.
Record-Breaking Event for Kindness Over Muscular Dystrophy
Hamlet Hub reported on the Kindness Over Muscular Dystrophy (KOMD) Fundraising Event, which raised over $300,000 for this local charity. More information about the Curran family, their son Connor's battle with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the charity, and how you can get involved can be found at the KOMD website.
The Drew Barrymore Show Will Feature SRMS Dogs
The Drew Barrymore Show (daily on CBS) will feature photos of Scotts Ridge Middle School students with the SRMS service dogs. Producers of the show saw aYahoo! News (circulation of over 63 million viewers/month) story about the deep connection between Scotts Ridge Middle School and Guiding Eyes in Yorktown. Stay tuned for airdate.
This Week In Photos
What a full week! Please see photos from RPS classrooms to fun PTA events to senior helpers at the ninth grade dance and more below.
Ridgefield CT 06877