March 17, 2023
Dear Families, Faculty, and Staff,
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! It is nice to know that spring is around the corner, and I am hopeful (I am sure you are too!) that you don’t have to hear my voice anymore on morning calls.
Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to see the RHS boys swim team compete and win second place in the Class LL tournament. It was an incredibly tight competition for second place against Glastonbury; an exciting match and happy to see our swimmers prevail. Congratulations!
Last evening I was joined by Ridgefield Prevention Council (RPC) volunteers and Board of Education members, Sean McEvoy and Tina Malhotra, to learn more about some of the focused work this organization is engaged in. RPC is an educational organization providing information for the entire community of Ridgefield in the prevention of high-risk behaviors in our youth population. The RPC monthly meeting schedule and contact information can be found here.
We had a Board of Education meeting this past Monday evening where we presented an update on Special Education, and also learned more about the ins and outs of the functions of the Board of Education. During the Chair’s report, Tina Malhotra shared a reflection on the webinar, “Representation Matters”, where she and Board member, Divya Dorairajan attended. She spoke of the “crucial importance of every member of our community having a voice, and how crucial it is for the voices of minority groups to be heard and acknowledged as they often bring unique and valuable perspectives to the table.” Ms. Malhotra described how all really does mean all and that just because an idea is not popular or mainstream, it doesn’t necessarily mean it's wrong. This reminded me of a recent meeting with a parent on the topic of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB). During the meeting, we were discussing, and in some ways defining our perspective of what this work meant to each of us, which at the core is having the ability to share and be open to listening and learning about the perspectives of others. As we think about our schools, homes, and communities, I encourage us all to think about how we create spaces where “all” feel their perspective is valued, heard, and seen- which doesn’t mean that we have to always agree. You can view the meeting here.
The public is invited to attend the Board of Finance Public Hearing on Monday, March 27 at ERMS beginning at 7:00 p.m. The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28, followed by a Curriculum Committee meeting on Monday, April 3.
Lots of RPS events happening this weekend. Enjoy!
Susie Da Silva, Ed.D.
Caption Photos Above (Left to Right) : East Ridge Principal Jennifer Phostole and Assistant Principal Tom Grace go green for St. Patrick's Day. Veterans Park held an assembly for Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day. Scotland fifth-grader Audrey Wang performed Irish music with Jim Tornatore and Josh Sette.
RHS Play Continues Tonight and Tomorrow!
The RHS Play "Into the Woods" opened last weekend to great acclaim! Tickets for this family-friendly showcase of RPS talent are available here. For those unfamiliar with the musical, it's Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's modern take on classic storybook characters like Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and more.
March 17 and 18 at 7:30 pm in the RHS Auditorium.
Snow Date: March 19 at 2 pm
Please note that the last BOE meeting in March will take place on Tuesday, March 28 because the Board of Finance Public Hearing is on Monday, March 27. Thank you!
Tentative Last Day of School
The tentative last day of school for students is Monday, June 19.
It is an early dismissal day for students.
The tentative End-of-Year PD Day for Teachers is Tuesday, June 20.
Important District News and Reminders
NEW! RPS Taps Joshua Zabin As Director of Security
On Tuesday, RPS announced that Joshua Zabin will assume the new position of Director of School Security and Safety. Mr. Zabin worked in the Fairfield Police Department for 32 years, rising to the rank of Captain before his retirement from law enforcement in 2018. Since retiring as Police Captain, he has worked as Senior Security Manager for Building & Land Technology in Stamford and consulted for the Ridgefield Public Schools in its recent safety survey. Earlier this year, the Board of Education approved this new position as recommended by the administration after a comprehensive review of RPS security systems. Please read the full press release here.
NEW! BOE Meeting Reviews Responsibilities and Policies
At Monday's Board of Education meeting the district's legal counsel presented to Board members. The public might find this discussion helpful in answering questions about BOE roles and responsibilities. Thank you to our Board of Education members for their commitment to the District.
NEW! Lunch Angel Pays It Forward (and Back)
At Monday's Board of Education meeting, RPS Director of Finance Jill Browne revealed that an anonymous donor stepped in to pay all the outstanding lunch balances. This lunch angel donated over $7400 to erase family debt! Thank you!!!
NEW! One RPS Math Team: Grade 6 Visits Grade 5
Caption: Fifth graders and BMES math teacher Melissa Davis
In the fall, fifth-grade math teachers visited sixth-grade math classes to observe what was in store for their students mathematically in middle school. This past Monday, the middle school sixth-grade math teams reciprocated by observing fifth-grade math classes at Veterans Park and Barlow Mountain Elementary School. “The idea is for our middle school teachers to see the structures in place in a fifth-grade classroom to understand what students are seeing, where there might be differences, what could apply, and what might not,” explains Grade 6-12 Math and Science Supervisor Jeffrey Corbishley.
“We want to forge relationships across the schools to support our students and our staff,” says Director of Elementary Education Linda Johnson. “So, staff can pick up the phone and ask questions and learn from each other and so they understand where students are coming from and where they are going.”
Barlow Mountain Elementary math specialist Julia Kolakowski oriented the Scotts Ridge sixth-grade math team, Drew Hall, Christina Piazza, and JoAnn Tangney, explaining that the district’s elementary math resource, think!Mathematics features a 45-50 minute lesson with distinct parts. She told the group that they would see a lesson on measurement, and explained that think!Mathematics resource is based in part on the principles in the book Building Thinking Classrooms by Peter Liljedah. Ms. Johnson reminded the group that fifth graders switch classes for subject areas as one way to prepare them for middle school.
Melissa Davis teaches math to all BMES fifth graders. During Monday’s lesson, students assemble first on the carpet and Davis introduces the anchor task, which asks students to compare heights in a task that involves conversion, precision, decimals, and interpreting a ruler. A randomizer shuffles students into groups of three, and the students stand up to work on vertical whiteboards following Liljedah’s proven methods. The groups seem engaged in answering the anchor task question and measuring themselves in meters and centimeters. After about ten minutes, the students regroup on the carpet to review their findings and then separate to work on practice problems alone.
After the lesson, the SRMS team came back together to share their observations. “I liked that the learning occurred in the task,” noted one of the SRMS teachers. “The teacher introduced the concept with some thoughtful pictures and gave them the context to understand the task. The students knew what they needed to do but they weren’t provided the answer. They had to figure it out.”
“I liked that she had them turn to each other to ask or answer a question and that math was embedded in the lesson, like when she said, ‘turn to page two times five plus six’,” observed another. “I liked that there was a change of space. The students were in three different locations, and we know that’s a good way to learn.”
In last week’s Professional Development and during today’s lesson, teachers are saying that they are learning strategies they can employ the next day with their students. “So many good things are happening in RPS right now,” said Ms. Johnson. “It’s really exciting.”
Caption: Sixth-grade math teachers with Jeffrey Corbishley, Linda Johnson, and Julia Kolakowski
Caption: Students move across the room during an elementary math lesson
NEW! No Tiger Talk Podcast: RHS Athletics Next Week
NEW! SES Digital Escape Rooms Go Live
Since November, Scotland fifth-grader Kasey M. has been imagining being stuck on an island with math fluency as the only means of escape. Levi K. has been doing the same for the Pyramid of Giza. These students and several teams of fourth graders chose to work on Digital Escape Rooms under the tutelage of SES Math Specialist Jodie Luongo.
Today, March 17, some of their escape rooms are available to the district here. “This came out of a Defined Learning program by the State of Connecticut, which encourages Project-Based Learning initiatives. But, the State’s suggestion of an escape room lacked an actual end project so I found the Google Escape Room platform,” explains Ms. Luongo. “This was entirely voluntary on the students’ part, done during extension block or sometimes after school or on vacation.”
“I recommend doing this with a partner,” says fourth-grader Abby A., who made a fairy forest escape room with Alex W. that links to another classmate’s room, Harper M. “It’s a lot of fun but a lot of work,” she says. Abby leads RPS Update through some of her favorite parts, including fake clues like a poisoned mushroom. “Getting the timer to work was a big challenge,” she says.
Fourth graders Leo T. and Gray M. also had trouble with the timer on their football-themed escape room. Ms. Luongo helped students with the timer function and other challenges, meeting with students about once every two weeks or so.
“The project tapped into students’ creative sides,” says Luongo. “They had to write an intriguing plot along with constructing math clues and answers. It’s also a precursor to coding. The students had many unexpected challenges throughout designing each room.” She explains that students have made progress on 10-15 escape rooms. “One student has already started on a sequel.”
The math is meant to be for grades 4-6. “My brother did mine,” says fourth grader Finn G. “He’s in seventh grade.” Encourage your students to give these escape rooms a try. From escape rooms with a Bubble Tea theme to one with Minecraft to sports, there is something for every interest.
In the Classroom
NEWT! Crossing Guards Wanted
At Barlow Mountain, third-grade international students Elisa Kossmann and Mariam Subeliani read an article from the New York Times Kids edition about newts in California. The recent wet weather has been good for newts because they like water, but it has brought the amphibians out of their burrows and onto busy roads where the cars are a danger to them. Volunteers are needed to help the newts cross the roads. Their teacher, Paulette De Rito reports that Elisa and Mariam designed their own "Help Wanted" poster to persuade people to volunteer as crossing guards. They thought about what special qualifications a person would need to be a good newt crossing guard. They even found a "Crossing Guard Wanted" advertisement in Ridgefield!
BMES Is STEAM-ing!
Barlow Mountain kindergarteners learned that salt on a watercolor can change the painting in this cool lesson that integrated art and science into a literacy activity. The students are creating a kindness quilt based on the book, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Teacher Patricia Cerniglia (shown in the photo above left) says that she and the other BMES kindergarten teachers Lisa Whelan and Marcello Mongardi developed this interdisciplinary project.
India Cultural Day at SRMS
Last Friday, Scotts Ridge sixth graders enjoyed Indian Cultural Day. Organized by Social Studies teachers Patricia Dowd and Marisa Thamm and supported by staff and families, the day was an unmitigated success. Bollywood dance instructors paid for by the SRMS PTA led students through the exuberant fusion dance of Indian films. In the LLC, students visited important Indian cultural sites through the power of VR. They played cricket and games of Seven Stones in the gym and chess and other board games in a science classroom. They practiced yoga, painted henna on their hands, and enjoyed Indian cuisine from Jaipore Restaurant in Ridgefield. Many students and parents dressed in traditional Indian clothing or tried on Indian fashions to pose in front of a green screen.
More photos below!
Tiger Trench: Chemistry Students Do History in Flex
Loyal RPS Update readers, podcast listeners, and RHS staff and students know that Flex is a new RHS scheduling initiative that affords time at the beginning of the school day for students to meet with teachers for remediation and enrichment. Chemistry teacher Euan Hunter’s students show how enriching this period can be. During Thursday Flex, Hunter’s tenth-graders have been hard at work on a project called “Tiger Trench”. The project has developed to have three aims: carry out a chemical analysis of World War 1 bullet tips, create a booklet on the history of the local people who served in WW1, and explore the idea of building a replica WW1 trench to use as a teaching aid for students and the community. “As far as we know,” writes Mr. Hunter, “no other school in America has built a replica trench and so we would be the first in the country. A school just north of us in Canada has built a replica trench, you can see the news story of that one here.” RPS Update will continue to cover this story as it unfolds.
Read more about this on-going project in the captions below.
Top Left: Maxwell Crook with the WW1 bullets recovered from a trench in France. Maxwell made a connection to Dr. Baluha at Western Connecticut State University to analyze these bullets via mass spectrometry to help identify the country of origin.
Top Center: Teacher Euan Hunter holds the bullet casings. To learn more about the bullet casings, please read this Ridgefield Press article about a Connecticut State Library-sponsored trip to Europe attended by RHS alum Aaron Cohen and Mairead Lacey.
Top Right: Elias Warholak (left) and Sebastien Bernard (right) weigh out copper nitrate to make a standard solution. This solution will be serially diluted to make a calibration graph for the colorimetry experiment for the brass bullet casing fragment.
Lower Left: Dhruv Manglani holds a reference book purchased by the RHS Social Studies Department to provide more in-depth information on life in a WW1 trench as the team works toward its end goal of building a WWI trench to help teach students and the community about the service and sacrifice of the people of Ridgefield, and beyond, who fought and died in WW1.
Lower Right: Sophomore Arnav Bose holds a solution that was made by dissolving a fragment of the brass bullet casing that was still attached to the bullet tip in nitric acid. The amount of copper in the brass alloy can be determined via colorimetry.
The HeARTS of RPS
RHS Musician of the Month
“My role is more like percussion handyman and mentor.”
Senior Paul Hickey is the RHS Musician of the Month. Please read the full story about Paul and how he describes his role at RHS as a "percussion handyman" in this Hamlet Hub article written by student Jadyn Castagna. Congratulations, Paul!
RHS Play Into the Woods Continues Tonight—TICKETS AVAILABLE
Middle School Musicals
It's showtime for the Middle School Musicals!
East Ridge plans to put on Disney's The Lion King, JR.
Friday March 31, 2023 at 6:00
Saturday April 1, 2023 at 2:00
Tickets are $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for students/children (under age 13). They are also offering a donation option where a portion of ticket sales can go to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.
To purchase tickets beforehand, please click the link. Tickets available at the door.
Over 80 Scotts Ridge students are involved in the production of High School Musical, JR, also opening on March 31. Tickets available by scanning the QR code above.
Art teacher Megan Kounnas writes, "first grade artists learned about Swiss artist, Paul Klee, and his distinct style using geometric shapes with outlining to create abstract images. Many students observed buildings and towns and animals in his work so we decided to create animals based on his techniques. Artists learned about warm and cool colors and how that sometimes changes the mood or feeling of artwork."
Beyond the Classroom
Lights, Camera, Lead!
Last Friday, RHS student leaders attended the Connecticut Association of Student Council convention at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. The convention titled "Lights, Camera, Lead," looked at topics on Citizenship, Recognition, Inspiration, Service, Engagement, and Spirit.
RHS Athlete Commits to Run at Lafayette
Senior Cheyla Williams has signed a National Letter of Intent to throw shotput, discus, and hammer at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. Cheyla plans to major in Psychology. Cheyla is a High Honor roll student with a cumulative GPA of 4.24. Cheyla has been a member of the RHS Cross Country Team as well as the Varsity Indoor & Outdoor Track Team from 2019 to 2023. Cheyla served as Captain of the RHS Girls Track Team for the 2022-2023 indoor season. Cheyla has been awarded the Most Improved Athlete and Outstanding Field Athlete titles for the 2022 outdoor season. Cheyla has trained at several Shotput clinics and camps, most significantly being the NIKE sports camp 2019 and 2021 summer. Cheyla has qualified and placed at FCIACS and State Championships during 2019, 2021-2023 seasons. She has also earned the “All FCIACS” placement in shotput for the 2021 season. Congratulations, Cheyla!
RHS Dance Team Wins First, Second, and Third
The RHS Dance Team clinched first place at the Woodland Regional Dance Competition, second at the CIAC State Championship, and third at the CNESSPA New England Regional Championship. See their show-stopping routine on Instagram.
Boys Swim to Earn Second Place
With a true team effort, the Boys swim team pulled off second place in the CIAC Class LL Meet behind perennial swimming juggernaut Greenwich High School and in front of Glastonbury. Please visit the CIAC website to see all RHS's team and individual successes. The boys swim again tomorrow, Saturday, at the State Open Meet. Congratulations and good luck, Tigers!
FCIAC Freshmen All-Stars Coached by RHS Senior
Congratulations to RHS freshmen Joe Humphrey and Patrick Foley for their selection to the annual FCIAC freshman all star game last Saturday. RHS senior varsity basketball player Jordan Katz coached the team.
Save the Children Club Raises Awareness and Funds
The Save the Children Organization strives to ensure that children everywhere survive, learn, and are protected. RHS Save the Children Club president Zoe Person and member Charli McClemore write, “Our role in their mission here at RHS is to help spread awareness of current issues facing children across the globe, such as threats facing the children of Ukraine or child poverty of both domestic and international nature. We also work to raise money in order to sponsor children in need. By sponsoring a child through Save the Children, our club empowers and provides for not only that child, but their entire community. This year, our club has been able to sponsor three children, and with our continued efforts, we will be able to support even more children. We are currently organizing a Walkathon to be held towards the end of April at the Rec Center, where we hope to not only raise more money, but also to educate our peers and community members about issues facing children today and what they can do to help. Be on the lookout for more information to come!”
Team Canning Cancer Surpasses Goal
Make-A-Wish Alumnus Supports Cause This Month
Barlow Mountain kindergartener, Jack Rowe is a Make-A-Wish alumnus and is now supporting the organization to help the local community of kids fighting critical illnesses. "Make-A-Wish grants life- changing wishes for children with critical illnesses," writes his mother, Katie Rowe. "When a wish comes true, it creates strength, hope, and transformation in a child—and a community. Research shows a wish can give kids the strength to fight against and even overcome a critical illness." In the month of March, Jack is helping the local Jersey Mike's Subs raise money for Make-A-Wish of Connecticut, during the store's "Month of Giving." In fact, on March 29, every single dollar that comes in (not just proceeds)-—whether in-store, online or through the Jersey Mike’s app—will go to Make-A-Wish of Connecticut. This is the kind of "sub" we can sink our teeth into. Way to go, Jack!
A Return to Carnegie Hall
Ridgebury Elementary fourth graders, Ari and Mia Rothschild will return to play Carnegie Hall this year. The twins won first place in the Golden Key International Music Competition Gold/1st Place. They also each won in Solo categories: Ari on the piano, and Mia on the Flute. This will be their second year in a row performing at Carnegie Hall.
More Photos from the Week
East Ridge Has Got Spirit!
The annual students vs. staff East Ridge basketball game was one of the highlights of the ERMS Spirit Week. The game is a fundraiser for the Student Council, which is extremely active at ERMS under the tutelage of Maureen Tyra. Band teacher Hilary Brown and her students added to the exciting atmosphere. Other fun days included decades day and a white, black, and orange grade color day. A big part of Spirit Week at ERMS is the spirit of giving with each class having specific charities and wish lists to guide them.
Fun and Games at Indian Culture Day at SRMS
Below please find more photos of the sixth-grade SRMS end of unit celebration.