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August 14, 2020


Vistra Energy Company donated $5,000 so Norwalk High School and Brien McMahon High School seniors can celebrate graduation night safely.
Vistra Energy Company donated $5,000 so Norwalk High School and Brien McMahon High School seniors can celebrate graduation night safely. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the office of Sen. Bob Duff

Around Fairfield Schools: Safe Grad Night, Teachers Shine, Dollar For Hats Helps Puerto Rico

Adults feel helpless watching a calamitous earthquake rock Puerto Rico and seeing footage of how bushfires are burning millions of acres in Australia. Imagine how kids feel. One Ridgefield school came up with a fun way to support relief efforts in both countries earlier this month.

The East Ridge Middle School Student Council raised $1,600 by collecting a dollar donation from students wearing hats and hoodies to school. The effort is just one example of what's happening around Fairfield County schools this month.

Norwalk And McMahon Post-Graduation Committees Receive Gifts

In Norwalk, a local energy company has contributed a significant amount of funding needed for a well-earned right of passage for high school seniors.

A $10,000 donation — $5,000 each to Norwalk and Brian McMahon High Schools — from Vistra Energy company, will go towards an all-night, alcohol- and drug-free post-graduation party, organized by each school's post graduation committees.

The budget usually runs about $15,000. The donation was presented to the group on behalf of the company by State Sen. Bob Duff Feb. 7 at Norwalk High School.

He praised the volunteers. "It's powered by a dedicated and committed group of parents and volunteers who work hard every year to ensure students have a memorable experience. This generous grant from Vistra will go a long way toward ensuring Norwalk High and Brien McMahon students have a great time this year, and I'm happy that I could connect Vistra with our schools in order to further serve the students," he said.

"On behalf of our graduating seniors of the Brien McMahon High School class of 2020, I would like to thank Vistra Energy for the generous contribution of $5,000 to support our annual post-graduation party," said Qadir Abdus-Salaam, assistant principal of Brien McMahon High School. 

"Along with our BMHS parents group, this donation helps continue the tradition of providing a safe venue for our students to celebrate this milestone event in their lives.”

The donations will cover the cost for 100 students, said committee co-chair Maureen Ireland. "This is such a memorable event for our students,  and I’m pleased that more students will have the chance to participate.” The event's expenses usually cost around $15,000, said Kevin Coughlin the State Senate Democrats spokesman.

The Texas-based energy company completed a deal to acquire Norwalk’s Crius Energy in July as reported here in Daily Voice. 

"We’re also dedicated to giving back to the communities we serve. That’s why we’re pleased to support the Norwalk Education Foundation and Connecticut PTA in their vital work enhancing student learning and providing safe and fun activities for graduates for the total education experience," said Brad Watson, the senior director of Community Affairs.

Stamford Teachers & Educators Shine

Four teachers and a "team" of educators will receive "Spotlight Awards," and six from Stamford Public Schools will be honored as Teachers of the Year at an annual Excellence in Education event March 25 in Stamford.

Nominations were received in the fall and the selections were made on the following criteria: Outstanding Teaching, Exceptional Student Support, Exemplary Community Involvement and Positive Influence on School Culture. 

The honorees are Stamford High School Science Teacher Saleh Jahangir, Toquam Magnet School Special Education Teacher Barbara Hanauer, Toquam Magnet School Special Education Teacher Diana Pelliccia and Individuals Achieving Independence Teacher Lisa Legato-Howlett as 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year Finalists. 

In addition, Rippowam Middle School Science Teacher Frank Aulenti and Academy of Information Technology & Engineering World Language Teacher Raquel Bonessi are semifinalists.

In the next phase of the Teacher of the Year process, each of the four finalists must submit a 30-minute taped class lesson for review by the committee. 

These videos will be considered by the committee, along with interviews and all other materials submitted during the course of the program, to choose the district’s First Finalist and Teacher of the Year winner. 

In addition, the following teachers or team of teachers who demonstrated outstanding teaching or support in the past year, have been chosen as Spotlight Winners.

  • Tanvi Rishi, SPED teacher
  • Newfield Elementary School
  • Blakeley Cohen, Literacy Support Specialist
  • Scofield Magnet Middle School
  • Laura Mase, Speech/Hearing Pathologist
  • Rippowam Middle School
  • Diane Gamse, Teacher for Hearing Impaired
  • District Middle and High Schools
  • Petrina Powell, Susan Conner, Heysha Vasquez, English Learner Team
  • Julia A. Stark Elementary School