On Friday, Aug. 23, teachers and staff at Wilton Public Schools attended the all faculty and staff convocation. This annual event serves as a warm welcome back to staff by Superintendent Kevin Smith. After breakfast and a chance to catch up with colleagues after returning from summer break, staff headed to the Clune Center auditorium for a presentation led by Smith.
Smith introduced the upcoming year’s district-wide focus on Wellness Goals. He described these goals as encompassing “caring for yourself, caring for others and caring for the environment.” Smith spoke with gratitude for the work of Middlebrook culinary teacher Heather Priest and her Zero Waste team, and he encouraged all staff across the district to support the initiative in each of Wilton’s schools.
The district has instituted a Wellness Committee dubbed “Wellness Warriors.” It’s been working with Wilton’s food service company Chartwells to expand the number of healthier food options that will be available in each of the cafeterias. In addition, wellness plans are being developed and will lead to a range of activities being offered to staff.
This year, the district will continue to work on social and emotional learning, with an emotion-based learning system called RULER being introduced slowly and thoughtfully into the classrooms with the students. Last year, the district adopted the RULER system, which was developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, for work amongst the staff. For the 2019-2020 school year, educators will build on that by focusing on positive emotional climates and students developing the skills as well. RULER is an acronym that stands for “recognizing, understanding, labeling, expressing and regulating emotions.”
Each year at convocation, Smith recognizes staff members with 212 Awards. These awards are in recognition of extraordinary staff who have made the extra degree of effort within Wilton Public Schools. This year four staff members were honored:
- Custodial staff Ramone Martinez and Jose Figuero received awards.
- Smith said of Martinez, “In the 32 years Ramone has worked in the district, whatever needs to be done he is the first to step up, he doesn’t wait to be asked, he is positive and friendly and never takes a day off.”
- Of Figuero, Wilton’s head custodian, Smith said, “He had a lot of work to get through this year, as well as all the regular work that happens every school year; this year there was a lot of extra work at Cider Mill–replacing flooring and lights and repainting hallways; work in the LLC and cleaning up the courtyards. We appreciate his dedication and hard work to get everything finished in time.”
- Elena White, guidance counselor at Miller-Driscoll, was recognized for her dedication to developing social and emotional learning in the district.
- Wilton High School English teacher Michelle Cota was recognized for her compassion, drive, dedication, resilience in adversity and always focusing on colleagues and students.
Staff then split into teams and spread out around the building to complete a team challenge based on the district’s newly-revised Vision and Mission statements. The challenge was to work together, solve the clues and unlock a box to release a puzzle piece. Placing the pieces together created a mural displaying the vision and mission statements.
Team exercises have become a great way for staff to get a chance to meet colleagues who work in a different buildings. It also brought out some friendly competition as teams tried to be the first to finish the challenge.
Convocation ended with a moving acoustic performance by The Alternate Routes, a well-known local band, whose own mission is to inspire people around the world to dig deeper and make better things happen for themselves and the people around them. Alternate Routes’ bass player Iain Tait has been hired as the newest music teacher at Miller-Driscoll. The band’s singer commented that he was “…so happy that his bass player has a sweet teaching gig.” The band played a short set and then were joined on stage by choir teacher Kevin Cotellese and students from the WHS Madrigals.
“It was a heartwarming kick off to the new school year,” remarked Middlebrook teacher Julia Bookbinder, adding, “It reminds us of what it’s all about. Now it’s time to get back and get going!”
Those sentiments were shared by Miller-Driscoll assistant principal Jeremy Cross. “Another year, another opportunity to make a difference for the children we work with.”