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Amity’s 9-Minute Outdoor July Graduation Ceremony

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Jul 082020
 

Yes, that’s right, the 2020 Amity Graduation ceremony that took place on the football field on Tuesday morning was admittedly different than any other, but, it was well-planned and ran like clockwork.

About 34 students had signed up, but some did not attend for one reason or another.

Masks and social distancing were top priorities and each graduate and his or her parents were seated in their own little areas around the field.

To open it, School Principal Anna Mahon announced that the students had met all the requirements to receive their diplomas and then read off the names of the 28 students who chose to take advantage of this option (rather than last month’s drive-thru graduation event).

As their name was read, the student walked up to a table to retrieve his or her diploma. There was no presentation or hand-shaking, just grab and go.

The grads walked up the aisle to a waiting photographer to have their official portrait taken, then returned to their seats. No backflips victoriously raised hands or mad dashes to the fence to hug mom and dad. Just simply walking back to their seats.

(I apologize to one young man whose photo I did not get, you moved too fast and you were blurry)

Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Byars instructed the grads to move their tassels from the right to left and their graduation was official.

The entire ceremony took 9 minutes.

For health reasons, amid the pandemic, the traditional cap tossing was not permitted — what if someone picked up the wrong one? To add to how somber the ceremony was, there wasn’t one beach ball in sight. No bubbles either. Just well-behaved seniors sitting near their parents.

Congratulations to the Amity Administration for coming up with different options to make the final moments of the seniors’ final year special and as memorable as they could.

Finally, congratulations to the Class of 2020 for making the most of your most unusual senior year. Good Luck in all of your future endeavors.

 

Sign Up Now For Amity Adult And Continuing Education Virtual Classes

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Jul 062020
 

Amity Adult and Continuing education will be holding summer 2020 courses ONLINE!!  We have many courses available including SAT Prep Courses, Health, and Wellness Courses, Finance Courses, Fitness Courses, Crafting Courses, and many others!
Register today as some courses are starting this week!!  Take a summer course with us online right from your own home!!  This is a great way to stay active while we are home during this unprecedented time!
We have great instructors who are very excited to offer courses to you VIRTUALLY!
Register today!!
Click HERE to view the new catalog!  

Enjoy exploring this catalog. If you have any questions, please call 203-397-4188.

Questions?  E-mail us:  philip.dolan@amityregion5.org OR kim.doran@amityregion5.org

Wait, What? A Popular Orange Police Sergeant Retired This Weekend

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Jun 292020
 

Chief Gagne presents Sgt. Aquino with his retirement badge.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of our local police officers. Naturally, after all this time, I’ve seen so many of them retire and move on. Some, I’ve stayed in touch with, others are just gone with the wind. But I still remember each and every one of them.

Pre-pandemic I most likely would have gotten a heads-up and had an opportunity to say goodbye, but this weekend that didn’t happen and one of my absolute favorite members of the OPD left without even the slightest hint.

There was only one other time that I cried when one of my boys in blue left, and that was back in 2012, soon after opening Orange LIve when Asst Police Chief Ed Koether retired after 30 years on the job.

So, who is the second Orange cop that made me cry? Believe it or not, Sgt John Aquino, 53, one of the kindest, friendliest, most understanding, and professional officers I’ve ever had the pleasure to have known.

Over the past 25 years, I always looked forward to seeing his smiling face at the Orange Country Fair, Firemen’s Carnival, Senior Health and Safety Fair, parades, and numerous public events. When my granddaughter was little and I was clueless about the newer child safety seats, it was John who helped teach me how to install it properly.

If I locked myself out of my car, which happened a lot, I was never embarrassed if he was the responding officer.

John served in the Patrol Division from 1995 to 2007 and was the  Youth and D.A.R.E. Officer from 2007 until his promotion to Sergeant on July 5, 2013.

I remember how amazing it was the day Detective Aquino was sworn-in to the rank of Sergeant, before a standing-room-only crowd of family, friends, fellow officers, and the three Orange elementary school principals. See VIDEO HERE.

He was then assigned to the midnight shift as a Road Sergeant. 

Then, this past Saturday, June 27, Sgt. Aquino worked his last shift with the Orange Police Department after 25 years of dedicated service to the Town of Orange.

Without much fanfare, John retired with Chief Robert Gagne presenting him with a plaque and his retirement badge.

Community Minded Officer

John was a member of the ATV unit, many times he participated in the Special Olympics Torch Run, as the D.A.R.E. Officer, he drove the Easter Bunny to the Lions Easter Egg Hunt at the Orange Fairgrounds, and he participated in the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day for several years. 

In November 2016 he was one of the Orange police who took on a scruffy look to raise money for the Jimmy Fund in Chloe Clemens’ name. It was the last time I can remember when the members of the department were allowed to go unshaven – but only for a month.

 

BIO

Sgt Aquino, 53, was a 25-year veteran of the Orange CT Police Department.

He graduated from the University of Bridgeport in 1989 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies.

He was appointed as a probationary officer in Orange on June 23, 1995.

He was assigned to the patrol division from June 1995 to February 2008.

The Aquino Family in 2013 (Sgt. Swearing-in)

In February 2008 the was assigned to the Investigative Services Unit, serving as the Youth and DARE Officer and in the capacity of School Resource Officer.

Sgt. Aquino went to school to become a child safety technician (installing child safety seats in vehicles).

He and wife, Francine have been married 25 years (on July 19) and they have two sons, John and Michael.

Congratulations John, thank you for your service and your friendship over the years. I wish you only happiness and success in your future endeavors. You are already missed.

Happy Anniversary to you and Francine.

 

 

Framework for Connecticut Schools During the 2020-21 Academic Year

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Jun 252020
 

Yes, your children WILL be going back to school this fall.

There are a lot of rules set up for the 2020-2021 school year, comprised in cooperation with students and parents. The one sticking point that many are not thrilled about is that kids will be required to wear masks all day, which may very well prove to be difficult, especially for those younger than 10.

This is what the state has provided:

Guiding Principles

As Connecticut schools plan to reopen, the guidance and considerations outlined in this framework are grounded in six guiding principles:

  1. Safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff;
  2. Allowing all students the opportunity to return into the classrooms full time starting in the fall;
  3. Monitoring the school populations and, when necessary, potentially canceling classes in the future to appropriately contain COVID-19 spread;
  4. Emphasizing equity, access, and support to the students and communities who are emerging from this historic disruption;
  5. Fostering strong two-way communication with partners such as families, educators and staff; and
  6. Factoring into decisions about reopening the challenges to the physical safety and social-emotional well-being of our students when they are not in school.

These guiding principles require all districts to develop their plans with a certain level of consistency, however, they retain wide discretion in implementing approaches to reopening given unique local considerations.

School districts must balance their planning with contingency plans to provide robust, blended learning or remote learning for all grades in the event that a school, district, or region has to cancel or limit in-person classes due to health precautions.

Main Operational Considerations

Cohorting

  • Districts should emphasize grouping students by the same class/group of students and teachers (into a cohort) so each team functions independently as much as possible. Consider this methodology by grade levels.
  • Placing students in cohorts is strongly encouraged for grades K-8, and encouraged where feasible for grades 9-12.

Social Distancing and Facilities

  • Review building space and reconfigure available classroom space, such as gymnasiums and auditoriums, to maximize social distancing, consistent with public health guidelines in place at that time.

Transportation

  • Districts should plan for buses to operate close to capacity with heightened health and safety protocols, including requiring all students and operators to wear face coverings.
  • Plans must be developed to activate increased social distancing protocols based upon community spread.

Face Coverings

  • All staff and students will be expected to wear a protective face covering or face mask that completely covers the nose and mouth when inside the school building, except for certain exceptions including when teachers are providing instruction.

Ensuring Equity and Access

  • Equitable access to education is a top priority that supports a full-time in-school model by mitigating any barriers to education or opportunity gaps that increased during the pandemic. Efforts to support equity, close the opportunity gap, and provide a wide range of support for students in the state are best achieved with in-person schooling opportunities for all ages.
  • Districts should identify gaps and develop action plans for reopening that specifically address inclusion, equity, and access for all learners with strategies and clearly defined action steps.

Connex Presents Giuliano With Scholarship Award

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Jun 242020
 

Lauryn Giuliano of Orange (pictured with her parents) was the recipient of the Nicolas G. Hackett Memorial Scholarship, an award named in honor of a longtime volunteer at Connex Credit Union.

Lauryn is currently majoring in Psychology at Southern Connecticut State University, where she maintains a 4.0 GPA while serving as a presidential student ambassador and mathematics peer mentor.

In high school, Lauryn also completed more than 415 hours of volunteer service working with organizations such as the West Haven Animal Shelter and Locket’s Meadow Horse Rescue Farm in Bethany.

For more information on the scholarship program or Connex Credit Union, visit connexcu.org.

Goddard School Gives Preschoolers A Proper Send-Off

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Jun 232020
 

While not being able to host a traditional graduation ceremony in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an Orange area preschool came up with a way to give their graduates a proper send-off, while remaining socially responsible.

Earlier this month, teachers and staff from The Orange, CT Goddard School traveled from Milford to Guilford spreading cheer by providing each graduate with a mini-parade celebration. The students saw their favorite teachers and administrators, received their diploma and a gift bag of goodies, along with a graduation sign and tee-shirt.

Kimberly Kick, the on-site owner of The Goddard School in Orange, said that graduation is not only a celebration for the children and parents but for the faculty as well. “It’s been a journey filled with excitement and friendships, learning, and laughter. Many of the children have been with us since they were infants,” she said. “While we’ll miss seeing them on a daily basis, we’re confident that they are well prepared for the road ahead.”

“Many of the children and families come back to visit us and share their accomplishments with us long after their Goddard School graduation. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Kimberly said.

For more information on The Goddard School, visit www.goddardschool.com. 

 

Hundreds Attend Tri-Town Black Lives Matter Rally in Woodbridge

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Jun 152020
 

Organizer Micaela Cardozo

With all the unrest across the country and more and more disturbing examples of prejudice and brutality against black citizens coming to light every day, peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies have become a popular way for many to express their feelings.

Just a week ago, Amity grad Micaela Cardozo decided that it was time the Amity community join in the movement and begin to truly understand the plight of their black brothers and sisters. 

She spoke with the first selectman, Police Chief Frank Cappiello, Youth Services Coordinator, and others and arranged for the streets to be closed for everyone’s safety during the march. She reached out to Orange Democrats Jodi Dietch and Mary Welander who set up a table with poster board and markers so protesters could make signs.

Several Woodbridge police officers, including the chief, were present, but not “in your face.” Cappiello stood in the back and took a photo of the gathering with his cell phone at the beginning and said of Cardozo, “She did a good job.” He also was pleased that every single person wore a mask, helping keep the risk of spreading COVID-19 to a minimum.

Of all the local rallies, this is the first one we’ve seen that was fully orchestrated by young adults. 

Micaela recruited other Amity High alums, Ryan Rattley, Zoie Reed, and Tobe Nwangwu to speak at the gathering along with Woodbridge First Selectman Beth Heller. Only Rattley, who is in college in Pittsburgh, could not attend. He asked his mother, Carol Galloway, to read his thoughts for him. 

Micaela, a tall, pretty, blonde, introduced herself and stated, “You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I am bi-racial, and I’ve never experienced racial discrimination. But my friends have and black lives matter.”

She introduced First Selectman Beth Heller, who first thanked all of the speakers and everyone there who came together in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrating their commitment to social justice. 

“We will march because Black Lives Matter. We march for justice, for equal justice under the law, for economic justice, for environmental justice, and for equal opportunity,” Heller said. “We march because this is who we are.”

Heller added this important piece of information. Some of you may be aware that the Merriam-Webster dictionary will now include systemic racism in its latest definition of racism.  Kennedy Mitchum, a young Black woman from Missouri and recent graduate of Drake University wrote to the Merriam-Webster editors, to request that the dictionary provide a more detailed definition of racism, a definition that recognizes that racism extends beyond one-to-one interactions or expressions of prejudice to include systemic racism where larger systems and institutions in society in education, policing, health care, or the economy work over time to reinforce differential treatment according to race.  To her surprise, the editors agreed.  In its new definition, Merriam-Webster will attempt to indicate that racism isn’t limited to discrimination or prejudice from one person to another but racism is also about longstanding institutions, laws, and regulations that promote notions of supremacy and inferiority between the races. This is systemic racism.

“We watch in anguish in response to systemic racism, particularly the pattern of needless and senseless acts of violence that have taken the lives of our black brothers and sisters, and recently, the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.  But this time, I think we have reason to hope that things will change,” she said. “There is a new burst of energy, a protest movement across this country and beyond our shores, in cities and towns in all 50 states, a movement that crosses racial, ethnic, political and generational differences, a movement that binds us together by our common humanity, a movement poised to inspire new policies and new legislation. 

Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” 

“I think Dr. King believed that the arc doesn’t bend toward justice on its own,” Heller said. “That’s our responsibility, and that’s why we are here today.”

Next Nwangwu gave an impassioned speech, sharing the stories of several of the more recent black lives lost to police brutality, prejudice, and hatred, just because of the color of their skin.

Each heartwrenching account was shared with sadness, anger, and pain, as only a black person could tell it. You could hear a pin drop in the field of grass upon which the sea of white people sat along with their black neighbors, classmates, and friends.

Carol Galloway shared her son, Ryan’s statement just as he would have, with purpose, honesty, and sadness.

Ryan was a little black kid who went through the Amity school system, and the first time he heard a derogatory word about his race was on the bus coming home from Middle School. Woodbridge children were not the only ones to make him feel uncomfortable or out of place. He recalled riding his bicycle one day and being followed all the way to his home by a woman who didn’t let it end there. She sat outside his home for a while to make sure he wasn’t up to something criminal.

Ryan was on the Amity Lacrosse team and he was in four of five Amity Plays — even earning a nomination for a High School Musical Award for his performance in “In The Heights.”

He reflected on how everyone loves you then, congratulating you when you make a goal or give a great performance, but you can’t ride your bike through a Woodbridge neighborhood because you’re black.

Zoie Reed told the crowd that she was going to be brutally honest so, if they didn’t like what she was saying they were free to leave.

She got her feelings of anger and frustration across to everyone when she said, “Don’t say you understand, because you don’t.”

And she is right. As much as I or the next white person can be infuriated by the actions of a racist cop shooting a black person, or kneeling on his neck until he dies in the street, we will NEVER know how it affects the black person standing next to us. How can we? We are not black. We can walk into a store, or ride our bike down a street without being followed because we’re not black.

We all have a lot to learn. We need to have a conversation and really listen, and make a change in the culture across this nation.

Cardozo was choked up after Zoie’s speech and took a moment before introducing the pastor from a local church to lead the 8 minutes 46 second moment of silence in memory of George Floyd — the exact amount of time he lay in the street with a knee pressed against his neck as he pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and called for his “Mama.”

Able-bodied participants walked to the corner of Meetinghouse and Newton, while others lined their cars up behind a police cruiser for a long walk around town displaying signs and chanting, “No Justice, No Peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe.” etc.

I’d like to congratulate Micaela for organizing this peaceful, poignant event for the Bethany-Orange and Woodbridge communities. And Thank You to the young speakers for putting their hearts and souls into their presentations.

I hope that we all now have a better understanding, although we won’t ever fully understand, and begin to make a difference because it really does matter. This is where it starts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scholarships Awarded In Unusual Location Today

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Jun 132020
 

Orange Scholarship Fund Association presented their scholarships on Saturday, June 13 at a socially distanced ceremony on the Orange Town Green.
Scholarships were awarded to Mitchell Bronson, Gina Driscoll, and Mason Shepard. The Orange Lions also presented their scholarship at this time. Mitchell Bronson will attend UConn to study Computer Science, Gina Driscoll will attend Middlebury College and has not yet chosen a major.
There were each awarded $2000 scholarships. Mason Shepard will attend Lehigh University to study Molecular Biology. He received a $3,000 scholarship from the Ashlie Krakowski Memorial Fund of the Orange Scholarship Fund. Mason also received a $1000 scholarship from the Orange Lions.

Experience The Amity Graduation Right Now

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Jun 122020
 

On Wednesday, June 10, the Amity Class of 2020 was honored with a mix of the live and a virtual commencement ceremony.

The first portion of this video shows the usual congratulatory speech from the school principal and superintendent, then a variety of surprise guests, some Amity Alum: Connor Deane and Scott Feinberg for example as well as unexpected celebrities who wish the graduates well. The Class speakers, followed by Jill LaPlante presenting the Amity Award of Distinction to Yale-bound Danielle Lee. 

Then it’s time to see the graduates receive their diplomas in groups of four — this took place in shifts between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. that day.

It’s worth a mention to give credit to the chorus teacher who contacted her students and asked them to sing their parts of the National Anthem individually from their homes, then quickly spliced the whole thing together. It came out beautifully.

There are still about 40 Amity seniors who haven’t gotten their diplomas. They chose to graduate on the Football Field in small groups on July 7. We will provide more information on that event when it becomes available.

Jun 112020
 

Amity Principal Anna Mahon

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed many people’s livelihoods, hopes, and dreams, but it couldn’t stop the Amity High School administration from giving students a meaningful commencement ceremony.

It was hard for high schools to plan their ceremonies because the virus kept changing everything. First, the question was, “Will we be returning to school?”  then “Will we be able to get the entire class on the football field at once while keeping them at a safe distance?” and of course, “Will we be able to invite families and keep everyone at a safe distance?”

So many questions, so many rules and so little time. But somehow Amity did it. With many teachers all-in to make it a special day for the graduating seniors, the 2020 Commencement Ceremony on Wednesday, June 10, ran like clockwork.

On Tuesday, a virtual ceremony was taped and streamed live at http://video.amityregion5.org/show?video=d293e7a41123

The virtual portion of the ceremony includes the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Junior Class President Isabella Pfannenbecker, followed by addresses from Mrs. Anna Mahon, Principal of ARHS, Dr. Jennifer Byars, Superintendent of School for Amity Regional School District #5, Mr. John Belfonti, Chairperson of the Board of Education, Jayson Hutchinson, Senior Class President, Martin Gnidula, chosen to address the class for outstanding extra-curricular achievement, Sophia Wang, chosen to address the class for outstanding academic achievement and Mrs. Jill LaPlante, Director of Counseling Services, to present the Amity Award of Excellence.

The ceremony found at http://video.amityregion5.org/show?video=d8807aa23a6f was available for everyone to see and It was seamless. 

We encourage the entire community to take the time to watch the ceremony and begin the commencement exercises of 2020 to honor this outstanding senior class.

The students and their families first arrived at the staging area at the Church-Our Lady of Assumption parking lot on Center Road at a designated time for their waves with car placards displayed on the passenger-side dashboard.

Cars were assembled upon entering the front parking lot of the church and exited out the back parking lot exit (to Rice Road) at the appointed time. Mrs. Jill LaPlante, Director of Counseling Services, as well as Amity Regional High School security and Woodbridge Police Dept. were on-hand at the church parking lot to help organize and send each wave.

After exiting the church parking lot, the caravan of students/families proceeded to the back gate of the high school campus. At the entry point, each car was given a program and one faculty message booklet per graduate. Cars will process through campus to the first station at the tennis court where teachers were waiting to cheer on the graduates.

The cars stopped at the top of the hill and Associate Principal Miguel Pickering took the names of the graduates then Groups of 4 graduates (up to 8 cars) were “released” from the first station and proceeded down the hill to the stop sign at the corner outside of the district offices.

Seth Davis, senior class advisor, Director of Athletics Ernie Goodwin, athletic trainer Kim Pearce, and Athletic Department Administrative Assistant Lori Bonney were stationed here, and if a student received an award or lettered in a sport, he or she would receive it here.

Davis took the graduates’ names and radioed ahead which place he or she would take in the lineup. Cars were held at station 2 to allow for the front of the building to clear. Then they would drive around to the bus loop in front of the school. 

There were 4 designated locations for diploma distribution. At the designated location, each graduate exited exit his/her car while wearing a mask and waited for Mrs. Mahon to announce his/her name.

After hearing his/her name, the graduate walked to the carpet, removed the mask, and posed for an official picture holding a diploma jacket. After the picture, the graduate returned the diploma jacket to a bin and the graduate picked up his/her diploma folder with the official documentation inside.

Graduates then listened for Supt. Byars’ turn of the tassel announcement and, after turning their tassels, returned to their vehicles and exited campus through the Newton Road front entrance.

Although unconventional, parents should appreciate the fact that for the first time ever they were allowed to be close enough to their children to actually see their faces when they graduated. Usually, they are seated in the stands packed like sardines hundreds of feet away.

Congratulations to all of the Amity Graduates, I’m so happy that you were able to have some kind of ceremony, to see your teachers again, and to share it intimately with your parents.

Great Job Amity Administration and teachers. I’ll see you next year.

The 2020 graduation ceremony concludes on July 7 with the final group of students receiving their diplomas(about 40 students chose this option). Orange Live will post more information on this event when it becomes available.