District News

ACE’s John Webber chosen as district’s ‘Teacher of the Year 2016-17’

posted Sep 13, 2016, 6:58 AM by Debbie Warner

ACEs John Webber chosen as districtsTeacher of the Year 2016-17’


DANBURY, CONN. — In the hallway outside John Webbers classroom at the Alternative Center for Excellence is a refrigerator covered with graded papers that would make any parent proud. Well, its not really a refrigerator, but its called the fridge” and its there to let students know that he is proud of their efforts and accomplishments. Support and encouragement from teachers like Webber are part of what makes ACE students successful.


The popular and supportive teacher known for his good nature and character is DanburysTeacher of the Year for 2016-



ACE students regard John as a role model, someone who engages them in relevant learning and a man who demonstrates integrity in every way,” said ACE principal Sandra Atanasoff.


Part of this integrity is in his teaching style, which he believes is not just teaching students in academics, but helping them grow and develop into young adults. Learning about respecting others is one of the components that he incorporates into his classroom.


His teaching philosophy is something he puts into action: There are layers in teaching. When they fit together is when they are most effective,” he said. When they all work together is when the kid benefits the most.


A 1993 Danbury High School graduate, Webber earned his undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts

Amherst, a masters degree from University of Bridgeport, and a Sixth-Year Certificate from Sacred Heart University. Webber who teaches biology and aquatic and environmental science, has been at ACE for the past 12 years.

“My whole career Ive been at ACE,” Webber said. “I chose ACE because the students you work with here make you a better teacher. The kids have challenges that most adults dont face.


Webber explained that many of his students are considered “at-risk.”


They are forced into situations where they grow up really quick,” Webber said. This is a place where you get a third, fourth or fifth second chance.”


Therefore his challenges as a teacher include constantly adapting to fit the needs of his students because he doesnt expect them to fit into his style; he maintains that he is one who needs to keep changing.

That challenge strengthens you as a teacher, he said.


Webber enjoys the extracurricular component of his job, which means taking students on outdoor adventures, such as camping, white water rafting and hiking. This past year, he took 23 students on a hiking trip where they hiked four to five miles a day carrying their own camping equipment.

Webber believes in learning beyond the classroom so that students can develop skills that help them meet their physical and emotional needs and learn to connect with people and situations outside of school.


They need to see what they are learning is going to result in something in their lives,” he said.

Webber said there are 15 students to a class, at ACE which is challenging because they all have different needs.


You have to find the time and resources for each student,” he said. It’s flattering to receive this, but its not my award. Theres no way to do your job effectively in this building without a tight unit and its the staff the whole staff. You cant beTeacher of the Year if you dont have all these people.


He is glad that he can be a part of the students’ growth, but said it’s hard to see them move on.

(When they graduate), there is a simultaneous feeling of pride and a void. You never get the same student twice and they are all unique.


#Danbury Board of Education#

Westside Middle School students become published writers

posted Jun 9, 2016, 10:09 AM by Alexa Schlechter

Westside Middle School students become published writers


DANBURY, CONN. — A group of 15 students at Westside Middle School Academy spent the school year on a “Middle School Writing Project,” in which they learned to write and recently had their work published in a Literary Journal.

MSWP is an Education Connection inter-district grant program funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education. Seven other schools, including Thomaston High and Woodbury Middle School, participated.

Westside students worked with Education Connection and Dawn Bartz, the Westside global studies theme coach, one day a month during the entire school year. Students received lessons on writing technique from EC resident author Nikoo McGoldrick. Education Connection is one of Connecticut’s six Regional Service Centers and promotes the success of school districts and their communities.

WS student Val Chia, who published her “Cat and the Mouse” story, said the program taught her to add more details to her writing, and “it taught me new techniques of writing to make me a better writer,” she said.

Christopher Suscal wrote a fictional piece based on an interview with his grandfather and based on his earlier years called “The Minotaur Labrynth,” in which his grandfather explores a cave.

“I learned how to use skills to improve reading and writing to make my writing more complex,” Christopher said. “Reading is important. You need to read before you write and write before you read – it’s a chain.”

Bartz said the project fit very well into the Global Studies Exploration program at Westside. The students engage constantly in project-based learning, which is the basis of the exploration class. Students collaborate, share ideas and their work, apply their experiences and prior learning to new situations, and continually engage in using higher order thinking skills such as problem solving, analysis, critical thinking, and creating. The project uses the same methodology.

“I was very excited to involve some of our students who have a passion for writing to meet with published authors for advice and ideas,” Bartz said. “I want to keep the kids’ passion for writing ignited, and this is such a unique experience where our kids have this great opportunity to interact with professionals in the field, to practice writing and receive feedback, and to publish a piece of their work in a journal that is widely distributed in the state.”

Danny Morehouse, who wrote a nonfiction story called “The Hero,” about his saving someone from drowning, said: “We got to learn a lot of new ways to explain our stories,” he said.

#Danbury Board of Education#

Danbury’s ACE graduates thankful for school ‘family’

posted Jun 9, 2016, 10:06 AM by Alexa Schlechter   [ updated Jun 9, 2016, 10:07 AM ]

Danbury’s ACE graduates thankful for school ‘family’


DANBURY, CONN. — For most, if not all, of the 23 students who graduated last night from the Alternative Center for Excellence, their high school was a safe place where they found nurturing teachers and supportive administrators, and where they felt accepted.

Graduate Aaron Ortiz said coming to ACE was challenging because he was shy. He remembered when ACE teacher Glenda Armstrong knocked on his front door on the first day of school when he didn’t show up. He didn’t like her back then, he said. But through years of encouragement and support, they formed a special bond.

“You are family,” he said to her in front of a crowd of 300 parents, families and friends who came to the graduation. “You are my second mother.”

Graduate Ky’Jana Grant said circumstances in her life made school an uphill battle, but that she felt special at ACE on her first day.

“Every teacher makes you feel like you are making progress with your life,” Grant said at the evening ceremony held at Western Connecticut State University.

As he addressed the Class of 2016, Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella recognized the students as having faced many obstacles to be where they are today. He told them it was clear whenever he visits the school that the students and school staff have become family and at ACE they are welcomed and accepted. As they put past mistakes behind them, they grow to appreciate the opportunities before them.

“This school has given me an opportunity to take advantage of the resources and to pay it back as well,” said Shanisha Watson-Danzy, who also received several awards, including a leadership award. The people at ACE affected her to the point she learned to be open and honest “and never live in the shadows,” she said.

Once-shy Jazmin Valverde thanked her teacher, John Webber, for encouraging her to be tougher and to fight for what she wants. She received the school’s ACE of Spades award for her hard work, which includes becoming a Certified Nurse’s Aide and making the honor roll.

Jennifer Gutierrez said she was very close to giving up, but it was the individualized help from teachers that kept her going. She said “11 teachers and accepting classmates” made it all possible.

Some students, like Jeffry Lapaix, thought coming to the school was an easy way out. Lapaix said he found out he was wrong.

“Patience is the key of success,” Lapaix said. “They told me to wake up in life – and I finally did.”

The school, under the guidance of Principal Sandy Atanasoff, focuses on addressing individual needs while providing a nurturing environment in which students can explore their options and develop the skills and interests that best suit them. In addition to a rigorous curriculum, students at the school also participate in an outdoor education program that includes hiking and rafting trips. ACE students also participate in community service. The school, which opened its doors in 1977, has roughly 100 students in grades nine through 12. It has the same graduation requirements as the district’s 3,000-student high school but offers a smaller environment for district students.

“By being here tonight you are saying ‘I can do anything,’” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton said. “There are no more obstacles, no more barriers. You have proven you can do anything.”

#Danbury Board of Education#

Danbury lacrosse coach named ‘FCIAC Coach of the Year’

posted Jun 8, 2016, 5:52 AM by Alexa Schlechter

Danbury lacrosse coach named ‘FCIAC Coach of the Year’


DANBURY, CONN. — Danbury High School boys’ lacrosse coach, William Kersten, has been named “Coach of the Year” by the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC). He is the second coach from Danbury to receive such an honor this season. Nick Fratticelli was named “Coach of the Year” for coaching the girls’ indoor track team.

A special education teacher at Broadview Middle School since 2013, Kersten also taught at the high school from 2002-06. Kersten has spent 23 years coaching sports, including soccer. He took over the DHS lacrosse team in 2014; the team had one win the season prior to his takeover. The team recorded a 9-8 record this season.

“We’ve been steadily moving the program long,” Kersten said. “It’s an honor and certainly humbling to be chosen as Coach of the Year because it’s decided on by fellow coaches. Where the team was in 2012 and where it is today . . . to get something like this is a reflection of the hard work of the players and assistant coaches.”

Kersten, who coaches the team with Allen Tarsi and Paul Purdy, said the assistant coaches are a big part of the team’s success as well as support from the school administration. He said that the biggest obstacle to success has been getting players to buy into a new system of play, but slowly it is becoming engrained in his players.

“Our philosophy is to play a good man-to-man defense and share the ball offensively,” he said. “The players have worked extremely hard this year.”

#Danbury Board of Education#

Danbury students honored with Student Leadership awards

posted May 31, 2016, 10:44 AM by Alexa Schlechter   [ updated May 31, 2016, 10:48 AM ]

Danbury students honored with Student Leadership awards


DANBURY, CONN. — Ten Danbury students were chosen to receive Western Connecticut Superintendents Association (WCSA) Student Leadership Awards.

Every member WCSA district is eligible to select students from their area middle and high schools to receive this award. The awards are based on three criteria: community service and service to others; academic prowess related to ability; and leadership service to the school community.

The following students received their awards at the May 25 Danbury Board of Education meeting:

Broadview Middle School: Jasmine Stone and Liam Dineen-Herzog

Rogers Park Middle School: Gabriel Demelo and Laura Snow

Westside Middle School Academy: Aiden Byrne and Hannah Krate

Alternative Center for Excellence: Ronald Velasquez and Skyla Vecchia-Love

Danbury High School: Ciara Broggy and Judah James

Students were acknowledged for their commitments to others, which included helping to feed those who are homeless, showing good sportsmanship and working to help other students by volunteering in programs such as Excel.

PHOTO caption from left to right: Rogers Park principal Pat Joaquim, DHS Associate Principal for Instruction Dr. Meghan Martins, Jasmine Stone, Ciara Broggy, Liam Dineen-Herzog, BOE member Michael Ferguson, Dr. Sal Pascarella and Broadview principal Ed Robbs.

Danbury High School graduate addresses WCSU Class of 2016

posted May 23, 2016, 10:34 AM by Alexa Schlechter

Danbury High School graduate addresses WCSU Class of 2016

DHS alumna and WCSU nursing professor receives doctorate after giving speech


DANBURY, CONN. — Danbury High School graduate Dr. Monica Sousa became the first person to earn a doctorate in educational leadership in nursing at Western Connecticut State University’s commencement exercises today. Sousa was also the keynote speaker addressing her fellow classmates in the graduate Class of 2016.

A faculty member of the WCSU Department of Nursing, Sousa doctoral degree was specifically designed to prepare nursing faculty members in best practice educational models. She is a board certified Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Health and maintains state licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. Sousa’s innovative teaching includes the enhanced use of simulation technology in the laboratory setting, development and utilization of case scenarios and skills-based assessment rubrics to measure student competency while demonstrating advanced nursing skills. Sousa said she engages her students by sharing her own nursing experiences with them, including case studies.

“I started my journey here at WCSU right out of Danbury High School,” Sousa told the crowd of graduates and their families Sunday at Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard. “I have always known I wanted to be a nurse. . . . I was the kid running around with a first aid kit when friends got hurt.”

Sousa also earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nursing from Western. She is the first to defend her dissertation in the university’s initial cohort of the doctorate program.

“Life is about learning, and I hope your education does not stop there,” Sousa said in her speech. “Remain vibrant and productive within your chosen profession. You never can stop learning. . . . In this age of technology with online and hybrid interactions, it is imperative that you maintain true relationships through real connections with people, whether they are our patients, our colleagues, or our students. The power of being truly present will never be replaced by technology and personal experiences will always remain the main stay of understanding among people.”

#Danbury Board of Education#

DHS wrestling coach named to Hall of Fame

posted May 23, 2016, 10:32 AM by Alexa Schlechter

DHS wrestling coach named to Hall of Fame


DANBURY, CONN. — Danbury High School’s head wrestling coach Ricky Shook - a former wrestler and graduate of Danbury High School - has been named to the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He will be honored in September during halftime at a University of Connecticut football game.

Earlier in May, Shook and five other coaches at DHS were Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference “Coaches of Excellence.” This year the Hatters wresting team, with its 18-0 record, won its 29th FCIAC title in 30 years.

Shook, who has coached the Hatters since 1989 as an assistant and head coach since 2000, said that hard, responsibility and discipline are the key to a great team.

“Wrestlers live on a scale,” Shook said. “It’s the only sport where a kid has to do something every day.”

Shook, who graduated from Central Connecticut State University where he was a member of the wrestling team, was named to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame by the Connecticut chapter in 2013.

Now we are ten

posted May 23, 2016, 8:04 AM by Alexa Schlechter

Now we are ten

AIS celebrates decade of learning


DANBURY, CONN. — The Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies (AIS) – a magnet elementary school in Danbury – celebrated its tenth year since opening its doors with a festival Friday that embraced more than a dozen cultures.

Set up as a street fair, there were colorful tables and flags from many countries, including Guatemala, Italy, Canada, Iceland and Spain. Hundreds of families came to taste food and learn about traditions. Students learned to play Caracol, a hopscotch-like game from Puerto Rico.

Music from other countries was played while students performed dances that were part of their family’s heritage, or that they have learned over the years. Kiran Suri, a second-grade student at the school, wore traditional Indian dress to perform Odissi-style Manglacharan. Students also danced the Hora in a group.

“It’s just a celebration of who we are,” said the school’s principal Dr. Helena Nitowski.

The school was selected by the Connecticut Association of Schools as “Elementary School of the Year” for 2014-15. The school has a mission of developing socially responsible global citizens who use technology to access the world. The school’s international studies theme centers on the concept of peace and the role of peacekeepers in the world. Students start the day reciting AIS Peace Pledge in both English and Spanish.

The AIS magnet school, located on Danbury’s Westside, is open to all Danbury students as well as students from area towns through a lottery system. With a theme of International and Global Studies, the school’s 4oo-plus students in kindergarten through fifth grade are also taught a foreign language.

Two Danbury students to head to national history competition

posted May 23, 2016, 7:57 AM by Alexa Schlechter

Two Danbury students to head to national history competition

Westside students earned second place spot in state event


DANBURY, CONN. — Westside Middle School Academy students Maame Obeng and Camilly Aguilar are heading to the National History Day national competition in June.

The two students came in second place at the state National History Day competition in April.

In February, at the Westside middle school, 100 seventh-grade students in the Global Studies program presented topics from propaganda in the Cold War to Civil Rights literature, and Andy Warhol and pop art. There were 65 exhibits in all, including documentaries and websites focusing on the changes in society in the 1950s through the 1980s.

National History Day began in 1974 on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. Schools all over the country participate in the event; the year’s theme is “Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History.”

The History Day project has been a major focus seventh-grade Global Studies academy as it combines research, reading, writing, and technology skills with historical inquiry. This project allowed students to take the theme and develop projects that relate not only to the national theme but the academy’s subthemes (choices available through National History Day Project) of Pop Art: The Exchange of Consumerism and Culture and Civil Rights Stories.

#Danbury Board of Education#

Danbury students send weather balloons into the skies

posted May 19, 2016, 6:44 AM by Alexa Schlechter

Danbury students send weather balloons into the skies


DANBURY, CONN. — Students from Westside Middle School Academy launched two weather balloons on Wednesday that made it all the way to the Rhode Island border.

WSMSA teacher, Jon Neuhausel, said the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students designed and built two payloads for each of the balloons. The payloads carried sensors that took atmospheric pressure and temperature readings recorded on computer chips that may be removed for download and data analysis after retrieval. Neuhausel will attempt to retrieve the balloons Thursday. He said they were tracked somewhere along the Connecticut border with Rhode Island. Last year’s balloons made it as far as Seymour before being stuck in a tree.

“Today was a huge success!” Neuhausel said. “The kids really took this project to the next level.”

There were 100 students from the school’s STEM academy working on the project with 20 working on the actual launch, which took place in the field behind Danbury High School on Wednesday morning. Students were divided into four teams: design, science, weather and public relations. The PR team raised about $1200. The helium was donated by Praxair in Danbury and the balloons from Kaymont.

The first balloon launched was a 600-gram balloon projected to reach 80,000 feet; the second was 1200 grams expected to reach about 100,000 feet. The balloons were in flight for approximately 2.5 hours and landed on the CT/RI border. 

The launches served as a lesson in the tools used to track upper-atmospheric temperature and pressure on a daily basis worldwide. The payloads carried sensors that took atmospheric pressure and temperature readings recorded on computer chips that may be removed for download and data analysis after retrieval. The balloons were equipped with GoPro cameras, GPS tracking devices and sensors to measure temperature, humidity and elevation. The GPS unit enables the students to track the payloads’ flight, descent and landing sites.

#Danbury Board of Education#

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