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HomeEducationHKHSHKHS Update: September & October 2021

HKHS Update: September & October 2021

By Donna Hayward, Principal, HKHS.

We have enjoyed a fantastic start to the school year and are looking forward to a year full of growth and celebration. Students and teachers have settled in and, in my travels around the building, it is clear that teaching and learning is in full swing and that our school community is grateful to be back together and enjoying each other’s company.

I am pleased to introduce our new teachers who have joined our team this fall. We extend a warm welcome to the following professionals:

Leanna Bran (Science): Leanna is excited to officially join the HKHS teaching staff! She spent the second half of last year teaching biology and hopping into classrooms as a substitute. She loved the Cougar Community and is thrilled to be back teaching both Biology and Chemistry. Leanna studied Science Education and Nutrition at Penn State University. After college she moved to the Carolinas to begin her teaching career. Although she traded in palm trees for snow skis, she is very happy that she and her family have landed in Connecticut. Outside of school, Leanna stays involved in health and fitness by teaching yoga classes in the Hartford area. She has enjoyed traveling this summer but is looking forward to a wonderful year ahead!

David Lowry (Physics Teacher): David earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and worked as a staff engineer for IBM before transitioning to education. He has spent the last seventeen years as a teacher of Physics and Physical Science and an Assistant Principal in Hillsborough County, Florida. During that time, he earned a Masters degree in Educational Leadership. David is excited to join HKHS and help students understand the connections between the material taught in class and real world applications and prepare them for future success.

Vincenzo Marafito (Social Worker): Vincenzo is so happy to join the HK team! He graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and a MSW in clinical social work from the University of Connecticut. Vincenzo has worked with adolescents who are dealing with problems ranging from general anxiety to depression and substance use. He has spent time working in both school and clinical settings. Vincenzo is an avid skier in the winter, and is happy to be assisting with the HK boys soccer team this season! Vincenzo is a shoreline product, having grown up in Old Lyme, and moved to Middletown two years ago. He looks forward to building relationships with students and becoming a resource of support to those who are struggling. Vincenzo is hopeful to be a part of the HK team for years to come.

Doug Perrelli (Special Education): Doug is excited to be joining the HK Special Education
team. Doug, originally from Waterford, returned to Connecticut two years ago, after living in Southern California for over 30 years. Doug completed a degree in Special Education at Cal State University, San Marcos, pursuing a passion for teaching students with special needs. He worked with the Carlsbad School District in Carlsbad, California for over 15 years, working with students with complex and challenging needs. Doug and his wife, Leah, enjoy outdoor activities, yoga, and taking their two dogs on adventures. He enjoys cooking and entertaining friends and family.

Eric Stefano (Band): Eric is a dedicated young musician, educator, and conductor. Growing up in Wethersfield Connecticut, Eric found that he had a natural talent for music and after learning violin, piano, and guitar, finally found his home as a percussionist. In 2016, he enrolled at Central Connecticut State University as a Music Education major with his primary instrument being percussion. Through his college years, Eric studied and taught alongside some of the most knowledgeable music educators in the state, graduating with his Bachelor’s degree in the Fall of 2020. He most recently finished a long-term substitute elementary band director position in Farmington. Eric is thrilled to join the HKHS staff this year.

Laura Wade (School Nurse): Laura is originally from New York, growing up in Westchester
County. She studied nursing at Georgetown University, and moved to New York City after
college, working in pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and New York
Presbyterian Hospital. Laura eventually left the city for Fairfield, CT, raising her three children there. Her family moved to Madison, Wisconsin in 2005, and it was there she began her career in school nursing. She has worked in elementary, middle and high schools, and really enjoys working with classroom teachers. One of her favorite aspects of school nursing is the opportunity to teach students about health and wellness. While she loved the beauty of the Midwest, she is so happy to be back in Connecticut. She and her husband are having a blast getting to know the area, and are on a quest to find the best pizza! In her downtime, Laura enjoys painting, reading, yoga and gardening. She is excited to meet everyone at HKHS!

Holly Walck (School Psychologist): Holly is looking forward to a great year at HKHS! She
graduated from Emmanuel College in Boston and earned her Masters from the University of
Hartford. She studied abroad in Italy and still enjoys exploring wherever she can. Holly began her professional career at Haddam Elementary School and then joined the HK Intermediate School. She also coached competitive high school cheer for ten years and took her team to the New England championship. After spending the past year at home with her new daughter, she is excited to begin her journey at HKHS. Holly enjoys learning about history and science, skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, gardening, and spending time with her family. She is excited to join the HKHS team.

Travis Williams (Physics/Chemistry): Travis is delighted to join HKHS to start his fourth year of teaching in CT public schools. He grew up in southeastern Connecticut, graduated from Wesleyan University, where he was on the swim team, and received an MS in Education from the University of New Haven. He greatly enjoyed experiences such as attending the American Association of Physics Teachers summer 2018 national conference, organizing and coaching a team of students to compete in the Yale Physics Olympics, and attending a talk by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Travis would like students to embrace Tyson’s perspective that “If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you, and that understanding empowers you.” Outside of school Travis likes to hike, participate in triathlons, bird watch, apply forces to plastically deform hot steel (as an artist-blacksmith), read Physics Today and Chemical & Engineering News (yup, science nerd here), and say hello to passing dogs. His former rescued greyhound, Nike, was a beloved therapy dog. Travis is looking forward to an exciting school year within the HKHS community!

Last but not least, there have also been three important staffing shifts given the skill set and interests of individual staff members along with the needs of the school. Scott Bartholomew will transition to the Technology Education department, given his expertise and experience in engineering. Lynne Flint has expanded her role from Athletic Director to Director of Student Activities so will oversee all co-curricular programming as well. Lori Everett will serve this next year in a more intense math intervention role for students who need extra support but are not enrolled in our Math Skills course or receiving Targeted Instruction through our special education program.

The math teachers at HKHS would like to welcome senior Ben Williams to the department this year. Ben will be assisting fellow students through a math department internship. Although he has a passion for studying Data Science, we are working hard to convince him to become a math teacher and think this opportunity may do the trick. Ben has been working with students in their Algebra 2 and Geometry classes and will likely make an appearance in other classes throughout the year. In addition, as the President of the Peer Tutor Club, Ben, along with Junior Vice-President Paige Corcoran, are getting ready to roll out this year’s program. This service provides opportunities for students to get help from volunteer peer tutors during lunch/activity or after school.

Senior Portfolio Information
Beginning with the Class of 2023, the State of Connecticut and HKHS updated graduation
requirements to include, among other things, a 1.0 mastery credit requirement to be completed in the senior year. HKHS’ approach to this requirement is the Senior Portfolio which complements our program in a meaningful way and serves to further our vision and core values and beliefs about learning. The primary objective of the portfolio is to teach students to reflect on their own learning around the core learning expectations, achieving mastery of each:
In a variety of contexts for a variety of purposes, students will:
1. Demonstrate personal responsibility, character, cultural understanding, and ethical
2. Communicate clearly and effectively in order to express ideas and connect with
3. Investigate, evaluate, and apply information;
4. Work both independently and collaboratively toward a specific outcome;
5. Demonstrate creative, innovative, and reflective thinking.
The Senior Portfolio helps to foster student agency in a highly personalized manner, affirming their readiness for post-secondary options.

Beginning in their freshman year, all students begin collecting their best work in a digital
portfolio in their Google drive provided by the district for this purpose. Each year, students will have numerous opportunities to demonstrate mastery of the learning expectations through a variety of assessments. They will be encouraged to save their best work, especially those scored at the mastery level on school-wide rubrics, in their digital portfolio. Counselors will track student progress through PowerSchool and send home annual reports to parents indicating how students are progressing relative to the five core learning expectations.

In their senior year, Advisory will focus on completion of their Senior Portfolio. In addition,
students will learn how to present their work to a faculty panel and prepare for this presentation during spring semester. The course will be graded pass/fail and must be passed in order to receive credit and receive an HK diploma.

We are so excited to have all HK Students back in the building this school year, and we are ready to reignite our SCHOOL SPIRIT! The Cougar Den Spirit Club helps promote and celebrate our school’s activities, from concerts to sporting events, from Homecoming to
school-sponsored blood drives. We want HK students to be actively engaged in school life, both in and out of the classroom.

One way we are working to increase involvement in school-sponsored events is through our newly acquired COUGAR NATION APP. Students sign up for free accounts and then earn points and prizes as they get involved and support their classmates at school events. Ask your student if they have the Cougar Nation app, and if they do, ask them to
show you around to see how it works!

In addition to the app, student events and successes are still posted by the DEN through our Instagram account. Follow the Den on Instagram: @hk_cougar_den

Lastly, the DEN designs and sells school spirit wear, and the money we raise supports the activities we host throughout the year (Pep Rallies, StreetFest, etc ). A new fundraiser selling DEN and Cougar Nation t-shirts and sweatshirts will be starting soon. Ask your student about it!

Advisory Gets a Refresh
The Advisory Program will focus on Social Emotional Learning during the 2020-2021 school
year. We are very excited to announce that we will be utilizing the “School Connect” curriculum with our students. In September, all students will experience the same two lessons on getting to know their peers in Advisory, as well as an introduction to social emotional learning. Moving forward, each grade will focus on specific topics that are appropriate for their grade level. For example, Freshmen will focus on building community and creating a student success plan. Sophomores will study about the teenage brain and the power of thought, Juniors will participate in activities around building positive relationships and standing in other people’s shoes, and Seniors will learn about writing the college essay and reframing stress.

A Word About Ongoing Covid-19 Protocols
As much as we all eagerly await the official end of the pandemic, we are not there yet. Thank you to our students and parents who have so patiently and steadfastly worked alongside the faculty and administration of HKHS to keep our school community safe. Please know that CDC guidelines and directives from the State of Connecticut and local Departments of Health change regularly and we adapt and change our protocols accordingly. Please know that we will always have complete information for students and families about how and when students who are contact traced, exposed, sick, and/or quarantined may return to school. Please follow the directions in the letter sent to you and/or the guidance given directly to you by the school nurse or administration. Please do not attempt to override the school’s directions for return or send your student back to school before cleared to do so. Doing so puts the school community at risk and your student in a very uncomfortable position of being refused access to the building and classes. It also causes unnecessary time, stress and attention on the part of school staff and administration who are required to follow the protocols.

Help for Students Available on a Variety of Topics:
Last spring, a group of students, faculty and administrators worked together to add even more accessibility to the layers of support available for students at HK. Specifically, we addressed a concern that had been communicated by some students that they sometimes didn’t know who to access if they were experiencing difficulty in a particular area. Students and staff brainstormed together and came up with several “starting questions” which were then represented on a poster which is posted throughout the school. The poster includes a QR code which can be scanned by student cell phones which takes them directly to a portal to ask for help or report an issue. The portal is maintained by qualified counseling and administrative staff confidentially and we are equipped to respond in real time during school hours to whatever the student issue might be.

Students and parents are advised that, outside of school hours, the portal is not monitored
so other resources (e.g. 9-1-1 or 2-1-1) are more appropriate support. Parents are encouraged to mention this option to students who may experience difficulty at any point
during the school day.

Save the Dates! HKHS Fine Arts Events
Fall Play “Clue”: Friday and Saturday, November 5th and 6th, 2021
Southern Region Music Festival Submissions (Honors level students): November 2021
Scholastic Visual Art Competition Submissions: December 2021
Winter Choral Concert: Thursday, December 9th, 2021
Winter Band Concert: Thursday, December 16th, 2021
Shoreline Arts Competition Submissions: January 2022
Southern Region Musical Festival (Accepted Students): January 14th and 15th, 2022
One Act Play: Thursday, Feb 10th, 2022
AllState Auditions (Selected Students) February 5th, 2022
Solo and Ensemble Chorus Concert: Thursday, March 17th, 2022
AllState Music Festival (Accepted Students): March 31st-April 2nd, 2022
Spring Musical: Friday and Saturday, May 6th and 7th, 2022
Spring Art Show Opening: Thursday, May 12th, 2022
Spring Band and Chorus Concert: Thursday, May 19th, 2022


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