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RSD 17 Announces 2022 Retirees

Submitted by Shawna Goldfarb, BOE

(June 10, 2022)—Regional School District 17 would like to celebrate the 2022 retirees.

Brienne Whidden (Principal), Anne Atwood, Suzanne Sack (BoE)

We would like to recognize Annie Atwood as we celebrate her retirement from Burr Elementary School and Regional School District 17.  Annie has been a dedicated professional in the RSD 17 community for over 20 years.  She began her tenure as a kindergarten teacher at Killingworth Elementary School and later moved to Burr Elementary where she taught kindergarten and second grade, and finally returned to kindergarten for her final two years.  Annie is best known for her creativity and nurturing of students’ personal interests and passions.  It was not uncommon to walk into Annie’s room and see her singing and dancing along with her students.  She regularly incorporated song, movement and play into her teaching in order to make lessons exciting and engaging for students.  Annie could be seen hiking the trails around the school, hatching chicks in the classroom, animatedly reading aloud to her class and even dressing up to act out a scene.  She met students where they were and provided support and encouragement as they grew, learned and developed independence.  Annie fostered a strong sense of self in each of her students.  She taught them to embrace their own unique talents and skills. We wish Annie all the best in her next adventures teaching in Maine, but she will surely be missed at Burr in the years to come.

Dolores Bates (Principal), Lisa Castlevetro, Suzanne Sack (BoE)

Lisa Castlevetro has taught at HKMS for the past 32 years. Lisa is a natural leader and serves as the department head for special education.  Her young department seeks her out for advice on anything from instruction to how to have difficult conversations with parents. Her colleagues whom she collaborates with in the classroom also look to her for her skills in specialized instruction, particularly in the area of math and study skills. This is evidenced by her earning Teacher of the Year in 2018-19 for the Middle School and Pupil Services Teacher of the Year in 1999. She also spends a month each summer teaching in the Extended School Year Program, whether working with Middle School students or showcasing her flexibility working with our youngest learners in the district. In addition, Lisa always looks for opportunities for students outside of the school day. She started the homework club, and there is a rumor that she also started and led the knitting club. Lisa is always willing to have fun; this past Halloween she was the first to volunteer to be Cruella while her department dressed up as the 101 Dalmatians. Lisa will be missed, but is always welcome to come back to teach ESY when she is bored during the summers!

Janet Kohm has served the children of Connecticut for 30 years in education, the past 14 of which have been in RSD17.  She started the Child Development program at Haddam Killingworth High school, which incorporates both theory and practical application as she partners with the Cougar Cubs program to provide internships and lab experiences for our students.  Everyone “wins” with this program:  students get the benefit of Janet’s expertise; the Cubs benefit from time with their “big kid friends,” and many students find a career path in childcare that they otherwise might not have considered. As a colleague, Janet is about the kindest, most caring team member one could ask for.  With a well-developed listening ear, Janet is exceptionally skilled at soothing souls – including the grown-up variety.  She is often the trusted advisor to teachers with parenting questions, her calm and quiet manner quelling the storms that predictably pop up in teaching.  For all of these reasons and more, Janet was honored as the HKHS Teacher of the Year in 2014 and we will miss her greatly. We wish her good health and happiness in her retirement.

HKIS is wishing farewell to Carmella Kowalewski, Mrs. K as the kids know her, and Carmi to all of her friends here in RSD 17.  Mrs. K has been a literacy interventionist and coach for at least 18 years, almost all of that at Burr District Elementary School. At BES, she was a long-time member of the school improvement team, helping to shape that school into the Connecticut Association of Schools Elementary School of the Year in 2019.  However, it is her work with children that should be truly celebrated.  She has worked with nearly a full generation of the students of Haddam and Killingworth.  Her students are the ones who come to school and struggle through those early years because of their difficulties with reading.  She devoted herself to them, carefully monitoring their progress and setting them back on the right track so they were ready for the next 10 years of their schooling.  Many HK students and grads are more successful in life because of her early interventions. Thank you, Carmi, for all that you have done for RSD 17.  We wish you well in retirement.

Suzanne Sack (BoE), Laurie Kumnick, Dennis Reed (Principal)

It is a pleasure to recognize Laurie Kumnick as we celebrate her retirement from Killingworth Elementary School and Regional School District 17.  Laurie has been a dedicated Speech and Language Pathologist for many, starting in the private sector before transitioning to the RSD 17 community, where she has been an amazing teacher, mentor and leader. Anyone who was lucky enough to see Laurie work with students knows that she is an incredibly talented speech and language clinician, possessing the wisdom to reach and educate children that extends far beyond her prescribed role.  Her genuine love for the children has made her one of the biggest advocates for what is best for her students.  Laurie’s impact extends far beyond the amazing work she does with the children.  She has been both a mentor and leader for her colleagues who have a deep respect for her as a professional.  It is her wisdom that they have come to rely on.  Laurie is invariably direct and genuine with her advice and feedback.  Her ability to be child-centered and goal-oriented has been a beacon for our special education programs. We wish Laurie all the best in her retirement; she will truly be missed.

Donna Hayward (Principal), Alan Rice, and Suzanne Sack (BoE)

Alan Rice has been a dedicated member of the Haddam Killingworth English Department for the past 18 years. A true academic, Alan has always maintained rigorous standards in his teaching of writing, reading and appreciation for literature. In the classroom, Alan is an energetic and passionate educator who has inspired students to discover their love for literature.  He uses his extensive background in theatre to make the text come alive and his love for literature is infectious. In addition, Alan was the central force behind HK’s Advanced-Placement Language and Composition Course. Alan built this program from the bottom up, working tirelessly to create engaging and relevant curriculum that has seen growing enrollment each year.  He works tirelessly with all levels of students—taking time before, during and after school to offer personalized writing instruction and advice.   Every year, students cite Mr. Rice as being the most important factor in their growth as writers, readers and thinkers. While Alan is not retiring completely, as he will be back to teach part-time next year, we want to acknowledge all the work that he has done for this community and express our gratitude to him.

Suzanne Sack (BoE), Susan Craffey, Donna Hayward (Principal)

Sue Craffey is a long-standing member of our paraprofessional team at HK, having served each building in the district across her 18 years.  Sue has always had a knack for multi-tasking and balancing a variety of curricula while remaining upbeat.  She has the talent of adjusting her approach for each student while bouncing from one subject to another, and never shies away from a challenge.  During her time at HKHS she has been a student teacher, job coach, worked with a student on independent living, been a rock star in the math and science department, and held down various other responsibilities. Some have coined her as “Mama Craffey” due to her firm but loving approach with all students. Her dedication to Haddam Killingworth and her students is unmatched.  She has been a dependable and passionate part of the team and will be greatly missed.

Suzanne Sack (BoE), Jean Nolet, Dennis Reed (Principal)
Jean Nolet has been a dedicated member of the RSD 17 Food Service for 24 years. Jean began her journey at Haddam Killingworth High School as a sub;  she was then offered a position at Killingworth Elementary School, where she became Head Cook and has remained there until today. Jean’s love for the children is evident in all that she does.  She goes out of her way to be sure each student is cared for and has what they need to be at their best while in school.  Jean was selected as one of the outstanding staff members of the year in 2004.
Jean has a very strong work ethic. She works hard to get through our increasingly busy days. She is dependable, she is never late and rarely ever out sick, and if she is out, the kids always want to know why she’s not there!
She enjoys the elementary school kids very much and they will miss her and so will we!! Please join me in Congratulating Jean Nolet for her dedication and years of serving the students and staff of Killingworth Elementary School.
Donna Hayward (Principal), Nancy McGee, Suzanne Sack (BoE)

Nancy McGee  
Nancy McGee has been the heart and soul of the Special Education department at the high school for the last 37 years (having served Connecticut students for 42 years in all).  As the teacher of our social-emotional needs program, she is the master of kind, but accountable communication, the queen of think-outside-the-box strategies, and one of the most skilled negotiators I have ever met.  Her main instructional strategy can be described as “whatever it takes” and there is no stronger advocate for students anywhere.
Although McGee doesn’t regard herself as a leader, she leads from beside, armed with her greatest assets, which are a good ear, a strong and sometimes twisted sense of humor, and the deep seated belief that there is a place for every learner in the world – and that it’s her mission to find it.  She is a mentor to many, a friend to all, and has changed the trajectory of many students’ lives while serving the community of HK.  We wish her all the best in her retirement.


Photo by Shawna Goldfarb


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