Updated, 8:57 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Board of Education members on Tuesday emphasized the positive with a presentation that drew multiple rounds of applause from a full Common Council chambers.
Highlighted were Saturday’s surprising Norwalk High School girls’ basketball state championship and other high school athletic champions, along with schools which earned School of Distinction awards.
“What a thriller,” Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said of Saturday’s come-from-behind basketball win at Mohegan Sun. Adamowski noted that the Norwalk Lady Bears beat New London in the last minute of the game.
“We were trailing the entire time,” Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams said Saturday, speaking to NancyOnNorwalk as she drove home from the game. “We were losing the entire time, I think there were two seconds left in the game and we came back.”
Naeva Rene scored the winning points, WTNH reports.
Adamowski and NPS Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo attended the game, part of “a lot of support from the City of Norwalk, which was awesome,” Penn-Williams said.
“The Lady Bears gave it their all,” Adamowski said Tuesday. “If there was ever a team that won on the basis of determination, effort and heart, this was the team.”
A celebration for the families is planned for April 7, NPS is buying the girls championship rings and there will be an athletic banquet in May at the Norwalk Inn, he said.
In another first, NPS is “acquiring and building a float” for the Memorial Day parade, he said. The award-winning Norwalk High School Marching Band will lead the float and Norwalk’s high-achieving athletes will be on it: the basketball girls; Brien McMahon senior Justin Ford, who is ranked number one in the country in triple jump; State diving champion Kevin Bradley; and wrestling 120-pound champion Sam White.
Mayor Harry Rilling has donated $500 in Mayor’s Ball proceeds to assist in the expenses, Adamowski said.
Diane Peters, a public speaker, said the Lady Bears basketball players have an average 3.4 grade point average, a first for the City.
All three seniors on the team are college-bound, and two are going just on the strength of their grades, Carolyn Fuller said. Their mentors are all products of Norwalk Public Schools, including their coach and her son, Richard Fuller Jr.
Board Members also recognized the district’s School of Distinction winners, in a follow-up to the review of the Next Generation Accountability report made at the last BoE meeting, this time featuring the staff and parents involved.
“It is a really great honor for all of us in the school system to have four Schools of Distinction and I thank all of you for leading the way and providing an example of what is possible, what can be done,” Adamowski said. “Those possibilities are unlimited. We look forward to other schools walking in your footsteps as the achievement of our children throughout the district is elevated.”
The “Distinction” moniker was bestowed on 160 schools statewide “because they have a high overall academic performance, or are among the schools with the highest rate of academic growth for all students or for students with high needs,” according to the CT Mirror.
“We are really happy about it because it’s a public affirmation for what we know to be true of our school. It is a good place for students to learn,” Rowayton Elementary School Principal Joe Rodriguez said.
“We all believe that every child who enters our building is not defined by their challenges, they are not defined by their circumstances or their demographics or their zip code, they are defined by their potential and the innovation that all of them have,” Kendall Elementary School Principal Zakiyyah Baker said.
Jefferson Elementary School Principal Nicholas Brophy spoke of the “strong focus” his staff members have as they pride themselves in excellence.
“I see this on every grade level,” he said.
“Our principal had a vision, and her vision was to improve Tracey School and provide an education for all students,” Katrinka Deleon said of Tracey Elementary School Principal Theresa Rangel. “…She has the ability to look at issues that people see as concerns and look for solutions, things that people see as demographics she sees as a children.”