School District Bids Farewell to Nearly Six Centuries of Wisdom

Jun 20, 2022 | Education | 0 comments

Barbara Maisonpierre
Lynne Karmen
Lisa Loechner

By Linda Conner Lambeck

WESTPORT — Between them, the school district’s 30 retirees this June have served a collective 586 years.

Recognized at last week’s Board of Education meeting with flowers, certificates and speeches. 

Many of the retirees called leaving bittersweet.

Some left while challenging school officials to retain the district’s excellence.

 One, music teacher Barbara Masionpierre, who once succeeded in convincing former schools chief Elliott Landon to dance around the maypole at an event she introduced at Coleytown Elementary School, used her parting remarks to challenge another, Supt. of Schools Thomas Scarice, to do the same.

“Tom, our maypole celebration is tomorrow, and we expect you at Coleytown at 9:45 a.m. sharp,” added Coleytown Principal Janna Sirowich.

“Actually, I did show up, but no dancing,” Scarice said in a later email. “I think it’s probably best for everyone that I do not dance or sing in public.”

Masionpierre, a music teacher for 35 years, described her job as teaching students to be tuneful, “beat-ful” and artful.

Laurie Gray
Carolyn Santella

She said the first two years of her 13 years in the Westport public schools was spent attending board meetings to keep music classes off the chopping block.

“Thank God, general music was not touched,” Maisonpierre told the gathering.

Another retiree, Bedford Middle School Choral Director Susan Marnell, said Westport has shown unwavering support for the arts.

“It has made our students great thinkers, learners and ultimately positive, empathetic contributors to society,” said Marnell, who over a 43-year teaching career worked in three districts, Westport being the last one.

“I can’t believe I am retiring … it is hard to say it out loud,” Marnell said.

Laurie Gray, another Bedford Middle School retiree, taught math.

She started her career in Westport the year of 9/11 and said it is ending at what she hopes is the end of a pandemic.

“I haven’t quite hung up my calculator yet,” Gray added.

Susan Marnell
Aparajita Mathur
Clare Woodman

Lisa Loechner, one of five staff members retiring from Long Lots Elementary School, said spending the day teaching 9- to 11-year-olds was never boring.

One class helped raise money for victims of the tsunami in Japan through sales of baked goods. Another class, concerned about the environment, collected water bottles thrown away at lunch to recycle. Proceeds were donated to Ocean Cleanup.

“Teaching was not my first career, but it was my favorite career,” said Loechner.

She thanked the school district for taking a chance on hiring someone who was older, and perhaps wiser.

“I am not sure what the next phase of my life will be,” she said.

Teaching was also a second career for Saugatuck Elementary School teacher Carolyn Santella, retiring after 19 years.

Newly married and moving to Florida, Santella thanked the district for putting emphasis on social-emotional wellness of children. She called it a passion of hers and said without it, the district would not have so many success stories.

“We do things right here,” Santella said.

Camille Eskell, a retiring Staples High School art teacher, called her 25 years in the classroom — 21 in Westport —very rewarding.

“I hope I was able to contribute to them and nurture them and show them new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing,” Eskell said of her students. “New ways of looking at the world.”

Some retirees, such as Aparajita Mathur, who officially left her job as a paraprofessional from Coleytown Middle School in December, really haven’t left. Mathur is back every day as a substitute.

“Working with kids is good for my soul,” Mathur said.

A full list of retirees

  •  Jamie Avellino, paraprofessional, 21 years, Bedford Middle.
  • Beth Ballard, paraprofessional, 22 years, Bedford Middle.
  • Harriet Carusi, teacher, 15 years, Bedford Middle.
  • Camille Eskell, 21 years, Staples High.
  • Joyce Evans, teacher, 21 years, Coleytown Elementary.
  • Colin Forde, custodian, 21 years, Bedford Middle.
  • Deborah Gallon, paraprofessional, 25 years, Staples High.
  • Jewel Gould, paraprofessional, 25 years, Stepping Stones Preschool.
  • Laurie Gray, teacher, 21 years, Bedford Middle.
  • John Horrigan, teacher, 33 years, Coleytown Middle.
  • Karleen Hunter, paraprofessional, 22 years, Stepping Stones Preschool.
  • Lynne Karmen, teacher, 20 years, Bedford Middle.
  • Josephine Lodewick, teacher, 20 years, Greens Farms Elementary.
  • Lisa Loechner, teacher, 19 years, Long Lots Elementary.
  • Barbara Maisonpierre, teacher, 13 years, Coleytown Elementary.
  • Susan Marnell, teacher, seven years, Bedford Middle.
  • Aparajita Mathur, paraprofessional, 19 years, Coleytown Middle.
  • Terry Morgan, security guard, six years, Long Lots Elementary.
  • Adelina Parisi, paraprofessional, 24 years, Long Lots Elementary.
  • Christine Pyrch, paraprofessional, 21 years, Long Lots Elementary.
  • Kathleen Raby, nurse, 33 years, Greens Farms Academy.
  • Patricia Ruther, teacher, 19 years, Greens Farms Elementary.
  • Joanne Samela, secretary, 14 years, Staples High.
  • Carolyn Santella, teacher, 19 years, Saugatuck Elementary.
  • A.J. Scheetz, administrator, 21 years, Staples High.
  • Annette Tait, paraprofessional, 14 years, Kings Highway.
  • Jorge Vazquez, custodian, 23 years, Staples High.
  • Kathleen Wolfe, paraprofessional, 21 years, Long Lots Elementary.
  • Clare Woodman, teacher, six years, Staples High.
  • Tracy Wright, teacher, 20 years, Staples High.

Linda Conner Lambeck is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.

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