By SHERIDAN CYR
Southington Public Schools joined administration, staff, town officials, parents, friends, students and community members together under one roof last week to celebrate Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School’s 50th anniversary, reflecting on the past and securing its place in the future.
“DePaolo has a long tradition of excellence in supporting students and families,” said Superintendent Tim Connellan. “I want to thank staff members, administration and parents for that, because it really is all about being a family, and the work that we all provide for one another so we can do the best that we possibly can for all of our students.”
Six students from the theater department (Morgan Birdsey, Jake Gorham, Angelina Paulus, Allie Pechillo, Madison Rust and Ethan Solury) took the audience back through time to compare today’s education operations and standards to those of the past by performing skits throughout the evening. Those students told the tales of such “antiques” as the Dewey decimal system used by librarians to track and locate books, the old slide projectors, and a world before computers where essays were hand-written and copiers didn’t exist.
The skits involved two students who portrayed students from Depaolo’s early days, two who portrayed modern-day students, and two who facilitated the conversations between them. The skit showed how modern technology has affected the school over its five decades.
As a testament to the half-century history of memories made, a time capsule was filled with memorabilia, including a small megaphone, a joke book, an original poem crafted by DePaolo staff, an honor student bumper sticker and even a DVD of current students’ favorite memories. Several past staff members were called up to the stage to leave something behind to represent the different aspects of education at DePaolo through the years.
“I consider all of my time here as time well spent,” said retired media teacher Sandy VanValkenburgh, “And that became the theme of the time capsule. We hope that in 50 years, the capsule will be uncovered, and still be the treasure that it is today.”
Many past educators and administrative members shared stories of their time at DePaolo, touching on everything from tossing tennis balls off of the roof while recording football games, to managing the AV Club, to a $600 calculator (considering inflation, it would be more than $3,000 today) the size of a backpack that students and teachers flocked to see.
Town Council chair and DePaolo assistant principal Chris Palmieri presented the school with an official proclamation on behalf of the entire council declaring May 10, 2018 as Joseph A. DePaolo Day.
The proclamation recognized that “teachers and staff of DePaolo Middle School continue to provide a high quality education to each student as they develop and prepare for high school and beyond, whereas teachers and staff work collaboratively with students, parents and families to foster a cohesive learning partnership.” It also recognized Southington Public Schools’ official mission statement.
“Students have dedicated themselves to the SPS mission statement by becoming informed, adaptive problem solvers who effectively communicate, rise to challenges and are committed to improve themselves and the community,” Palmieri said.
Principal Frank Pepe closed the ceremony by thanking the DePaolo Middle School “family.”
“In 50 years, thousands of students have filtered through and were educated, nurtured and inspired by our staff,” Pepe said. “We are a people-based business, and we’re here for our students, their families, and our staff.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI