By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER
Frank Pepe paced the front of the high school like an air traffic controller, directing students through the melee of buses and vehicles. Southington’s newest high school principal looked at home, high-fiving students and smiling at parents during the first day of school.
On Thursday, Aug. 29, Southington schools opened their doors for the 2019-20 school year with a lot of new faces, new administrative staff, and even a new school name.
Pepe, the former DePaolo Middle School principal, welcomed some of his former students at the front door as they all transitioned to the high school. Down the street, DePaolo Middle School’s new principal Chris Palmieri was enjoying a similar scene with his new assistant principal Robert Lasbury.
In Plantsville, Zaya A. Oshana Elementary School, formerly Plantsville Elementary School, was abuzz with excitement as new principal, Josie Rogala, and members of the Board of Education greeted students and their families.
“We’re all here to support them to be their absolute best,” said Rogala.
Rogala has been in the Southington Public Schools for several years, having taught for 12 years at the elementary level and serving as a teacher leader at both DePaolo and Kennedy middle schools.
Rogala hopes that students remember to be themselves, to try their best, and to remember that it’s okay to make mistakes.
Also new to Oshana is Parvathi Kannur, a third grader who said she was most excited to learn about music. And, while Parvathi currently doesn’t play a musical instrument, she said she would enjoy learning how to play the violin.
Third grader Julia Jarosz said she was most excited to set up her locker, a new perk that came with entry into grade three.
“I have, like, this box that can hold my stuff in it and it lights up,” said Jarosz, who was also excited to begin learning multiplication.
“It’s a new year, a new start, new wonderfulness,” said Colleen Clark, a member of the Southington Board of Education.
Similarly, BOE members Robert Brown, and Zaya G. Oshana, shared their excitement for the new year, with Brown advising students to “get some joy out of learning,” as “learning is your life.”
The first day held extra meaning Oshana, as the elementary school was renamed in honor of his late father Zaya A. Oshana. The son said it was a nice legacy for his father, who served on the BOE for 34 years, taught in district for over 35 years, and served on numerous committees and community operations.
“I think it’s just an honor for our family, and more importantly, it’s an honor for him [and] for what he’s done for education. He dedicated his life to education, that’s what he did, it didn’t matter where you were in the educational process,” said Commissioner Oshana. “He dedicated it to the kids and that’s why I’m here. I was so proud of what he did and the impact that it had, it’s what drove me.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.
Photos by JANELLE MORELLI