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Friday, March 23 News

New Canaan students head back to school

New Canaan students were greeted by teachers, staff, administrators as well as a bright sunny sky and approximately 80-degree weather when they returned to school Wednesday morning.

As several teachers and administrators stood outside the buildings to welcome the kids, students also saw a number of new faces, including a new interim superintendent, new principals, new assistant principals and a new school resource officer.

Interim Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi, who replaces Mary Kolek, visited all five schools along with Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Jill Correnty; Assistant Superintendent of Pupil and Family Services Darlene Pianka and Director of Human Resources Gary Kass.

"We had a great opening," Luizzi said. "Buses were rolling just about on time, which is a wonderful thing on the first day of school."

The group greeted students as they came in and "touched base with teachers and staff," according to Luizzi.

"Everyone is doing really well," he said. "Teachers were happy to see their students, or meet them for the first time, students had their backpacks full of school supplies. Everything seemed to be to running very smoothly."

If the numbers continue to rise, the district might see a record-high enrollment rate this year, according to Kass. As of Aug. 18, there were 4,245 students enrolled, up from last year's 4,181.

Among this year's administrative changes are three new principals. Since Luizzi left the top job at New Canaan High School, Assistant Principal Veronica LeDuc is now serving in an interim position. At East Elementary School, Kristine Woleck is the new principal following the retirement of Alexandra "Bunny" Potts. In addition, Jan Murphy is the new principal at West Elementary School, following the retirement of interim principal Joanne LaVista.

Luizzi said he's excited about the "nice mix" of new faces and new administrative roles across the district.

"As we go around the buildings, talk to staff, it seems that everyone has a very positive outlook at the year," he said. "And the people who are new to our district bring their own skills, talents, which is a positive thing."

Murphy said the first day "went like clockwork" as many parents joined the school staff to guide students through the school.

"Everything went well. The gorgeous weather helped a lot, so we didn't have to rush the kids inside," she said.

Another change in the district is the addition of a full-time school resource officer at Saxe Middle School. The school is the second in the district, along with the high school, to have a police officer working on site every day during school hours. Jeff Deake, the first officer to assume the role at Saxe, spoke about his first contacts with students as he fist bumped them before they entered the building Wednesday morning.

"I'm excited to be here and to have the opportunity to safeguard the school," he said. "It's nice to see the energy and the smiles in the kids' faces."

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noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira|Education/general assignment reporter