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Convocation Thanks Teachers, Challenges Staff to 'STEP It Up'

The annual convocation Monday at Southington High School marked the official kick-off of the 2012-13 school year in Southington.

When Cynthia Simms, the mother of both a senior and freshman at Southington High School, was asked if she wanted to comment about her children’s experience in the public school district, she didn’t hesitate to share a long list of experiences. 

“All the teachers we’ve had, they’ve touched my children’s lives,” Simms said in the video “They have made them truly feel like they could accomplish anything.”

Simms was one of more than a dozen parents from schools throughout the community who voluntarily spoke out to thank the town’s teachers for their work as part of a welcome back video for the Southington schools 2012 convocation on Monday.

The 2012 convocation, held at , served as the official kick-off of back to school week in Southington on Monday morning. Teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals and more from Southington’s 12 public schools came together for a little “pep rally” and presentation that offered a sincere “thank you” and encouraged everyone to “STEP” it up as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

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The annual convocation included speeches from various school leaders including Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr., Board of Education Chairman Brian Goralski, Teacher of the Year Justin Mirante and more.

The delivery of each motivational address was different, but the message that each delivered to the teachers and staff of Southington schools was the same: you’ve made a difference in the past several years and you have the tools and talent to do it again.

Erardi said Southington has continued to stand out and grow year to year at a time when government is expressing concerns more than ever in how districts handle their business. He said Southington has stayed “one step ahead” of these concerns.

“I think the reason why we are different, and we are different, with the turbulence and the winds that have surrounded public schools, nothing in my world has changed,” Erardi said. “We continue to be better at influencing, connecting and altering lives in this district.”

Karen Smith, assistant superintendent, said the heart of each teacher has made a difference in the community, one student at a time.

Monday’s convocation also gave the district a chance to recognize 19 new staff members and 10 teachers and faculty members who together represent 300 years of quality education in the community.

The following Southington schools staff members were recognized for their 30 years of service on Monday:

1. Darlene Baer, Music, /
2. Susanne Blaszczyk, Social Studies,
3. Anne Chubet-Mangiacopra, Social Studies,
4. Cynthia Davey, Business,
5. Scott DiNello, Head Custodian,
6. Denise Jandreau, Secretary,
7. Rosemary Risser, Kindergarten,
8. Brian Stranieri, Assistant Principal,
9. Janice Sullivan, Family and Consumer Science,
10. Alison Zirpolo, Music,

As the 2012 convocation drew to a close Monday, it was Steve Nyrick who provided closing words to remember.

Nyrick, a members of the Southington Town-Wide Effort to Promote Success (STEPS) program reminded teachers to consider their “A, B, C’s” or “asset building classrooms,” a concept unveiled last year by the STEPS program, before presenting them with a challenge.  

With the foundation laid and support coming from all aspects of the community, Nyrick turned to Southington school officials and summed it up it four words before wishing the a great school year.

“Let’s STEP it up,” he said.

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