Following COVID restrictions, Shelton schools are ‘back to basics’ ahead of Sept. 6 opening

SHELTON — City schools are going back to basics.

That was the mantra from Superintendent Ken Saranich to educators from across the district Tuesday at the school system’s annual convocation, held at Shelton High’s Finn Stadium. The event, according to Saranich, is designed as a motivational event as teachers prepare for the schools’ opening Sept. 6.

“I am so proud of Shelton … I am proud of the continued work and effort that each and every one of you do for the lives of our students,” said Saranich.

Saranich said the back-to-basics push comes after two years of upheaval from pandemic restrictions - which forced students and teachers into remote learning for many months - and curriculum changes, particularly last year.

He said his staff pushed through the difficult times, and he is now keeping his promise that staff can focus on “good instruction” and “become masters of their craft.”

The event opened with the singing of the National Anthem by award-winning performer, high school sophomore Ben Souza, and featured speeches by Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish, high school Principal Kathy Riddle and Saranich as well as 2022 Teacher of the Year Catherine Deitelbaum.

“Whether you are in your 10th year, fifth year or 30th year … for the students, this year is their only year with you, in this grade, in this classroom,” said Deitelbaum, her eyes welling with tears. “This is a chance to build something new.”

The 2021 Teacher of the Year, Catherine Burgholzer, introduced Deitelbaum, who was then presented with her top teacher plaque by Saranich before taking the podium in what was an emotional address to her fellow Shelton educators.

Deitelbaum said the motivation for teachers wondering if they can make it another year is always the chance to start fresh and develop relationships with students, staff and administrators.

“This is what separates teaching from other professions,” she said. “It is the art of building relationships and community between you and the students, you and your colleagues, you and the administrators.

“Be proud of our profession and its uniquely lasting impacts, and remember, with the help of those around you, we can do this all again,” Deitelbaum added to the applause of the hundreds of Shelton staffers in the stadium bleachers.

Saranich said the district has hired 29 new educators for this coming school year. He has stated that only two of the positions are new - a pair of board certified behavior analysts — with the remaining hires replacing individuals who left the district or retired.

The district has also hired two new principals — John Coppola, a veteran of the Ansonia school system, for Mohegan School and Donato Piselli for Perry Hill School, where he replaces Lorraine Williams, who retired after being the only principal in the school’s history.

Saranich closed by presenting each staffer with two gifts: an orange and black bracelet with the words “Back to Basics” and a package of school supplies. Saranich said the supplies are provided in partnership with the Shelton Staples.

Then he offered the same advice he gave his three children, who are all college students.

“No matter how difficult or challenging a person or situation can be, be kind and stay positive,” Saranich told his colleagues. “Show the world your best side … be that person that I know you can be and that person that makes me so proud of you.”