Shelton convocation is 'a family reunion' for teachers

SHELTON - With school opening just a few days away, administrators and staff gathered at Finn Stadium Tuesday for the annual convocation - a family reunion of sorts for teachers who spent months not seeing each other.

Superintendent Ken Saranich said holding the convocation was necessary to allow staff to bond and draw inspiration from each other as they prepare for the Sept. 8 opening.

The pandemic canceled the convocation last year - and the health district recommended against holding an indoor ceremony this year. He said his first question to health officials was ‘can we do this outside?’

“I recognized we needed this,” Saranich said to the dozens of staff sitting in the bleachers at Finn Stadium. “We needed to start the school year together as a Shelton community.

“As I stand here, it reminds me of when I stood in this very spot three months ago to address the graduating Class of 2021,” Saranich said. “At that time, I told them the same message that I tell you today: You mattered, through the unique ‘lost year’ of 2020, you mattered.”

The convocation, while shortened for the outdoor venue, opened with Saranich’s daughter, Aine, singing the National Anthem, and featured speeches by Board of Education Chair Kathy Yolish, Shelton High Principal Kathy Riddle and the city’s teacher of the year, Shelton High teacher Catherine Burgholzer.

Saranich welcomed the district’s 22 new teachers and honored the winners of the annual Golden Apple Awards, a program honoring the district’s non-tenured teachers. This year’s winners were Jessica Welsh of Sunnyside School and Chris Smith of Shelton High.

“It is a great feeling being back together,” Lorena Snell, Italian teacher at Shelton High, said after the event. “We’re really a family at Shelton High School, so it was hard for us not to be together. We’re a huge group. We love being with one another. This was like a family reunion.”

Saranich admitted that this coming school year will not be normal.

“Education will never be what it once was. Education will be better because of what you do with what we’ve learned,” Saranich said. “I believe we have an extremely talented and gifted staff that can make it happen.”

As each staffer left the stadium they were presented with a bracelet - a token to remind them of the importance of their work to the city’s students, Saranich said.

“Together we will build a district of innovation, creativity and hope, where our students and staff can feel confident to learn from their failures and create opportunities for learning where they may have never existed (before),” Saranich added.

Shelton Intermediate School teacher Allyson Debe said coming together again is further inspiration for the coming year.

“Our superintendent always inspires us,” she said. “There’s a lot of trust in him to bring us together.”

Snell said it was nice to start the school year together as a group.

“It’s motivation. We’re all eager to start off the year,” she said. “It’s nice to see the administration happy to see us and give us the motivation to start this year off on the right foot.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com