Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson on Friday criticized Darien High School Principal Ellen Dunn for recommending a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the sources of information students and parents could use in learning about racism in light of events surrounding the George Floyd killing. “Now, ironically, the Southern Poverty Law Center is itself a hate group,” Carlson said. “That has been documented extensively. Now their agenda is the school’s agenda. It’s what your kids are learning.”
As everyone knows, Darien High School’s graduation this year won’t be a ceremony with crowds, due to the restrictions on gatherings, but just how it would be done has been finally announced with a packet (below) emailed to students and parents on Wednesday night. Here’s how:
[See update in the bulleted, gray-boxed paragraph, below.]
On Thursday, June 11, graduation will be in two parts: First, from 8 to 9 a.m., the “Wave Through” — a parade of sorts — will go through the high school campus, with seniors and their families in cars. The cars will first go to the Middlesex Middle School parking lot, at 7:45 a.m., then proceed to the high school in a long line. Then, at various times of day from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., seniors and their families will go back to campus at scheduled times in another line of cars. At the end of the line, seniors in their caps and gowns will get out of their vehicles with their parents and be presented with their diplomas — from their parents.
Every year, the Depot Youth Center provides balloons that graduating seniors find outside (see below for details), but two other ways of celebrating graduating students are also happening this year, when the pandemic can threaten spirits and will certainly change the traditional commencement event. First, An “adopt-a-senior” program for families with elementary and middle school students has been started where those families drop off “a homemade card or sign, a flower from the yard, or a small token at the student’s home,” according to an announcement in the Middlesex Parents Association newsletter. Families who sign up are assigned a student and given an address (in an email to be sent next week). The dropoffs are supposed to take place anytime in the five-day period from June 1 to 5. (See the announcement below.)
Second, Middlesex Middle School parents can order a yard sign from the Depot for graduating 8th graders who are going on to high school next year.
Darien High School has named Maya Nalawade the valedictorian for the graduating Class of 2020 and Alexis Zitzmann as the salutatorian, DHS Principal Ellen Dunn announced on Thursday. The high school hasn’t announced plans for what kind of graduation ceremony the Class of 2020 will get during these pandemic times, but the traditional addresses made by the valedictorian and salutatorian could be done if all or part of the ceremony is online. (See below for some of what’s been announced about the graduation.)
Darienite.com found a bit of information about each student early Thursday evening (we hope to get more, later):
Nalawade, born in the United States, spent several years of her childhood in Amsterdam and then in New Delhi, India before returning to the U.S. Earlier this year she published a book of poetry, “The World is a Broken Puzzle: Exploring Identity and Belonging.” She has been editor-in-chief of the school’s literary magazine and president of the school’s creative writing club, according to the Polyphony Lit website, an online literary platform for high school students. “If she’s not writing poetry she’s usually singing, listening to anything from Bollywood to Beyonce, or watching movies (which means she’s probably watching Midnight in Paris for the 100th time),” the website said.
To the editor,
We are writing to update you on the news surrounding the inaugural Senior Send-Off. Given the uncertainty surrounding social distancing policies for large gatherings, the Darien High School Parents Association (DHSPA) has come to the difficult conclusion that we cannot hold our event as originally envisioned. However, we are currently hard at work planning safe and creative ways to honor all 361 members of the DHS Class of 2020 over the course of the next month. On Tuesday, May 12, parent volunteers placed signs in the yards of each DHS senior. We are grateful to The Depot for their assistance in this project.
When U.S. News magazine recently came out with its rankings of high schools around the country and in the state, Darien High School came out tied for No. 1 for math and reading proficiency and No. 3 in the overall ranking in Connecticut. For math and reading proficiency, Darien was tied with the Julia R. Masterman Secondary School in Philadelphia as the No. 1 school.
Darien High School is shut off to all traffic, other than for COVID-19 testing, “in order to eliminate the public from gathering in a manner that risks the spread of COVID-19 within our community,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson declared in a late Friday afternoon proclamation. Also, all public baseball and softball fields in town, both those at town parks and schools, along with the batting cages at McGuane Park “are hereby ordered closed,” the proclamation states. The order banning vehicles only applies to Darien High School and is not “applicable to the other schools within the district until it becomes necessary to do so,” the proclamation states. The order takes effect immediately and “shall remain in effect for the duration of the emergency unless earlier modified by the Chief Executive Officer,” the proclamation said. “[T]here is a need to eliminate public gatherings at Darien High School and elsewhere so as to eliminate the possible risks of the spread of COVID-19,” Stevenson says in the proclamation.
Schools will “likely” be closed for longer than two weeks as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, based on weekend communications with state officials, schools Superintendent Alan Addley said in an announcement emailed Sunday evening, along with a lot of other information about school services during the closure. Also, the Board of Education will hold an “emergency meeting” at 6:30 p.m. Monday (tonight) to get an update on “educational plans moving forward.” The meeting won’t be open to the public, but it will be broadcast live on Youtube, the board announced. The sense in which the board meeting is an “emergency” was unclear. The announcement did not describe any immediate threat to anybody or any additional reason (other than what’s already been made public) for an imminent health threat from either COVID-19 or anything else.
Darien High School banquets for end-of-season winter sports teams are being “postponed,” DHS Athletic Director Chris Manfredonia told coaches in an email Wednesday morning. The postponement comes in response to a just-issued school district rule banning gatherings of 100 or more people at school-related events, but it even covers banquets where less than 100 people are expected, Manfredonia said. “While I understand that some banquets may be less 100 than people, it will become nearly impossible to monitor those numbers,” he said in the 9:13 a.m. email. “We are hopeful that in the future, your teams will be able to celebrate their seasons.” DHS Assistant Principal Katherine Dimoulas, in a 11:18 a.m. email addressed to the “Class of 2020” made a similar announcement:
“[W]e are postponing the 100 Day Dinner Celebration; we hope to be able to reschedule for a later date in the school year,” she wrote.
Numerous parents and high school students who spoke at a packed Board of Education meeting on Tuesday criticized school administrators’ decision to retest nearly 300 Darien High School sophomores after a major cheating incident was discovered in mid-January. The speakers also said the retesting would hurt students’ grades in other courses when they had other “unit” tests to take the same week as the retests. Those speakers were supported with repeated loud applause from the room, packed with a standing-room-only crowd of at least 100. A smaller number of the speakers, backed by less applause, supported the decision. About 45 minutes of the special meeting was spent on the public comment portion in a room that was packed tightly with just over 100 parents and students.
Cheating resulting from test answers being “widely shared” for two exams at Darien High School has led school officials to reschedule parts of the tests for all students who took them. Principal Ellen Dunn and the English and Social Studies Department chairs announced the move in a message on Friday to parents of 10th grade students. The message, sent early Friday evening by Dunn and English Department Chair Francis Janosco as well as Social Studies Department Chair Keith Keeler, said the cheating involved exams for both the 200 World Studies and English 10 courses. “It has come to our attention that exam security was breached and that the answers to the multiple choice sections of both exams were widely shared within the sophomore class,” the message said. The message did not say how students got hold of the answers or how that breach of security will be prevented from happening again.
In early December, when Darien High School’s Model Congress delegation attended the annual Yale Model Congress weekend, several DHS students came back home with awards. — an announcement from the Darien High School Model Congress Club; reporter: Club Secretary Aria Muchhal
As always, the DHS delegation was successful, in terms of the awards ceremony and attitude. The delegates were polite, engaged, and kind, and several won awards. Tripp Lyons and Henry Kanlian received Best Delegate awards, Peter McLean and Mike Mercein won Best Legislation, and Christian DaSilva accepted an Honorable Mention for his role as Secretary of State in the Presidential Cabinet. As a small delegation of ten people, the group was considered for a Small Delegation Award which DHS has won three times in the past.
Darien High School students in a woodworking class and other technology education classes have built dozens of wooden toys for children in area homeless shelters. Their effort in the last few weeks of December started out as a manufacturing project in teacher Ashley O’Connor’s Woodworking 2 class. The students decided to make wooden fire trucks. The project then expanded when other technology education students heard about it and asked if they could help. Students felt it was very important that children would get these toys before the holidays.
Darien High School has been selected as a 2019-2020 STEM School of Excellence by the International Technology & Engineering Association. Darien High School is one of 10 schools worldwide receiving the award this year. — an announcement from Darien High School, with additional information from the ITEEA website
ITEEA recognizes outstanding schools for their commitment to providing a robust Integrative STEM education program. The award will be officially given to representatives of the DHS Technology and Engineering Department at the annual conference in Baltimore, Maryland in March of 2020. According to the association’s website:
“Award recipients will be recognized at the ITEEA International Conference in Baltimore in March, 2020 and will receive a banner and certificate for display in the school.