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28 school staff retiring; Flynn taught 47 years

Seven hundred sixty-seven.

That’s how many years of experience the Ridgefield school district will lose at the end of this month, when 28 of its faculty and staff members retire.

The Board of Education recognized the retirees at its meeting Monday night during a 45-minute ceremony.

Ridgefield High School had the most retirees, 10 of its staff members.

The list featured six teachers with 35 years or more of service, including math teacher Maxine Driscoll, business teacher and assistant dean Mark Katz, science teacher Louis Hall, technology teachers John Nessel and Benjamin Stiles, and paraprofessional Marilyn Bellagamba.

“Maxine started back at the old high school in 1961,” RHS Principal Stacey Gross of Ms. Driscoll, who taught 42 years in the district. “She took time off to raise her family but came back afterward and now, she has eight grandchildren.”

“All members of the RHS science department have benefited from the presence of Lou Hall,” Ms. Gross said of Mr. Hall, who taught 37-plus years.

The other RHS retirees included Assistant Principal Diane de Cristo, science teacher Agnes Dorsey-Mott, school nurse Gail Baker, and science teacher Peter Ustie.

Ridgebury Elementary School Principal Jamie Palladino paid tribute to the district’s two most senior teachers — kindergarten teacher Ruth-Ann Flynn, who taught 47 years, and second grade teacher Mae Murray, 44 years.

Ms. Flynn and Ms. Murray were recognized alongside fifth grade teachers Marguerite Reynolds and Laurel Gordon, and speech teacher Karen Hausmann.

“There’s 153 years of service between these five dynamic teachers,” said Mr. Palladino. “They all have had a tremendous influence on our school’s community and have changed the lives of so many children.”

Farmingville Elementary is losing one of the most senior teachers in the district, Ken Gibson, who taught second grade for 42-plus years.

“Ken is one of the kindest people I’ve ever known — that anybody who’s ever came to Farmingville has ever known,” said Farmingville Principal Susan Gately.

Veterans Park will also lose a second grade teacher, Shelly Anderton, to retirement, in addition to physical education teacher Tony Veteri.

Dr. Jason McKinnon, the principal at Branchville Elementary, started the reception when he acknowledged the retirement of Pamela Harrington, who has taught physical education at Branchville for the past 36 years.

“Pam always drove home the message to our kids that there are more important things than winning,” Mr. McKinnon said.

East Ridge Middle School Principal Martin Fiedler spoke next and honored math teacher Susan Melillo, librarian Carole Watson and secretary Georgiana Castellani, all of whom had worked for 20-plus years.

In total, there were 11 retired teachers who had 35 or more years of service.

While the schools certainly parted ways with a lot of experience, the district’s central office also had to make some difficult good-byes.

Administrative secretary Patricia MacDonald, who worked for 29 years dating back to 1983, was recognized as a “steady force in the central office.”

“She made it look effortless while defining what it means to be a true professional,” said Karen Dewing, the district’s personnel director.

Superintendent Deborah Low spoke last, honoring Assistant Superintendent Patricia Michael, who worked in the district 17 years.

“Pat helped me get through my first year here as superintendent — I don’t know if I could have done it without her,” said Ms. Low.

Khampiou Chansouk retired as the district’s third longest tenured custodian with 33 years of experience.

Fellow custodians retiring this year included Milt Magnussen, 29 years; Kenneth Winters, 20 years; and Richard Herling, 11 years.

About author
Award-winning journalist for Hersam Acorn Newspapers. Covers beats such as education, police and fire, planning, real estate, and business in the town of Ridgefield. Also covers sports and hosts a radio show, Radio Arts and Leisure, that runs on the company's 18 individual news websites. University of Denver graduate, die-hard Bronco and Yankee fan. Sports lover and compulsive traveler.

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