Schools say goodbye to 21 teachers, staff members

As school comes to an end, it’s time to say goodbye to those faces who won’t be returning next year — the 21 teachers and staff from Ridgefield Public Schools who are retiring on June 30.

They were honored during the Board of Education meeting Monday, June 12, with a ceremony attended by more than 60 people, in which books were donated to Ridgefield Public School libraries in their names.

Some staff members had been teaching in town for more than 30 years.

The second longest tenured retiree, Diane Caggiano, an art teacher at Barlow Mountain Elementary School, has taught in Ridgefield schools for the past 32 years.

“An artist through and through, she speaks art, she breathes art, she communicates like an artist,” said Barlow Mountain principal Rebecca Pembroke.

“She lights up our school every year.”

Branchville is losing a beloved and unusual fourth grade teacher in Mark Reinders, according to Principal Keith Margolus. Reinders is retiring after a 20 year run.

“He’s part of the fabric of Branchville,” said Margolus June 12.

“Stepping into his classroom is like stepping into a unique foreign culture, they have their own rituals.”

Five staff members are leaving the central office, including Alberta Rappoccio, the district’s nursing coordinator who’s retiring after 30 years.

The Book of Joy was donated in her name, because “she was always pleasant and smiling,” said Assistant Superintendent of Special Services Dr. Kim Hapken.

High school

Ridgefield High School will have to replace 108 combined years of experience, as five staff members are leaving, including secretary Paulette Zaccagnino, who’s the longest-tenured retiree this year.  

“The face of the main office,” said Principal Stacey Gross of Zaccagnino who’s served Ridgefield parents and students for 33 years.

“She fields a million questions from kids, parents, and staff,” Gross said. “She does so with graciousness and calmness — she makes everyone feel welcome.”

Administrative assistant Chris Coffey will also retire, after 27 years.

“He’s the single most patient and kind member of the RHS community,” said Gross.

“With an uncanny ability to remain calm during stressful time.”

Two French teachers are also retiring, both after 15 years — Carol Fuchs from RHS and Carolyn Friday from Scotts Ridge Middle School.

‘A love of children’

Gerry Shay, East Ridge Middle School’s school counseling center secretary, will be leaving after 24 years.

“Clearly to last that long you need to be attentive to detail organization and be able to control everyone around you — not just the counselors,” said Principal Patricia Raneri.

“They have to have a love of children and staff and families, she’s the first person that they see when they walk in that door.”

Editor's note: The print version of this story had incorrectly spelled Zaccagnino's last name. We apologize to her and her husband, Tim, for the error.