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West Hartford Students Return to School

Third grade teacher Kerri-Lynn O'Neill with several of her students. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The 2017-2018 school year began on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in West Hartford.

By Ronni Newton

There were plenty of smiles but also a few jitters on the first day of school in West Hartford, but Wolcott Elementary School Principal Scott Dunn, who welcomed 417 student to class on Wednesday, understood the feeling because it was his first day, too.

Principal Scott Dunn introduces Student Council President Tristan McClay who led the Pledge of Allegiance. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“You’re nervous? I am too because I’m new and I’m meeting all of you for the first time,” said Dunn, who took over as Wolcott’s principal this summer. The Simsbury resident, who is the son of two teachers, previously worked as principal of A. Ward Spaulding Elementary School in Suffield.

Dunn presided over the school’s traditional first day of school ceremony at the gazebo at the back of the school, joined by Wolcott’s mascott, Buffy the eagle.

He introduced Student Council President Tristan McClay who led the crowd of students and their parents in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the singing of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” led by instrumental music teacher Dan Luongo on the saxophone and vocal music teacher Jeff Rhone – also new to the school this year – on guitar.

“Thank you to all of the families who stopped by to welcome me,” Dunn told the community.

He said that school is really about community – a family at school just as everyone has their families at home. His goal is to make it a fun and safe environment, he said.

Asking the new students to raise their hands – there are 21 of them – Dunn said, “Please let’s reach out to our new friends and make them feel welcome in this community.”

Eamon and Adnan Virk, whose children began first and fourth grade at Wolcott on Wednesday, greeted Principal Dunn following the ceremony.

“We’re really excited about it,” Eamon Virk said of the first day of school. “It was a wonderful summer but we’re excited to get back.”

Adnan Virk said he appreciated Dunn’s opening remarks. “He seems really genuine and friendly. It’s a wonderful community.”

Jessica Dube’s daughter, Julia, starts kindergarten on Wednesday but even though her orientation session doesn’t begin until 10:45 a.m., she attended the opening ceremony with her brother, Benjamin, who is in second grade.

After greeting her new principal, Julia said that she was excited about starting kindergarten.

“I’m elated,” Dunn said about the first day of school. He said the Wolcott community has given him such a warm and sincere welcome, and said it has such a neighborhood feel.

That sense of community is supported by the “Wolcott Way,” Dunn said. “All of us regardless of age being respectful, responsible, and ready to learn.”

“He is the best principal. He is the perfect person to lead Wolcott,” said Maureen Lantner, who along with Lynn Katz served as the school’s interim principal while the districted conducted a search last year.

Lantner said that Dunn “blew her away” during the interview process for the permanent principal. “He has sincere joy about the work of teaching and a deep understanding of learning,” she said.

Dunn said he was thankful to both for helping him with the transition to his new job. After the opening ceremony, he planned to spend the day visiting each classroom and meeting students and staff.

Before the ceremony, fifth grade teacher Matthew Dicks said that he was happy to be back to meet his new students and to see his colleagues again. “I love my job. I love vacation … but I love to do this.”

A group of Hall High School senior girls pose for a photo before heading to school for the first day of their last year. Photo courtesy of Pat Dugan.

Special ceremonies on the first day are the norm at West Hartford’s 11 elementary schools, but at the three middle schools and two high schools students proceed directly to class. Girls in the senior class at both high schools do have a tradition of decorating special “seniors” t-shirts, and gathering for photos before the start of the day.

“It seems smooth so far,” Superintendent Tom Moore said late Wednesday morning about the start of school.

Moore, who traditionally visits every school in the district on the first day, said he started in the north end of town this year. He was a bit worried because of all of the construction near Aiken and King Philip, but said that it was “way smoother than I thought it would be,” with only minor bus delays.

For more information about what’s new throughout the district, and some details you may want or need to know, click here. For a recap of Monday’s convocation ceremony, click here.

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Wolcott mascot Buffy the eagle with Principal Scott Dunn. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Third grade teacher Eric Feeney poses with his new class before the opening day ceremony. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fifth grade teacher Matthew Dicks waits with his class for the opening day ceremony to begin. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Students line up by class. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

A Wolcott student gets a hug from Buffy the eagle. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Music teachers Jeff Rhone (left) and Dan Luongo lead the singing of ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.’ First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

New students raise their hands. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Students head into the building. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Wolcott Principal Scott Dunn greets Julia Dube, a new kindergartner, while her mom, Jessica Dube looks on. First day of West Hartford Public Schools. Wolcott Elementary School. Aug. 30, 2017. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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