Salute To Excellence

Each month the Board of Education shine the spotlight onto an area of excellence within our schools to highlight some of the extraordinary individuals, teams, students and programs that exist within Wilton Public Schools. This page showcases the talent and dedication of some of the most recent recipients of the award.

Salute to Excellence - Fine and Performing Arts at WPS
Salute to Excellence Title Picture

Click picture above to play video 

Salute To Excellence - Wilton Police & Student Govt.

Students at Wilton High School have moved mountains to help fundraise for two Wilton police officers who are literally climbing a mountain–Kilimanjaro–to benefit the Special Olympics.

Last year, Lt. David Hartman and Lt. Rob Kluk of the Wilton Police Department made a commitment to fundraise for Special Olympics by literally climbing a mountain–on Feb. 16, 2020, they leave for Africa to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Thus far, their team of 12 total climbers has raised close to $140,000 through sponsorships and donations.

At  last night’s Board of Education meeting, Hartman was honored with a Salute to Excellence award from the BOE (Kluk was unable to attend). Superintendent Kevin Smith explained that the Wilton High School student body and athletic department had organized several efforts in a short amount of time, and were able to raise close to $2,400 to contribute toward Hartman and Kluk’s fundraising climb.

Student body president Rishabh Raniwala described how the students government reps designed a t-shirt that they sold to the school and wider communities, raising over $1,400 in sales from the shirts alone. They also garnered $469 from a bake sale.

“We’re really happy to support the Police Department, Lt. Hartman and Lt. Kluk, the Special Olympics, and all the things that they do,” Raniwala said. [Editor’s note:  t-shirts are still available for purchase online.]

The Wilton Athletic Department also raised money, setting out a collection bucket on the entrance table at the beginning of all home games and collecting donations. “We’re at $500 and counting,” said athletic director Chris McDougal, adding that his teams hope to chip in more after the track meet on Saturday (weather permitting) and the boys basketball home game next week.

Smith added that the WHS cheerleaders have also been helping solicit donations from fans in the stands.

“I’m thrilled that the student body and the high school athletic department have joined to help us. This has been a passion of mine to help out the special Olympics, as well as Rob’s,” Hartman told the Board of Education.

Raniwala gave Hartman two WHS t-shirts and Smith gifted the officers with  water bottles that bore the Wilton Warrior logo. The gesture was especially meaningful to Hartman.

“This was my high school, I graduated WHS back in 1994, so this is really special to me, and it’s really special to take the WHS flag up to the top and plant it at the summit and take a photo.”

Retiring BOE members recognized at their final meeting
Photograph of Lory Rothstein, Superintendent smith, Chris Finkelstein and Laura Schwenn

Last Thursday’s (Nov. 14) Board of Education meeting was the end of an era for three Board members who are retiring from the board after completing two terms in office. Chair Chris Finkelstein, vice-chair Laura Schwemm and secretary Lory Rothstein were recognized for their service by Superintendent Kevin Smith and fellow board members Gretchen Jeanes, Glenn Hemmerle and Debbie Low. Each remaining board member took turns thanking them for their service and reminded all present on the Board’s accomplishments over the last eight years.

Rothstein reminisced about how much has changed since she joined the board. “It is a completely different world now than it was eight years ago, every building principal in the district has changed within the span of eight years, and so too had the superintendent and two assistant superintendents.”

Jeanes spoke of Rothstein’s dedication and love of Wilton, and how she has enjoyed serving with her on the teaching and learning committee.

Hemmerle described Schwemm as a rock. “A solid person, with a solid foundation, her commitment is beyond compare,” he said, adding how he will miss Schwemm’s wise and sage comments.

Low reminded the board of all the work that Finkelstein has been involved in over the last eight years–Athletic Task Force, Nutrition Council, Hall of Fame sub-committee chair, and Board Policies sub-committee chair.

“She takes great pride in our schools, she added department workshops to the budget, she worked with Dr. Smith on producing the budget presentations and she ran clear, focused and efficient meetings, with thoughtful deliberation and a non-partisan approach,” said Low.

Finkelstein spoke of her first task as a BOE member. “The first thing we did was take a tour of Miller-Driscoll (pre-renovation). It was an eye-opening experience and it first sunk in the enormity of the task. It is remarkable how much has happened over eight years–common core, full day kindergarten, a whole new vocabulary of SBAC, SRBI, UDL and MAP.”

All outgoing board members echoed Finkelstein’s sentiments that their most proud achievement was being able to recruit “…the ambitious young Bethel superintendent, Kevin Smith, to Wilton.”

Smith spoke with sincere gratitude for the work that the board members had undertaken on behalf of the schools and the town. He acknowledged their role in the transformational work that the district has undertaken, and the countless hours they have spent on committees. As the coup de grace testament to the dedication of the three departing leaders, Smith shared the news that the Wilton Board of Education has been recognized for a second year as CABE Level 2 Leadership recipients, as one of only 10 school boards in the state to receive the honor in 2019.

Salute to Excellence - Unified Team
Dr Smith, Lynn Shuster, Chris Finkelstein and members of the unified teams.

At Thursday's board of education meeting the Unified Team were recognized for all their hard work and dedication.

Melissa Barrett, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education introduced and thanked adult organizers Daniel Geraghty, Elias Zurita, Lynn Schuster and Emily Rippel. Unified student leader Peyton Matik was also recognized, as were a number of Middlebrook and High School students who have made the program the success it is today. 

WHS Alumnus Peter Orfino spoke to what Unified means to him 'I enjoy helping the other teams as well as my own and I enjoy seeing friends from other towns and my own town. There are a lot of people there who I can relate to very much'

Unified sports is a registered program of the Special Olympics that combines athletes with and without intellectual disability (or other developmental delays) on sports teams for training and competition. All Unified Sports teammates are of similar age and teams are placed in competitive divisions based on their skill abilities, and range from developmental to recreational to competitive. Wilton High School started with a soccer team four years ago and have now added basketball, track and theater to what is on offer all students.

In 2018 Wilton High School was recognized as a National Banner Unified Champion School. WHS was recognized as having demonstrated a commitment to inclusion by meeting 10 national standards of excellence. Wilton High School was one of only four schools recognized in this way in 2018.

Unified meets every Thursday afternoon at 2.45pm at the High School. Busing is available from Middlebrook for all students who wish to get involved. Any Middlebrook or High School student who would like learn more about the program and get involved for basketball season should reach out to Mrs. Schuster at Middlebrook, or Mrs. Barrett at the High School.

Salute To Excellence - Dr. Jeanine Freliech
Board Chair Chris Finkelstein with Dr Frelich and Superintendent Smith

At the first Board of Education meeting of the new school year. Superintendent Kevin Smith recognized Dr. Jeanine Freliech with the first Salute to Excellence award of the year.

Dr. Freliech has served in the voluntary role of medical advisor to Wilton Public Schools for the the last fourteen years. 'I wanted to take this Opportunity to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts  and to recognize the great service you have provided for us.' Said Dr. Smith.

Dr. Freliech has advised the district on a wide range of subjects, from the bird flu pandemic to the storage of epi pens.

Board Chair Chris Finkelstein remarked 'Dr. Freliech took on the role when she was working full time and raising three daughters, she handled her volunteer medical responsibilities with her usual grace, professionalism and kindness. When her youngest daughter graduated last June, Jeanine, you decided to graduate as well. We will miss you and please know how much we appreciate you'