NFA World

About all things NFA, and published in the Sunday edition of the Norwich Bulletin, NFA World is a weekly column written by Geoff Serra,  Director of Communications and Public Affairs.  Check back each week for a new posting.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Battle of the Pans

The Norwich Free Academy – New London football rivalry that culminates this year with a gridiron kick-off, 10 a.m., Thanksgiving Day, November 24, in New London, has expanded its competitive influence.
This year the first Battle of the Pans between NFA and New London will take place. It is a culinary face off, a cook-off that organizers are hoping will become an official annual event. Culinary replace football teams. Co-sponsored with Connecticut College, the event is set for 5:30 p.m., November 18, at Blaustein Humanities Center, Connecticut College, New London.
NFA Chef Jason Everett and New London High School Chef Dan Giusti are mentoring two three-member student teams who will compete to prepare a USDA approved creative lunch menu meant to appeal to and be relished by teens. Grasso Tech Culinary Students mentored by Chef David Miguel will judge. The winner’s meal will be prepared at both schools, and the winner will become the proud holder of a trophy for a year until the next cook-off.
Design and logo work by 6 NFA students in Art Department Head Alysha Carmody’s Graphic Design class is promoting the all-student event.
The event is a fundraiser for Thames River Community Service, Inc., which has provided housing with support services in Norwich and NL County for almost 25 years. The public will enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Dan Giusti and his staff. For more information or to purchase tickets to attend, to participate in a raffle, or to purchase sponsorships call 887-3288 or go to

Playshop Presents Original Student Play

Under direction of NFA drama teacher Phil Trostler ‘03, NFA’s Playshop presents its fall production Dates, an original play by senior Elise Vanase, 7 p.m. Friday November 18 and Saturday November 19, in Slater Auditorium. Ticket prices are $5 for NFA students with ID, children under 12, and senior citizens; and $10 for adults.
Dates, a full-length comedy written in modern high school language with reference to high school experience, will resonate with NFA students and alumni. Five 11th-grade friends – 4 males and 1 female -- make a friendly pact about dates for the upcoming fall coronation ball and wager to kiss their date before the end of the night.
According to Vanase, “Each picks a date for a very different reason, and each relationship is very different.”  For example one character is very connected to the girl he asks, while another choses a weird, unpopular girl just to have a date. Yet another, an openly gay young woman, takes her gender identity to a new level by asking another female. All the characters have something to learn, and the wager and competition, not to mention social interaction and expectation, teach them needed lessons about friendship relationships, and themselves. Along the way each couple faces obstacles like jealous friends, overzealous fathers, and general incompatibility. The play climaxes the night of coronation, where at least one couple kisses by the end of the night.
When asked about what makes the play funny, Vanase says, “The play is ironic. There’s slapstick and ridiculous and clever banter.” In fact, Vanase says much of the meaning lies in the rapid-fire dialogue.
A strength of the production, says the NFA senior playwright, lies in the “strong chemistry” among the actors who have become close personal friends in this process. That fact “pops” on stage, she says, adding to the depth, reality and comedy.
Actors include seniors Craig Blake, Allison Crockett, Madison Houk, Charles Liang, Olivia Pecoraro, Caleb Rak, and Rhiannon Willey; and uppers Chelsea Northup, Brandon Speight, and Katelyn Van Lanen. Lowers include Germaine Feeney, Johanny Ortiz, and Elliot Wicken; and ninth-graders are Maria Feeney, Kevin Flaherty, Garrett Owen, and Anelyse Tower.
The set uses various school-related objects like desks and tables to represent high school; a student-built paper mache tree looms over a pre-dance date in the park. Lighting and sound add to the realistic setting, culminating in a high school dance on stage complete with flashing lights and dance music. Volunteer Sharon Murphy-Boski has overseen the technical aspects of production, taking the student-run sound and light to a new level. Murphy-Boski introduced new concepts allowing students themselves to design and run the show.
Vanase also makes her debut as director in this production. “Directing taught me to be humble,” she says. “I had all these ideas, but then had all these people to work with and through. I took on a new role because I was leading people I knew and who were my own age. The process taught me to be professional.”
Vanase plans to study business management and theater next year in college. “This show made me know what I want to do with my life. It really changed how I participate in class. I have to work harder. This whole experience has change the way I look at being a student and how I seem my future.”  Vanase continues, “I wanted to do something memorable my senior year, and I wanted to be a role model in the theater circle. Theater has done so much for me, and I wanted to be a leader in the group.”
Dates,” says Trostler, “is unlike any production here before and the actors have done a wonderful job of bringing Elise's impressive script to life.”

Plum Island Research

November 8, NFA marine science teacher Seth Yarish traveled to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Long Island Sound east of Orient Point with a small group of local marine science, biology and environmental science teachers in the University of Connecticut’s Early College Experience program. The program grants college credit to high school students for approved coursework taken in high school taught by high school teachers who are adjunct professors at the University. The teachers learned about research activities on Plum island and generated ideas to involve high school students in marine & environmental science and biology research on the Island. 
UConn’s marine science coordinator, Claudia Koerting, was also on the trip with teachers from East Lyme, Ledyard, and Waterford High Schools, and Bacon Academy.
Yarish hopes to arrange a field trip to the island for NFA students in the spring of 2017.

Museum Develops New Programs

Last Wednesday, 44 students from Mrs. Hamlin and Ms. Revere’s first grade class at Norwich’s Wequonnoc School worked with Slater Museum volunteers Nina Barclay, Judi Deglin ’68, Carolyn Doutre ’69, Janis Sawicki ’68, and Beth Troeger ’66.
The volunteers have been developing a new program to formalize and normalize school programming for NFA’s partner and regional schools. Synergistically, the Wequonnoc team has been creating new, engaging curricula to conform to state standards and mandates. The two groups collaborated on scheduling, content, delivery, teacher preparation, and materials. Groups on both sides will continue to evaluate and refine this emerging partnership.
Hamlin and Revere’s students observed and studied objects in Slater’s collection to enhance their study of wood, including paintings depicting trees and objects made of wood including furniture, weapons, masks, and sculpture. Museum volunteers enhanced the children’s experience by donning green foliage hats to underscore the relationship between wood and trees.
A group of fourth graders expanded the pilot on Thursday to learn about observation and gallery etiquette in the Cast Gallery and the Grand Tour Exhibition. Other groups will follow, including fourth graders from Aime Benway and Samantha Cholewa’s classes and fifth graders from John Medvec and Sara Davis’ classes.
“Our volunteers have been working on this project for about six months,” says Slater Museum Director Vivian Zoe. “Our goal is to be of service to area schools to help teachers use Slater Museum’s objects and content to implement their curriculum goals. Slater accommodates dozens of classes, hundreds of students, annually from NFA’s partners and regional schools. Museum visits are always culturally enriching in immeasurable ways. With pre-planning and collaboration, our volunteers can extend the reach of the experience.”


Parent-Teacher Conferences take place 2-5 p.m., Nov. 15 and 5-8, Nov. 17.

Early Release Days for Students (11:55 a.m.), Nov. 15, Nov. 18, and Nov. 23.

Thanksgiving Recess:  Nov. 24 & 25.
FINAL THOUGHT: Tallulah Bankhead says, “If you want to help the American theater, don't be an actress, be an audience. ”

Posted by Geoffrey S. on Monday November 14, 2016 at 11:26AM
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Sunday, October 30, 2016

NFA Teacher Presents at Literacy Conference

Ninth-grade English teacher, Ellen Cavanaugh presented at the annual Literacy for All Conference in Providence, RI, Monday, Oct. 24. The conference is the leading literacy professional development event for teachers, administrators, literacy coaches, reading specialists and educators in the Northeast. Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, sponsors the annual event which brings together leading experts in the field of pre and adolescent literacy development.
This year’s keynote speaker was Lucy Calkins, well-known national reading expert. She is the Robinson Professor of Children's Literature at Teachers College, Columbia University and co-director the Literacy Specialist Program which grants masters and doctoral degrees.
Cavanaugh's workshop was entitled "So Many Stories: Engaging Adolescent Writers,” focused on her work inspiring her ninth-grade students to write in new ways. Cavanaugh employs writer’s workshop process.  Cavanaugh referenced stories from past and current students to explain the process students experience in her classroom and detailed how it could be implemented successfully in any classroom, regardless of grade level or student demographic.
“Writer's Workshop is a multistep process that provides students with choice, collaboration, explicit instruction, and freedom to progress at their pace,” says Cavanaugh. “I found it to be a much more democratic and empowering process than the traditional one-and-done prompts that I remember completing in high school.  Not only have I been able to better engage my students in the writing process, but I've also given them the opportunity to share some incredibly inspiring stories.”
To offer real experience support, four NFA students traveled with Cavanaugh to the conference and presented with her.  Lower Luckensley Paul, and ninth-graders Naomi Dumond, Aiyesha Foster and Sharday Spruill, enhanced the presentation by recalling first- hand how the writing workshop process has inspired them to become better writers.
At the workshop, says Cavanaugh, “Most of the audience addressed their questions to my students.  One member of the audience applauded them for presenting, exclaiming that in the 15 years she had attended the conference, she had never seen student presenters.”  After one and one-half hours session, audience members stayed 15 minutes to speak with the students more about their experiences. 
“It was a very positive experience for all of us,” says Cavanaugh. “My students viewed themselves as authors and were proud of their progress and final products.’  
Senior Maggie Peter, a student in Video Production 2, worked with Cavanaugh and her students to create a record of their experience, the process and their successes. View that video at

Holiday Party & Shopping Night

Slater Museum offers a jump-start on holiday shopping, 5-7 p.m., Nov. 16 in the Museum Gift Shop. For one night only, all who attend will enjoy 10% off all merchandise while enjoying refreshments, gallery tours, gift wrapping and more. The gift shop, the perfect place to find unique gifts, features the work of Connecticut artisans, fair trade crafts and art-inspired items, including jewelry, puzzles, scarves, bags and accessories, soaps, candles, fine pewterware, books, original artwork, CDs and much more. Also available are fine art prints and reproductions from the Museum’s collection.
Nov. 16 also features the opening reception for Slater’s newest exhibition in Converse Art Gallery, Life’s Landscape:  The Art of Ron Wing. A 1948 Fine Arts NFA graduate, Wing (1929-2015) exhibited at the National Academy and galleries in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Works in oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil, charcoal and etchings capture his love of nature, the mysteries of life and death and other allegorical themes. More than 80 Wing paintings will be displayed.
A silent auction of many works included in the exhibition will run Nov. 16 through Dec. 3. There will be a live auction Saturday, Dec. 3. For more information, visit Exhibits at

Student Tailgate Blitz

On Friday night, Nov. 4, when the NFA Wildcats face off against the Bacon Academy Bobcats in NFA’s final night game of the season, it will be after an afternoon of student celebration in the “NFA Tailgate Blitz.” From 3:30 to kickoff at 6:30 p.m., the Cranston House Parking Lot and nearby Shattuck Practice Field will turn into a battle zone as each “House” on campus vies to create the best and reddest tailgate area.

The competitive, spirit-filled afternoon is a collaboration of and for students, faculty and staff only. Each House will have a tent and table, food will be abundant, but grills are not allowed. Additional props and decorations, activities, and events are up to the creativity of each House group.
Competition is expected to be fierce, but essentially ethical, as a panel of judges will score each Tailgate station based upon the following criteria:  most school spirit; most creative; highest level of fun; and largest attendance as measured by a group selfie. Judges are expected to accept food bribes. The winners will be announced during the halftime ceremonies on the field.
Two exciting additions to the event are mathematics teacher Clarence Cooper’s smoked, juicy, fall off the bone, finger licking CC Ribs and rocking tunes and give-a-ways by Jammin 107.7.

NFA Hosts Second Open House for Prospective Students

Sunday, Nov. 6, beginning with 12:30 p.m. registration in the Atrium, NFA hosts an open house for prospective students and families. After brief greetings by Head of School David Klein and a presentation by Director of Student Affairs, John Iovino, students and families will have the afternoon to explore NFA’s many opportunities and to experience the NFA flavor.
Teachers will be available to meet and talk with students and families about course offerings and planning for the future. Two information sessions will take place in Converse Art Gallery; one about ninth grade honors courses, and one about programs for students with special needs. In the first session, parents will learn about the process of registering for the placement test for honors courses and have the opportunity to ask questions and find out about course content and expectations. Guidance Department Head Jessica St. George and Social Studies and History Department Head Karen Cook will conduct that session at 2 p.m. In the second, Director of Student Services Lisa Wheeler and Associate Director Sarah Edmond will help parents of students with special needs learn about the services that NFA offers and answer their questions about the continuum of services between grade 8 and 9. That session is at 2:30 p.m.
Select buildings, classrooms, studios, and laboratories on campus will be open. The Slater Museum, Visitors’ Center, and Gift Shop and the school store – the Cat Shack, will be open also. Parents and students can take a self-guided or student-directed tour of campus.
For more information or to register, visit house.


First Quarter marking period ends, Friday, Nov. 4. No school for students, Tuesday, Nov. 8, Election Day.
Final thought:

Posted by Geoffrey S. on Monday November 14, 2016
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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Activity Fair

Oct. 12 found all students, grades 9-12, participating in a Co-Curricular Activity Fair in Alumni Gym. Students attended by class during lunch shifts and had 20 minutes to browse displays and talk with club and activity student representatives to learn about NFA’s many co-curricular activities. Over 50 groups set up tables lining the perimeter of the gym and distributed information, answered questions and recruited new members. Director of Student Affairs John Iovino, his Administrative Assistant Laura Howe and their team of club advisers organized the event.

Generally, students who connect to school and their peers through clubs and activities tend to perform better academically, have better attendance and graduation rates, and lower disciplinary problems. The extension of school’s academic programs in clubs and activities teaches students teamwork, sportsmanship, self-discipline, and the rewards of hard work. Participation builds self-confidence, develops valuable skills, and often predicts success in college, career and society.

Clubs and activities help students expand their horizons; often, in co-curricular activities students explore areas that their academic classes do not afford them.  For example, a student in a high performing heavy mathematics-science academic program, can join the Beatles Club to meet others and learn about music in a way that he or she cannot in class.

Ninth-graders are especially encouraged to pursue co-curricular interests as a good way to assimilate into NFA culture. 

The event was a success. Many advisers and student representatives commented upon the number of students who signed up for their club or activity expressing an interest. Many clubs had lists of 30 or more interested students.

NFA’s 2016-17 Club and Activity Guide is accessible on the website under Campus Life. Browsing the over 65 Clubs and Activities is a window into the vibrant, robust, diverse NFA student community.

This year all athletic teams, clubs and activities have digital group spaces accessible to students through their portal. Group spaces give advisers and club members a secure electronic environment to communicate with one another, exchange information and plan. Advisers can email all club members, and club members can email advisers and one another in a password protected digital space, unlike a public Twitter feed.


Homecoming King and Queen

After the excitement of Spirit Week and the Homecoming Game and Dance had subsided, in a very quiet unassuming manner, 2016 Homecoming Queen Drew Juanita Preston and Homecoming King Junior Jephte Dufort, both wearing the crowns placed on their heads by Head of School David Klein at halftime ceremonies during the game against East Lyme, were introduced to the Board of Trustees at their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Director of Student Affairs John Iovino talked about the “NFA Royalty” to the board, explaining how the selection process was conducted. The process has undergone an evolution, Iovino explained, to represent an inclusive school community. Now all seniors vote to nominate candidates, and all students vote to select winners from the top six candidates – 3 for queen, and 3 for king. Iovino also went on to explain how voting was conducted electronically through the student portal. “But, said Iovino, no matter the selection and voting processes, our results represent goodness. This is not a popularity contest. The results represent an acknowledgment of goodness in every aspect of school and personal life at NFA.”

Both Preston and Dufort are very good students with impressive backgrounds and high ambitions. Both are taking demanding course loads with AP courses. Preston has plans to become a pediatrician and Dufort a lawyer. Each spoke humbly and respectfully to the Board who were impressed with the two seniors.


Decision 2016

While the national election a mere two weeks away, the History and Social Studies Department is shifting into high gear to do their part to educate students both about the candidates and the election process. Creating an educated, informed citizenry is a central goal of the Department.

In hopes of fully engaging the student body, NFA’s Young Voters Society and the Introduction/Honors Politics classes with support from the Social Studies Department, are initiating a campaign to raise awareness and to culminate in a Mock Vote, Nov. 7. There is no school for students, Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Social Studies teachers will share lessons and activities with their classes before the voting day. Via their portal dashboard, students will access information about the candidates and have the opportunity to self-test their political persuasions with a student designed tool:  Are they more conservative or liberal? Does their political stance align more with the Republican or Democratic Party platform?  Flyers and posters will be displayed, and students will be encouraged to listen, learn and investigate.

Early voting will begin Sunday and extend through the day in school Tuesday. Students will be able to cast their votes via their smartphone or in computer voter stations in the lobby of Tirrell Building. Results will be announced at the end of the day.

Social studies teacher Laura Binder, longtime adviser of the Young Voters Society and new adviser, and social studies teacher John Mariano are overseeing the mock election. Working with them are a core of involved students including seniors Jason Craig, Junior Dufort, Caleb Rak and Zachary Robert; uppers Christopher Arpin, Madelyn Bell, Thomas Deojay, Cynthya Gluck, Shea Lee and Sean O’Neill, Wvarrda Saulet; and ninth-graders Johns Holdsworth and Lilyana Sherbanee.

“This initiative is designed to bring the election to the students to foster civic participation among students, which will then support the continuation of informed voting when students graduate from NFA and fully realize the importance of becoming engaged members of society,” commented Binder


SAB Leadership Conference

For 20 years the Student Advisory Board has sponsored a leadership conference for campus student leaders. It is an opportunity for them to set goals for the year, discuss strategies to achieve those goals, and plan activities. All SAB members and class officers attend to help them hone their own leadership skills, to understand and develop their own leadership style and skills, to participate in a forum to about issues that impact life at NFA, and to ,make a positive difference. This year students will take a survey to identify their strengths and weaknesses as leaders.

Taking part in the conference are seniors Ryder Fitch, Logan Gooden, Kelsie Hall, Peter He, Mackenzie Lane, Evyn Marquez, Alex Pecoraro, Caleb Rak, Ryan Tirocchi, and Tiara Wheeler;  and uppers Christopher Arpin, Brianna Benson, Joseph Cirrito Allen Feng, GG Guerrier, Bailey Guillemette, Brielle Jewell, Katie Kelly, Ashley Lac, Breyanna Reveil and Daisy Wang. Also participating are lowers Kyle Gumboc, Eliana Jewell , Andrea Li, Michelle Loo, Madison Marquez, Evan Novosad and  Audrey Romano; and ninth-graders Alexander Dufort, Allen Dufort, Paige Martin, Henry Vanase, and Sabrina Zhang.

 SAB President is senior Emily Marker and secretary is Aliza Moyer. Faculty advisers are social studies teachers Lorraine Dooley and Marisa Haralson, World Language Department Head Maria Crooks, and mathematics teacher Brian Martin. 

Schedule: First Quarter marking period ends, Friday, Nov. 4. No school for students, Tuesday, Nov. 8, Election Day.

FINAL THOUGHT: In Half Broke Horses, Janette Walls wrote, “Anyone who thinks he's too small to make a difference has never been bit by a mosquito.”
Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday October 23, 2016
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

11th –Grader Recognized by The College Board

Caleb Rak of Norwich has been named a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist in the 62nd Annual National Merit® Scholarship Program. The National Merit® Scholarship Program honors individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Rak’s senior course schedule is a line-up of high-powered courses including AP English, UConn French, AP European History, AP Calculus BC, AP Biology and Computer Science. Rak is vice president of the Math Team, an active member of the Young Voters Society and the SAB, and a member of NFA’s Playshop.
Rak’s School Counselor, Kelsey Klaeson says “Caleb is one of the most inquisitive students I have ever worked with. He has an unbelievable thirst for knowledge. He will make a difference in our world as a result of both his intellect and his compassion.”
About 1.6 million 11th-graders in more than 22,000 high schools entered the program by taking the 2015 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®). Rak is a member of a nationwide pool, representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors. Semifinalists submit a detailed scholarship application demonstrating academic record, participation in school and community activities, leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards.
Semifinalists compete for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million offered next spring. About 90 percent of the Semifinalists attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists receive a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.

Two NFA Seniors Receive Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholarships

On Oct. 20, six students from Southeastern Connecticut will be honored at the 35th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholarship Dinner, at the Mystic Marriott in Groton, which over 600 people from all segments of the community attend annually. The event celebrates young scholars who demonstrate the qualities and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year 2 of the 6 regional recipients are NFA seniors:  Tayla Willson and Junior Dufort. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Trust Fund of Greater New London County awards each student a $20,000 scholarship.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, Dufort and Willson were individually called to the Office of the Head of School, where they were greeted by representatives of the Scholarship Trust as well as by Director of Diversity Leo Butler, Administrative Assistant Shirley Kutia, their school counselors, and Head of School David Klein. Each called home to share the good news with family.
Both come with an impressive portfolio of personal characteristics, academic accomplishments and volunteer involvement.  A six-member scholarship committee selects students based upon academic record, SAT scores and class standing. Candidates submit an essay and interview with the committee.

Dufort, described by Director of Diversity Leo Butler as “charismatic with a winning smile,” is president of the NAACP Youth Council, and has been a double gold medal winner for two years in their ACT-SO Competition. He is a talented musician (drums and piano) and vocalist. Dufort has been involved for 2 years in “Pathways to Teaching” a program for future educators that Butler coordinates with Ellen Dalton from LEARN in Old Lyme. An active member of his church, Dufort is also active in the Haitian community.
Margaret Daley, Dufort’s school counselor, notes the young man’s “sense of humor and thoughtful nature.” Dufort is carrying a challenging academic load including AP English, AP Economics, AP Psychology, Intro. to Law, Public Speaking and Pre-Calculus. His long-term goals include a career in law.
Tayla Willson, NFA’s 2016-17 George Ripley Humanitarian Award Winner, received a varsity letter in ninth grade as a pole vaulter. She has been on the tennis team and is senior captain of the Field Hockey Team. A member of the National Honor Society, the Young Educators Society, and both the Science and Spanish Honor Societies, Willson has been an active volunteer at Backus Hospital and as a reading buddy in Norwich elementary schools.
Ronald Noyes, Willson’s School Counselor, calls her “a highly deserving, well-rounded, strong student.” Noyes notes, in particular, Willson’s “thoughtful, serious nature” and her “focus upon her future.”

Two 11-th Graders Attend National Congress in Boston

Uppers Jonathan Bostick and Sydney Byrd attended National Leadership Academies in Boston in July:  Bostick -- the Congress of Future Sciences and Technology Leaders and Byrd – the Congress of Future Medical Leaders.
NFA Trustees honored both at their meeting Tuesday evening, and Bostick and Byrd received Awards of Excellence recognizing their outstanding academic performance, leadership potential, and dedication to serving humanity through science, technology, engineering, math or medicine. To be nominated for participation in the honors-only program, students must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.5, cumulative or current.
The National Leadership Academies commit to supporting America’s high-achieving high school students to gain experience and skills and offer them opportunities to prepare to pursue vital careers in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and medical sciences. For example, as part of her experience, Byrd had the opportunity to watch real surgery and question the surgeon in real time.
At the National Academies, whose theme is “Greatness Awaits,” students are taught and mentored by leaders of our age, giants of the profession fundamentally changing the future at an awe-inspiring pace. Mentoring delegates included John C. Mather, Ph.D., 2006 Nobel Prize Winner, Physics; William A. Gahl, M.D., Ph. D., Clinical Director, National Human Genome Research Institute at the NIH; Cherrry Murray, Ph.D., Dean, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Sylvester James Gates, Jr., Ph.D.  Recipient, National Medal of Science for Physical Science; Helen Greiner, Co-founder of iRobot and CEO of CyPhyWorks; and Jack Szostak, Ph.D., Winner, 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology.
Also participating were young geniuses under the age of 22: Shree Bose, Grand Prize Winner 1022 Google Science Fair; Jack Andraka, Winner, 2012 Intel Science and Engineering Fair, Kenshen Shi, Winner, Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology; and Eric Chen, First Place winner, 2014 Intel  Science Talent Search Competition.

Constitutional History Presentation

To help students to appreciate the influence of local persons upon our nation's constitutional history, NFA’s History and Social Studies Department is planning for Damien Cregeau to visit NFA at the end of the month in honor of Constitution Day which was Sept. 17. Cregeau is a colonial history expert specializing in the Revolutionary War, spies, Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Huntington. He will present about Norwich native Samuel Huntington's role as a signer of the Declaration of Independence, President of the Congress under the Articles of Confederation and leader in Connecticut during the nation’s early constitutional period. Cregeau appears in period dress to create an authentic, engaging atmosphere.
Cregeau will address students studying civics on both NFA’s Sachem and Broadway campuses.

Students Participate in Local Celebration of Diversity

Among the many participating in the multicultural event presented by The Bulletin and the Norwich Rotary were a group of NFA student dancers. The event at Howard T. Brown Park featured ethnic foods, music, and folk entertainment showcasing the city’s cultural diversity.
Included in the celebration were senior Naxi Ai, demonstrating Chinese dancing; senior Elisangela Monteiro -Depina and upper Ivandra Depina-Barros demonstrating Cape Verdean dancing with tenth-grader Norine Gomes Andrade, Silvia Monteiro de Barros and ninth-grader Erica Depina Goncalve. Dominican Republic dancing was demonstrated by senior Lessandra Rodriguez Villar and uppers Anabel Cruz Sosa and Michelle Cernas-Rodriguez.

FINAL THOUGHT: An Indian proverb states “The way to overcome the angry man is with gentleness, the evil man with goodness, the miser with generosity and the liar with truth.”

Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday September 25, 2016
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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Phil Trostler ’03 takes on NFA Drama Program

Phil Trostler, NFA’s new drama teacher advertised an afterschool meeting for NFA’s Playshop; 50 students interested in auditioning and 30 students interested in support/tech help showed up – two and one-half times the number of students who attended similar meetings last year. There is wide interest in the performing arts at NFA, and NFA’s new drama teacher has a vision for the future.

“NFA is a powerful force in the region; there’s strong name recognition in sports and marching band. I want to use NFA’s resources to make this aspect of the Visual and Performing Arts at the Academy a powerhouse,” says Trostler. “If NFA puts on a show, I want all to expect high quality, artistic chances and spectacular musicals.” Trostler, a humble man with a creative mission, knows he has to “build a program,” “take small steps,” and then “push and grow to new limits.”

Trostler’s solid experience and passion back his strong words.  At NFA Trostler was a musician, a member of the Ambassadors, and a Playshop performer. A 2003 spring issue of the Red and White pictures senior Philip Trostler in his role in Playshop’s production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” 

Trostler attended Drexel University in Philadelphia as a music industry major, but time and experience led him to finish his degree in drama at Eastern Connecticut State University. “For me, going to Eastern was the best thing I could have done,” he says, but all the other opportunities made a difference also –summer theater study in London, a summer in New York City’s Circle in the Square Theater School, and stints at Norwich’s Spirit of Broadway Theater. 

In 2009 Trostler went to Los Angeles and fell in with the UpRight Citizens Brigade (UCB), an improvisational and sketch comedy group co-founded by Amy Poehler. “There just was lots of creativity,” says Trostler. “It was like Greenwich Village in the 60’s.”

Hard core auditioning landed Trostler parts in advertisements and a bit part on CBS’s sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.’ He was also driving a tour bus to make ends meet. “That was teaching,” he says, and it made him understand his calling to teach.

At NFA, Trostler says, “I love teaching the acting course. I love watching students drop their nervousness and develop skill at becoming in the moment. It’s just great skill development for college, public speaking, or anything students will do in life.” 

Trostler also remembers the power of a teacher. “I had Bruce Bierman [NFA English teacher] senior year for Shakespeare. I had no sense of myself as an actor. We had to read various quotes, and on my way up to the front of the class for my turn, he asked, ‘You’re an actor, right?’ I never forgot that. He thought of me as actor before I thought of myself as an actor. That’s powerful.”

Trostler is at NFA helping a new generation of students find their skill and dramatic voice, and he is “super happy to be here.” Playshop’s first production will be in early November with the premiere of “Dates,” an original work by NFA senior Elise Vanase. Watch for upcoming information about Vanase and the play.


Busy Co-Curricular Schedule

NFA has a club, activity or sport for everyone. NFA’s daily notices indicate a full calendar of meetings until the end of the month. New in NFA’s line up of 75 clubs and activities are the Comic Book Club, the Aquarium Club and the Walking Club.

Curriculum Director Denise Grant is advising a group for students interested in a career in teaching, the Young Educator Society. Art teacher Ian Pawluk’s Photography Club is organizing for another year. NFA’s school store The Cat Shack is seeking student volunteers looking for retail, business and marketing experience. 

The Student Advisory Board, under the direction of social studies teacher Lorraine Dooley is meeting, and class elections will take place in grades 10-12 before the end of the month. Deb Kendall, adviser of the National Honor Society has met with honor students to talk about their service commitment for the year. Science teacher Sandra Miller has plans for the Science Honor Society, as does world language teacher Chongmin Ji adviser to both the Asian Culture Club and the National Chinese Honor Society.

Students receive a daily email notice of meetings, and notices are displayed on digital signs throughout campus – one in each building lobby and 4 in the cafeteria. Students may also communicate with their club advisers via groupspace pages on their password protected student portal. Daily notices are also sent out on NFA’s Twitter account. Parents can access daily notices at MyNFA>Parents.


Faculty Philanthropy

NFA teachers are generous, donating hours and dollars far beyond the usual.

Last year, the faculty phase of the annual NFA Fund had about a 20 percent participation increase and added over $16,000 to the Reid and Student Assistance Funds, NFA Foundation funds to assist students in need. On opening day, Andrea Kaiser, Director of Annual Giving, praised the faculty for their unwavering support and solicited participation in this year’s drive.

At the same meeting Project Outreach Coordinator, Jodi Vara, spearheaded NFA’s participation in the United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, introducing a United Fund client whose life has been turned around by agency support. About 31 percent of the faculty and staff participated last year and raised $11,000. NFA United Way support has been steady and strong, both in dollars and volunteers.

NFA serves as a site for food distribution monthly, and about 15 faculty and staff (sometimes alumni also) participate in the food distribution, 5 – 6 p.m., the third Thursday of each month on NFA’s Sachem Campus. This month’s distribution date is Thursday, Sept. 29. Clients need a photo ID to receive food.


Listen Live – Football Broadcasts

The Bulletin presents live play-by-play coverage of high school football this fall. Sports editor Marc Allard gives play-by-play coverage and former broadcaster John Wilbur comments. The season features 7 of NFA’s10 football games, including last week’s opener at Xavier. Seven other selected games across the area will also be broadcast. Listen Live will cover postseason action also. Visit  or click on the link at

Included in lineup are the following: NFA at Darien, 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1; East Lyme at NFA, 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15 – HOMECOMING GAME; Ledyard at NFA, 6:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28; Bacon Academy at NFA, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4; NFA at Stamford, 1 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12; NFA at New London, 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 24, THANKSGIVING DAY GAME.

Broadcasts are archived; access them any time. Times listed are game times. Airtime is 15 minutes before kickoff.


NFA Foundation – “and the beat goes on”

On Wednesday afternoon members of the Wildcat Marching Band gasped in surprise in the Ensemble Room of the Frank Center. The Norwich Free Academy Foundation, Inc. presented the students in the well-known and revered NFA Drum Line with new custom maple drums from Pearl, manufacturer of some of the finest championship drums and percussion instruments available. The 4 snare drums, 2 sets of tenors, 5 base drums, and cases and covers for all were made in a Japanese factory and sent to Tennessee.

The instruments replace 20-year-old drums, which have been refinished and repaired several times. Those drums are still serviceable and will be used for practice, for students to borrow for home practice, and for loan to the city for the new band program in Norwich middle schools.

NFA percussionists will compete with the new instruments this season which runs through December.

Director of Institutional Advancement, Kathleen McCarthy, who worked with NFA Band Director Kristen Motola and Tirrell House Principal Ross Sward on the purchase, estimates the cost of the new equipment at around $13 thousand. “Once again, we have an example of how the NFA Foundation, Inc., on behalf of thousands of NFA donors and supporters, makes a difference in the lives of students at the Academy, “says McCarthy.


FINAL THOUGHT: Bette Davis says, “Without wonder and insight, acting is just a business. With it, it becomes creation.”

Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday September 18, 2016
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sarah Matters Burchman’ 94, named NFA Teacher of the Year

Naming NFA’s Teacher of the Year is always a highpoint of opening day at NFA. Former Teacher of the Year, Patrick Kircker chaired the peer selection committee of ELL Team Leader Amy Correia, social studies teacher and Shatuck House Intern Marisa Haralson, Guidance Department Head, Jessica St. George, Tirrell House Principal Ross Sward, science teacher Amy Trotochaud, and special educator Megan Wakely. 

Nominees included mathematics teachers Clarence Cooper, Christine Justice and Jennifer Pinto.

Social studies teacher Sarah Matters Burchman took the honor of 2016-17 NFA Teacher of the Year. An avid equestrienne, Burchman has taught in NFA’s signature ninth grade program for much of her 15 years at the Academy. Her classroom is a place of activity, engagement and high-interest learning. Kind and caring, Burchman also is firm and challenging. Students love her no-nonsense manner served with a smile. 

“Sarah Burchaman is a “wonderful teacher and leader who has a passion for meeting the needs of each and every student,” says Ninth Grade Principal Diane Giarratona. “We are very fortunate to have her on our team.”

Burchaman’s speech was a study in humility and fully characterized this year’s representative of the NFA faculty. “I am not the type who likes to be recognized for anything,” says Burchman. “Like most, I come in every day and work as hard as I can; it’s that simple. I model the effort that I expect from my students.”

Burchman began teaching in 2001, and credits former ninth grade Principal Thomas O’Rourke for “taking a chance, and having the faith to hire me.” She also credits her Department Head Karen Cook and her colleagues, “such great people” for their collaboration and support noting that teaching is a team effort.

O’Rourke describes Burchman as a “dedicated educator who works hard to engage all her students who know that she wants them to be successful and that she cares about them.”

NFA’s Teacher of the Year grew up moving around a great deal, the child of a 32 year veteran of the Coast Guard who ended his career as a Commander and of a nurse. She watched both parents, Richard and Valerie Matters, earn and enhance degrees. She says, “I have always been surrounded with determination and a passion for learning. My parents’ hard work has been and continues to be a true inspiration.”

Noting that her educational journey was not without challenges, Burchman graduated from UConn, and after a brief stint in her mom’s native England, returned to Connecticut to teach. “I always wanted to teach especially to help those students who don’t fit the perfect mold. That is what I love most about teaching, to create, redefine learning, and inspire others to discover and investigate, to learn something new.”

Burchman finished her speech with a heartfelt endorsement of her profession and the Academy with words that brought her colleagues to their feet. “It truly is a gift to teach; when you do what you love, it’s not ‘real’ work. I feel privileged every time I am asked where I work. I am so proud to say Norwich Free Academy.  I have always wanted to give back to the institution that helped shape who I am. And I can only hope to continue to honorably represent such a phenomenal institution.” 

Burchaman has been married for 10 years to classmate Darryl Burchman’ 94, a third generation NFA legacy. Her brother Bryan Matters graduated in 1993. She is mother to Leah, 9 and Benjamin, 6.


Tirrell Lobby has a Facelift

The original Norwich Free Academy was built upon the site of the current “Main” or Tirrell Building (named for NFA’s fourth principal, Henry Archelaus Tirrell). After the Academy’s its 50th year, the original building was razed and the existing Tirrell Building was constructed. Since then several additional projects expanded the cafeteria and added an elevator and 4 additional classrooms on the third floor. During most of this time, the Tirrell Lobby remained essentially the same except for minor modifications, paint and carpeting.

This summer the lobby underwent the first of a two phase renovation project which installed new flooring, reconfigured office space, and created a self-contained special education suite. The entire hallway appears modern with bright gray-toned paint. The area is spacious, bright, and sets the stage for a second design phase.

Next summer will see the installation of ceilings with lighting fixtures reminiscent of the originals. The central hall will become a palette of inspiration for NFA students. Panels will connect present students with those of the past. Like the Latham Lobby which parallels the faces of the class of 1938 and the presence of 50th reunion classes, with those of today’s students, Tirrell Lobby will demonstrate who students can become in images and words that will resonate with them.

The Tirrell Lobby project is the latest in messaging and design upgrades on campus which began with Sachem Campus Lobby several years ago. Cranston Lobby followed and the Slater lower level entrance to the Campus Safety Department. Design elements reflect signage throughout campus and the appearance of Campus Safety Check in Stations at both the North and South Entrances. A new East Entrance station is slated for the future.

“We are working very hard on our institutional identity – to connect alumni and our present students,” says Kathleen McCarthy, Director of Institutional Advancement. “When students pass through the halls, we wish them to be aware of the many who came before them, and of their role in the future of the Academy. Today’s students are the pathfinders for tomorrow, and we want them to understand and embrace their role. This is one way we can do that, subtly, visually and positively.”


Band Classic Returns to NFA

The NFA Classic Marching Band Competition take place 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1. Including the Wildcat Marching Band, a dozen ensembles from around New England will compete in an evening full of pageantry and music. Others performing include bands from East Lyme High School, Joseph Case High School, Manchester High School, Montville High School, New London High School, Plainfield High School, Putnam High School, Robert E. Fitch High School, Rockville High School, Rocky Hill High School, and Wethersfield High School.

This year’s Classic honors NFA Alumnus, and Wildcat Marching Band Staff Member and Percussion Arranger Ned Smith ‘03, who died unexpectedly in August. In addition to his loyal NFA ties, Smith was also band director at Coventry High School and served on the staff of both the Montville and Wethersfield High School Marching Bands. 

NFA Marching Band Alumni are invited to attend the Classic and an intermission reception hosted by the Alumni Foundation in the Ensemble Room. Alumni will lead the Wildcat Marching Band onto the field for their home show performance.

For more information email



Back to school conferences for parents take place 6-8:30 p.m., Sept. 15. Parents follow an abbreviation of their child’s schedule, meet teachers and learn about classroom expectations.

FINAL THOUGHT: A Japanese proverb tells us “Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher." 


Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday September 11, 2016
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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Opening Day Festivities for Faculty and Staff

For faculty and staff, Aug. 30 was a day of excitement and celebration as folks retruning from summer break welcomed one another and new colleagues.  Chairman of NFA's Board of Trustees, Attorney Theodore Phillips '74, delivered welcoming remarks to the capacity crowd in Slater Auditorium, as the crisp morning temperatures began to rise.

“I’ve never met a person, no matter how many years out of high school, who didn’t have a fond memory to share about high school teachers, whether it be about a particular class or athletic or extracurricular activity, or the personal guidance offered by a teacher to help ease teenage angst. I envy you,” Phillips said to faculty and staff. “You are now the giants, the NFA legends of tomorrow, who will live in your students’ heats for years and years after you’ve retired.”
Phillips finished saying, “The Trustees have the highest respect for you. Your profession is indeed the noblest of all.”

Leslie Lane Christie ’82, President, NFA Alumni Association, introduced 3 seniors, nominees for and recipient of the prestigious 2016-17 George Ripley Student Humanitarian Award. They represented an astounding portfolio of accomplishments, achievements, talents, volunteerism and character. The recipient was Tayla Willson, and honored nominees were Colin Jacobs and Lauren Forando.
As part of a field study project, Wilson led classmates in her UConn Individual and Family Development Class in developing and presenting the program “Beyond Addiction: Reality Speaks.” to 11th and 12th-graders last spring. It made students aware of important community resources to help those struggling or living with substance abuse with family or friends. It featured “real speakers” including two prisoners serving time for drug related charges at Corrigan/Radgowdski Correctional Facility in Montville, a mom whose son died from an overdose, and a recovering addict who shared the long road to rehabilitation and recovery.

The NFA Alumni Association George Ripley Student Humanitarian Award recognizes a senior who has demonstrated personal character through leadership, altruism, volunteer service and the giving of self to the school community; a student whose work has had a positive impact on student life, participated in student activities, and who has excelled as a leader among students on campus. The student is recognized throughout the year and represents the entire student body.
Other Opening Day Recognition Awards included the announcement of tenure for 15 faculty members: Nicole Adams, Jason Bakoulis, Stephanie Chew Blonsky, Mykel Bridget Czaja, Lauren Dickey Girasoli, Gabby Gonzalez, Kari Howard, Kelsey IovinoKlaeson, Christopher Labelle, Kasey McNatt, Kristen Motola, Danielle Poirier, Justin Rosenberg, Deb Spera and Megan Wakely.
The following were recognized for 10 years of NFA service: Jennifer Carlstrom, Amy Correia, Kelley Coull, Marisa Haralson, John James, Patrick Kirker, Allison Mohler, Kirti Patel, Beth Serra and Jodi Vara. Matthew Bedard, Jerrily (Nuffy) Cagle, Cheray Fitzgerald, and Jean Miller were honored for 25 years at NFA.

NFA mathematics teacher Clarence Cooper led the faculty in an impromptu standing ovation in honor of Head of School David Klein for “his support of and dedication to furthering the NFA mission.”
Motivational speaker Dr. Stephen Sroka engaged faculty and staff in an energetic presentation to conclude the morning session. Sroka, who has appeared on the Oprah Show and is well-known for his book, “The Power of One,” presented an honest message, sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, about the world that young people face  and the power of adults to guide, lead and love them. His traditional message about the strength of one person to make a difference in the life of a young person, has undergone a transformation to stress collaboration, a culture of caring and the integrated, collective power of many, of a community, to make a significant difference in academic achievement, mental health, safety and well-being of youth.
“It takes the power of one to start a fire,” Sroka says, “but you need the power of many to keep the power burning.” 

In a dramatic story, he explained how his message shifted from one to many when he was stricken by sudden cardiac arrest in the midst of a similar presentation before 800 teachers. School personnel responded quickly with CPR and AED, EMS arrived, and flight and hospital teams of specialists saved Sroka’s life; 90 percent of those who suffer sudden cardiac arrest do not survive. Sroka spread a positive message of hope to NFA faculty and staff on Tuesday.

Some Changes at NFA

This year, students will experience some changes at NFA. In compliance with the School Data Team‘s action and a recommendation by the Scheduling Subcommittee, daily homeroom has been eliminated, and students begin the day in their first period class where attendance is taken. The action is intended to increase instructional time and improve daily attendance. Tardiness to first period will have real credit consequences for students. Attendance is live each period of the day. If students are not in their first period class, parents/guardians will receive phone notification.

There will no longer be public address announcements for students each day. There will only be the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence each day at the beginning of second period (and the Alma Mater on Fridays).

Use of the PA system at any time will be reserved for school wide announcements of an imperative and timely nature only (i.e., cancellations, significant, schoolwide, timely reminders, emergencies, etc.). Students will receive all the information they need digitally on their Portal Dashboard at MyNFA>Students. By second period each day, daily notices will be posted in “Notices & Updates,” emailed to student Gmail accounts and posted on Twitter @nfaschool. Digital signs throughout campus also display the information students need to know.

Parents can access daily notices at MyNFA>Parents or at the Campus Life tab from the home page of the website. 

The launch of the NFA App for iPhone users makes information more accessible for all users, faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents, and because the NFA website is responsive, those who use another device can access critical information easily. The App is a free download from the App store on any apple device. Click on the NFA Seal.

Red and White Reunion

NFA’s Alumni Association held its annual Red and White Reunion, Aug. 27, at Langley’s Restaurant, Great Neck Country Club, Waterford. Close to 200 loyal alumni and friends attended that event for classes celebrating reunions between their 50th and 60th years. At 61 years, a class joins the Jubilee Reunion, which was celebrated this year in early July at the Holiday Inn Norwich. That event was attended by over 250 alumni and guests. Linda Ververis, Alumni Association Director, and her staff of volunteers seek to further the mission of the Alumni association by keeping NFA Wildcats connected with the school and to one another.


NFA Golfers, mark your calendars, 9 a.m., Oct. 16, for the 2016 Wildcat Open (formerly the Wildcat Scramble) Golf Tournament, at the Norwich Golf Club. Swing a round in support of NFA athletics. Players enjoy complimentary breakfast, lunch, raffle, prizes and gifts, including a golf shirt and divot tool.

Register at and pay online. For more information contact Eric Swallow, Athletic Director, at or at 860-425-5512.

Parent Open House, 6-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15. Parents have the opportunity to follow an abbreviated form of their child’s schedule to meet teachers, hear classroom expectations, and learn more about the ninth grade curriculum. Look for a notice in the mail.

FINAL THOUGHT:  Maria Robinson says “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” 


Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday September 4, 2016
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Sunday, August 28, 2016

160 Years

This week Norwich Free Academy opens doors to the region’s students for the Academy’s 160th year of operation – a notable fact. The Academy’s purpose remains firm and steady in the service of youth. As an independently governed, mission-driven school, NFA exists to serve its partner districts and tuition families by offering timely opportunities and choices to today’s students to ready them to enter the modern world academically prepared as good citizens and people. In the words of Founder John Putnam Gulliver, NFA’s mission is to “return to our hamlets and our homes its priceless freight of youthful minds, enriched by learning, developed by a liberal culture, refined by study of all that is beautiful in nature and art, and prepared for the highest usefulness and the purest happiness.”

There is still time for new students to register. Visit the website and find Applying and Registering under Admissions, or contact Registrar Melody Pishka at 425-5605 or

A New School Year Begins this Week

Faculty return to school Tuesday, Aug. 30, for organizational meetings and preparation. Ninth-graders and Sachem students start school, Aug. 31, and upper-class students,  Sept. 1. Both days are half days with dismissal at 11:55 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2, is a full day of classes for all students with dismissal at 2:10 p.m.

When students return to campus, Thursday, they will review registration paperwork in homeroom verifying and updating information on record. Of note is the “primary phone number”; this is the number NFA’s SchoolMessenger system will use for attendance, cancellation or emergency. It is important that this number (landline or cellphone) be accurate, and that the office is notified of any changes. Students will receive copies of NFA’s student handbook, The Pilot and review and agree to the Academy’s technology use policy before they receive passcodes to the network. 

Norwich Free Academy participates in the national school lunch program to provide a variety of nutritional options to students. Information about the program will be distributed in homeroom, Friday, Sept. 2, and families wishing to file paperwork for free or reduced lunches should be on the lookout for those forms. The forms in English and other languages and more information can be found at

On Friday, each grade will attend an assembly to review key academic and personal expectations for Academy students. Of note is a review of cell phone use guidelines on campus, cell phone manners, and other issues of respect and responsibility. NFA is launching a new R2 Campaign – Respect and Responsibility – this year; assemblies will lay the groundwork for that on-going campus initiative. Hear more about this newest iteration of a traditional NFA campus climate program that dates at least 25 years in the coming weeks. 


Students should sign into their Portal Dashboard daily at MyNFA>Students. The student dashboard is a password protected, secure digital environment for students to access daily notices, and school-wide announcements, updates, and information. From the dashboard, students may access useful links, necessary tools, and their g-mail account, which they should also check daily. Also, students can access group spaces for each class in their schedule and their clubs and activities.

Teachers keep current group spaces for each class to post a course description and grading policy, assignments and assessment, and important content and links to useful resources and tools.


Parents can access much of the necessary information and tools they need to know and use as a Wildcat parent including the daily schedule and school calendar, medical center, campus safety, and food service information and links to valuable resources and forms. Find here links and directions to set up PowerSchool, Naviance, and MySchool Bucks accounts. 

Slater Museum Opens New Exhibition

Through Sept. 23, the CT Women Artists 86th Annual National Open Juried Exhibition is open to the public in the Converse Art Gallery of Slater Memorial Museum on the campus of Norwich Free Academy. On display are original works in paint, mixed media, drawing, collage, printmaking, fiber art, photography, and sculpture by talented women artists in Connecticut and across the country. Min Jung Kim, Director of the New Britain Museum of American Art, juried the exhibition.

In 1929 The Connecticut Women Artists organization was founded when 13 women artists exhibited at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. Since exhibition opportunities were rare for women at that time, these women started a society of female artists. One of the country’s oldest continuing art organizations for women, CWA now has over 200 elected members.

Slater Museum is open 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Tuesday – Friday, and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday & Sunday. It is closed to the public on Mondays.

Looking Ahead

There is no school Labor Day, September 5. Back to school conferences for parents take place 6-8:30 p.m., September 15. Parents will have the opportunity to follow an abbreviated form of their child’s schedule, meet teachers, and learn about classroom expectations. 

FINAL THOUGHT:  Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”


Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday August 28, 2016
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Sunday, August 21, 2015

Ninth-Grade Conferences

Members of the Class of 2020, their parents, and families will visit campus this week and have the opportunity to meet with teachers and other professionals before the first official day of school, Aug. 31. In individually scheduled 15 minute conferences, 9th-graders will receive their schedules and unit assignments, briefly review the entire 9th-grade program, and tour the Cranston building. Parents will receive unique identification codes to establish a PowerSchool account and the newest edition of the Ninth Grade Parents’ Guide: Welcome to the Next Four Years which includes all kinds of information about life at NFA as a member of the Wildcat family.

Conferences will take place 8:15 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Aug. 23 and 24, and 8:15 a.m. – 5 p.m., Aug. 25. Call the Cranston House office at 425-5771 or 5772, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., to schedule an appointment.

A great deal of excitement is buzzing in the 9th-grade program as NFA unveils a new honors program for students in science, social studies and English. “Quite a few students were interested in honors courses,” says Cranston House Principal Diane Giarrratona, “and we’re pleased not only with the number of students who have accepted the challenge of taking a placement test, but also by the positivity of the entire selection process.”

Giarratona comments that enrollment in 9th-grade is 30 to 40 students higher than expected, and that “roughly 20 percent” of 9th-graders are enrolled in a least one honors course.

Wildcat Beginnings

This week, also, about 100 entering 9th-graders will participate in Wildcat Beginnings, a week of introductory activities to ease transition to high school. Ninth-graders will work with upper class mentors and NFA staff; they will learn about technology at NFA, and gain insight into many aspects of the NFA way, including participation in community volunteerism. Bradlaw House Principal Bryant Sheldon, Student Affairs Executive Assistant Laura Howe, and Project Outreach Coordinator Jodi Vara oversee the initiative.

NFA Staffing Changes

The bittersweet nature of a new school year is never far away. A host of familiar faces will not be on campus this year. Included are faculty and staff members who collectively have given over 325 years of service to the Academy. Among them are Margery Anadore, Beverly Bacon, Kevin Clendennin, Linda Tribensky Farrell ’67, Marie Strong Joly ’73, Joann Ladd, Henry Laudone, Nancy King Macht’73, Joseph Miragiluolo, Constance Mitchell, Ronald Noyes, Robert Osko, Elina van den Berg, and Margaret Weaver. 

Fresh new faces take their place. New faculty and their departments include Jessica Chapman (social studies), Evi Correia (world language), Heather Gileau (reading), Molly Hankard (math), Kimberly Lirette (math), Katrina McKelvin (English), Jeffrey Moore (technology), Steven Nelson (math), Stephanie Robillard (science), William Seddon (social studies), Mallarie Seidel (guidance), Heather Mariani (special education), Heather Silera (world language), Andrew St. Jean (math), Thomas Steenburg (math), Philip Trostler (drama), and Anne Zinn (guidance).

New staff include Kelley Croteau (library), Lithia Lopez (intervention specialist), Tracey Loskant (medical center), Alicia Madsen (facilities), Amy McShane (academic support), and Melissa Tracy (career resource center).

Don’t Forget Summer Reading

As the days of summer count down, students are reminded for NFA Wildcats, summer reading is as much a necessity as back to school shopping. Students still have ample time to complete their reading obligation. Entering ninth-graders, rising lowers, and uppers have great latitude to choose titles meaningful to them. Students entering honors, AP courses, and Public Speaking have specific title requirements, and seniors coordinate their summer reading with their English course. For more information, lists of required titles, and links to suggested reading for young people, go to

A New School Year Begins

Soon, Norwich Free Academy opens doors to the regions students for its 170th year of operation – a notable fact.  The Academy’s purpose remains firm and steady in the service of youth.  As a mission driven school, Norwich Free Academy exists to serve its partner districts and tuition families by offering timely opportunities and choices to today’s students to prepare them to enter today’s world academically prepared as good citizens and people.  In the words of Founder John Putnam Gulliver, NFA’s mission is “return to our hamlets and our homes its priceless freight of youthful minds, enriched by learning, developed by a liberal culture, refined by study of all that is beautiful in nature and art, and prepared for the highest usefulness and the purest happiness.” 

There is still time for new students to register.  Visit the website and find Applying and Registering under Admissions, or contact Registrar Melanie Pishka at 425-5605 or at

Next week new faculty and staff will be on campus for orientation, and final arrangements will be underway to begin school the following week. Ninth-graders and Sachem students begin school, Aug. 31 and upper class students begin, Sept. 1. Check back next week for the full schedule and plan.

The student portal will be live tomorrow, Aug. 22. Tentative schedules and back to school packets will be mailed Wednesday. Counselors will be in their offices part-time this week and full-time after Aug. 30.

FINAL THOUGHT: William Arthur Ward says “Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.”
Posted by Geoffrey S. on Sunday August 21, 2016
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305 Broadway, Norwich CT 06360 | Phone: (860) 887.2505

Since 1856, Norwich Free Academy has adhered to the philosophy of its founder to "return to our hamlets and our homes its priceless freight of youthful minds, enriched by learning, developed by a liberal culture, refined by study of all that is beautiful in nature and art, and prepared for the highest usefulness and the purest happiness"

Founder, John P. Gulliver,
NFA Dedication Ceremony (1856)

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