We were delighted to greet alumni from the Class of 1955 through the Class of 2019 at a virtual happy hour, which kicked off our successful first, and hopefully only, virtual Alumni Weekend in early May! On Friday, May 8, we convened together and then split into groups by decades to enable smaller conversations. Reminiscences were heartfelt and numerous.
That Saturday morning, we gathered to hear Head of School Carol Maoz give a state of the school address followed by an awards ceremony. Dr. John Goodenough '35, the 2019 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, received the Alumni Achievement Award, presented by Ron Coleman '04. Dr. Goodenough's acceptance letter was recited by long-time Foote science teacher Leslie Long. In one of the morning's more emotional moments, Sam Cunningham '04 presented a Community Award to his father, teacher, and former administrator John Cunningham, who is retiring this spring after 35 years at Foote. John's acceptance speech was equally moving, including an acknowledgment of former Head of School, Jean Lamont who hired his now-wife Tina as a teacher. The final award of the morning was presented to Carol Maoz. Kossouth Bradford '87, Foote's counselor, presented the Community Award with a touching speech that included the many ways he and Carol have connected over the past 11 years- as an alum, faculty member, and parent. Carol's lovely acceptance was followed by a video retrospective.
After the ceremony, we held an open Alumni Council meeting led by Co-Presidents Jen LaVin '81 and Elizabeth Daley Draghi '77. Ninth Grade student leaders, Elias Theodore and Anya Mobarak joined us for a lively discussion about their time at Foote and distance learning. The Council then discussed a call for new members (nominations and self-nominations can be sent to email@example.com) and ways of staying in touch, especially during these difficult times. If you have ideas for the latter please also email the Alumni Office, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- State of the School
- Presentation of Alumni Achievement Award
- Alumni Achievement Award Acceptance
- Presentation of Community Award
- Community Award Acceptance
- Presentation of Community Award
- Community Award Acceptance
Carol Maoz, Head of School
It’s great to see you - even if it is on Zoom!
Let me start by saying that I hope you are all healthy and safe.
We have been thinking about you, our alumni throughout this crisis.
I also want to thank those of you at the forefront - healthcare workers who are helping people and risking their own health and safety in service to others.
And thank you to the “unsung heroes” - the people working at supermarkets and pharmacies, and daycare centers - and of course, teachers!!
As you can imagine, this certainly wasn't the way I envisioned my final Spring at Foote!
I miss the children terribly and the many wonderful traditions that take place during this time of year.
None of us have experienced anything like this - we are documenting as much as possible for the archives - we know it will be part of Foote’s history, just as the period during WWII when Foote families hosted children from London druing the blitz bombings.
I thought I’d tell you a bit about how distance learning is going, about some of the special things we have going on while we can’t be together on campus, and how we are thinking about the traditions we can’t celebrate together.
Like everyone, we imagined that we might be off campus for two weeks or so.
Of course we had no time to properly plan - and no training on - how to move from an intensely personal, relationship driven, project based, hands on curriculum on our beautiful campus, to months of remote learning for children as young as 5!
We had one half day of tech training for a massive change in every way!
You might not be surprised and you certainly would be proud, to know that Foote teachers and administrators are amazing!
They took what should have been two weeks of vacation and worked hard to put together a program to have ready for the first day back “to school!”
It was far from perfect - to be candid, we still aren't perfect - not for everyone.
We learned quickly that what works for some grades doesn't work for others, what works for some students doesn’t work for others, and what works for some families doesn’t work for others.
This has been incredibly challenging for everyone! You all know what we know - trying to figure out how to balance one’s job with one’s child's education, is incredibly difficult.
Some parents want more work, others less, some want more synchronous, others more asynchronous. I guess that’s what happens with such a diverse community.
We have parents who are working more hours than ever before, and trying to balance this with supporting their children.
Our Foote teachers who have young children have found all of this exhausting. And yet, we persevere - and that is what we are teaching our children too - how to be resilient and independent and kind to one another.
And frankly - our distance learning, given all of the constraints we face, is great! And our parents are truly grateful.
I have heard over and over how lucky they feel to be part of this community, how they feel cared for by the teachers, and how much they appreciate the time and energy and love the teachers are putting into this.
We established three main goals for our time in quarantine:
- Preserve our sense of community and culture
- Attend to the emotional needs of our students
- Deliver a quality educational program
What does our distance learning look like?
Lower School: Every class begins with a morning meeting so the kids can see one another and their teacher.
Throughout the day the children are involved in completing independent work, participating in small reading or math groups and getting individualized attention from the teachers on a weekly basis.
They also participate in specials - langage, art, music, drama and PE! We haven't lost our focus on the arts! There is a mix of synchronous - live teaching and asynchronous - videotaped lessons from the teachers.
Middle School: The MS is completely synchronous - they have advisor meetings twice a week, an all middle school meeting once a week and then they have a special schedule of classes that are live for at least part of the period. They too have all their specials.
What are some the Issues we’ve taken into consideration:
We realized from the beginning that we needed to have a strong communication plan. If you have seen our amazing Distance Learning page of the website, it has all of our letters as well as the recordings of our Town Halls and other great resources.
We have also been very sensitive to diversity - in terms of access to technology (we are supporting families with hardware) and the different types of homes people live in - do students have a quiet space to work, are they responsible for taking care of younger children, are their parents working in the medical profession and on the front line, has a parent lost his or her job?
All of our decisions - even what we invited them to do at Field Day - are made with sensitivity and respect for our different circumstances.
We are paying close attention to the social emotional needs of our children - we know that being apart from friends, being quarantined, and living through a pandemic is going to have a serious impact on our students and families - many of which may be long-lasting.
For now, we are focusing on paying close attention to those students who are struggling - we are so very lucky to have Foote alumnus, Kossouth Bradford as our school counselor in conjunction with division heads leading this effort.
Kossouth is getting ready for his second webinar on social emotional topics.
What about these traditions we are missing?
We just had a really fun Field Day - away from campus, that our PE department orchestrated with fun videos of teachers setting the stage for the day, the ninth grade captains, and the ninth grade class leading the chicken dance!
We made a different decision about May Day - After careful consideration and conversation with the music department, we decided that we could not honor the day properly being off campus and that in addition, it would end up creating more stress in the homes by asking parents to take this on.
And while the ninth graders won’t get to do the sword dance, we have promised our third graders that next year they too, will get to dance around the Maypole!
Some of the traditions or rites of passage we are doing virtually - for example the 6th grade festival of the world.
Two important art projects that Karla didn't want the kids to miss are the 7th grade self-portraits and 9th grade oil paintings, so we arranged for delivery and pickup of sketching pencils and large paper for the self portraits, and canvases and paints for the 9th graders.
We didn't want to lose out on Alumni or Reunion Day, so here we are - trying our best to connect with all of you.
Plans are underway for the 8th grade celebration and the graduation - I can't share those quite yet but we are trying to make them special.
Building community is so important and so challenging with social distancing! We wanted to do a car parade but because our students live in over 20 towns, that became unrealistic. We have however, done a few things and more are in the works:
- We kicked off distance learning with a Welcome Video from the teachers - it was met with great enthusiasm and appreciated by all. We are so lucky to have Joe Charles in our Communications Department who is amazingly talented, and to have such a creative, fun-loving faculty who really miss the kids!
- We are currently working on a community video of the Beatles Song, With a Little Help From My Friends.
- A parent had the idea of creating a way for parents to help community members with whatever they may need - a grocery run, a ride, a mask - we have 12 people signed up ready to help. We call it The Lift @ Foote - as we lift one another up.
- The Parent Teacher Council did a phenomenal job of showing their gratitude to teachers - in place of the annual amazing breakfast they sponsor each year, they hand-delivered plants and goody bags with pancake mix and other treats to each faculty member's home - what a great surprise!
- We are planning a food drive for the CT Food Bank and making cards for patients in hospitals since they cannot have visitors.
- And we are working on at least one other idea! At the Alumni Council meeting, to which you are all invited, we welcome your ideas and hope to discuss how alumni might become involved in our efforts.
Finally, there are two wonderful pieces of news I wanted to share:
a) In 2016 we kicked off the Centennial Endowment Campaign called: Secure Foote’s Future
b) We had a five year timeline and I am thrilled to announce that we completed it one year early! This is especially meaningful to me, knowing that I am leaving Foote with a secure future!
c) Our goal was to double Foote’s endowment, which at the time we began was $9.8 M
d) Instead of raising $10M (which we were not all that confident we could raise), we raised $13,789,589 - an incredible testament to both the hard work of our Development Office and especially to the strong love and support enjoyed by Foote School!
e) We received 3 gifts of over $1 million
f) Almost $2 million was raised from alumni
The second piece of news is something that I think will make you feel proud of your alma mater - and I am especially proud:
In response to this pandemic and financial crisis, we want to do our best to support our families and avoid losing any members of our community due to suffering a financial loss at this time.
To this end, we have created a special COVID - 19 fund to help families with a one-time grant to help them afford the cost of a Foote education during this difficult time.
I hope this has been informative and interesting - to hear about your school and how we are handling this uncharted and challenging time in history.
If you have questions, I’d be happy to address them at the Alumni Council meeting - although the highlight will undoubtedly be hearing our ninth graders speak about their experiences at Foote!
Thanks again for joining us and now let’s get on to the next part of our morning!"
Ron Coleman '04
"I am happy to present the 2020 Foote School Alumni Achievement Award to Dr. John Goodenough, Class of 1935, in recognition of his incredible work in science, most especially the invention of the lithium battery which earned him the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Congratulations Dr. Goodenough, your decades-long work as a scientist and professor have enhanced all of our lives with your research and invention and thousands of students’ academic work with your teaching. We’re grateful for all you do.
Now, I will get out of the way of greatness and let former Foote faculty member Leslie Long read a letter that Dr. Goodenough sent us."
Dr. John Goodenough '35 - Read by former Foote faculty member Leslie Long
"Only a decade after Mrs. Martha Babcock Foote founded the Foote School, my parents enrolled me. I was happy to be at the School. I remember Mrs. Sterling who was very patient with me as I was not a good student – I did not read well. I know now that I was dyslexic, but we did not understand this condition then. I did respond to the School’s emphasis on creativity, and the growth of ones’ mental ability.
I remember as a young child enjoying recreation and sports as it was a relief from the difficulty that I had with “academics.” For some reason I remember having a marble collection and enjoying playing marbles with my classmates. I wonder today with amusements like High Def displays, graphics, mobile gaming with multiple players, and facial/voice recognition whether today’s generation would find simple marbles all that interesting. Probably not. But I did and perhaps it was that simple game at the Foote school that gave me one of my life’s values, “don’t become addicted to collecting anything”.
I suppose my most vivid memory is that after I was at the Foote School, I was prepared for Groton and the next step in my academic preparation. For the preparation at the Foote School, I am grateful."
Sam Cunningham '04
"So who is John Cunningham. Well He’s my Dad. But he’s also my teacher. And not just my 7th and 9th grade science teacher at the Foote School. But he’s been a teacher to me in every area and aspect of my life.
The most powerful thing my father has taught me is to have integrity and to live your convictions. These are not words he ever said to me, I learned it not through a lesson, but simply through years of observation.
Because one undeniable thing about John Cunningham is he lives his values. Just recently I got a “happy earth day message” from my Dad, letting me know he was cleaning up the river because it was earth day. Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, most people are concerned to walk down the street, but John Cunningham is picking up other people’s trash because it’s earth day, and that’s what’s important to him.
My father has been here at Foote for a long time. I hear many Foote alumni say that Foote feels like home to them. But for me it really feels like home, because I grew up at Foote since before I could walk. My father’s science room was the entire world for me for many years. And I spent countless hours lost playing with all the myriad items in that classroom, building worlds, and sometimes booby traps much to the dismay of the innocent faculty members who happened to enter the room at the wrong time! It was a place that inspired wonder and imagination about the incredible phenomenon that is our natural world.
And that makes sense, because that is how my father looks at science. In today’s day and age, science has become a means to technology, to get gadgets that make our lives more comfortable, and there is a benefit to that. After all we couldn’t have this online gathering without “applied science”, and it got me a job too so I can’t complain. But that is not the science of John Cunningham’s classroom. The science of Mr. C is not about getting anything it is just about exploring the magic of this world a little deeper, whether it’s examining the soil and water of the river, recognizing the call of a bird, or using the energy of the sun. Science helps you to see and understand the world in a way you never saw it before. And that is my father’s science. And that is the lens with which he sees life.
35 years at Foote school is a long time. It’s longer than I’ve been alive. And in these years John Cunningham has worked with generations of Foote students.
Here are some of the specifics:
- Joined Foote Faculty in 1985
- Coached basketball and baseball teams from 1985-1995
- Taught sciences to grades 4-9
- Chaired the Science Department
- Introduced project-based learning/alternative energy projects to the 7th grade beginning in 1988
- He was Awarded an NSTA Grant and began long term river ecology study (1994-present) and so many students have said they relish the experience of being outdoors and learning and caring for the rivers.
- Along with students he created the Foote Tree Trail (circa 1998) and is a steward of The Sacred Woods
-He served as a middle school advisor for 26 years, 25 of which were for 9th grade (1985-2006)
- Has been known as the school's unofficial "naturalist" whose door has always been open to students and faculty who have a question or are curious about an artifact (stone, leaf, feather) or an animal (living or dead).
-He led faculty and student bird walks every spring
-John founded the Environmental Action Group in 1988 and served as an advisor ever since. He was also the advisor for Community Service Club, the SPI newspaper
-Served as Middle School head for three years from (2007-2010)
-He was the faculty representative on the Board "multi-cultural/diversity" committee in early 1990s where the mission statement was revised
-Served on the (2 separate) Building Committee of the Board of Directors (arts building project and JM Science building)
-Married fellow Foote teacher Tina Cunningham in 1999
-Parented three Foote students!
This list of accomplishments is impressive. But even more impressive to me, is the way he has touched his students’ lives. I can’t tell you how many alumni I have met or who have just come up to me, and told me what an impact Mr. Cunningham’s class had on them. And many of them have told me that his classes are the very reason, they became a naturalist, an environmental scientist, a doctor, a physicist… And I think that is the true legacy of my father. That generation of kids came through his door thinking that the earth and the rivers are dirty and gross, that science is difficult and boring. And left with an entirely new perspective on the world itself and what it means to be a student of it.
And so it is my honor, and my great pleasure to present the 2020 Foote School Community Achievement Award to teacher (and father) extraordinaire John Cunningham who has taught Foote students science for over three decades."
John Cunningham - Foote Faculty Member
"Good morning everybody,
Thank you for those kind words, Sam. I’ve learned a lot from you, too and all my other students - learning is definitely a two-way process.
It is an honor to receive this award and I feel extremely fortunate to have been part of the Foote community since the fall of 1985.
Over the past 35 years, there have been many changes at Foote and in the world at large - teachers smoking in the faculty lounge are a distant memory as are dogs roaming the hallways, As we meet today via Zoom, I marvel at all the technological changes - in 1985, there were no PC’s at Foote, no one had a cell phone, no internet - How on earth did we function? In fact, I remember a few teachers still used mimeograph copy paper, and all of us teachers wrote reports in triplicate that used carbon. I want to share two related stories, the first from my first fall of teaching and the second from this year’s distance learning experience.
Recent distance learning experience and report writing during my first fall of teaching
During my first fall of teaching preparing and agonizing over my first set of grades and reports I vividly recall after burning the midnight oil and nearing the finish line at approximately 5 am I knocked my large mug over and the coffee flowed across and into the paper triplicate report form that included the comments of teachers (7th grade) from all 6 academic subjects! The reports were due so I had to sheepishly call Susan Bishop, Foote’s academic Dean and grade 8 English teacher and explain the situation. A great teacher and formidable person and also a bit intimidating from my point of view, she tersely responded - get a fresh form John and copy your reports and those of all the other teachers and make certain the form is in my mailbox by 5:30 pm. So I did that. Since that time, I have always kept my drinks on a separate surface from my papers or computer. However, I broke this rule recently during one of my synchronous live grade 8 science classes. I carefully set up a demonstration involving solutions. During the on-camera demonstration, my computer screen warned me I was running out of power - so hastily grabbed for a power cord and knocked over 4 of the 5 solutions - the spill involved my laptop keyboard, notes, and the kitchen island and living room wood floors. Tina helped me clean up quickly and it was highly amusing to the grade 8 audience. So deja vu - full circle and the moral is make sure your computer is charged before a meeting and that it rests on a surface safe from liquid spillage!
So there as been a lot of change - and yet through all of the years, I believe the core values of the Foote have remained true -
- The love of learning
- The respect and value of diversity and individual differences
- The importance of human relationships and supporting families
These community values have benefitted my family in so many ways and I am truly grateful for all Foote has given me.
Let’s start with 35 years of gainful employment - something I may have taken for granted at times but at this moment I acutely appreciate it. So thank you Frank Perrine, Jean Lamont, David Feldman, Dary Dunham, and Carol Maoz for offering those annual contracts. I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of appreciation for Carol’s leadership over the past decade and especially during the current pandemic.
And of course special thanks go out to Frank Perrine for just being Frank, for hiring me, supporting my growth as a teacher and being part of so many great memories in and out of school. I will always fondly remember our May tradition of jointly offering an early morning bird walk at East Rock park followed by a big breakfast, I provided the bird walk and Frank provided the pancakes! Regulars on the walks, included a list of Foote legends including Carol Ross, Marion Spiro, Bob Sandine, Jay Cox, Laura Altshul, Donna Batsford, Lisa Totman, Windy Chen, Polly Fiddler, Jenny Byers, Lynne Valentine, Jean Lewellyn, Ally Kubler, Ellen Velardi, Violet Talbot, Betty Whitney and I think Marion Tysack-Candido came once, too - now that I think of it maybe it was just for the breakfast. These colleagues - all of them - were so important to this school and they were also my mentors and friends.
...I’ve worked with so many amazing colleagues over the years and would like to mention a few more from “the modern era” including Leslie Long, Tim Blauvelt, Al Washington, Colleen Murphy, Karla Matheny, MaryBeth Calderoni, Deb Riding, Leslie Harshfield, Julian Schlusberg, Ted Willis, Adam Solomon, John Climie, Ann Baker Pepe and Liam Considine - the list in my mind is certainly much longer!
I save my greatest thanks for Jean Lamont. Jean spearheaded improving Foote’s diversity and many important initiatives during her tenure as Head - but for me the most important of them all was - hiring a music teacher named Tina in 1994 - who later in 1999, considered a marriage proposal from a science teacher, John. So I really can’t thank you enough Jean for saying yes to Tina… and for Tina saying yes to me!
In closing, I want to thank the students - they are at the heart of my Foote journey - And their curiosity, creativity, generosity, and sense of humor will forever enrich me.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you in the Foote community - past and present and I wish everyone the very best of health."
"I have had the fortune of partnering with Carol when problem-solving a situation with a student, a family or a faculty member and often when I go home after such meetings, I say to my wife, Michelle, “ I would never want Carol’s job” in a tone half empathy half awe. No matter what decision she makes, there is a likelihood that someone will be disappointed, frustrated or assume she didn’t think of their perspective. On any given day, Carol has over 800 people who could be questioning a decision she has made or a policy she has implemented. And yet Carol makes those decisions with an incredible amount of thoughtfulness, skill, compassion and humility……striking a balance of confidence and trust in herself when guiding such a broad and intelligent community.
I recently read an article that spoke about the significant courage it takes to be alone with hard, complex questions and situations. Carol has effectively negotiated that reality for 11 years. I think Carol learned early on that to be able to maintain the strength required, she would have to envelop herself in the Foote community and connectedness. A perfect example of this is……..every year, Julian Schlusberg our drama teacher opens the first faculty meeting of the year to welcome/introduce the new faculty and basically do a stand-up comedy routine. He touches on many things Foote but his primary target every year is Carol; he has created a little Falco stuffed animal that looks like Carol, white hair and all, he has created a portrait of Carol where it is half Carol, half falcon……….at various times we all thinking, Julian crossed the line, he went too far but when we look over at Carol, she is laughing as hard if not harder than anyone in the room…….. and that to me…..sums up Carol’s appreciation and celebration of the Foote community and connectedness, which is what Foote is all about. Well done Carol.
I am happy to present the 2020 Foote School Community Award to Head of School Carol Maoz in recognition of your eleven-year tenure compassionately and expertly leading the Foote community.
Congratulations Carol, your tireless work as a champion for students, teachers, staff, and families has enhanced our Foote community since September 2010. We are especially grateful for all you have done leading the School to distance learning and running the school entirely online during these unprecedented times."
Carol Maoz, Head of School
More than 11 years ago I was named Foote’s 8th Head of School.
Within two weeks I had received my first letter of welcome – it was from an alumna from the ’40s!
Next, I received a letter from Annie Clark – the legendary PE teacher,
and days after I moved into Hamden, I had a visit from Anna Deming ‘35!
The summer I began at Foote, I wrote a letter to all Foote alumni introducing myself and asking you to share your stories – I received a wonderful response and throughout my time I have loved visiting different cities to host alumni gatherings, and of course Foote’s annual Alumni Reunion.
Witnessing alumni back on campus for their 50 reunion – members of the class who had not seen one another for 50 years – that is a memory I will keep with me forever.
The joy and the laughter were so beautiful and spoke volumes about our school and what it means to all of you.
It is clear that the Foote School community – students, parents, past parents, former faculty, alumni and grandparents love their school!
As I complete my time at Foote, I am filled with memories:
- Some are snapshots in time – Kindergarteners running up to me to give me a group hug
- An intense conversation with middle school students about prejudice and justice
- Some are feelings of warmth and pride from the special days we share – May Day, Field Day, Alumni Reunion, Grandparents Day and hundreds of others.
- My overriding feeling will be a sense of community, the curiosity of our students and the questions they ask, and the incredible devotion of the teachers and staff.
Thank you for welcoming me 11 years ago and thank you for this award. It means a great deal to me.
I will miss you all."
Friday 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Virtual happy hours, breakout rooms* organized by decade
Welcomed by Jen LaVin '81, Alumni Council co-president
Saturday 11:00 a.m.
Welcomed by Elizabeth Daley Draghi '77, Alumni Council co-president
State of the School Report from Carol Maoz, Head of School
Presentation of Awards
Alumni Achievement Award:
Nobel Laureate Dr. John B. Goodenough '35
Head of School Carol Maoz and 30-year faculty member John Cunningham
Open Alumni Council Meeting
Presentation from ninth grade student leaders
Discussion of alumni gatherings during pandemic
All times EDT
For questions regarding Reunions, please contact Amy Stephens Sudmyer '89,
Assistant Director of Development and Alumni Programs
Phone: 203-777-3464 x209