Parents go 'back to school' at Newington High School Open House

Published on Thursday, 21 September 2017 15:13
Written by Erica Schmitt

Staff Writer

NEWINGTON - Parents went back to high school for an hour-and-a-half Tuesday night to catch a glimpse of the 21st century teen experience.

Their teen’s experience, that is.

Cars filled the parking lots of Newington High School as parents of mostly younger students took the opportunity to clue in on classroom activities during the school’s annual Open House.

“We do it every year,” Principal Terra Tigno said a few hours before she addressed a full auditorium. “We need the support of students’ families and we look forward to that partnership, so they are as best prepared as they can be.”

Parents were given a copy of their child’s eight-period daily schedule and were directed to travel from class to class at the sound of the bell ringing.

“You should be proceeding to your child’s first period class now,” the loudspeaker beckoned through the halls.

Adults rushed up and down the building’s three floors, heading to the cafeteria during study hall periods. Teachers prepared brief, ten-minute presentations to give groups as they circulated.

“I show them assignments and their due dates,” chemistry teacher Tracy Perun said. “I like to get to know parents and get some insight into my students, too.”

English teacher Ben Alaimo asked parents to fill out a questionnaire upon arrival, with the goal of learning more about the youths who frequent his classroom.

“If there are certain things I should know that your child might not necessarily tell me this is the time to share,” he told the parents.

As English Department program leader and head baseball coach, Alaimo has a broad perspective of student life. These observations helped him craft curriculum for his new Literature to Film course.

“Kids get pretty much all their information from the moving picture on-screen now,” he told parents who came to that particular class. “I thought, studying how film matters in the composition of literature, that analysis will help them in the 21st century.”

Krystyna Gionfriddo hadn’t been back at NHS since attending herself. She and her husband, David, came to get an idea of what their son Jacob, 14, was learning.

“Since he started high school we hardly see him so we wanted to know what he was up to,” David joked. “We’re hoping to meet his teachers and see what his school day is like. Although seeing it as a parent is different than seeing it as a student.”

Teacher Marie Lennon told parents of her Algebra II Honors class that math excites her.

“It is my favorite subject to teach, so I hope my enthusiasm rubs off on them,” she said of her students.

Lennon also offered them some tips on monitoring their child’s work ethic. All homework assignments are posted daily on a calendar accessible to families on the PowerSchool Parent Portal.

“If they say they didn’t have homework you can check the calendar to know for sure,” she pointed out. “There’s usually always homework. Now you know. They can’t tell you they didn’t have anything.”

This online platform also reflects test scores and class absences. One has an immediate impact on the other, according to Lennon.

“If you see a zero after they were absent that’s so they know they have to make up the test they missed,” she explained. “I want them to know what their grade will be if they don’t make it up.”

Principal Tigno said her goal this year is to visit every classroom at least nine times.

“I have visited close to 300 classrooms so far,” she said.

Her hope is to meet every student and nurture the Family of Learners - a concept she introduced before the first day of school.

Parents who want to join that family can participate in the NHS Parent Advisory Board by emailing Mrs. Sunderland at The first meeting will take place on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7 a.m. in the main office.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or

Posted in Newington Town Crier, Newington News on Thursday, 21 September 2017 15:13. Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2017 15:15.