Stamford Public Schools News

AITE Students Worked with NASA on Infrared Astronomy Research

Students Will Present Results at AAS Annual Conference with Teacher Vin Urbanowski

POSTED ON: JULY 30, 2019 - 5:17PM

AITE’S Lichtenberg, Fleischer and Urbanowski (center three) and the entire Dust Mights team with a model of the Mars Science Lab

While many high school students study astronomy, only a select few actually get to do astronomy. Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) Students Anna Lichtenberg and Kevin Fleischer were among the 13 selected NASA-sponsored high school students who participated in astronomical research at Caltech this summer. Along with AITE Teacher Vin Urbanowski, these students not only had hands-on experience, but they will also have the opportunity to present their results at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) annual winter conference in Hawaii this coming January.

The program is part of the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP) run by Caltech astronomers Dr. Luisa Rebull and Dr. Varoujan Gorjian. The team selects six STEM educators from across the United States each year to participate in original research, using data from professional astronomical databases comprised of observations from space-based telescopes, including Spitzer, Herschel, Wise, Planck, Gaia and the airborne SOFIA. The NITARP program is offered at no cost to teachers or students. In addition to Connecticut, the team’s teachers are from Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana and have been collaborating online since January.

“This is an authentic science experience for students,” said Urbanowski. “Instead of doing a known procedure to confirm a known result, we developed our own methods in collaboration with Dr. Gorjian, to discover new results.”

 Preston Matthew, Rylee Hiles, Isaac Levenstein.
Fleischer and Lichtenberg (at right) with other Dust Mights students on their last day together, 
showing the results of their work so far: a catalog of 831 objects selected for ongoing study out of an original data set 
of 20,000 celestial objects. Also pictured (L-R): Preston Matthew, Rylee Hiles, Isaac Levenstein

Lichtenberg, Fleischer, Urbanowski and their counterparts from around the country flew to California to meet Rebull and Gorjian at Caltech, where they began their work.  During their experience, the students and teachers participated in astrophysics, astronomy and astronomical data analysis, and established objectives and process. The research will continue through online conferencing and cloud-based data sharing and will be completed in the coming year. Urbanowski, this year’s teacher-mentor for the NITARP team called Dust Mights, said the project also resembles professional science in its use of distance collaboration.  


 Rylee Hiles, AITE teacher Vin Ubanowski, Isaac Levenstein, AITE student Anna Lichtenberg.
Dust Mights team, 2019. L-R standing: Preston Matthew, Noah Kearns, AITE student Kevin Fleischer, Andrea Galloway, 
Geoff Holt, Caltech Astronomer Dr. Varoujan Gorjian. Kneeling: Rylee Hiles, AITE teacher Vin Ubanowski, Isaac Levenstein,
AITE student Anna Lichtenberg.

“The NITARP program seems like an incredible opportunity to learn about some of the most exciting developments in the field at one of the most famous science research institutions in the world,” says Lichtenberg. “I look forward to interacting with and learning from an incredible group of fellow students and teachers.”

“The idea of working with people from across the country to accomplish this one, greater goal is enticing to me,” says Fleischer. “Along this journey I look forward to meeting many new people to ‘nerd-out’ with, and together experience the wonders of exploring the universe though math.”

The AITE team will reunite with their colleagues to present their results at the 235th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January 2020.

 Preston Matthew, Noah Kearns, Rylee Hiles, AITE’s Anna Lichtenberg, AITE’s Kevin Fleischer, Isaac Levenstein, AITE’s Vin Urbanowski, Andrea Galloway, Geoff Holt.
Stamford’s Lichtenberg, Fleischer and Urbanowski at the Spaceflight Operations Center at JPL. (L-R): Preston Matthew,
Noah Kearns, Rylee Hiles, AITE’s Anna Lichtenberg, AITE’s Kevin Fleischer, Isaac Levenstein, AITE’s Vin Urbanowski,
Andrea Galloway, Geoff Holt.

A message from Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero

To SPS Staff and Families:


As you may have already heard, Trailblazers Academy, a charter middle school serving Stamford, has announced that due to financial difficulties they will cease operations.  While it is unfortunate that Stamford families will no longer have the option to send their student to this charter school, Stamford Public Schools (SPS) is excited to welcome, or in many cases welcome back, these families to our community. SPS is committed to working together with Trailblazers’ administration and staff to ensure a smooth transition for all impacted families and students.  In fact, next week we have set aside two days for Trailblazers’ families to meet with staff members to register their students in our schools and to establish individualized student transition plans, either into a traditional middle school or into an alternative learning environment.

We are currently reviewing the data, and we believe that the closing of Trailblazers will affect about 100 families. Please know that we are committed to addressing any staffing and student support requirements to meet the needs of all students. We are currently utilizing the $450,000 earmarked for Trailblazers in our 2019-2020 SPS budget to do so. 
The SPS mission is to provide an education that cultivates productive habit of mind, body and heart in every students. You can be certain that we will continue to meet the needs of all who attend our schools. I know I can count on each of you to demonstrate habits of heart by warmly welcoming any new or returning family to our schools this fall. 


Dr. Tamu Lucero, Superintendent Stamford Public Schools

Rogers International Student Teams Earned Second and Third Place at 37th National Academic Championship

Stamford Public Schools (SPS) announced that Rogers International School sixth and seventh grade teams’ recently earned second and third places respectively at the  37th Annual National Academic Championship in Washington D.C. The students qualified for the competition at the Northeast Division Thinking Cap Quiz Bowl, held earlier this year.

During the qualifying event, each of the 30 competing teams was required to take a 100 multiple-choice question computer test, which included math, geography, government, sports, spelling, science, literature, English, history, general information and trivia. The test, taken as a team activity, requires all team members to participate around one computer. Each team gets two chances to answer the questions correctly, earning points for both speed and accuracy.

 National Academy Championship

Rogers’ Sixth Graders Owen Brooks, George Carr, Tommy Caviness, Andrea Cordulack, Matt Greco, Katelyn Laureano-Rikardsen, Mia Luciani, Bennett Schindelman and Caleb You placed fifth in the Northeast and sixth in the country for total points earned, qualifying them for the national competition. Rogers’ Seventh Graders Emma Argenio, Frank Bear, Grady Connell, Ronan Connell, Tyler Denison, Tallulah Lintern, Arush Rao, Lucas Tan, Kristina Yosypiv, and Tomas Zaleski earned first place in the Northeast and fifth in the country for overall points in the qualifying competition.

Under the direction of Rogers’ Teachers Michael Argenio and Cara Denison, the students traveled to Washington D.C. for the 37th Annual National Academic Championship. According to the rules of the organization, each of the two teams had to split into two separate teams (four teams total) to compete. The sixth grade team of Brooks, Cordulack, Luciani, Schindelman and You placed second overall in their division, while the seventh grade team of Argenio, Denison, Rao, Lintern, and Zaleski came in third.

Four Stamford Educators to Explore the World This Summer Through Self-Designed Fellowships to Improve Classroom Practice

In April, the Dalio Foundation awarded Fund for Teachers (FFT) professional learning grants to educators across Connecticut, including four from Stamford. According to the organization, the foundation provided some $875,000 in grants this year.  Fund for Teachers

As FFT Fellows, grant recipients will embark on self-designed professional learning odysseys this summer.  This year, Stamford’s FFT Fellows will be traveling across Vietnam and the United Kingdom and will return with new insights, connections and tools to benefit their students.

Stamford’s 2019 FFT Fellows are:

  • Miranda DePoi, Alternative Routes to Success: Retrace the footsteps of Alpha Company from Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" across Vietnam to enhance a literary analysis unit on the novel that is authentic, historically educational and engaging.
  • Daria Van Nostrand and Linda Marchisio, Stamford High School: Explore how fashion and storytelling are connected in Scottish culture to create collaborative lessons that increase students' engagement and encourage creativity.
  • Melissa Hadsell, Stamford High School: Explore the historical and cultural influences of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters across the United Kingdom to connect modern students with classic authors and experiences.

A complete list of 2019 Fellows, their schools and their fellowships can be found here.

Student and Staff Achievements June 2019

Great Job ImageAt each monthly Board of Education (BOE) Meeting, we are proud to celebrate the accomplishments of select students and staff members. Following are those who will be recognized at the June 2019 BOE meeting:

4th District Congressional Art Competition

Stamford High School (SHS) Senior Ivy Zingone is the winner of this year’s 4th District Congressional Art Competition hosted by Congressman Jim Himes. Ivy’s winning artwork, “Counting Screens,” is a graphite and colored pencil drawing featuring a baby in a crib reaching for a mobile of screens. An independent panel of artists selected Ivy’s drawing from a record number of 80 entries from high school students across the district.  Ivy, who is a student of SHS Art Teacher Paul Cusano, received two round-trip tickets to attend the competition’s ceremony in Washington, D.C., where her art will be on display in the corridor leading to the U.S. Capitol Building for the next year.

Fairfield County Bar Association’s Law Day Art and Essay Challenge

The Fairfield County Bar Association recognized 14 elementary and secondary SPS students for winning entries in its Law Day Art and Essay Contest in a ceremony at the Stamford Superior Court. Thirteen judges, representing the Superior Court of the Judiciary of Stamford and Norwalk, celebrated the winning students. Students addressed the topic, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society,” in either essay or art submissions. Winning students:

  • Ariel Bailey, Scofield Magnet Middle, Honorable Mention
  • Sophia Chen, Scofield Magnet Middle, 2nd Place Essay
  • Ethan Effren, Scofield Magnet Middle, Honorable Mention
  • Anthony Fabricatore, Scofield Magnet Middle, 3rd Place Essay
  • Elizabeth Hernandez, Scofield Magnet Middle, 1st Place, 8th Grade Art
  • Fernando Hernandez Mesinas, Scofield Magnet Middle, 3rd Place, 8th Grade Art
  • Lucia Kempton, Scofield Magnet Middle, 1st Place Hybrid
  • Divyaj Parekh, Westhill High School, 1st Place High School Essay
  • Nathalie Saon, Davenport Ridge Elementary, 1st Place, Grade 3 Art
  • Sandi Saon, Rippowam Middle School, 1st Place, 6th Grade Art
  • Brynn Spingola, Westhill High School, 1st Place, High School Poetry
  • Serena Sweeney, Scofield Magnet Middle, Honorable Mention
  • Grace Tolla, Scofield Magnet Middle, 2nd Place, 8th Grade Art
  • Christina Zinicola, Scofield Magnet Middle, 1st Place Essay
CASA Stamford Administrator of the Year

Connecticut Association of School Administrators (CASA) named SPS Director of Curriculum and Instruction Natalie Elder McClarty “Stamford Administrator of the Year.” CASA, a professional organization open to all Connecticut school administrators, recognized Natalie among seven Connecticut administrators. Members of the executive board of the Stamford Administrative Unit chose Natalie from among all of its administrators to represent Stamford for CASA’s award. The award was created to provide positive recognition to deserving administrators.

CMEA Regional and All-State Festivals

Thousands of students across the state auditioned before a panel of professional adjudicators to be considered for the Connecticut Music Educators Association (CMEA) Western Region High School Festival. Each student performed an advanced selection in his or her specialty area: Orchestra, Concert Band, Jazz Band or Chorus. Those students who scored above a designated threshold qualified to perform at the festival. Of the 10 who qualified for regionals from SPS, five qualified and subsequently competed at the All-State Festival. 

Regional Qualifiers:

  • Eva Mitskevitch, WHS Sophomore, Alto
  • Audrey Molina, WHS Senior, Alto
  • Lucas Pinto-Leite, WHS Junior, Tenor
  • Cristina Principe, SHS Junior, Flute – Band
  • Elizabeth Sachs, WHS Junior, Tenor

Regional and All-State Qualifiers:

  • Katy Aillery, SHS Senior, Soprano
  • Mary Chobanyan, WHS Junior, Soprano
  • Alessandro Schiro, WHS Senior, Tenor
  • Jayce Schwartz, SHS Senior, Tenor
  • Rona-Lyssa Tulien, SHS Senior, Alto
Perfect ACT Score

Westhill High School (WHS) Sophomore Gaurov Bansal earned the highest possible composite score of 36 on the ACT standardized test.  According to the ACT organization, only around two-tenths of one percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. The ACT consists of tests in English, mathematics, reading and science, each scored on a scale of 1–36. A student's composite score is the average of the four test scores. Students who earn a 36 composite score have likely mastered all of the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed in first-year college courses in the core subject areas. 

Connecticut COLT Award for Excellence in World Languages

The Connecticut Council of Language Teachers awarded Alyssa Craner, Siomara Rodriguez, Erika Ricalde, Daniel Stevens and Kevin Duffy, all students of World Language Teacher Anna Koltypin, the CT COLT Award for Excellence in World Language. To qualify, each awardee must be enrolled in a World Language class, demonstrate excellence by achieving an average of 90% or better for three consecutive marking periods in the same language, and demonstrate evidence of a positive attitude toward language and cultures by using language beyond the classroom and/or participating in clubs.

Athletic Achievements

Stamford Public Schools has many high-performing individual athletes, teams and coaches. In the spring of 2018-19, the following student-athletes were honored at the regional level for both academics and sports or at the state level for exceptional spring sports achievements. 

Boys Tennis

  • Tyler Pomerance (WHS): All-State
  • Jordan Soifer (WHS): All-State
  • Rohan Suryawanshi (WHS): All-State
  • Adarsh Sushanth (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Shiloh Williamson (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete

Girls Tennis

  • Tamar Bellete (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete, All-State, All-FCIAC
  • Sophia Negyesi (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Devon Yaghmaie (SHS):  All-State, All-FCIAC (doubles)
  • Taylor Yaghmaie (SHS):  All-State, All-FCIAC (doubles)

Boys Lacrosse

  • Jacob Hansen (WHS): FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete
  • David Marciczkiewicz (SHS):  FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Zachary Rubin (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete

Girls Lacrosse

  • Katelyn Benner (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Julia Chapell (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Abigail Sottile (WHS): FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete


  • Shane Hackett (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Jonathan Hoch (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Nicholas Otis (SHS): FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete
  • Montana Semmel (WHS): All-State, All FCIAC
  • TJ Wainwright (WHS): All-FCIAC
  • Robert Zmarzlak (WHS): All-State, All FCIAC


  • Olivia Butler   (WHS): All-FCIAC
  • Madison Cortell (WHS): All-FCIAC
  • Betsy Sachs (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Rebecca Schwartz (SHS): FCIAC Exemplary Scholar-Athlete
  • Dana Serricchio (SHS):  All-State, All-FCIAC


  • Rishi Jaaswal (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Brian Somody (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete

Boys Track

  • Reynell Burke (WHS): All-FCIAC
  • Andrew Fang (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete  
  • Ashton Williams (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete

Girls Track

  • Juliette Lipson (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Tatianna Taheri   (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete
  • Sophia Thagouras (WHS): All-FCIAC

Boys Volleyball

  • Panos Ketonis (SHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete 
  • John Mathew (WHS): FCIAC Spring Scholar-Athlete