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Kolek, Potts and LaVista honored at retirement party

Updated 4:12 pm, Friday, June 13, 2014

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  • Superintendent of Schools Mary Kolek, who is retiring this month, was honored during a special party at Waveny House in New Canaan, Conn., Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Photo: Nelson Oliveira / New Canaan News
    Superintendent of Schools Mary Kolek, who is retiring this month, was honored during a special party at Waveny House in New Canaan, Conn., Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Photo: Nelson Oliveira

 

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A tremendous loss. That's how Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services Darlene Pianka described the retirement of Superintendent of Schools Mary Kolek.

At a party at Waveny House Tuesday, town officials, New Canaan Public Schools administrators, the Board of Education and members of the public celebrated the careers of three longtime New Canaan educators who are retiring this month.

Besides Kolek, East Elementary School Principal Alexandra "Bunny" Potts and West Elementary School Acting Principal Joanne LaVista are leaving the district.

Board of Education Chairman Hazel Hobbs started the ceremony by thanking all three women for making "an impact on the education of literally hundreds of thousands of students."

Also attending the party were First Selectman Robert Mallozzi; state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who represents New Canaan; David Abbey, former superintendent of schools; Police Chief Leon Krolikowski; members of the Town Council and members of the Board of Finance.

Abbey, who retired in 2012 before Kolek took over, said he always admired his successor's strong leadership skills.

"She led with confidence, conviction and courage," Abbey said. "If it was in the best interest of students, she was never afraid to go against the tide. She challenged us to reach new heights."

Pianka thanked Kolek for serving as her role model.

"Your focus on creating high standards, devoting resources to all layers of education and achieving excellence is inspiring," Pianka said.

Kolek said she and all educators in the room Tuesday are lucky to work "in a community that understands the value of education."

"You've taught me to work fiercely on behalf of our mission as educators," she said when thanking her fellow educators.

The two retiring principals also received emotional testimonies from their co-workers.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Jill Correnty spoke on behalf of LaVista, who's been an educator for 34 years and worked with Correnty at West for more than 10.

"We're proud of your contribution as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. It's been a privilege to work with such a strong, courageous leader," Correnty said.

South Elementary School Principal Joanne Rocco spoke about Potts' career highlights. Potts served the school district for 25 years -- 15 of them as principal of East.

"You served the district with distinction. You've always put the children first, in every decision you've made," Rocco told Potts. "You'll be remembered as someone who truly loves children."

Potts said she's proud to have served the New Canaan public schools.

"It's been a tremendous honor to say `I work in New Canaan,' " she said, adding that she had great help from her co-workers, parents and administrators.

"You can't really do these jobs without an awful lot of help from an awful lot of people, your friends, your mentors, your support system," Potts said. "You can't do it alone."

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson