Reading marathon results in triathlon

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Hebron - posted Mon., Apr. 18, 2011
Principal Kathryn Veronesi sits in the dunk tank. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Principal Kathryn Veronesi sits in the dunk tank. Photos by Melanie Savage.

A few years ago, Gilead Hill School Principal Kathryn Veronesi kissed a pig for the sake of education.

Last year, she climbed up on the school roof.

The antics were part of the annual reading challenge at the school. After reading thousands of books over the course of a month, the children are rewarded by getting to see their principal do something silly.

Veronesi has always been willing to go over the top. That’s just one of the reasons why she was nominated this year as one of three finalists in the state for the National Distinguished Principals Program. The award “honors outstanding elementary and middle level administrators who assure that America's children acquire a sound foundation for lifelong learning and achievement,” according to the program’s website.

“I just found out that I didn’t get it,” said Veronesi the morning of April 15. Veronesi had learned only an hour earlier that the recognition went to Ansonia principal Lawrence DePalma. But the news didn’t dampen her enthusiasm. April 15 was the culmination of the 2011 Gilead Hill School Reading Challenge, and Veronesi had a reward to deliver.

This year, after reading a whopping 8,965 books, the students would get to see Veronesi perform in a mini-triathlon at the school. During two different sessions, Veronesi made a total of eight laps around the building (one for each thousand books). She ran dressed in her pajamas, and wearing the tail of a tiger (the school mascot). She was accompanied on each lap by different student representatives. At one point her black Lab, Lulu, ran with her.

After her run, Veronesi headed back into the school, and reappeared dressed in a wetsuit. The plan was to do eight laps on her bike. Veronesi completed two or three, and then headed to the dunk tank. Despite the fact that it was cold enough for a jacket, Veronesi gamely took several dips in the water, as various teachers, students and the school mascot took a shot at the target.

Veronesi said that she came up with this year’s reward after competing in some triathlons at her local YWCA. “And, of course, the dunk tank was the big thing,” she said. “And it was fun having the kids run with me. It was fun to see the kids cheering for their classmates.” But there’s more to this kind of event than just having a good time. Veronesi referred to Dr. William Petit, the home invasion survivor in Cheshire who has been in the news during the past few years. “He quotes Mother Theresa, saying, ‘Be the change [you want to see in the world],’” said Veronesi. “Anything we can do that promotes belonging and affiliation, I think that makes a difference.”

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