Looking back at 2011: An eventful autumn

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Dec. 30, 2011
Nayaug Principal Dr. Holly Hageman gives the thumbs-up for the start of the school year.
Nayaug Principal Dr. Holly Hageman gives the thumbs-up for the start of the school year.

More than 90 percent of Glastonbury homes were without power after Tropical Storm Irene left some areas of the state flooded, while knocking over trees and branches in others. Glastonbury seemed to be one of the worst-hit areas, due at least in part to the high density of trees in the town.

“We got hit pretty hard,” said Town Manager Richard Johnson, the Monday after the storm.

“It’s been absolutely wild,” said Civil Preparedness Director Bob Dibella, who was busy answering calls at his department’s communication hub. “We got hit everywhere.”

The town was able to pull together, as Glastonbury High School was a shelter for many, and the center of town and its shops were the main priority for restoration. Most agreed that the town did as best it could, while the issue of communication with Connecticut Light and Power was frustrating. But, after roads were cleared and lines repaired, a sense of normalcy returned. Little did anyone know, Irene was only a precursor of a bigger problem yet to come.

In the meantime, the school year got off to a delayed start. Nayaug was among local schools that held a welcome back ceremony on a gorgeous September morning. Before the ceremony that included the Pledge of Allegiance, welcoming remarks and the school song, Nayaug Principal Dr. Holly Hageman said that, despite the delay, everything went smoothly with the school’s first day.

“The week, all things considered, has been exceptionally well-managed,” she said. “We’ve been able to get clear communications out under difficult circumstances. But, we’re just happy to be opening and finally welcoming kids.”

After the departure of Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Kitching, the Glastonbury Board of Education hired Matthew Curtis to fill the void. Curtis was formerly a teacher at Gideon Welles School, and most recently the human resource director for the Simsbury school system.

Curtis said he had been hoping for the chance to return to Glastonbury. “In my experience as a teacher,” he said, “I was so supported and mentored by administrators and other strong veteran teachers, that the desire to come back in a different capacity was always there. I feel pretty fortunate.”

Glastonbury High School athletes made a splash as the girls' swim team beat Cheshire on Oct. 6. The win was significant for Glastonbury, but perhaps more so for Cheshire, which had not lost since 1986.

The 37th annual Apple Harvest Festival saw thousands on the grounds of the Riverfront Community Center over the weekend of Oct. 15-16. With clear weather both days, the only drawback was mud, due to heavy rains during the days prior, but crews worked hard to lay down moisture-absorbing hay before and during the festival.

“We had great crowds and beautiful weather,” said Glastonbury Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ellen Dombrowski. “The mud was bad the first day, but other than that it was a great festival. We put down a lot of straw – all that we had.”

Weather dealt another hard blow, as a freak October snowstorm again knocked over trees and branches and left many without power for up to a week or more. Although this storm was worse than Irene, lessons learned in September seemed to help things along somewhat during the cleanup in October and November.

“We got a double-whammy,” said Town Manager Richard Johnson. “We may be one of the towns that got hit the hardest by both storms, so we figure we’re in it for the long haul. It’s very frustrating, but CL&P knows our position. They are getting out here, and they are communicating much quicker than the last time.”

GHS sports teams had a superb fall season. The boys' soccer team made it to the quarterfinals of the state Class LL tourney, where it was narrowly defeated by Trumbull, 1-0. The defending co-champion field hockey team was dealt a heartbreaker in the semi-finals, with a 2-1 overtime loss to Norwalk.

Glastonbury's football team had a great 8-2 regular season, but was turned away in the first round by eventual champ Xavier by a score of 34-6.

The highlight of the fall season was the GHS girls’ soccer team, which won all four of its tournament games and topped Trumbull 2-1 on Nov. 25 to take home the Class LL state championship.

“This group of kids is such a special group,” said coach Joe Finocchiaro of his team. “I have seen a few of them – especially the captains – since they were 10 years old, so this is a special treat for them to walk off this field with a victory today.”

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