Portsmouth puts spotlight on student achievement

Members of the School Committee view a photograph created by Amanda Chisholm, who won a Gold Key Award as well as the national American Visions Award for her work. Members of the School Committee view a photograph created by Amanda Chisholm, who won a Gold Key Award as well as the national American Visions Award for her work.

Members of the School Committee view a photograph created by Amanda Chisholm, who won a Gold Key Award as well as the national American Visions Award for her work.

Members of the School Committee view a photograph created by Amanda Chisholm, who won a Gold Key Award as well as the national American Visions Award for her work.

PORTSMOUTH — Official business was put aside entirely — well, almost entirely — so the School Committee could recognize the district’s high-achieving students Tuesday night.

Inside a crowded high school auditorium, students who excelled in the arts and music, math and sciences, sports and other fields were commended for their accomplishments this year in an hour-long ceremony.

They received accolades for everything from being tops in a middle school spelling bee (seventh-grader Jessica Chen) to being judged the best high school tuba player in the state (junior Samuel Boswell, aka “Tuba Sam”). School Committee Chairman David Croston shook a lot of hands and posed for a lot of grip-and-grin photos to satisfy the proud parents.

First up was art teacher Rose Escobar, who shared PHS students’ impressive showing in the Scholastic Art Awards in January while showing slides of their works.

“Our school took 19 awards. It’s the most awards won by any school in the state,” she said.

Amanda Chisholm won both a Gold Key Award and the national American Vision Award, which qualifies her to be recognized at the national meeting held at Carnegie Hall in New York City this June.

Multi-discipline artist Connor Wray also was a Gold Key Award-winner, as well as a scholarship recipient from the Wickford Art Association. Gold Key Awards also went to Kristen Kemper and MacKay Eyster for their photography, Gilbert Travers for his sculpture and Hunter Brokow for fashion. Several other students earned Silver Key Awards.

Student musicians were recognized for their placement on the All-State band or chorus ensembles, and several of them were ranked number one in the state in their respective discipline: Sam Boswell (winds-tuba), Andreas Evangelatos (vocal-bass), Samantha Kirwin (vocal-soprano) and Colin Redlich (vocal tenor).

Members of the PHS chorus, directed by Gael Berberick, perform the National Anthem at the start of Tuesday’s School Committee meeting.

Sports

Student athletes also got their time in the spotlight Tuesday. The middle school boys’ basketball team won another Eastern Division title, with coach Greg Sullivan noting that the team never lost at home for the second year.

Also recognized was the high school girls co-op hockey team, which is comprised of students from PHS, Barrington High and Mt. Hope High. “They’ve won their third consecutive Division II state championship,” said Assistant Supt. Jeff Schoonover.

The PHS competitive cheerleading team was lauded for recently winning the state championship. Since the Rhode Island Interscholastic League sanctioned cheerleading as a competitive winter sport in 2008, said head coach Deb Valente, “this team has won six divisional championships since then and two grand championships.”

Spelling, science, cybersecurity

The committee also gave shout-outs to Jessica Chen for winning the annual spelling bee and Domenic Taylor for triumphing in the geography bee at the middle school; and to the that school’s Math Counts team, which competed in the state tournament March 1.

Six students advanced to the states after shining in the PHS science fair in January, including freshman Claudia Yaw, whose project on solar activity’s effects on cloud cover won her “best in fair.”

“That’s the first ‘best in fair’ we’ve had at Portsmouth High since 2001,” said Mr. Schoonover.

Finally, the PHS CyberPatriot team received kudos for taking first place in a state round of a national high school cyber defense competition before competing in a regional round earlier this month.

“I’m sure we’ll read some of their names on Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans in 20 years or so,” said Mr. Schoonover.

“Ten years,” one team member corrected him.

Hathaway fire code upgrades

There was some actual school district business conducted Tuesday, but it was disposed of early on in the meeting.

The committee voted unanimously to select Calson Corporation to carry out the necessary fire code safety upgrades at Hathaway School.

Calson was the low bidder among three companies that submitted proposals, at a cost of $692,000 for the base bid. The other bidders were Tower Construction ($759,000) and Iron Construction ($734,000).

The bids were opened March 18.

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