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Stamford Schools Face Challenge With New Preschool Program As Year Begins

K.T. Murphy Principal Frank Rodriguez looks on as students listen to teachers Chelsea Romaniello, center, and Catie Ramsey on the first day of school. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern
K.T. Murphy Principal Frank Rodriguez Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

STAMFORD, Conn. -- More than a decade ago, Frank Rodriguez ditched his business career and decided that teaching was his calling. He said he believed he could make a difference by teaching elementary students.

"I just really like working with kids and there was just a connection that I wanted to do something for the community," the principal at K.T. Murphy School in Stamford said Monday as the new year began. "I thought you could really make a big difference when they first come to school and get them excited about learning."

The 41-year-old Stamford native graduated from the now-closed Rippowam High School. He earned a business degree from Sacred Heart University and worked for a number of years before making the move. He returned to Sacred Heart University and earned his education degree. He interned at K.T. Murphy and then was hired the following year, in 2003-04, as a Grade 1 teacher. He eventually transferred to Westhill High School before returning to K.T. Murphy five years ago as he became a principal.

The state-funded preschool program is a new challenge for Rodriguez and the school this year. Fifteen students who will be 4 years old by Dec. 31 are enrolled, Rodriguez said. 

They attend school Monday through Friday and follow the school schedule, he said. The challenge is to ensure that they not only have fun but also get used to being in a school atmosphere, he said.

"We are going to experiment a little bit and make sure that we are integrating them a little bit more into academics and make sure their transition is a lot smoother as they go into kindergarten," he said. 

"There is a rich history of our school, it's over 100 years old," Rodriguez said about the school at 19 Horton St. in the Cove section of the city. 

There is also a rich institutional history among the teaching staff as he said a couple of teachers have been at the school for 35 years.

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