District Information > Superintendent's Message

Superintendent's Message

The Water is Wide

William S. McKersie, Ph.D.

April 2016

For 30 years, the Greenwich Public Schools has annually honored students for their community service.  In 1986, then Superintendent Ernie Fleishman acted on a vision: that students should be celebrated as much for service as they are for their academic, artistic or athletic accomplishments. Since then, we have gathered as a community every March to feature outstanding community service by students from each of our schools.  The pinnacle is when a GHS senior is presented the Fleishman Service Award, by Dr. Fleishman.

Fittingly, this year’s 30th Anniversary celebration opened with a beautiful rendition of The Water is Wide (Jean-Paul Carbieres) by the GPS Honor Choir: Prima Voce, under the direction of Erin Schilling and Rebecca Lipshutz.  The lyrics for the piece symbolize the essential work of our students in their generous giving of time and talent.  Written about the waxing and waning of love, The Water is Wide also speaks to the challenges so many face in their lives and the gifts that help one survive and thrive:

The water is wide,
I can't cross over,
And neither have I wings to fly.
Build me a boat…

GPS students this past year have built many boats to help Greenwich residents deal with challenging waters:

  • Our elementary schools have raised funds for UNICEF; assembled Thanksgiving food baskets; participated in Ben’s Bells Kind Campus Program; donated clothing and food to Neighbor to Neighbor; secured funds for CHAMPS dogs; collected items for Kids in Crisis; supported Kind Coins for Kenya; joined in the Great Kindness Challenge; led a math-a-thon to support St. Jude’s Research Hospital; honored local Veterans in special Veteran Day programs, including Valentines for Veterans; jumped rope for Jump Rope for Heart to benefit the American Heart Association; raised money for an orphanage in Bogota; supported Pencils of Promise; sponsored a Turkey Shoot Basketball Tournament; collected shoes for Soles for Souls; planned “Choose Love” to promote acts of kindness; held a “Room to Read” fundraiser; assembled clothes and baby equipment for “Mothers for Others;” raised funds for the ASPCA, Wolf Conservation Society, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; wrote letters to military personnel as part of Operation Gratitude; and collected stuffed animals/toys for the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale-New Haven Hospital. 


While hundreds of elementary students contributed to this extensive service, we featured 13 students for their leadership roles:  Grace Nash, Cos Cob School; Audrey Hall, Glenville School; Jaya Maduro and Angelina Ponce, Hamilton Avenue School; Piper Loveless, Internatianol School at Dundee; Chihiro Nishihara, Julian Curtiss School; Rubi Garcia, New Lebanon School; James Chang and Carolyn Mullins, North Mianus School; Maggie Saleeby, North Street School; Sarah DesChamps, Old Greenwich School; Lindsay Geary, Parkway School; and, Lacey Hartley, Riverside School.


  • Three middle school students were honored for their community service. Antea Pasa, of Central Middle School, raised over $2,000 to fight pediatric cancer, and was noted by one teacher for her “day-to-day outgoing attitude and her ongoing desire to help others…”  Emma Burstiner, of Eastern Middle School, was instrumental to school fundraisers for Special Olympics, Neighbor to Neighbor, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Kids in Crisis. Her guidance counselor wrote that Emma “exemplifies service for others.”  Sadie Kriegler, of Western Middle School, volunteers twice weekly for Neighbor to Neighbor, serves actively at her Temple with Bingo Night and Project Ezra, which connects congregants with the elderly.  Her service “brings a smile to my face, just to see them smiling.”


  • Five high school students were celebrated. Mary Byrne of Bella House has volunteered extensively with the Greenwich Historical Society, and is described as “an intelligent, dedicated, hard-working student and compassionate friend and mentor.” Diana Jaramillo of Cantor House, who views “community service as far more than filling lines on a resume,” has given countless hours at her church teaching religious education to first graders, been a mentor with the Boys and Girls Club, and served as a Tutorial Tutor and Peer Mediator at GHS.  Caitlyn Lovely of Clark House has dedicated years to the Girl Scouts, assisting younger girls with badges and scouting service projects, which have benefited the Banksville Community House and Neighbor to Neighbor.  She is noted as having the “utmost level of integrity, honesty and diligence.”  Emma Jinno of Folsom House, described as “a caring, dedicated and responsible young woman,” has been serving the community since age six, most notably through Greenwich Green & Clean and her efforts to keep Tod’s Point pristine, and as a volunteer with the GPS Summer School and Greenwich Summer Music Camp.  Alexis Tatore of Sheldon House, cited as “world changer…[who] will not wait long to make that happen,” is a leading member of GHS Student Government, has tutored after-school at Hamilton Avenue School for three years, serves on the First Selectman’s Youth Council, and has volunteered on various state political campaigns.

Greenwich’s ultimate “boat builder” this year is Rebecca “Becca” Powell, who received the Fleishman Service Award.  Becca “demonstrates all of the qualities a leader in our global society needs: confidence, flexibility, creativity and compassion,” per Diane Fox (GHS Activities Director).  Becca previously received the GPS Community Service Award as a fifth grader at Old Greenwich School and has not slowed down. She has been the GHS Student Government’s leader for community service, led the GHS Blood Drive for two years (which included convincing this superintendent to give blood every time), been president of the GHS Cancer Awareness Society and chair of the Relay for Life Fundraiser, which raised $155,000 this year. Becca is part of the Hebrew Wizards Program, where she teaches Hebrew School classes and written curriculum.  Her 11 years of service earned her the Hebrew Wizards Dedication Award.

At the close of the 30th Annual Celebration, Dr. Fleishman brought Becca to the podium to thank her directly for her tireless service. Turning to look Becca in the eye, Dr. Fleishman said, “Becca, you are a fighter for social justice.  You do not take "no," and yet do so with dignity, modesty and strong affirmation and will."

Yes, the water is wide, with winds and currents making progress difficult.  Greenwich students--supported by their teachers, administrators and family--do not hold back.  They step in with intelligence, spirit, dedication and persistence to build the boats that bring those less fortunate to safe harbor.  For 30 years we have honored our students for their vital service.  Here’s to another 30 years of Greenwich students giving of their time and talent.

A final note: Please take a moment to view the videos prepared to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the GPS Community Service Awards Program.  Produced by Kim Eves, the videos can be accessed at:

2016 GPS Community Service Awards 30th Anniversary Fleishman Award Video (https://vimeo.com/160232709)

2016 GPS Community Service Awards 30th Anniversary High School Video (https://vimeo.com/160232706)

2016 GPS Community Service Awards 30th Anniversary Middle School Video (https://vimeo.com/160279624)

2016 GPS Community Service Awards 30th Anniversary Elementary School Video (https://vimeo.com/160279625)

2016 GPS Community Service Awards 30th Anniversary Introductory Video (https://vimeo.com/160099576)



April 5, 2016 Superintendent's Message: The Water is Wide

March 8, 2016 Superintendent's Message: Serving All our Students Well

February 4, 2016 Superintendent's Message: Relationships - A February Reflection

January 4, 2016 Superintendent's Message: Personalized Learning & DLE – A Greenwich Story

December 3, 2015 Superintendent's Message: In Safe Hands

November 10, 2015 Superintendent's Message: Thankful

October 12, 2015 Superintendent's Message: The Superintendent’s Vision for 2018

September 7, 2015 Superintendent Message: Excellence and Compassion go Hand-in-Hand

June 18, 2015 Superintendent's GHS Graduation Speech

June 2015, Superintendent Message: Distinguished Ideas 2015

April 7, 2015, Superintendent Message: Winning with Character

March 5, 2015, Superintendent Message: Gauging Progress in the GPS - Take Two

February 1, 2015, Superintendent Message: Innovation Lab: Deep Learning In and For the Real World

January 12, 2015, Superintendent Message: Hot Topics for the Cold Months

December 1, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Gauging Progress in the GPS – Take One

November 3, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Lots of Industry...Lots of Product - Part II

October 7, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Lots of Industry...Lots of Product - Part I

September 2, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Our Signature: Achievement and Caring

November 27, 2013, Superintendent's Thanksgiving Day Message

November 12, 2013, The Roots of Excellence

September 26, 2013, Letter to Greenwich Public School Families on our Call to Action and Strategic Focus

September 11, 2013 Letter to Greenwich Public School Families on Safe School Climate

September 3, 2013 Letter to Greenwich Public School Families on Safe School Climate

April 25, 2012, Superintendent of Schools Appointment Announcement

Resume for William S. McKersie (April 2012)

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