WRHS ushers in first Hall of Fame class

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Woodland Regional High School Principal Arnold Frank speaks during the the school's Academic Awards Night June 15. Frank declined his nomination into the Woodland Hall of Fame.
Woodland Regional High School Principal Arnold Frank speaks during the the school's Academic Awards Night June 15. Frank declined his nomination into the Woodland Hall of Fame.

BEACON FALLS — Over the ten year history of Woodland Regional High School, countless people and organizations have contributed to building the Hawks’ nest.

Last week, the school immortalized a sliver of those people and organizations as part of Woodland Hall of Fame’s inaugural class.

The inaugural class was inducted in a short ceremony during the school’s academic awards night June 15. The Woodland Regional High School Hall of Fame Committee selected seven honorees, including two groups, for the first class.

Among the nominees was Woodland Regional High School Principal Arnold Frank, who has been the school’s only principal in its ten-year existence.

“This school was a dream-come-true for me. It was an opportunity to start a school from the beginning, put some things in place I always dreamed of, to hire everyone, and to start a school where everyone had the same vision and the same goal,” Frank said. “I think we have established ourselves as a caring school that has high expectations. I’m really proud of the education we provide kids and the caring climate we provide.”

Ultimately, Frank declined the nomination, saying he would prefer to be nominated once he retires.

Although he didn’t accept his own nomination, Frank had kind words for the other inductees.

Of Maureen Carroll, who was an English and history teacher and went on to become assistant principal from 2003 to 2010, Frank said, “She helped us establish a climate of high expectations and care and was just a quality person.”

Carroll was responsible for organizing the school’s computer grading and scheduling system and has been called the “moral compass of Woodland” by faculty. She was not present at the ceremony to accept her award.

Former Woodland head football coach Chris Anderson said he was speechless when he found out he would be inducted into the Woodland Hall of Fame.

“It’s like a dream,” he said.

Anderson said he was honored and humbled to receive the award.

“Everybody helped our team to be so successful,” Anderson said. “This is really everybody’s award.”

Anderson’s resume boasts an undefeated season, and two Naugatuck Valley League and Class SS state championships. He attributed his team’s success to old fashioned hard work.

“Everybody had a role, everybody believed in their role, and everybody succeeded in their role. We were truly like a machine with all parts functioning to make it work,” Anderson said.

He said the school’s athletic programs will only get better as tradition starts to build. With the younger siblings and eventually children of Woodland graduates rising through the ranks, the community will start to develop a stronger sense of identity, Anderson said.

“When your family has worn the black and gold, the pride develops,” he said.

Frank said Anderson was dedicated, passionate, and a great role model for his students.

Frank said the two Class of 2005 students inducted into the Hall of Fame, Gina DellaRose and Patryk Krakowski, were great students and incredible athletes.

“They really helped us establish a tradition of strong athletics in the school,” Frank said.

Six-time All-State, seven-time All-NVL soccer and track star DellaRose returned to Woodland last week for the first time since she graduated in 2005.

She said the induction ceremony was nice, but she was admittedly a tad nervous to be honored in front of so many people.

DellaRose continued her soccer career into college at Southern Connecticut State University, and also ran track her last semester.

“I’m really, really dedicated,” she said.

DellaRose said her high school sports teams came a long way from playing together as children on Hotchkiss Field to winning NVLs her senior year. She said her most memorable soccer moment was her senior night when the Hawks clenched the title against Torrington at Hotchkiss field.

“It was nice to be there under the lights,” DellRose said.

Krakowski was a three-year captain for the Hawks on the gridiron, leading the team to the 2004 NVL and Class SS state championships. He earned All-State honors in 2004 and All-NVL honors in 2003 and 2004.

The undefeated 2004 football team was one of two group inductees.

“The 2004 football team proved that when a group of kids get together and dedicate themselves to a unified goal, it’s unbelievable what can happen,” Frank said.

Theresa Graveline and Mike Miele, co-founders of the Region 16 High School Cooperative, accepted the honor on behalf of their group.

“We definitely all felt that it was an honor and fitting to have that recognition,” Graveline said.

Miele agreed.

“It was fantastic for the group and its efforts to be recognized for what it was able to accomplished,” he said.

The cooperative was a coalition of parents from Beacon Falls and Prospect that promoted a yes vote for the referendum that created Woodland in 1998.

“Without their efforts, we wouldn’t be here,” Frank said.

Both Graveline and Miele grew up in Prospect when the regional district was formed in 1970. Graveline was in the first graduating class at Long River Middle School in 1972. However, back then, students from Prospect and Beacon Falls were sent all over the area for high school, with the district paying tuition to the other schools.

“So many of us always said we wish, we wish, we wish we could have our own high school as was the plan when we formed the region,” Graveline said.

When she and her classmates had their own children, they decided it was time to do something about it.

At the group’s first meeting, 70 people showed up and formed a political action committee and the Complete Our Regional Education (CORE) campaign.

“We really believed if we gave people information they could be certain was true and correct, they would be able to make an informed decision,” Graveline said.

The committee disseminated information about costs associated with building a new school and held rallies, attended school board meetings, made speeches, and put up signs.

“It really was a grassroots organization,” Graveline said.

Detractors said the new school would be too expensive and that it would never work. A regional high school had previously failed in a referendum in 1996.

Miele said he used to go to board meetings where board members would storm out in the middle of the meeting or threaten to re-regionalize the schools. The two towns fought over where the high school would be located and meetings went on for hours.

It took 30 years, but a regional high school was finally built after citizens approved it by over 1,000 votes in referendum, Miele said.

Woodland has had 10 years to prove itself since then.

“Woodland has become a center of athletic, academic, and community excellence. It really has made a name for itself,” Graveline said.