STAMFORD, Conn. -- Richard Testa has fond memories of Stamford's J.M. Wright Technical High School and hopes his daughter Taylor will enjoy the school as well.
“It did great for me. I love this place,” Testa, a 1987 graduate, said after an orientation session Wednesday evening for incoming Grade 9 students at the about to be reopened state-run technical high school. “If you wanted to be successful, they gave you the tools to do it. I have nothing but good things to say about it.”
Slightly more than 100 of the 120 confirmed students, along with their parents, attended the session held in a standing-room only - and sweltering - dining hall to listen to principal Joseph Tripodi and other staff members outline the coming school year.
All of the 120 students currently committed to the school are from Stamford and Norwalk, Tripodi said. The school’s catchment area includes Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton and Weston.
Taylor, who was busy touring the renovated building, is looking forward to the school year, said her mother Tammy Testa.
“She is very excited,” said Tammy, who was impressed with the school. “It’s beautiful, and it’s a great opportunity for the kids.”
On Oct. 10, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, along with other officials, officially broke ground for the $85 million, 200,000-square-foot renovation project on the state-run school.
The school was closed in 2009, after 90 years in operation in Stamford, due to a state budget shortfall and declining enrollment.
However, local and state lobbying efforts led to the decision to reopen what State Technical High School System Superintendent Nivea Torres called the “flagship for the district” during the groundbreaking ceremony last fall.
Michele Brady also had happy memories of her senior year in 1998 at J.M. Wright Tech. She said her family, many of whom attended Wright, was overjoyed when her daughter Sarah was accepted. Sarah wants to study health technology.
“It’s a big deal, and they were really excited when she got the letter that she got in,” she said. “It was lot of screaming and hugging.”
Comments like those and of the Testas are music to the ears of Tripodi, who was picked to lead the school. From the day he became principal he said he would focus on the future but was braced for negative comments about the school’s bumpy past that led to its closure.
But to his pleasant surprise, he said he has heard only positive comments.
“To my thorough surprise, I have met professionals and parents and people in all different occupations who said it is great that Wright Tech is open again,” he said after the orientation.
The school has an enrollment capacity of 162 for the Grade 9 class. Tripodi said the school expects to have 120 students enrolled when classes start Aug. 27.
Each year the school will add another grade until it has students in grades 9 to 12.
Tripodi said the state and local support along with the enthusiasm of students and parents show the school has a bright future.
“We obviously serve a purpose and a need -- and we’re back,” he said.