Bill Jacaruso graduated from high school; he graduated from college, but he is still dealing with elementary school. Bill is the president of the Essex Elementary School Foundation (EESF), now starting its annual fund drive, the only appeal it makes during the year.
Bill has remained involved even though his three daughters graduated from Valley Regional High School last year. If you are trying to think through that last sentence, the answer is yes, the three graduates, Margaret, Grace, and Madeline are triplets.
“EESF is just such a part of the community and the board moves forward in such a positive manner,” Bill says. “People have worked so hard on this board over the years.”
The organization was formed in 1996, and Chet Kitchings, now chair of EESF’s board, was one of its founders.
EESF provides funding for enrichment programs for Essex Elementary School not covered under the school budget. There is another group, the Region 4 Education Foundation, that covers the entire district.
This year EESF’s major new project is the newly designed and equipped STEM classroom at Essex Elementary School, which as its acronym makes clear, emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and math. Several of the other programs funded by EESF, Bill points out, also involve STEM subjects, among them the 3D laser printer, which students use to design and make small objects like letter openers.
Over this past summer, EESF underwrote a math passport program. The passports had math challenges; students solved them and then went to local business, showing the completed work, and got a stamp in the passports. At the beginning of school, students brought in the passports and were rewarded with prizes. Summer work though it was, Bill says the passport program was enthusiastically received and there are plans to repeat it next summer.
Other EESF-funded events include world culture programs; professionals, like writers and scientists, in residence; and co-operative programs with the Essex Historical Society.
According to Bill, EESF develops projects in conjunction with Essex Elementary School principal Jennifer Tousignant who gets ideas based on faculty suggestions.
“We take the lead from Jennifer and she gets input from teachers,” he explains.
Bill grew up in Norwich and graduated from Norwich Free Academy and then Fairfield University. He had planned to be an English teacher and taught for three years at Fairfield Prep. He got to know the chair of Fairfield Prep’s Board, a highly placed IBM executive, who recruited Bill to work at the company in information technology. Some years later, he and the executive who brought him to IBM left to form their own company.
Bill is now retired but occasionally helps out with his wife Bo’s business, which grew out of her years as a social worker with the Connecticut Department of Social Services primarily working with the court system. Now she has her own business assisting elderly clients often helping them navigate the Medicaid system or acting as a court-appointed conservator for those having trouble managing their finances.
Bill and Bo, who also grew up in Norwich, knew each other as children, “when we were five years old,” he recalls. They met again decades later when Bill was a widower and married.
Bill ran cross country in high school and was for many years a runner of such determination that he once ran a marathon only six days after he had suffered a burst appendix.
“I was a lot tougher and not quite as smart,” he explains. Among the races he has run are both the New York and Boston Marathons.
Two hip replacement surgery brought an end to his running days. He had hoped the hip replacements would help him in another favored sport: golf, giving him enough freedom of movement to improve his play but so far, at least, that has not happened. “I am the only guy who had a hip replacement and it didn’t help his golf game,” he says.
Bill is also an avid fisherman; he has a Boston Whaler that he now keeps in Old Saybrook. Even after the boat is out of the water, Bill, with waders on, keeps fishing, often fly fishing for bass.
All his fishing is catch and release, but when he went into a fish store a short time ago and saw what striped bass filets were selling for, he jokes about whether he should have kept some from a recent fishing trip.
No matter how much or how often people fish, Bill says it is never safe to predict the outcome of a day with rod and reel.
“Sometimes there are so many you can just walk on them,” he says, and sometimes, of course, not. “That’s why they call it fishing, not catching,” he says.
Indoors, there are also fish in Bill’s life, a host of small tropical fish in a tank he maintains. The secret to keeping the fish alive and healthy, he says, is regularly changing the water and keeping the tank at a uniform 78 degrees.
“A couple of degrees make a big difference,” he explains. “I learned my lesson with that.”
Bill is eager for the community to be aware of what EESF accomplishes. “Their work helps enrich the school community outside of traditional classroom activities,” principal Tousignant said. “Our entire school community benefits greatly from their generosity providing such experiences for our students.”
For more information or to contribute, visit essexesf.org.
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