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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Long time Stonington school volunteer receives state award

    Hugh McGee hugs his granddaughter Elsa McGee as he is honored with the Connecticut Association of Schools Distinguished Friend of Education Award while reading to her fifth-grade class at Deans Mill School in Stonington Wednesday, March 15, 2023. McGee was honored for the years of volunteering he’s done in the district. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Hugh McGee talks to students as he is honored with the Connecticut Association of Schools Distinguished Friend of Education Award while reading to his granddaughter’s fifth-grade class at Deans Mill School in Stonington Wednesday, March 15, 2023. McGee was honored for the years of volunteering he’s done in the district. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Stonington ―The Connecticut Association of Schools recognized volunteer Hugh McGee on Wednesday for his decade-long service to Deans Mill School.

    “For more than ten years, Mr. McGee has devoted himself to supporting and enhancing the safety and well-being of the Deans Mill students and families, and he has done so without any expectation of gratitude or personal benefit, modeling to us how the simple act of serving others is in itself a reward,” said CAS awards committee member Mike Rafferty.

    McGee received the Distinguished Friend of Education Award for his daily work over the last ten years helping with parent drop off each morning at the school.

    The 20-year-old award is given annually to an individual, business or organization in recognition of outstanding service to education in Connecticut.

    As McGee finished reading to granddaughter Elsa McGee’s fifth grade class for the school’s Read Across America celebration, Principal Jennifer McCurdy and Vice Principal Thomas Bousquet, along with CAS representatives and family members, surprised him with the award, followed by a small reception in his honor.

    McGee, a retired lawyer, said he was moved to find a way to help after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and asked the superintendent at the time what he could do.

    Since then, through rain, snow, global pandemics and construction projects, the now 80-year-old McGee has reliably assisted with morning parent drop off by directing traffic, enforcing drop off protocols, helping students get out of vehicles and into the school, and always keeps a watchful eye on the school environment.

    He said he has enjoyed his time and the children, and joked about seeing some of them still brushing their teeth or eating breakfast as their parents pull up to drop them off.

    “The teachers are great, the principals are great and the kids are great,” McGee said, adding, “it’s great to see the different personalities and see how they grow over the years.”

    In fact, he has even watched that progression in his own grandchildren. Four of his eight grandchildren have attended Deans Mill. When he began, the oldest of the four was in second grade and is currently a senior at Stonington High School.

    At the reception, Bousquet read aloud some of the letters of support submitted as part of the nomination process including one written by Deputy Police Chief Todd Olson.

    “As the Stonington Police Department works closely with the schools in town, we have always included Hugh McGee as part of Deans Mill Schools' security due to his unwavering volunteerism. Mr. McGee took on a mission to make Deans Mill School a safer place after one of the worst school tragedies ever seen. As the Deputy Chief of the Stonington Police Department and a parent of two Deans Mill students, I am grateful for Mr. McGee’s efforts every day,” Olson’s letter read.

    “These are the kinds of contributions that happen that make our school community so special,” said Superintendent Mary Anne Butler after the reception.

    “This is another great example of the wonderful people we have in our community and how everyone can find a way to give back in some way,” said First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough.

    “I was totally surprised,” said McGee, adding, “I’ve enjoyed being here.”

    With his youngest grandchild moving on to middle school, it may seem that McGee’s tenure is over, but he responded without hesitation when asked if he would be returning next school year.

    “If they’ll have me,” he said.

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