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Now president the Killingworth Nursery School based in the Killingworth Congregational Church, Jessica DeAngelo is busy raising two children and keeping the 60-year-old organization a relevant service in her hometown. (Photo by Tom Conroy/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Like the guy in the old Hair Club for Men commercials, Jessica DeAngelo is not only the president; she’s also a customer.
And she’s a satisfied customer. Recently appointed as president of the board of the Killingworth Nursery School, located in the Congregational Church on Route 81, Jessica, a 35-year-old Killingworth resident, has been sending her son Noah, age 4, to the school for two years.
“It’s a fun, loving, nurturing learning environment,” she says. “It was definitely a safe haven for my family, because we had a bad experience at a previous nursery school.”
Noah had difficulties with his social skills.
“He’s doing so much better here,” says Jessica. “I think he felt safer.”
Noah will be attending the school’s pre-K program this fall, and Jessica believes he will be well prepared for kindergarten.
“When you pick up a four-year-old,” she says, “he doesn’t say, ‘I learned this, this, and this today.’ But then I’ll watch him do certain things at home, and I’m like, ‘I didn’t teach him that!’ So I know he’s picking up what they’re doing.”
Her younger son, Owen, who will be two in November, might attend the school’s Terrific Tots program this fall. It’s a once-a-week class in which children are accompanied by a parent or caregiver.
Jessica says that being president of the board, which has four members, all parents or grandparents of students, is “like a little part-time job.” Although the school’s director, Mary Angus, handles the day-to-day administration and the curriculum planning, the board is in charge.
“I have to be the deciding factor,” Jessica says. “Last year I was secretary for the board, and I got to say, ‘Well, this is what I think, but it’s up to you….’”
Jessica takes a leading role in publicizing the school and in raising money. The board is currently working on a fundraiser in conjunction with the HK Dairy Barn in Higganum, which will donate 10 percent of its ice cream sales from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 22.
Since the school is a nonprofit cooperative, all of the parents are expected to volunteer. With more and more two-career couples, this can be a challenge.
“We try to be accommodating,” says Jessica. “Obviously, everybody has other work schedules.”
Because there are fewer stay-at-home moms, more parents are choosing full-time day care rather than part-time nursery school. Along with a general decline in the school-age population in the area, this has affected enrollment. Mary, the school’s director, says that when she started working at the school, 30 years ago, it had about 60 students a year. This fall, they hope to have about 12.
Now in its 60th year of operation, the Killingworth Nursery School was founded by a group of local parents who got together to raise enough funds to rent its original building, a cottage on Roast Meat Hill Road in Killingworth. The school relocated to the church in 1966.
Mary is now teaching kids whose parents she taught. Jessica and Mary say that it’s hard for them to have meetings in restaurants because so many people come up to their table and say, “Hi, Mrs. Angus!”
Jessica’s roots in town don’t go quite that far back. Born in East Haven, she moved to Killingworth with her family when she was in the 8th grade.
“I thought, ‘Oh, man, I don’t want to live here at all!’ In East Haven, everything’s right there. Here, it’s not right there,” she says.
“We’ve actually come a long way,” she adds. “We have a Dunkin’ Donuts in town.”
After graduating from Haddam-Killingworth High School, Jessica attended Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island. She and her future husband, Mike, who grew up in Clinton, were classmates, although she says they didn’t meet until their junior year. Mike disputes that.
“Apparently, I went to his dorm freshman year looking for his roommate,” says Jessica. “And he answered the door. But I have no recollection of that whatsoever.”
They later realized that they had many mutual acquaintances from Clinton and Killingworth.
After college, the couple lived in Cromwell before settling in Killingworth in 2011. Mike commutes to a job as a manager in the finance department at Yale New Haven Health.
Jessica, who has a degree in business administration with a concentration in computer information systems, says that current events have made her career path a little rocky. A job at a mortgage company in Middletown ended, she says, because of the financial crisis of 2008, and a job as a medical underwriter ended because of Obamacare. It was then she decided to become a full-time mom.
Her boys still keep her busy, but she has taken on a part-time job in a store at the Tanger Outlets in Westbrook.
Although she jokes that the big difference between volunteering and salaried work is “pay,” Jessica says she draws great satisfaction from her board position.
“It’s nice to be able to give back to the school,” she says, “because they have done so much for my child. It’s nice to be in a role where I feel I can make a difference.”
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