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Nov 6, 2012 2:06 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Montauk School Mourns Loss Of Teacher's Aide

Nov 8, 2012 9:50 AM

On Monday morning, Montauk School Superintendent Jack Perna found himself the center of attention in classrooms, with students gathered around him, as he broke the news about the only life Hurricane Sandy had claimed near them.

Edith “Dee” Wright, 52, of Montauk, had worked at the school for about seven years as a teacher’s aide, mostly with kindergartners and this year as a one-on-one aide with first-graders. Her body was recovered on the morning of October 30 at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. She had been last seen walking her dog the night before during the height of the storm, when, it is believed, she was swept to sea and drowned.

“We’re talking about the storm,” he said. “We’re talking about how sometimes it damages homes, and cars and trees and sometimes people. Many of them know, many of their parents know. I told them already. And then a little moment of silence. I tell them about her two daughters, how wonderful they are. And to keep them in their thoughts.”

Ms. Wright, who was from Yonkers, summered in Montauk her whole life, according to Mr. Perna, who is a friend of her family. Friends remembered her as a fan of Halloween, often going all out with costumes for the holiday. As an employee, she was flexible and honest, willing to fill whatever role was needed.

“She was kind but also strict and fair,” Mr. Perna said, “which is what you want with a teacher.”

Her husband, Norvell Wright, died several years ago. She 
is survived by her daughters Kiah, 23, and Laini, 18, who 
had both attended Montauk School.

Montauk was particularly hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, as businesses and beaches were severely damaged from the storm. The storm also damaged a part of Montauk School’s roof, and left four of the school’s classrooms flooded. One estimate puts the damage at $325,000, Mr. Perna said, although he believes insurance will cover it.

But all the building issues are secondary compared to the loss of Ms. Wright, Mr. Perna said.

Ms. Wright’s death is hard for students, but it’s even more difficult for the school’s staff to cope with—something he’s found to be the case in past tragedies, Mr. Perna said.

“They’re sad, but—and I got criticized for saying this from one parent—kids are more resilient than we are,” he said.

It has been difficult for teacher Kerri Corron and teacher’s aide Vicki Simonson, who worked closely with Ms. Wright. The two wrote a letter describing their mutual friendship.

“It is often stated that three people can’t work together, one member feels left out,” the letter, written by Ms. Corron, reads. “But, that was not the case at all. The best way to describe our relationship is to refer to a triangle. A triangle is one of the strongest supports—and that is just the way we were.”

“In the classroom, Vicki, being one point of the triangle, offered unconditional love to us and the students. Dee, being another point, offered a love of learning, teaching students to be accountable and telling me when to ‘knock it off.’ I’d like to believe that I offered students motivation to learn and gave humorous advice to Vicki and Dee. Throughout the days, throughout the two years we worked together, the greatest gift was that the students benefited from this triangle.”

There are upcoming fundraisers for Ms. Wright’s family, according to Tracey Gardell, who organized a successful Halloween fundraiser at her business 668 The Gig Shack. There is one scheduled for Thursday at The Dock in Montauk. Gurney’s Inn, in conjunction with the Stephen Talkhouse and musician Nancy Atlas, is also organizing another fundraiser for sometime in December, Ms. Gardell said.

Other Montauk School employees also remembered Ms. Wright and spoke highly of her daughters. The two girls have been handling the death with maturity and poise, according to some in the Montauk School community.

Sarah Newbery, a teacher’s aide, said Ms. Wright was “a very strong woman”— a trait she passed along to her daughters. Ms. Wright’s death is “the world’s loss,” she said. “She was a light.”

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But, where is the dog?
By Q333 (161), Southampton on Nov 8, 12 10:51 AM
RIP Dee, you will be missed by all at the dock. Your girls were fortunate to have such a loving mother. My sincere condolences to them.
By mtkfishman (76), montauk on Nov 8, 12 2:01 PM