When longtime Augusta Lewis Troup School Principal Richard Kaliszewski got cancer, Fred Boateng left Springfield College in Massachusetts, to which Mr. K. had helped guide him. He came back to New Haven specifically to help take care of the man Boateng and many others called the greatest father figure in their lives.
Boateng was one of dozens of teary-eyed students and colleagues who came together Sunday to share poignant memories and to dedicate the new school gymnasium in honor of the man his colleagues called “K” and his students “Mr. K.”
Kaliszewski served as Troup’s principal between 1989 and 2011.
After formal remarks in the school auditorium, the gym was dedicated and a “Mr. K” plaque formally affixed. Choosing a gym was appropriate, said Erik Patchkofsky, who taught phys ed at Troup under K for 16 years. He said K would not only stay himself working every night until 11; he also kept the gym open equally as late as a refuge for kids from the tough streets nearby.
That’s where Boateng met K, in the gym, when Boateng was playing league basketball. He went on to run the gymnasium on K’s behalf.
“He impacted more people than all the people I know,” said Patchkofsky.
A similar encomium came from Troy Long, a veteran teacher at Troup who called K “the ultimate psychologist” who instinctively knew how to deal with the whole range of kids; a teacher who knew every kid’s name and checked up daily on every kid in every class who was having trouble. In 1999, when the Board of Ed central office planned to transfer K to another school, parents went down in droves, 500 of them,” Long recalled. No further attempt was ever made to transfer Richard Kaliszewski.
Enico Jones said when he was in the fifth grade, he was daily tossed out of fifth-period class and sent to Mr. K’s office. There, instead of sending him home, K showed him his own books—by training, Kaliszewski was a language arts teacher—and assigned a set number of pages from Edgar Alan Poe and John Steinbeck for reading. Then they would discuss.
“He also created a job for me at Troup” said Jones. Only years later in high school did Jones find out that all along the $40-dollar-a-week job, cleaning up around the school, was a conspiratorial creation of K and Jones’s mom to keep the young man out of trouble and to teach responsibility. K also had Jones apply to go to Hopkins, Choate, and Hamden Hall for high school. He didn’t get in, but Jones understood that K wanted to open up possibilities to him, he said.
“To not make him proud would hurt me more than him,” Jones said.
It worked. They kept in touch weekly about every topic throughout high school. After attending Cross, this May Jones graduated from Georgetown University. He plans to pursue a master’s in sociology. “It kind of devastated me when I looked and could not see him in the audience at graduation,” said Jones.
Jones ended his formal remarks by saying, “Mr. K will always be the greatest role model in my life.” A standing ovation ensued.
Troup’s current principal, Michael T. Conner, said plans are under way to honor Mr. K further by inscribing his name on the floor of the new gym in a section where his many admirers can sit.
In the principal’s last months, Boateng drove him to work from home. K would take a break from his duties, then go out to chemotherapy, and return, not home, but to Troup to finish the school day.
Fred Boateng is now finishing up his program at Southern Connecticut State. When he graduates, he plans to be a nurse.