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Westport Dog Festival, Sunday, June 5, Winslow Park, 10-4
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Friday, May 06, 2016

Superintendent Shuffle: Weston Hires Greenwich Super Image
William McKersie:  taking over from Westport-bound super. Contributed photo

The Town of Weston Board of Education Thursday night appointed Greenwich Schools Superintendent William S. McKersie as the district’s next superintendent of schools.

He succeeds Colleen Palmer who is leaving for the superintendent’s job in Westport. She will replace Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon, who is retiring next month after 17 years.

McKersie has led the Greenwich schools since 2012.

He takes over a district with 2,400 students compared to almost 9,000 in Greenwich. Both districts rank as among the top districts in the state in national rankings.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

RTM Approves School Board’s $113 Million Budget

By James Lomuscio

Following school board Vice Chairwoman Jeannie Smith’s spirited budget presentation about educational excellence and fiscal responsibility, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight unanimously approved the Board of Education’s $113,128,166 operating budget for 2016-17.

The budget represents a 1.29 percent increase over the current year, the lowest increase since the first year of the recession, said Smith.

During her presentation, Smith also praised Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring in June after 17 years. This was his last budget.

“Elliott has done such an outstanding job over the past 17 years,” said Smith. “He has been the leader of leaders.”

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History-Making Performance Image
James Gikas: Alexander the Great. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

James Gikas 14, a ninth grader at Staples High School, performed his original portrayal of Alexander the Great at Saturday’s state National History Day competition at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

He won second place in the category of Senior Individual Performance, which means he is going to the national competition at the University of Maryland in June.

This will be James’s second time going to the national competition.

He went last year for his performance as Winston Churchill.

James was among six Westport students winning awards at the competition.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

School Board Pleased with Energy, Cost Savings Plan

By James Lomuscio

Doing right by the environment while saving energy costs over the long run was the thrust of an Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) Committee report to the Board of Education tonight—and the board seemed pleased.

The report presented by First Selectman Jim Marpe and EPC Committee member Iain Bruce showed an $8.35 million total cost for the Westport’s eight schools and and four municipal buildings, with energy cost savings estimated at $8.7 million over 10 years.

The total projected costs for the schools, which comprise the lion’s share of the project, would be $7.57 million with $716,689 in energy savings the first year.

The investment grade audit report was prepared by the outside consultant NORESCO, the firm that the year-old EPC Committee hired after a competitive bid.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

USN&WR: Staples 14th Best in CT

U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR) has released its top public high schools list nationwide and Westport’s Staples High School is ranked 14th among 25 Connecticut high schools on the list. Nationally, Staples is No. 574. Image

Last year, Staples came in No. 7 in Connecticut in the US&NWR rankings. Nationally it was No. 329. (See WestportNow May 13, 2015)

The magazine cited Staples for its 99 percent graduation rate, a student-teacher ratio of 12:1 and a college readiness score of 53.1. See the USNWR Staples profile here. Its methodology is here.

Staples appeared to score lower on the USN&WR study based on its college readiness score which cited 56 percent taking Advanced Placement (AP) tests and 52 percent passing.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Entertaining at Diversity Conference at GFA Image
At Greens Farms Academy today, 630 Connecticut students and teachers gathered for a conference sponsored by the Committee on Diversity in Independent Schools. Entitled “Pieces of the Puzzle: More than Identity,” the day was divided into workshops on diversity issues facilitated by students. Students were also entertained in GFA’s new Performing Arts Center by music, talks, and spoken word poetry. GFA sophomore, Ililta Pina of Weston (above) sings “A Change is Gonna Come” to open the conference. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Conttributed photo

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Friday, April 15, 2016

CT High School Population Shrinking

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Connecticut is expected to have the third fastest decline of students enrolled in high school in the nation over the next 10 years, the U.S. Department of Education reports. Image
(CLICK TO ENLARGE) U.S. Department of Education graphic

This anticipated 11.6 percent decline means an estimated 17,400 fewer students will be attending high school in 2024 than in 2012, and 5,400 fewer graduating each year. Only New Hampshire and Vermont are expected to have larger declines during the same period, with estimated drops of 14.1 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively.

Nationwide, the percentage of high school students is expected to increase by 2.7 percent, the report said.

Connecticut has seen steady decreases in the number of students of all grades attending public school in the state over the last decade. This report, however, shows the decline is largely among high school students. The number of students estimated through grade 8 is not expected to change much, or 0.3 percent by 2024.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Malloy Defends Education Cuts to Affluent Towns

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

As sharp criticism built today of its proposal to end state education aid to 28 of the state’s wealthiest towns, the administration of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy released data to show that most of the towns affected have among the lowest mill rates in the state and rely relatively little on state aid. Image

[Westport, which stands to lose $1,982,936 in educational state aid under the Malloy proposal, had the 13th lowest mill among the 28 towns cited and was third lowest on the list of state aid share as part of its educational budget—tied with New Canaan at 1.85 percent with only Goshen and Warren lower at 0.99 percent and 0.45 percent respectively.]

Facing a sizable budget deficit, the governor on Tuesday proposed eliminating all of the $25 million that the state currently provides to the wealthiest communities through the Education Cost Sharing grant – a move decried by Republican legislators who largely represent those communities.

“We’re in a new economic reality. With fewer resources, it requires difficult choices,” said Devon Puglia, spokesman for the Democratic governor. “We need to provide support to schools and districts that need it most. Taking the same percentage of cuts in towns with wildly varying mill rates and tax bases just doesn’t make sense. We believe we should protect those schools that rely on us most.”

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Steinberg: Proposed $2M Educational Cut ‘Dead on Arrival’

UPDATE Westport State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg said today that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan to eliminate education cost sharing (ECS) grants to 28 of Connecticut’s wealthiest school districts—including an almost $2 million cut for Westport—is “dead on arrival” in the state legislature. Image
Jonathan Steinberg: Malloiy’s proposal “a provocation.” Contributed photo

“We in the legislature, virtually all of us, view it as a provocation,” said Steinberg, who represents Westport. “We interpret it as the governor telling us he doesn’t need to respect the legislature, and he’s making it very difficult for us to engage in further negotiations as we attempt to reach closure on the budget in the next few weeks.”

Under Malloy’s plan, Westport would see its state educational aid reduced from $1,988,255 to zero.

Malloy’s proposal to cut ECS grants is the administration’s latest effort to close a $922 million deficit projected for the next fiscal year. While the proposal aims to cut the ECS grants to the wealthiest towns, it aims to protect the state’s 30 lowest performing school districts.

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Monday, April 11, 2016

For Landon, a Letter of ‘Integrity’

By James Lomuscio

For Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon it’s a matter—and a letter—of integrity. Image
Elliott Landon: has attorney’s letter for tonight’s meeting. Dave Matlow for

And at tonight’s Board of Education he will be tooled up with school counsel’s written opinion to the board that the February break does not violate the state’s Uniform School Calendar policy.

According to Landon, the opinion by Thomas B. Mooney and Jessica Richman Smith of the firm Shipman & Goodwin vindicates him from board members “questioning my integrity” at the March 28 when Landon said he had checked and cleared the February break with the school system’s legal counsel.

Landon, who is retiring in June, bemoaned the day after the meeting that some board members questioned his integrity “for the first time in 17 years”  when he told them had direct confirmation. (See WestportNow March 29, 2016)

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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Tryouts for the Staples Cheerleading Team Set Image
Tryouts for the Staples High School Cheerleading Team for eighth to 12th graders will be held Wednesday,  May 4. From 3 to 6 p.m., there will be a clinic to learn cheers and dance, organizers said, to be followed at 7 p.m. by tryouts. The sessions will take place in the Staples field house. Those interested must complete a registration form online. For additional information, visit: (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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Friday, April 08, 2016

Proud Artist Image
Emanuel Linvald, 5, of Westport shows off his self-portrait today at a Westport Library reception marking the Week of the Young Child. The annual event is a celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers and families. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for

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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Staples Junior Named Governor’s Scholar

Staples High School junior Emily Schussheim has been named a Governor’s Scholar, the Westport school district announced today. Image
Emily Schussheim: among 30 students chosen. Contributed photo

The Governor’s Scholars Awards recognize academically talented high school students in schools throughout the state. Emily was among 30 students chosen for the honor.

In addition to excelling in academics, she has found time to stay involved in her many passions, including being a cellist in school’s chamber orchestra as well as principal cellist for the Norwalk Youth Symphony.  She is a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.

An accomplished writer, her work has been published in the school’s literary magazine, Soundings, as well as Canvas and Creative Kids. 

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Landon: Board Questioned His Integrity

By James Lomuscio

UPDATE (adds board statement) Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring in June, today bemoaned that some school board members Monday night questioned his integrity “for the first time in 17 years.” Image
Elliott Landon: “They were questioning my truthfulness.” Dave Matlow for

At issue: Landon’s word based on legal counsel regarding the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic calendars.

Landon told the board that he had direct confirmation from school counsel Thomas Mooney that his plan to have three, one-week vacations during those academic years did not violate the state’s Uniform School Calendar policy.

The state policy stipulates only two one-week vacations throughout the academic year, not three. Landon, conferring with Mooney, said that three weeks, specifically the February break, passes muster under the law since four flex days could be added to the Presidents Day holiday.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Another Honor for Staples Senior Image
Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon presents Jaime Bairaktaris with his award. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

In appreciation of his commitment to service, Staples High School senior Jaime Bairaktaris has been awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Secretary of the State of Connecticut and the Connecticut Citizenship Fund.

The award, announced today by the school district, recognizes high school students who have gone above and beyond to make a difference to their community.

Staples was asked to nominate one student for this honor and Jaime was selected “because of his kindness, his hard work, and his consistent dedication to service in Westport,” the announcement said.

In addition to his studies, Jaime is a WestportNow contributing photographer and volunteers as an Emergency Medical Technician for Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Services where he serves on its board of directors. 

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Westport’s Music Education Scores National Honor

For the fourth year in a row, the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation has honored Westport for music education, school officials announced today.

Westport joins 476 districts across the country in receiving this year’s Best Communities Music Education award.

“We are so fortunate to live in a town that recognizes and values the importance of the arts in education,” said Thomas Scavone, Westport’s supervisor of music education.

“It is gratifying that our community sees the arts as an educational requisite for a balanced, well-educated student.

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Nominees Sought for Youth Service Award

The Westport Youth Commission (WYC) is seeking nominees for the annual James S. Bacharach Service to the Community Award, Human Services Director Barbara Butler announced today.

Since 1989 awards have been given as a tribute to the late James S. Bacharach, founder and past-president of the Youth Adult Council, predecessor of the WYC, which Bacharach and others founded in 1974

“All qualified high school seniors from Westport are eligible for this award,” said Butler. 

“This honor, given to one or more high school seniors from Westport, recognizes their significant community service contributions in our town.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

BMS Newspaper Gets Scholastic’s Highest Honor Image
The Bedford Middle School newspaper Ursus took top honors in the competition. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Bedford Middle School’s student newspaper Ursus received a Gold Crown Award, the top honor, from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA), school officials announced today.

The CSPA contest is the nation’s largest and longest running scholastic press competition, judging papers and yearbooks from almost 2,000 schools from across the country.

According to Lisa Marriott, spokeswoman for the Westport schools, the recognition represents one of only two Gold Crowns awarded on the national-level for middle school newspapers, joining Harvard Westlake, a private school in Los Angeles, in receiving top honors.

Marriott said that Stephen Rexford, the teacher-adviser to Ursus, was invited by Columbia University to present a seminar for advisers of student publication at the 92nd annual spring convention.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Staples Students Excel in History Competition

Staples High School students excelled in the the Fairfield Region National History Day 2016 competition at Sacred Heart University Saturday in Fairfield. Image
Matt Gibson, a Staples High School 10th grader, receives his award for “American Immigration Policy 1960s.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Dozens of area teams competed in the annual academic competition with projects as diverse as Walt Disney and the American Dream, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, and Islamaphobia.

National History Day has grown in size and popularity in the past few years, offering students a chance to compete academically through their historical research. 

The event, now part of the Staples U.S. History Honors curriculum, saw more than 150 Westport students participate, including some from Bedford Middle School. 

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BMS Science Whizzes Image
Westport’s Bedford Middle School placed second statewide in the Science Olympiad Tournament Saturday at Irving Robbins Middle School in Farmington. The Science Olympiad events include knowledge-based and building events. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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Monday, March 21, 2016

12 Westport Teens Are U.S. Presidential Scholar Candidates

Twelve Westport teens – seven of them from Staples High School – are among a select group of students nationwide named as honorees and candidates in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

The program recognizes students for their academic and extra-curricular involvement with both the school and their community.

The Staples students include: William O. Andrews; Claudia Chen; Rachel O. Corbally; George Menz; Audrey Seo; Steven K. Xu, and Xiaotian Zhang.

Westport students attending other schools include: Brian Beaumonte, Saint Luke’s School; Jacob J. Klegar, Choate Rosemary Hall, and the following Hopkins School students:  Grant M. Moberg; Neha Srivastava, and Michael Zhou.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Final Curtain Call for Staples Players Seniors Image
Tonight was closing night of the Staples Players “The Drowsy Chaperone” and the final main stage production for seniors. Vignesh Namasivayam, Players president and a senior, and director David Roth waved goodbye. Roth and co-director Kerry Long recognized each senior and gave him or her a rose. “I’m just going to try to get through this without crying,” Roth said. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for

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Gallery: Closing Night of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’

Scenes from tonight’s closing night Staples Players production of “The Drowsy Chaperone.” Lynn U. Miller for

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Tops at Staples Image
Staples High School announced today that William Andrews and Hannah DeBalsi are this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively. Used to winning, he is co-captain of the Staples championship tennis team while she is a nationally ranked runner – the best female track star in Wrecker history. Andrews will speak at graduation in June. DeBalsi will address her classmates at baccalaureate, the night before. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Finance Board Approves $112.6 Million School Budget

By James Lomuscio

As expected, Westport’s Board of Finance (BOF) tonight unanimously approved the Board of Education’s proposed $112.6 million operating budget for 2016-17, a 1.29 percent increase over the current year.

Touted as the second lowest school board increase in a more than a decade, the budget approval came with a vote of confidence that the school board was on track as much as possible toward toward the finance board’s “zero-based budget” philosophy.

“I think the result is going to be good for Westport,” said Brian Stern, finance board chairman, adding that it would keep taxes in check while funding “excellent town services.”

The Board of Finance also voted unanimously on the overall town budget, $204,039,595, a 0.97 percent increase. It comprises the schools’s and the $91.6 million municipal one, a .79 percent increase, that the finance board approved Tuesday night.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

James D’Amico Voted New Staples Principal

Following a months’ long national search, the Westport school board tonight voted unanimously to appoint James D’Amico, Westport’s director of secondary education, as Staples High School’s new principal. Image
James D’Amico: takes over July 1.  Dave Matlow for

D’Amico, 39, replaces John Dodig who retired last year. Mark Karagus, who has an extensive background in secondary education, is filling in as interim principal through the end of June. D’Amico takes the helm July 1.

“Staples is the crown jewel of Westport,” said D’Amico, lauding its long history of educational excellence. “We have extraordinary teams here that make that happen.

“It’s an honor and an extraordinary responsibility,” he added about heading a school that is “a model of what public education can be.”

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Staples Hosts Brain Talk

The connection between the mind and body is the subject of a Staples High School talk next week by a best-selling author, which is open to the public. Image
John Medina: to discuss brain and body connection. Contributed photo

John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and founding director of two brain research institutes, will speak at the school on Wednesday, March 23 at 6 p.m, the school district announced today.

He is the author of The New York Times best-selling book “Brain Rules.”

Among his topics—how people learn, the effects of stress on the brain and how physical activity benefits cognition, an announcement said.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Staples Students Offered Free Bottle of Water Image
Discoloration of water at Westport’s Staples High School today led to school officials offering one free bottle of water to students. In an announcement, Interim Principal Mark A. Karagus said the school was waiting for the Aquarion Water Company to complete further testing of the school’s hot water heaters, where sediment causing the discoloration has been located. The problem began Thursday, and Karagus said it was hoped to be fixed by Monday. The water issue has been especially vexing for culinary classes, which need hot water for proper dishwashing. Other protocols have been put into place for food safety and sanitation, according to school officials. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jaime Bairaktaris for

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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Landon to State: Calendar Penalties Threaten Local Control

Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon Monday night in Hartford harshly criticized a legislative proposal that would impose financial penalties on districts that do not adhere to the state’s Regional Uniform School Calendar. Image
Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon testifying in Hartford Monday night. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo from CT-N Network

He said every school district has the right to create its own academic calendar.

“I am here today to speak against this latest legislative proposal which would have the effect of imposing severe financial penalties upon those school districts that do not abide by the unfunded mandate regarding a Regional Uniform School Calendar,” Landon told the General Assembly’s Education Committee.

He also urged committee members “to do your best to undo in its entirety the unfunded mandate of a Regional Uniform School Calendar.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Celebrating Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Image
Westport’s Saugatuck Elementary School today celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday and National Read Across America Day by launching its “One Book, One School” initiative. The school-wide book club was kicked off at a special meeting that unveiled the book’s title, “Kenny and the Dragon” by Tony DiTerlizzi, and treated students to a playact of the book. Every family received a keepsake copy, courtesy of the school’s PTA, as well as every faculty and staff member. Said Principal Beth Messler (pictured with students in Amy Howland’s first grade class): “We aim to build a community of readers and have fun doing it.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

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