Monday, January 30, 2017
UPDATE After several weeks of discussions and debate, Westport’s Board of Education tonight cleared the way to approve a request by the school’s transportation director to put three-point seat belts in 13 of the district’s school buses starting next year.
The request made by director Sandra Evangelista would total $120,900, with more than half of that amount being budgeted for the 2017-18 academic year to retrofit seven buses, and the remaining six buses for 2018-19.
While most board members seemed in favor of the proposal, the actual vote will come next week as part of the 2017-18 budget.
According to Elio Longo, school business administrator, each of the retrofits would cost about $9,300.
By James Lomuscio
Even though it was not on tonight’s school board agenda, parents and students one after the other came forward to protest. A couple of them cried. Others were in disbelief.
They had just learned that the Staples High School child development program as it exists now would be discontinued next year.
Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer’s decision to reshuffle the program to the social studies department was stealthily done without seeking parent and student input, they argued.
They also expressed concern about the future of Linda McClary, the long time, well-loved program teacher.
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Westport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer today welcomes guests to the Westport Historical Society (WHS) exhibit “Westport School Days 1703-Present” as Bob Mitchell (l), WHS president, and Bob Weingarten, curator, look on. The exhibit runs through March 25. Simultaneously, in the Mollie Donovan Gallery, debuting was “Katherine Ross: Artist and Art Educator.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Among the items on view at the new Westport HIstorical Society exhbit, “School Days 1703-Present,” which opened today, were a collection of class photos, a couple dating from the 19th century. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Ayush Rudra, 7, a second grader at Kings Highway Elementary School, today eyes an old fashioned school desk and its mannequin occupant at today’s opening of the Westport Historical Society exhibit “School Days 1703-Present.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com
Scenes from today’s opening reception at the Westport Historical Society for its new exhibit, “School Days 1703-Present.” It runs through March 25. Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com and WestportNow.com photos
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Staples High School sophomore Kayla Sirlin, 15, today shows off her joint National History Day project (completed with fellow sophomore Paige Anderson, 16) at the Westport Library. Called “A (Snap) Shot in the Dark,” it features Westport award-winning photographer Lynsey Addario, a 1991 Staples graduate, and Jacob Riis, a photographer, writer, and social reformer (1849–1914) who used his camera to spotlight harsh New York City tenement conditions. The project won a gold star in the competition and will advance to the regional National History Day competition at Sacred Heart University in March. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Muhammad Ali, the professional boxer and activist who died last June, was the theme of a Staples High School National History Day project displayed today at the Westport Library. Called “Muhammad Ali: Fighting More Than Just His Opponent,” it was created by sophomores (l-r) Zach Strober, 15, Austin Sholes, 16, and Jack Nealon, 15. Entries were judged by volunteers and ranked for possible submission to the regional National History Day competition in June. Lauren Frances, the schools’ 6-12 social studies coordinator, said about 200 Staples students participated in the event. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Westport Historical Society board members Michaela McColl (l) and Stacey Danielson were among the 12 judges today who judged entries in the “Taking a Stand: Westport Celebrates National History Day 2017” competition among Staples High School U.S. history students at the Westport Library. Judges ranked each exhibit with gold, silver, or bronze stars as students sought feedback for entry into the National History Day regional competition in March. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Scenes from today’s “Taking a Stand: Westport Celebrates National History Day 2017” event at the Westport Library displaying Staples High School U.S. history students’ projects for the National History Day regional competition in March. Lauren Francese, school social studies coordinatior, said the regional organizers were “overwhelmed” by the prospect of so many Staples entries that the school decided to hold today’s event to provide feedback to students on their efforts. In addition to the exhibits, some students developed websites, made documentary films or put on performances. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com and WestportNow.com photos
Thursday, January 26, 2017
The Westport Historical Society presents a new exhibit highlighting the evolution of education in Westport from 1703 to the present. The exhibit will bring back many school day memories as well as focus on Westport’s growth as an exceptional community for learning. The picture of the school on the banner was the Highway District School built in 1858. Members of the exhibits committees and (l-r) are Wally Woods, Barbara Peck, Katherine Ross, Susan Gold, Elizabeth Strick (in back) Nicole Carpenter and Bob Weingarten, the exhibit curator. The exhibit opens Sunday with a reception from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and runs through March 23. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com
Staples High School students are set to show they know a lot about history — both the national and regional kind.
On Saturday, the Westport Library will host 10th grade U.S. history honors students for “Westport Celebrates History Day: Taking a Stand” as they work on their projects for the annual National History Day competition.
The annual competition includes regional (Fairfield County), state, and national contests that enable students to showcase in-depth research on local, regional, or national issues.
The library event from 9 a.m. to noon will allow the students to present first drafts of their work, receive feedback from local judges, and leverage that feedback to prepare for the first round of competition at Sacred Heart University in March, an announcement said.
Staples High School Senior Sarah Barnett and Junior Charlie Colasurdo (r. top and bottom) were chosen to represent the United States at the recent International Science Youth Forum in Singapore. They were two of six students from across the country chosen to take part in the weeklong forum, featuring workshops with Nobel laureates and eminent scientists. Science teacher Karen Thompson accompanied the students. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Megan Laney, 25, a 2009 Staples High School graduate, tonight told a Staples student meeting of her love for Syria that she found after attending university there in 2011. “The hardest day for me was when we were evacuated out of Aleppo University, and I had to leave all of my friends and return to a town as great as Westport while they had to stay,” she told students, some in tears. Days after her evacuation in 2011, she said her university was bombed and many of her friends perished. The program organized by students seeking to aid Syria will be repeated Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Staples library. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jaime Bairaktaris for WestportNow.com
Staples High School students tonight explained to fellow students and community members the importance of aid to Syrian at a presentation in the Staples library about their new initiative, “Change for Syria.” The event included a student-made documentary, a raffle with gifts from Saugatuck Sweets, Sakura, and others, and a talk given by a locally residing Syrian refugee. To date, they have raised almost $2,000 for Syrian refugees. All donations go to the nonprofit organization NuDay Syria. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jaime Bairaktaris for WestportNow.com
Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer (r) today told a League of Women Voters of Westport brown bag lunch at Town Hall that she is carefully warching Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s choice for education secretary. She said of DeVos, who heads a pro-school-choice advocacy group: “I am hopeful that she is willing to learn … I hope she causes no harm to us in Connecticut.” Palmer said welcomes suggestions from Westport residents and is always availablr to answer questions.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Thirty students from the Staples High School Music Department recently participated in the Connecticut Music Educators Association (CMEA) Western Regional Music Festival. The festival, hosted by Staples, involved 30 schools and close to 400 students from the western part of the state. Pictured are members of the the concert band. Staples students participating included: orchestra - James Gikas, Chloe Hankey, Angela Ji, Lauren Schmidt, Jack Whitten, Jessica Xu, Justin Berg, Michael Fording, Melanie Lust, Maya Namasivayam, Anella Lefebvre, Sophia Thomas, Seohyun Hong, and Samantha Atlas; chorus - Madison Malin; jazz band - Declan Harding, Joseph Williams, Nick Rossi, and Joshua Sigal; and concert band - James Mudholkar, Woongki Hong, Benjamin Schussheim, Preston Lust, Justin Lovro, Zachary Gurahian, Andrew Badeski, Jacob Kitchner, Michael Woods, Will O’Halloran and Sophia Han. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
TEAM Westport, the town’s multicultural committee, and the Westport Library today announced the fourth annual Teen Diversity Essay Contest.
The contest is open to students in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or reside in Westport and attend school elsewhere.
An announcement said “the focus of the contest is the issue of ‘white privilege,’ which surfaced as a topic during the recent presidential election.”
Students are asked to describe in 1,000 words or less how they understand the term “white privilege.”
A select group of Staples HIgh School string players today enjoyed a master class with Igor Pikayzen, concert violinist and 2005 Staples graduate. The one-hour master class included a short performance by the guest musician, followed by three student musicians playing and being critiqued by Pikayzen. Pictured are Staples violinists Jack Whitten (l) and James Gikas. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
By James Lomuscio
Even though it’s exam time at Westport’s Staples High School, students in teacher Cathy Schager’s Contemporary World class aren’t cramming for tests.
They’re tackling a different kind of final, one that puts them in touch with the world they studied — raising funds for civilians affected by ongoing violence in Syria.
So, while other students are hunkering down at desks, students like seniors Eli Debenham, Lauren Davis, Emir Beg and George Goldstein can be found outside the cafeteria asking for spare change.
Hence the program they started: Spare Change for Syria. And the coin drops are adding up.
Friday, January 13, 2017
By James Lomuscio
For the first time in at least 18 years, Westport’s schools superintendent did not make the top 10 list of the district’s highest wage earners, according to a 2016 report today from Elio Long, director of school business operations.
That’s because the superintendent salaries were basically split for 2016. Former Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who retired in June after 17 years at the helm, earned $148,640 and his replacement, current Superintendent Colleen Palmer earned $142,675, since July 1.
That being said, the top earner for the district in 2016 was Longo, earning $201,373.
James D’Amico, Staples High School principal, came in second on the list with a $180,475 salary.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
The Staples High School Service League of Boys (SLOBS) tonight presented a check to Jimeale Hede, founder of the Brighter Lives for Kids Foundation, which aims to provide opportunities and experiences to children in Bridgeport. She spoke to the group tonight about the foundation, which was also the recipient of a SLOBS donation of school supplies made possible by a recent Ping-Pong and basketball fundraiser. SLOBS is the largest club at Staples and seeks to strengthen parent-son relationships and promote leadership development through community service activities. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Monday, January 09, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Westport’s school transportation coordinator pitched the Board of Education two items tonight to further safeguard children on school buses -— three-point, shoulder lap seat belts and cameras to catch scofflaws who pass stopped buses.
While the board took no action on either proposal, some board members favored both.
Chairman Michael Gordon expressed strong support for the proposed RedFlex Student Guardian camera system designed to nab drivers who ignore a school bus’s flashing lights and stop arm. The system allows police to cite violators based on vehicle and license plate photos and video evidence received.
A RedFlex representative who appeared with district transportation coordinator Sandy Evangelista stressed the system would be placed on 10 percent of the town’s 40-bus Dattco fleet—and that it would come at no cost to the town. It would be funded by each $450 violation fine, about two to three per week, she said.
Staples High School has announced its latest Students of the Month. The award program recognizes students who help make the school a welcoming place for their peers and teachers alike. They are nominated by their teachers, who are asked to select all-around good school citizens. Pictured are (back row, l-r) Cody Gornbein, Kyle Ehrlich, Zachary Halperin, Isaac Otero and Sophie Smith (middle row) Emma Curci, Tamikah Boyer, Jose Hernandex and Johanna Haka (front row) Alexandra Ede, Sasha Arellano and Larkin Corr. Missing from picture is Brendan Connors. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Friday, January 06, 2017
The Board of Education met at the Westport Library’s McManus Room today for an all-day budget review session. Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer has proposed a 2.44 percent increase was proposed for fiscal 2017-18 to $115,359,000. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy set the stage in his 2017 State of the State address today for a protracted and difficult debate on how to further shrink state government, extract more concessions from unions on pension and health benefits, and better focus a smaller pool of state aid for education on the systems most in need.
After recently negotiating significant changes to how the state will pay down its unfunded pension liability, Malloy alerted a half-dozen labor leaders before the speech that he will be seeking unspecified concessions that he says must be part of “a responsible and balanced solution to our budget problem.”
“These changes can and should be reached respectfully, and at the bargaining table,” Malloy told a joint session of the General Assembly. “Our state must honor its legal obligation to our public servants and state retirees, while at the same time keeping our promises to Connecticut taxpayers.”
In his seventh speech marking the opening of a General Assembly session, the Democratic governor eschewed his usual practice of pitching new initiatives, instead emphasizing concessions, the size of government and local aid as three broad areas he sees dominating a session certain to hinge once again on the struggle to the balance the budget in a state not fully recovered from the Great Recession of 2008.
Glenn Hightower of Westport, who served three decades as principal at Bedford Junior High and Middle Schools and later as principal of Westport Adult and Continuing Education, died Jan. 1 at home. He was 76.
Known for his easy going manner, Hightower combined his love of teaching with his love of athletics.
A native of Oklahoma City, Glenn Edward Hightower, or Dr. Hightower as he became known to legions of Westporters, excelled in athletics through high school and at Oklahoma State University until a medical condition eventually ended his formal sports career, according to a profile published when he was honored in 2005 by the Sportsmen of Westport.
But he continued to be active, competing in area and national handball tournaments, running marathons, including the New York Marathon 15 times and 10 ultra (50-mile) marathons. It was routine for him to knock off eight to 10 miles before reporting to work and 20 to 25 miles on weekends.
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Offering up her first spending plan, Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer tonight unveiled a $115,358,712 proposed operating budget for the 2017-18 academic year, a 2.44 percent or $2.75 million increase over the current year.
The budget is a significant drop from her initial “very preliminary” estimate in October of a 4.1 percent increase.
It was achieved by more than $900,000 in cuts, an anticipated $1.2 million from healthcare reserves, and $165,000 from the carryover account, Palmer told a Board of Education meeting.
“We kept the reductions away from the classroom and the integrity of any academic programs,” said Palmer, who took over July 1 from the retired Elliott Landon.
On the eve of the opening of this year’s legislative session in Hartford, the League of Women Voters of Westport tonight hosted a two-hour “Pie and Politics” pizza session at the Veterans of of Foreign Wars Post in Westport attended by about 30 persons. The town’s four state representatives—Sens. Toni Boucher, Tony Hwang, and Reps. Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle —agreed that the session would be different since for the first time since 1893, Republicans and Democrats hold equal number of seats in the State Senate. They also unanimously condemned the cut in state education aid to Westport midway through the fiscal year and promised to work to free the town from costly state education mandates. “It’s ridiculous to have to use some (state-mandated) software system,” said Steinberg, citing one example. “It doesn’t make sense at all.” Said Hwang of the Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) state aid sytem: “No forumula, no predicability, no transparency.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Thursday, December 29, 2016
The governor’s budget office said today Westport’s Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) aid from the state would be cut an additional $443,947, bringing the total reduction from the previous fiscal year to $1,517,602. In addition, Westport will see a $146,394 reduction in its Local Capital Improvement Program (LoCIP) grant. While every town is touched by the $50 million in reductions, the cuts to education largely fall on the state’s wealthiest communities. Administration officials said the cuts had to be made now to achieve the savings goals included in the current 2016-17 state budget. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Ctmirror.org graphic