Thursday, March 19, 2015
With Praise, Finance Board Approves School Budget
By James Lomuscio
With laurels of praise for the Board of Education, Westport’s Board of Finance tonight unanimously approved a $111,471,756 proposed school operating budget, a 2.08 percent increase, for the 2015-16 academic year.
Finance board member after finance board member lauded the school board and the administration, plus the entire budget process. Each said the school board had incorporated Board of Finance input making it fiscally sound and transparent.
“This is the best of the four budgets I’ve seen in my time on the board,’ said John Pincavage, finance board chairman.
“A lot of lessons were learned and learned well,” he added, referring to last year’s budget bungles on health insurance benefits. “So, I feel very good about this.’
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Schools to Host ‘Community Conversation’
The Westport Public Schools and the Westport PTA Council have scheduled a “Community Conversation” on education, featuring representatives from Columbia University’s Teachers’ College, for Wednesday, March 25, at 7 p.m. at Staples High School.
“Our hope is that a cross section of all members of the Westport community will come together to discuss the role of schools, parents and the community as a whole in creating ethical, social and civic-minded students,” said Michael Gordon, Board of Education chairman.
“Our Community Conversation is the next step in Westport’s 2025 initiative, which has focused on providing students with the skills they will need to succeed in this new world in which they must compete,” he added.
Representatives from Teachers’ College will begin the evening, giving a short presentation on research from high performing school districts around the world that “are working to embed characteristics such as respect, integrity, harmony, resilience and care in their day to day curriculum,” Gordon said.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Interim Might Fill Staples Principal’s Post
By James Lomuscio
With the favorite candidate of the two finalists bowing out for principal of Staples High School for another job, the Westport school system has rebooted its search and is even considering an interim principal to fill outgoing Principal John Dodig’s shoes, according to school officials.
“The Staples principal’s job is one of the most important in the district, and we will only recruit and hire a star for that position,” Michael Gordon, chairman of the Board of Education, said today. “If that means choosing an interim for one year, we will make that choice.”
Gordon pointed out that Dodig, who is retiring in June after 14 years at the helm, began as an one-year interim at Staples.
“And it was a very good experience, and he had a very good tenure,” Gordon said.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Students Encouraged to Enter CHET ‘Dream Big’ Competition
Sponsors are encouraging Westport students in grade K-8 to enter the Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) Dream Big Competition before the end of March for a chance to win money for college.
The competition asks students to share their dreams about life after college in a drawing or essay for a chance to win a CHET 529 College Savings account contribution and promote the importance of saving for college.
Four students from across Connecticut will win a $1,000 grand prize CHET account contribution with 80 students representing the states eight counties winning a $500 contribution to a CHET account.
Teachers, parents and guardians can print an entry form and find more information, including the Official Rules and entry deadlines, at http://www.chetdreambig.com. Winners will be announced and recognized during a ceremony in May.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Second Staples Principal Candidate Meets With Parents
Louis B. Moore, principal at Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, N.J, met with Staples High School parents today in the school cafeteria. He is the second candidate to meet parents in the selection process to succeed John Dodig, who announced his retirement in December effective in June. Moore, who holds a doctorate in history from Rutgers, was asked why he wants to leave Ramapo. “The pull is Westport,” he said. “I love my school, but this is an extraordinary place.” On Monday, parents met with the other candidate, Frank Costanzo, principal of Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School in New Haven. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
RTM OKs School Security Communications Funds
By James Lomuscio
Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) voted 30 to 1 tonight to approve a $743,114 Board of Education appropriation request for mass notification and two-way radio systems as part of a system wide security initiative for the town’s eight schools.
Elio Longo, school business director, said the mass communication system, which would broadcast word of emergencies through the fire alarm systems, including interior and exterior speakers, as well as have emergency lockdown buttons, has a cost of $480,000 to be offset by an $86,982 state grant.
He said the two-way radio system, a highly complex setup involving digital walkie-talkies, 190 hand sets, and Motorola repeaters that allow communications between schools, carries a cost $262,484 offset by a $54,360 grant.
RTM member Peter Knight of District 8 was the lone dissenter, arguing that the town will have spent more than $1 million on security in the wake of the 2012 Newtown shootings, instead of less costly intervention efforts to prevent internal threats.
Schools’ Town-Wide Music Festival on March 18
March is National Music in Our Schools Month and Westport celebrates with its annual Town-Wide Music Festival on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m.
The concert will be held in the Staples High School Gymnasium and will feature the combined 7th and 8th grade middle school bands, as well as the Staples combined bands.
This year’s guest conductor is David Winer, former music supervisor for the Westport Public Schools.
The concert is free and open to the public.
Y’s Men Speaker Will Focus on Charter Schools
Dacia Toll, co-CEO and president of Achievement First, will be the Y’s Men of Westport/Weston’s featured speaker at its March 19 meeting at the Unitarian Church in Westport at 10 Lyons Plains Road.
Dacia Toll: will address Y’s Men on March 19. Contributed photo
Achievement First is a nonprofit management organization that operates 29 public charter schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.
Toll will talk on the activities of Achievement First—what needs to be done to improve elementary and secondary education and the role of charter schools. Coffee and donuts start at 9:45 a.m. followed by her talk at 10:30 a.m.
A Morehead Scholar as an undergraduate at University of North Carolina, Toll went on to earn a Master’s Degree at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, a J.D. from Yale Law School and a teaching certificate from Yale University.
Saturday, March 07, 2015
Competing in State Robotics Championship
Westport’s Staples High School Wreckers Robotics Team 577 was among teams competing today for the state championship at the Connecticut FIRST Tech Challenge, a robotics competition at Westport’s Greens Farms Academy. Pictured are some of the Wreckers team: Dylan Gleicher, 16, junior; Arjun Dhindsa, 16, sophomore; Kees Chang, 17, junior; Xiastian Zhang, 16, junior, and Phoebe Spear, 15, sophomore. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
Friday, March 06, 2015
Roof Debris Leads to Closing of Coleytown Middle Gym
Students and teachers at Coleytown Middle School were prohibited today from using the gymnasium after a small amount of debris from the roof was found inside, Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon said.
“The custodian came in in the morning and saw a small amount of debris which obviously came from the roof,” he said.
Concerned, he called Ted Hunyadi, director of facilities, who called the Fire Department and Fire Marshal Ed Zygmant responded.
“We figured it would be better to be safe than sorry so we decided that no kids or adults will go into that gym until we know it’s safe,” Landon said.
Staples Names Top Students
Staples High School today named Everett Sussman as valedictorian at June’s graduation ceremony and Megan Root as salutatorian. “I never set out to be valedictorian,” said Sussman in a news release. He stars as Sweeney Todd in Staples Players spring production, captained the math team, and heads to Harvard University in the fall. Added Root, a gifted writer and All-FCIAC soccer player who will continue her athletic career at Amherst College: “Don’t look at grades. If you do that, it will affect your entire high experience. High school shouldn’t be a slog for grades. It should be about people and classes and memories.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
Parents to Interview Two Candidates for Staples Principal
By James Lomuscio
Who will replace John Dodig, the popular Staples High School principal retiring after 14 years in June?
Parents of eighth through twelfth graders will have the chance to participate in that decision as they take part next week in a focus group interviewing two finalists for the job.
There will be two meetings, one for each candidate. The first will be held Monday, March 9, at 9 a.m. in the Staples cafeteria , and the second is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11, same time, same place, according to Michael Gordon, school board chairman.
The search committee, comprising administrators, teachers, parents and students will then use the parent input, presenting it to the Board of Education for its final decision, Gordon said.
Snow Far, No Impact on Spring Break
Unlike past years, 2015’s spring break doesn’t appear to be on thin ice due to accumulated snow days.
So far there have been only three school days canceled, and six would be needed to eat into the week beginning April 13, school officials say.
Both Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon and Michael Gordon, chairman of the Board of Education, noted that while this year’s seemingly relentless snow has resulted in several late start days, those delays do not cut into vacation time.
“We only had three (snow days) so far, and we allow for five,” said Gordon.
Tuesday, March 03, 2015
Celebrating National Read Across America Day
Fifth grade students at Westport’s Saugatuck Elementary School celebrated children’s author Dr. Seuss’s birthday and National Read Across America Day. The National Education Association sponsors the annual reading motivation and awareness program. The Saugatuck community came together to read and share their favorite books as students and teachers dressed as their favorite book characters. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Friday, February 27, 2015
National Merit Scholarship Finalists Announced
Ten Staples High School seniors have been named finalists in the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program. Each will have a chance to earn one of 8,000 National Merit Scholarship awards, together worth more than $35 million. Final scholarship winners, chosen from a group of more than 15,000 finalists, may be notified as early as March. “Having 10 National Merit Finalists and the fact that all nine semi-finalists became finalists is a visible sign that we have an outstanding student body,” said Staples Principal John Dodig. Pictured are (front row, l-r) Shelby E. Cataldo and Zachary N. Effman; (back row) Abigail G. Lustig, Megan R. Root, Everett W. Sussman, Kelly W. Pogue, Nicholas D. Massoud, Ian Cole Palmer, and Jake A. Atlas. Missing from the picture: Claudia Frances Landowne. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Note: WestportNow Publisher Gordon F. Joseloff is also First Selectman of Westport