Tuesday, December 20, 2016
|Gabrielle McNees (r), a 2015 Staples High School graduate, was among a team of six who recently won the prestigious Fordham University Gabelli School of Business 2016 Consulting Cup competition. They were given the challenge of identifying a Fortune 500 company’s biggest problem and coming up with an innovative solution to boost company sales and productivity. The winning team was awarded $3,000 in prize monies and members recognized for their demonstrated business acumen, creativity, teamwork and public speaking achievements. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo|
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Scenes from tonight’s final performance of the 76th annual Staples High School Candlelight Concert. WestportNow.com photos
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Dollars, Sense and Luck of the ZIP Code: Why education funding in Connecticut is only a small part of its oversized achievement gap
(Editor’s note: The author is a 2015 Staples High School graduate and member of Yale University’s class of 2019. This article first apperared in the Yale Daily News and is reprinted with permission.)
By Rachel TreismanYale Daily News
MIND THE GAP
In Hartford, Connecticut, a third-grade class read enough books to earn a pizza party. The excited students piled onto a bus, crossing the Connecticut River to a pizza parlor in East Hartford. One student pointed out the window: “What’s that?” She had never seen a river, recalls current Westport Public Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer. Shortly after, Palmer visited a third-grade classroom in the affluent town of Weston. A girl told Palmer it was almost her birthday, and Palmer asked what she was doing to celebrate. The answer: her father was taking her to Paris.
In 2015, the Economic Analysis and Research Network, a national economic policy coalition, reported that Connecticut has the largest income gap between the top 1 percent of taxpayers and bottom 99 percent. Perhaps because of this, Connecticut also has the nation’s largest achievement gap among pre-K-12 students.
Consider two districts. This year, suburban Westport, Connecticut, is spending $21,716 per student and, as of 2016, its public schools are ranked first in the state based on factors including academic proficiency, student and parent satisfaction and teacher excellence. The city of New Haven, home to Yale University, spent $19,746 per student this academic year, and its public schools rank 101st out of 118 state districts.
Connecticut data-sharing nonprofit Data Haven found in 2013 that in Greater New Haven, 17 percent of low-income students were reading at grade level as compared to 58 percent of their high-income peers. The Tauck Family Foundation, a private foundation that invests in the development of children from low-income families in Bridgeport, reports that students in low-performing schools are five times more likely to drop out of high school than those in high-performing schools.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016
The Westport Rotary Club today hosted the Staples High School Orphenians for a holiday concert. The annual apperance at holiday time took place at the club’s weekly meeting in Branson Hall at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Luke Rosenberg, director of the Staples High School Orphenians, leads the group in a holiday concert today at the weekly meeting of the Westport Rotary Club. This is the fifth holiday season for Rosenberg, who on leads the Orphenians in the annual candlelight concert on Friday and Saturday. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Scenes from today’s StaplesHigh School Orphenians annual holiday concert at the weekly meeting of the Westport Rotary Club. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com and WestportNow.com photos
Westporter Robin Tauck was invited by the New Beginnings Family Academy, a tuition-free public charter school in Bridgeport, to talk about water cleanliness on Monday. Tauck read from “The Beautiful Pond” by Westport author and artist Judith Orseck Katz about Sherwood Mill Pond, which Tauck sponsored. And she helped the youngsters paint watercolors of their favorite places. Tauck was one of a number of outsiders the school has invited to speak on current topics. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Monday, December 05, 2016
By James Lomuscio
A new state law requring total town budgets not be more than a 2.5 percent increase over the previous year beginning fiscal year 2018-19 took center stage tonight at the Westport Board of Education.
Joining the board in talks about the 2017-18 school budget were members of the Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting (RTM) as well as First Selectman Jim Marpe.
The bottom line: such mandated fiscal belt tightening will increase budget woes as the town grapples with the state’s fiscal crisis, unfunded educational mandates, educational cost sharing (ECS) grant cuts, contractual obligations outpacing inflation and per pupil expenditures jumping 11 percent in the past three years, town and school officials said.
Towns where the total budgets, municipal and school, exceed 2.5 percent will be penalized in terms of state funding, according to the mandate. The total operating budget for the town and schools this fiscal year in $204 million.
By Ellery Saluck
An Advanced Placement (AP) computer science project seems poised to pay off big for two Staples High School entrepreneurs.
Junior Neal Soni and senior Dylan Diamond have created their very own app called Tesla Toolbox. It allows owners of the electric car Tesla to track their speed, route and power usage.
It also lets them control features like lights, the locking and unlocking car doors, the opening and closing garage doors, even climate control.
Users can also start their Tesla or drive it forward or backward without being in it, but with the mere touch of a iPhone.
Saturday, December 03, 2016
Westport Farmers Market visitors today were treated to classical music performed by four members of the Staples High School Chamber Orchestra. Pictured (l-r) are James Gikas 14, Jack Whitten 16, Paz Meyers, 14, and Michael Fording, 16. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com
Friday, December 02, 2016
“The Great Penny Wars” have been fought again at Westport’s Bedford Middle School, and the winner is Westport’s community giving organizations.
Taking part in this year’s battle were 270 eighth graders who waged a friendly but spirited competition to see which teams, or “pods,” could raise the most funds for the annual effort.
When it was all over, it turned out this year’s competition was the most successful in the 12-year history of the program, raising $11,800, organizers said. The funds will aid the holiday gift drive of the Westport Department of Human Services and other charitable programs.
Since the program’s 2004 inception, more than $80,000 has been donated — testament to the spirit of giving among Bedford students.
Thursday, December 01, 2016
The Westport Arts Center and the Anti-Defamation League tonight presented a free workshop for parents of elementary and middle school students, “Bullying, Name-Calling and Cyberbullying: What Children Wish Their Parents Knew.” The speaker, Marji Lipshez-Shapiro, director of education for the ADL, shared insights she has gained from working with young people across the state over the past 26 years, and provided prevention and intervention strategies for parents.The workshop also included a panel of area high school students who shared their personal experiences and responded to questions.The event is part of the community programming for WAC’s current exhibition, “MORE Than Words/#iammore,” a juried community exhibition focused on courage, resilience and empowerment in the face of bullying. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Aubrey Grodin for WestportNow.com
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Bedford Middle School students today held a dress rehearsal for this weekend’s production of “Peter Pan.” A cast of more than 70 seventh and eighth graders helps Peter and friends fly in the beloved classic. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m, and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.bedfordactinggroup.com or at the door—$15 for adults and $10 for students. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
The Bedford Acting Group has a dancing Captain Hook and more in this weekend’s production of “Peter Pan.” Tiickets for the Bedford Middle School production are availabe at http://www.bedfordactinggroup.com or at the door—$15 for adults and $10 for students. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Westport Volunteer EMS Crew Chief Benjamin Frimmer tonight shows off his presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, signed by President Obama, presented to him during the service’s monthly meeting. Frimmer, who is also a dramatic arts teacher at Coleytown Middle School, has been with the service since 1985 and has “demonstrated his skills, abilities, and compassion on thousands of 911 medical emergency calls” according to WVEMS President Yves Cantin. The award is given to those who have served more than 4,000 volunteer service hours, although Frimmer has met that requirement many times over. “I have to say that volunteering, specifically with EMS, has been such a major part of my life, I can’t imagine it any other way,” Frimmer said in a Facebook post. “I couldn’t be more honored to have received this award signed by our outgoing President. I’m not usually one to be excited about certificates or awards, but this one seems quite special. To all my mentors I thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing me the value of giving.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jaime Bairaktaris for WestportNow.com
Four months into her job, Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer said today it is the “best job in the world.”
In a wide-ranging talk to the weekly meeting of the Westport Rotary Club at Branson Hall at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, she said it is “truly a privilege to serve in this role.”
“I do live in Westport,” said Palmer, who was formerly superintendent in Weston. And, bringing laughter from the audience, she added: “And so I’ve tried to figure out how to make a left turn into Starbucks….the problems we should have.”
“I love it here,” she said. “I love the vibrancy. I love the energy. I love the intellect, the passion, the talent of this community.”
Westport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer said today while Westport is “kind of an oasis here, isolated in so many ways,” a new administration in Washington will bring changes as “things cascade down to us.” Addressing the weekly meeting of the Westport Rotary Club, she said, however, she is not overly concerned. “I’m not so worried about the federal government because whatever they’ve done I tried to find a way creatively to do what I need to do…and I’ve been successful so far.” she said. But she added: “I am more worried about the long-term funding of education.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Following a day before Thanksgiving tradition of more than 40 years, students from Westport’s Coleytown Middle School gathered today for its annual giving assembly. The school community donated 2,000 items of food, boxes of school supplies and hygiene kits and more than $4,300 in funds to seven area nonprofits serving the needy. Recipients included Homes with Hope, Saugatuck Congregational Church, Westport’s Department of Human Services, Al’s Angels, Connecticut Quest for Peace, Westport Animal Shelter Advocates and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Friday, November 11, 2016
UPDATE The principal of Westport’s Staples High School says students have been sharing “offensive and defamatory memes” on a Facebook page and asked parents to support efforts to stop the practice.
In a letter to parents Thursday, James D’Amico also disclosed that about a dozen students were so upset by Tuesday’s presidential election results that they met with school counselors.
D’Amico, who took over the post on July 1, explained that memes are “images, video, text, etc. that are modified generally with captions that are usually intended to be humorous.”
But he said “the vast majority of the memes shared on this page were offensive and mean-spirited to say the least. We are fortunate that a brave student came forward to share this information with us.”
Monday, November 07, 2016
By James Lomuscio
Despite enrollment drops in Westport’s elementary schools and crowding at Staples High Schools over the past five years, the trend will reverse itself in the next five years, Board of Education members heard tonight.
Donald G. Kennedy, senior staff member at the Marlborough, Mass.-based New England School Development Council (NESDEC), based the rosy forecast on “the move-in factor” due to the recession ending and the town remaining a desirable place to live.
“People want to be here and want to buy homes in Westport because they like the quality of life and they like the schools,” said Kennedy, who has been projecting Westport enrollments since at least 2005.
Sitting in on the meeting were members of the Board of Finance, taking note to work with the school board as it begins working on the 2017-18 operating budget.
Friday, October 28, 2016
Students at Westport’s Saugatuck Elementary School today celebrated at their fifth annual Halloween Boo Bash. About 850 partygoers enjoyed a magic show, DJ, games, and raffles at the sold-out event. All proceeds benefit SES enrichments. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Monday, October 24, 2016
Westport real estate attorney Candice Savin joined the Board of Education tonight, taking her seat after being sworn in by Town Clerk Patricia Strauss following unanimous approval by the board.
Savin replaces Brett Aronow, who stepped down from the seven-member board Sept. 26. Savin will fulfill the term, which ends November 2017.
Savin, a Democrat, was one of three finalists out of 10 applicants interviewed by the Democratic Town Committee’s (DTC) search committee. Savin serves as vice chair of the DTC but was not involved in the search process.
Michael Gordon, school board chairman, touted Savin’s background. She served on the Kings Highway School’s PTA, the boards of The Conservative Synagogue and Hadassah, as a former New York City prosecutor and currently works a local real estate attorney, he said.
Friday, October 21, 2016
There was a strategy session Wednesday at the Westport-Weston Family YMCA involving the Y, Westport Library, Westport schools, and Westport Parks and Recreation Department. The informal conversation was about leveraging existing resources to better serve Westport and enhance opportunities for learning together, a library announcement said. Pictured (l-r) are YMCA CEO Pat Riemersma, Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer, Westport Parks and Recreation Director Jen Fava, and Westport Public Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Monday, October 10, 2016
The Board of Education was told tonight that next year’s school budget may be up 4.1 percent and that hidden mold at Coleytown Middle School (CMS), which is not a health hazard, may cost as much as $250,000 to remediate.
Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer, who took over July 1 from retiring Elliott Landon, informed the board about the budget and health issues and said the budget number was “a very preliminary one.”
“If we kept the same workforce and just moved those folks forward a year and followed our bargaining union contracts… and projected increase in health costs, we would have to ask for an increase of 4.1 percent,” she said. “That number is daunting.”
She reminded board members that the current operating budget, which increased 1.29 percent over the previous year, benefitted from “positive trends” in the health reserve account as well as other factors.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
About 250 Kings Highway Elementary School (KHS) students today joined schools around the world to celebrate International Walk to School Day. The event began at 8:10 a.m. with students, parents teachers, and staff walking from Westport Board of Education Technology Center on Riverside Avenue, arriving at KHS five minutes later. Organizers said the events raise awareness of the need to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion and concern for the environment. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Monday, September 26, 2016
Brett Aronow and the Westport Board of Education bid a warm farewell to each other tonight. She said she and her husband, Keith Stein, have sold their Westport home and plan to travel around the world. Each board member expressed parting words to Aronow. Mark Mathias (r) said, “I always admired your disarming way to bring people together.” Aronow’s final comments: “In the end, it’s always been about the kids.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Westporter Michael Gordon, chair of the Board of Education, was on the CNBC business cable channel today offering advice to CEOs on the hot seat at congressional hearings in recent days. They include John Stumpf, chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, involved in a fake accounts scandal, and Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan, maker of EpiPens, whose recent price increases have stirred controversy. “It looks wimpy to pick on the little guy,” said Gordon, whose firm Group Gordon offers public relations strategic services to some of the nation’s top firms. “Heads must roll,” he said. “You have to show real contrition and follow up with action ... Take responsibility and stop shifting blame.” He said firms in the congressional spotlight should offer up an ethics policy as part of their response. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo from CNBC
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
By Jacqueline Rabe Thomaswww.ctmirror.org
The state Supreme Court will hear an expedited appeal of a lower court’s conclusion that the way the state distributes education aid and oversees local schools is unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers accepted petitions by Attorney General George Jepsen and the lawyers for the plaintiffs for a direct review by the Supreme Court of different aspects of the decision by Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher.
Moukawsher demanded plans from the state within 180 days to establish new standards for teacher evaluations, high school graduation and elementary and secondary education and an overhaul to how schools are funded. Defending the state, the attorney general’s appeal called the decision a judicial overreach.
The plaintiffs, a coalition of parents, school officials, and teacher unions, had asked that the high court hold off on hearing the state’s appeal until remedies crafted by lawmakers had been ruled on by the lower court.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Two Coleytown Middle School students, Charlotte Zhang (l) and Michelle Kaminski, received honorable mention awards in the Middle School Poetry division of the recent 2016 Trumbull Arts Festival Literary Competition. Excerpts of Michelle’s poem, “A Paper Journey,” and Charlotte’s poem, “United As One,” were read to the audience in a ceremony at the Trumbull Public Library. Their teacher is Paul Ferrante. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo