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
Thursday, September 15, 2016
By Mark Pazniokaswww.ctmirror.org
Attorney General George Jepsen’s office today filed an appeal asking the Connecticut Supreme Court to conclude that a trial judge embarked on “an uncharted and legally unsupported path” last week in asserting authority over how the state distributes education aid and sets standards for graduating from high school, serving special-needs students and evaluating teachers.
“This decision would wrest educational policy from the representative branches of state government, limit public education for some students with special needs, create additional municipal mandates concerning graduation and other standards, and alter the basic terms of educators’ employment – and entrust all of those matters to the discretion of a single, unelected judge,” Jepsen said.
Jepsen lightly approached the question of where Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s broad indictment of public K-12 education was right or wrong as a matter of policy, but the appeal sharply attacks his legal basis for ruling that shortcomings he identified violate students’ rights under the state Constitution to a free and adequate education.
In a ruling that drew national attention, with The New York Times likening it to “a cry from the heart on the failings of American public education,” Moukawsher concluded the state has a duty to ensure that education aid and other education polices be “rationally, substantially, and verifiably” connected to educational need.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Ten Staples High School students and one from Greens Farms Academy today were among approximately 16,000 semifinalists named in the 62nd annual National Merit Scholarship Program.
The seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth about $33 million that will be offered next spring.
The Staples students are JiSu Ahn, Isabelle Amlicke, Alexander D. Ialeggio, Nicole T. Kiker, Lindsey N. Marks, Brendan J. Massoud, Grace McGinley, Ulyana Piterbarg, Tia Pogue, and Phoebe Spear. The Greens Farms Academy student is Christopher J. Glynn.
To be considered for a Merit Scholarship award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
By Mark Pazniokaswww.ctmirror.org
New Haven — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today he agreed with the “core” of Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s finding last week that Connecticut’s distribution of education aid was so irrational as to be unconstitutional, but the ruling raises so many legal and practical complexities that he will defer a decision on an appeal to Attorney General George Jepsen.
The governor’s embrace of Moukawsher’s central finding should shock no one: As mayor of Stamford, Malloy was part of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding that sued the state 11 years ago; and as governor, Malloy has tried and largely succeeded in funneling the majority of new education aid to the state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts.
“If we are talking about the portion of the decision that had things to do with actual funding or how we disperse the funds that we spend, I am largely in support of what the judge was saying,” Malloy said. “I think he made very valid points. You know why I think he’s making very valid points? Because I’ve been making the same points for the last five years.”
He refused to join Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, who urged Jepsen today to appeal Moukawsher’s conclusion that the state’s funding formula was unconstitutional and his order that the state devise a new funding formula and remedies for other shortcomings in 180 days.
Monday, September 12, 2016
2017 Westport Teacher of the Year Mary Elizabeth Fulco of Staples High School was honored tonight at the Board of Education meeting where the eight runners-up were also announced. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Teacher of Year Mary Elizabeth Fulco (sitting, c) of Staples High School, was honored tonight at the Board of Education meeting. She is pictured with nominees (seated, l-r) Lisa Thomas, Greens Farms Elementary School, and Jamie Viesselman, Kings Highway Elementary School; (standing, l-r) Candace Banks, co-president PTA Council; Michael Gordon, chair, Board of Education; nominees Amy Koppe, Greens Farms Elementary School; Priscilla Jones, Kings Highway Elementary School; Alycia Dadd, Staples High School; Janet Zamary, Staples High School; Karen DeFelice and John Horrigan, co-presidents, Westport Education Association (WEA), and Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer. Teacher of the Year nominees not present are Susan O’Hara, Staples High School, and Sarah O’Mahoney, Bedford Middle School. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
By Mark Pazniokas and Keith M. Phaneufwww.ctmirror.org
In a broad indictment of how Connecticut supports its poorest schools, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled today that the state’s method for distributing education aid is irrational and unconstitutional, while declining to second-guess the General Assembly on the ultimate level of state spending.
Moukawsher said the plaintiffs failed to meet their high burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the quality of public education violates the state Constitution by the standards of minimum funding or the adequacy of instruction in the state’s classrooms. But he gave them a victory on the question of how aid is distributed, special education is funded and the standards to which students and teachers are held.
He handed the state, the plaintiffs and General Assembly an ambitious five-point outline for action on revamping how teachers are evaluated and paid, special education students are evaluated and served, and more broadly, how the state directs $2 billion in annual state spending for local education, plus another $1 billion in reimbursements for school construction and renovations.
“So, change must come,” Moukawsher said. “The state has to accept that the schools are its blessing and its burden, and if it cannot be wise, it must at least be sensible.”
Westport’s Greens Farms Academy today welcomed 715 PreK-12 students from 20 towns in Connecticut and New York to their first official day of school. A group of Upper School boys was among the first to arrive on campus. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
New Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer, in an invocation at tonight’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM), reminded members that 22 percent of their constitutents are students in the Westport school system and most do not have a vote. She lauded the body for its support of education, adding: “In Westport, we don’t simply educate our students for academic success. We empower them to think critically and creatively ... we prepare them to thrive as active participants in democracy and to serve others.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matliow for WestportNow.com
Eileen Flug (l), moderator of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), tonight presents flowers to Velma Heller, deputy moderator, as the legislative body celebrated Heller’s birthday. Heller had a 30-year career in teaching and administration in the Westport school system and has been an assistant professor of education at Sacred Heart University since 2005. She is serving her seventh term on the RTM representing District 9. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
UPDATE The Westport Board of Education announced today it seeks candidates for a vacancy on the Board created by the resignation of Brett Aronow.
She announced at the board’s Aug. 29 meeting she is resigning because she is moving out of town. (See WestportNow Aug. 29, 2016)
The successful candidate will serve on the Board of Education from the date of appointment until the Board of Education election scheduled for November 2017.
Any individual interested in being considered for appointment to the position is required to be a registered Democrat; willing to be interviewed separately by the Democratic Town Committee (DTC) and the Board of Education prior to appointment; and willing to serve and attend Board of Education meetings immediately upon appointment, which appointment will take place as early as October.
Saturday, September 03, 2016
Westport’s Greens Farms Elementary School on Friday opened its new playground. The GFS PTA raised more than $100,000 last April to build the playground, presenting the funds to the Board of Education in June. Construction began with the end of school, and it was completed in time for Thursday’s school opening. Joe Feinleib and Coastal Construction generously donated the demolition of the old playground. The new playground is bigger, allows for more creative play, and is handicap accessible. Testing a new slide were Lisa Thomas (l), a gym teacher, and Michele Carey-Moody, last year’s GFS PTA president. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Thursday, September 01, 2016
New Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer leaves Staples High School today after all buses arrived and students settled in classrooms. It is her first Westport back to school since she took over July 1 from predecessor Elliott Landon. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
At Caccamo Lane today, Julie Enrich takes a photo of daughter Chloe, 6, as she boards a bus to Saugatuck Elementary School for her first day in first grade. Her brother, Dylan, 8, is in third grade at the same school. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
There was a back to school party at Caccamo Lane and Juniper Road today prior to boarding buses for the first day of school. School officials said more than 5,600 students are enrolled in Westport public schools this year. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Monday, August 29, 2016
By James Lomuscio
After what Westport Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon called “a long engagement,” Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer—hired in February and appointed July 1—attended her first school board meeting tonight as the town’s education leader.
Gordon exuded an air of enthusiasm about Palmer, former superintendent of Weston, being at the helm as the school system readied for Thursday’s start of the 2016-17 academic year for Westport’s 5,612 students.
“They represent 22 percent of our population in Westport,” Palmer said, stressing that her guiding principles put students’ needs first, making education a joy.
Tonight’s changing of the guard for the board that had worked for the past 17 years with former Superintendent Elliott Landon, who retired in June, was also marked by another change. School board member Brett Aronow announced she will be stepping down effective Sept. 30, saying she recently sold her home.
At today’s Bedford Milldle School convocaton for teachers, Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer (r) introduced Mary Elizabeth (ME) Fulco as Teacher of the Year. Fulco teaches English and journalism at Staples High School and is mentor for Inklings, the school newspaper. The annual event was held in advance of Thursday’s school opening. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Thursday, August 18, 2016
By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Andrew Ba Tranwww.ctmirror.org
About half of the 234,000 elementary and middle school students tested during the last school year were not at grade level in reading or math, state education officials announced today.
But a higher proportion of students were at grade level than in the previous year.
In math, 44 percent of students tested last spring were at grade level compared to 40.1 percent in spring 2015. On the English exam, which includes reading and writing, 55.7 percent of students tested last spring were at goal compared to 52.4 percent the previous year.
Education officials said the scores showed both how much progress had been made and how far the schools still have to go.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
New Staples High School Principal James D’Amico today detailed qualities he seeks to instill in graduating seniors. Addressing the Westport Rotary Club’s weekly meeting, he said they include emotional and social awareness; kindness with sincerity in relationships with all fellow students; highest principles in thought and action, and always learning. Referring to some of the challenges he faces, D’Amico said bullying issues are high on the list, particularly cyber-bullying and the use of social media. Asked by a Rotary member if he is prepared to sing and dance in Staples Players productions as other principals have done, D’Amico said he is well prepared because in his high school days he played Bernardo in “West Side Story” and Motel, the tailor in “Fiddler on the Roof.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
By James Lomuscio
When school opens Thursday, Sept. 1, Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer’s responsibilities will be more than double that of her previous post in neighboring Weston, but she says she is ready for the challenges.
As Weston’s superintendent for the past five years, she oversaw a system that served 2,400 students. Now, it’s 5,600 for Palmer who came on board July 1, succeeding Elliott Landon, who retired after 17 years.
In Weston, she was responsible for a School Road campus of four schools. Now she oversees eight schools spread across town.
Westport’s 2016-17 operating budget of $113 million is more than double Weston’s $49 million budget this year. And she admits she and the school board will not be able to repeat this year’s lauded, 1.29 percent budget increase.
Friday, August 05, 2016
By James Lomuscio
Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer said today that the scores from this spring’s state mandated SATs for juniors are not accurate indicators of future student success. She said she puts more stock in official College Board reports to come.
Palmer made this comment despite the fact Westport’s scores released in a state report Wednesday are in line with other school systems in the district reference group (DIRG).
Of the 431 graded tests, the average score for English and language arts in Westport was 598, 599 in math.
Palmer said the College Board report expected in mid-September for the Class of 2016 would offer a better assessment of student achievement.
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Test results released by the state Department of Education showed 91 percent of Westport junior high school students met or exceeded the standard for career and college ready in the SAT English tests admnistered in March. Students are considered college and career ready if they scored at least 480 out of 800. Comparisons with neighboring districts are available here. The results are from the first Connecticut SAT School Day, a new test that more closely aligns with the skills and knowledge students need to be college- and career-ready. These results mark the first time all Connecticut 11th graders took the SAT. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Ctmirror.org graphic