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
By Jacqueline Rabe Thomaswww.ctmirror.org
City and town leaders today learned how much less the state will be sending their municipalities for education and construction projects for the fiscal year that ends July 1.
[The Educational Cost Sharing (ECS) aid to Westport 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.]
The $50 million in midyear cuts announced by the governor’s budget office come after the legislature adopted a budget with $20 million in unassigned cuts to municipalities and $30 million from grants for local construction projects.
While every town is touched by the reductions announced today, the cuts to education largely fall on the state’s wealthiest communities.
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