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Thursday, September 03, 2015

Education

Education

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Having Fun at Long Lots El Beach Party

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The annual Long Lots Elementary School back to school beach party today at Westport’s Compo Beach provided plenty of fun, food and games for all. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com

Posted 05:41 PM
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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Forum Airs Qualities Sought in Next Schools Super

By James Lomuscio

A fiscally responsible, digitally savvy, administrator willing to sit on the floor with elementary school children, and raise the district’s academic bar even higher while adding diversity were among the qualities a dozen Westporters tonight said they want in the next schools superintendent.

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Tonight’s session at Saugatuck Elementary School drew about a dozen persons. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com

For more than an hour, the small crowd that had gathered in the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium shared concerns about the issues facing the Westport Public Schools—and the type of person best to lead as Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon retires at the end of this academic year after 17 years on the job.

It was the first of two community forums to be held by the Chicago-based search firm Hazard, Young, Attea (HYA) & Associates, hired by the school board. As second forum is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium

“Our process is really intense at this stage of information gathering,” said John Chambers, HYA senior associate, adding that the forum’s aim was “gathering information, gathering perspective from everyone who’s willing to talk to us.”

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Posted 11:05 PM
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Monday, August 31, 2015

BOE: Whoa to $21.2 Million Staples Expansion

By James Lomuscio

Click here for PDF of study

Westport’s Board of Education tonight found an architect’s feasibility study to expand Staples High School by 36,320-square feet to the tune of $21.2 million to be more than they had expected.

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An artist’s rendition of a recommended Staples High School expansion module. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Fuller D’Angelo P.C. graphic

Members seemed surprised by the proposal. They said they thought the $20,000 study they had commissioned would address different ways to accommodate Staples’ swelling student population that is 100 students over capacity this fall—not full blown plans for a new building with a hefty price tag.

“The enrollment is the driver, and I’m just afraid that it’s two steps further than where we are now,” said board member Karen Klein.

“We need to fully vet all the other choices,” she added, saying that things, such as modular classrooms, larger class size and course tradeoffs, should be part of the study, even though she is not in favor of them. “We need to do our due diligence before we get to that point.”

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Posted 11:29 PM
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Online Survey Aids in Schools Super Search

A community survey to help discern what Westporters want in a new school superintendent is now available at www.ecrasurvey.com/westport or can be linked to from the Westport Public Schools’ home page, Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon said today. The survey will remain open until Sept. 18.

Gordon also said that the first community forum on the search to replace Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring after 17 years at the end of the 2015-16 academic year, is scheduled for Tuesda, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium. 

A second second forum is set for Thursday, Sept. 10 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.

Finding a replacement for Landon will also be the first item at tonight’s Board of Education meeting, as the search firm Hazard, Young & Attea offers a presentation of the superintendent search process.

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Posted 02:34 PM
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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scores Plunge as Students Take New Tougher Test

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

As expected, the standardized test scores parents are accustomed to seeing for their child’s school have plunged as the state implements a harder test aligned with the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Scores released Friday for tests taken last school year show that 39 percent of Connecticut public school students were judged proficient on the state’s math exam —  a significant drop from 83 percent in 2013. In English, 55 percent of students were judged proficient last year — down from 81 percent in reading and 84 percent in writing in 2013.

State education officials weren’t surprised. They have been warning the drop would happen, as it has in other states that switched to exams aligned with the Common Core.

The number of students electing not to take the state exams also rose last school year — a trend referred to as the “opt-out movement.” Concern has grown among parents that their children are spending too much time in school being tested or being prepared for tests. [Westport had an 87.7 percent participation rate in English and 87.6 percent in math.]

Click here for more of story

Posted 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

BOE to Review $21.2M Staples Expansion Study

By James Lomuscio

Click here for PDF of study
A Westport Board of Education commissioned feasibility study to expand Staples High School by 36,000-square feet to the tune of $21.2 million to accommodate a swelling student population will go to the school board Monday night, Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon said today.

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An artist’s rendition of a recommended Staples High School expansion module. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Fuller D’Angelo P.C. graphic

He said the $20,000 study was commissioned by the board in May and was done by Elmsford, N.Y.-based architects Fuller D’Angelo P.C., the same firm hired for the expansion of the 1958-built school transformed to 465,000 square feet in 2005 at a cost of $73 million. The feasibility study was presented to school board members today, Landon said.

The current building was designed for 1,800 students even though the administration had pushed for a building with a 2,000 capacity but had to cut back for budgetary reasons, Landon said. He had said earlier that this year’s Staples enrollment was about 1,900 and that the school has been overcapacity for several years. (See WestportNow Aug. 24, 2015)

According to the report, Landon and school administrators favored the architects’ Concept B, which would add 36,320-square feet to the current building. It includes 15 new classrooms for math, languages, computer engineering, robotics, health and physical education, lectures, dance, conference rooms, teacher work rooms, special education and cafeteria expansion, as well as infrastructure upgrades.

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Posted 10:53 PM
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Malloy Picks Landon for State Committee

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appointed Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring after 17 years at the end of the 2015-16 academic year, to the state Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR), Landon learned in a letter today. His term runs though August 2017.

The ACIR is a 24-member agency created in 1985 to study the state and local government issues “and to recommend solutions as appropriate,” according to the state website. Its membership represents state legislative and executive branches, municipalities and other local interests, as well the public.

“I’m very excited, and I hope I can contribute,” said Landon, who added that he was recommended by members of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents (CAPSS).

According to state statute,  the ACIR, which is supported by the Office of Policy and Management has four charges: to serve as a forum for consultation between state and local officials; to conduct research on intergovernmental issues; to encourage and coordinate studies of intergovernmental issues by universities and others; and to initiate policy development and make recommendations to all levels of government.

Posted 05:31 PM
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Welcome to Coleytown El

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Janna Bell Sirowich, principal of Westport’s Coleytown Elementary School, welcomes a kindergartner today on the first day of school. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Posted 09:16 AM
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August School Start Feels Like Fall

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Students at Westport’s Bedford Middle School make their way to classes today as school began on an August day that was crisp and clear, feeling more like fall than summer. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Posted 09:10 AM
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Back to the Routine

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Students and parents at the Oak Ridge Park at Imperial Avenue school bus stop today as Westport students returned to school.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Posted 09:03 AM
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Back to School


Scenes as Westport students went back to school today. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Posted 08:55 AM
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Monday, August 24, 2015

Already Overcrowded, Staples Enrollment at 1,900

(Editor’s note: The headline and original story have been clarified to say that this year’s Staples enrollment is 1,900, 100 over capacity, a situation that has existed for several years but this is highest in recent years.)

By James Lomuscio

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Elliott Landon: “We’re packing them in (at Staples).” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
UPDATE The highest Staples enrollment in recent years—1,900, which is 100 over capacity—decreasing student populations in the early grades, and nine new administrators set the stage for the 2015-16 school year that beings Thursday, Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon said today.

“We’re going to have to take a hard look at the increased enrollment at Staples,” said Landon, who has announced his retirement at the end of this school year after 17 years. He said that he has several proposals to address the issue, but declined to release them yet.

“We’re packing them in,” he added. “We’re at 1,900, and it was built for 1,800, even though when was being built, we had asked for enough space for 2,000. We’re using closets, we took away meeting rooms, a classroom in the library.” 

Landon is convinced that the Staples student population, which has been more than 1,800 at least going back to 2012 and is 45 more than last year, will continue to swell, eventually surpassing 2,000.

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Posted 07:51 PM
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Finance Board Approves School Carryover Account

By James Lomuscio

Despite strong objections from Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members who argued that excess school monies should be returned to the general fund, the Board of Finance tonight unanimously approved a Board of Education (BOE) carryover account.

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Board of Finance member Tom Lasersohn (c) makes a point at tonight’s meeting as Lee Caney (l) and Brian Stern listen. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The unexpended operating funds, whether prior to the end of the fiscal year or prior to Aug. 31, can be used for future schools expenditures subject to an agreement between both boards, the Board of Finance voted.

As soon as the carryover account was approved, the finance board unanimously gave its approval to the schools’ transfer of up to $250,000 not spent during fiscal year 2014-15 to the new education account.

Board of Finance members Tom Lasersohn and Lee Caney, who had been studying the BOE proposal since July 1, described it in detail. Lasersohn said there was a limit on how big the fund can get, 3 percent of the schools’ operating budget, and that withdrawing more than $200,000 from the account would be subject to Board of Finance approval.

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Posted 11:05 PM
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Newsweek: Staples No. 2 CT High School

Newsweek Magazine today published its annual list of the top 500 U.S. high schools and ranked Westport’s Staples High School No. 2 in Connecticut behind No. 1 Weston High School.

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In the national rankings, Weston came in No. 47 and Staples No. 63. (See complete list here) Neither Weston nor Staples appeared on last year’s Newsweek list. (See WestportNow Oct. 24, 2014)

Newsweek said since 2014, it has published two separate lists in an effort to address the complexities of assessing the “best” high schools when students’ socioeconomic backgrounds are taken into account.

It said its lists, done in collaboration with research partner Westat, therefore included the 2015 list of America’s Top High Schools—an “absolute” list that ranks schools solely based on performance—and Beating The Odds, a “relative” list that ranks schools based on performance, while also accounting for student poverty rates.

Posted 09:39 PM
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For Super Search, Ed Board to Hold Community Forums

Westport’s Board of Education has scheduled two community forums in September to discuss the qualities of the next schools superintendent, board member Brett Aronow announced today.

The forums to be conducted by Hazard, Young and Attea (HYA), the search firm engaged by the school board, are set for Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium and Thursday, Sept. 10, at 10 a.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.

In addition, HYA will conduct an online survey beginning Aug. 31 to discern what the community expects of the educational leader who will replace Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. Details and a link to the survey will be forthcoming, Aronow said. 

“As we have said since the beginning, we are committed to a process that will offer our stakeholders the opportunity to share their views about the needs of the school system and the qualities of the superintendent that will meet those needs,” said Michael Gordon, school board chairman.

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