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Education

Education

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

RTMers Hot Under the Collar in AC Debate

By James Lomuscio

Members of Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) got hot under the collar tonight during a debate over funds for installation of air conditioning at Coleytown Elementary School (CES).

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RTM Member Meliissa Kane questions Board of Education Chairman Michael Gordon at tonight’s meeting.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Photo from Westport Town Television

After slightly more than two hours of contentious debate and a public flogging of the Board of Education, members approved by a 30 to 2 with 2 abstentions vote a $216,000 school board request to install air conditioning at the school this spring.

The request, reduced from the Board of Finance approved $290,000 due to lower bids, was for a long sought HVAC air conditioning system in the CES gymnatorium and cafeteria. Opened in 1953, CES is the only Westport elementary school among five without such air conditioning.

Tonight parents and others told stories of children becoming overheated, exhausted, passing out and getting injured.

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Monday, February 01, 2016

School Board Approves $113.45 Million Budget

By James Lomuscio

A projected surplus this year allowed the Westport Board of Education tonight to save its school bus monitor program, third grade paraprofessionals, and middle school team leaders next year without breaking the bank.

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Board of Education members (l-r) Karen Klein, Bret Aronow, and Mark Mathias listen at tonight’s meeting.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

By a unanimous vote, the board approved a $113.45 million 2016-17 operating budget, a 2.05 percent increase over the current year and up only slightly from the 2.03 percent increase that Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon had proposed.

“I think we put together a very progressive budget academically,” said Michael Gordon, school board chairman. ” ...and yet, it is an exceptionally lean budget.”

The school board unanimously voted to restore the bus monitor program, which Landon had proposed cutting to save $125,000.

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Board of Ed Honors Staples Teacher

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At tonight’s Board of Education meeting, attendees observed a moment of silence in memory of Staples teacher Cody Thomas, 27, who died Jan. 23. Chairman Michael Gordon said he clearly remembers when Thomas addressed the board last year. “After what he said, we all wanted to go back to high school,” said Gordon, citing “his connection” to students. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Westport Gets $126,290 School Technology Grant

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Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell (at Westport forum Nov. 15, 2015): “will empower more students.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

Westport will receive a $126,390 technology grant as part of a state effort to help Connecticut school districts put more computers in classrooms and increase Internet bandwidth in schools across Connecticut.

State Department of Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell announced the grant following State Bond Commission approval of $10.9 million to be distributed to 171 school districts across the state.

The investment is part of the state’s broad efforts to strengthen computer and technology resources as schools continue to implement Connecticut Core Standards and administer computer-adaptive tests aligned to these standards, an announcement said.

“If we want our students to thrive in school and have the skills and knowledge to succeed in the hightech world they will enter after high school and college, we have to teach them technology skills,”  Wentzell said.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

School Bus Monitor Cut Raises Fears

By James Lomuscio

It happened a generation ago, but the 1991 death of an 8-year-old Westport girl run over by her school bus still resonated at tonight’s Board of Education meeting.

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School board member Jeannie Smith and Michael Gordon along with Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon listen to audience comments tonight.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

At issue was a proposed cut in Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon’s 2016-17 $113.4 million school budget that would do away with Westport’s school bus monitor program except for special education students.

Landon, seeking to save $125,000 in the budget, said the monitors were no longer needed because, among other things, technology has made school buses safer.

Another reason, he said, is that a number of the monitors have retired and it is hard to find replacements. This left only one-quarter of the elementary school buses with monitors, which he called inequitable.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

No Surprise, Landon is School’s Top Earner

By James Lomuscio

Click here for top 50 list

As expected, Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon in 2015 again topped the school system’s list of wage earners with $282,226 in compensation.

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The top 20 Westport 2015 school wage earners, as provided by the school business office.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Landon, who after 17 years at the helm is retiring at the end of the school year, remains Connecticut’s highest paid schools superintendent.

On July 1 he will be replaced by Weston Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer, whose salary agreement with the Board of Education stands at $285,000.

Landon’s salary for 2015 is slightly lower than in previous years when it stood around $287,000. Elio Longo, director of school business operations who released the wage earner list today, said that Landon had deferred some of his 2015 compensation to the end of this year.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Landon: ‘No Comment’ on Lanni Parents’ Letter

UPDATE Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon today declined to comment on an open letter to him from the parents of 14-year-old Staples High School freshman Christopher Lanni that asked the administrator to investigate whether their son’s sudden death was related to cyberbullying.

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Elliott Landon: at Jan. 5 BOE meeting where Lanni death discussed. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“We have been in constant communication with the Police Department since Dec. 23 and have no further comment,” Landon said in a statement.

In their letter (see WestportNow Jan. 13, 2015), the parents asked to bring the police into the investigation if necessary. Social media posts by Westport parents during the holiday break speculated that Christopher had taken his own life as a result of persistent cyberbullying.

Westport police said today they have already investigated the death and turned up no evidence of cyberbullying.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Parents Ask for Probe Into Son’s Death

See text of letter here

The parents of 14-year-old Staples High School freshman Christopher Lanni have appealed in an open letter to Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon to investigate whether his recent sudden death was related to cyberbullying.

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Elliott Landon (at Jan. 5 Board of Education meeting): “The spreading of misinformation is harmful to our community.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

They asked to bring the police into the investigation if necessary.

“We request a thorough, professional investigation of allegations that Christopher was being bullied at school and/or on social media platforms (i.e. Instagram) by his fellow Staples students,” wrote Cornelia L. Gallo and Peter Lanni.

The letter dated Jan. 6 was sent to Westport news media tonight. Christopher died Dec. 23 in Yale-New Haven Hospital, according to a family-supplied obituary. No cause was given for his death.

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Cookies and Milk for Midterm Exams

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Staples High School guidance counselors today handed out cookies and milk as well as fruit and fortunes to students to ease the stress of midterm exams. “Cookies and milk—they’re good for you,” shouted one counselor through a megaphone. Counselors have embarked on a program to make school life less stressful.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jaime Bairaktaris for WestportNow.com

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Colleen Palmer Appointed New Super Effective July 1

By James Lomuscio

With warm wishes from an array of town and school officials, as well as parents, Weston Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer tonight was officially appointed Westport’s new schools superintendent effective July 1.

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Collen Palmer receives applause tonight following her appointment as new Westport superintendent. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Her move just one town over for the $285,000 salaried position followed a seven-month long, nationwide search to replace Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring after 17 years at the end of June.

“Tonight is a great night for the Westport schools,” Michael Gordon, school board chairman, said at the meeting’s outset prior to the unanimous vote for Palmer.

Gordon also gave a nod to Landon, saying, “the reason the bar is so high is because of the success of our students under your leadership.”

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‘I Love Education…I Love My Work’

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Colleen Palmer, Westport’s new schools superintendent, addresses tonight’s Board of Education meeting as sons Brian Bozzuto (l), 36, and Rich, 38, who traveled from the Boston area, look on. A third son, Dan, 32, of Washington, D.C., was unable to attend. “I love education,” she said. “I love my work.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

01/11/16 09:25 PM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

It’s Official: Colleen Palmer New Super

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As expected, the Westport Board of Education tonight appointed Colleen Palmer, superintendent of schools in Weston since 2011, as Westport’s new superintendent. Palmer, 61, will succeed Elliott Landon, 75, who will retire in June after 17 years as head of the Westport school system.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Friday, January 08, 2016

BOE Concerned about Staff Cuts

Westport’s Board of Education hunkered down for more than five hours today in the Westport Library’s McManus Room, poring over Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon’s proposed $113.4 million 2016-17 school operating budget, a 2.03 percent increase over the current year.

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Members of the Board of Education and staff members at budget meeting today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Today’s emphasis was on school employee salaries, an area that Landon has proposed cuts in noncontractual positions, including the elimination of third grade paraprofessionals, middle school team leaders, elementary school bus monitors, and a staff assistant at the high school.

A number of parental concerns over the cuts came up at the workshop, which was open to the public, according to Michael Gordon, school board chairman, and Jeannie Smith, vice chairwoman.

“In an attempt to meet the Board of Finance’s request of a 1.5 percent increase, the superintendent came up with a lean budget, but it included many cuts that will directly impact students, so the board will have to look at that,”  Gordon said.

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Final All-Day Budget Session for Landon

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Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon (r) joins Board of Education members Jeannie Smith and Michael Gordon today at the all-day budget session at the Westport Library. It is the last such session for Landon, who is retiriing in June after 17 years. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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BOE Crunches the Numbers

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Members of the Westport Board of Education and school staff held an all-day budget session today at the Westport Library’s McManus Room. The session will be followed by informal and formal sessions with the Board of Finance leading to approval of the 2016-17 annual budgets in May. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

01/08/16 10:39 AM Comments (0) • PermalinkEmail Favicon Facebook Favicon LinkedIn Favicon

BOE Set to Vote Monday on New Superintendent

The Westport Board of Education plans to vote at its Monday meeting to appoint Collen Palmer, superintendent of schools in Weston, as the new Westport superintendent, Chairman Michael Gordon said today.

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Colleen Palmer: moving from Weston. Contributed photo

He said on Thursday, the board completed a site visit at the Weston Public Schools.

“Board members were joined at the site visit by Westport parents, teachers, administrators and elected officials from other town bodies.” he said.  “They met in both smaller and larger groups with Weston school representatives, staff, parents and elected officials.”

He added, “With the site visit successfully completed, the board is ready to make the appointment of Dr. Palmer official.”  The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in Staples High School Cafeteria B (room 301).

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Landon’s Last Budget Unveiled

By James Lomuscio

Westport Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon, who is retiring at the end of June, tonight presented his proposed 2016-17 school operating budget to the Board of Education—$113,428,663, a 2.03 percent increase over the current year.

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Board of Education members Jeannie Smith and Michael Gordon with Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon at tonight’s meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

It is Landon’s 17th and final proposed budget.

Though higher than the 1.5 percent increase the Board of Finance had suggested, Landon said “a lot of unknowns” regarding contractual settlements with teachers and staff were taken into account. He also said his recommended budget reflects cuts that do not affect educational quality.

Among the cuts is the elimination of the elementary school bus monitor program that has been in place for 23 years, as many of the monitors are retiring.

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Block Resigns from School Board, Replacement Sought

UPDATE With Republican school board member Paul Block’s resignation this week, the Democratic majority Westport Board of Education has begun working with the Republican Town Committee (RTC) to the fill the vacancy, board members announced tonight.

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Paul Block: elected in November. Contributed photo

Jeannie Smith, school board vice chairwoman and a Republican, will lead the effort to find a replacement, said Michael Gordon, school board chairman and a Democrat.

Block, who was reelected to a four-year term in November, stepped down since he recently took a CEO position at a new company, and its demands would interfere with his role on the board, said Gordon.

The new appointment’s term will run through November 2019, “almost a four-year term,” said Gordon.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Talking Education

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Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore gets together tonight with former Staples High School Principal John Dodig at Westport’s Vespa restaurant following the screening of Moore’s new film “Where to Invade Next” at at Bowtie Cinemas Royale 6 in Norwalk. The film is an expansive, subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the United States could improve its own prospects. In France, Moore marvels at the exceptional quality of the cuisine served in its public schools and in Finland he spotlights its education measures, including doing away with homework and seeking to educate the whole person, rather than merely training students to pass a standardized test. Dodig said he told Moore his entire career has been devoted to promoting similar goals for his students. Also in the audience and at the reception was Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Gallery: Final 75th Anniversary Candlelight Concert


Scenes from tonight’s final 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert at Staples High School. The evening began with a video produced by Staples ‘61 graduate John Brandt reviewing the history of the concerts. Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

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Gallery: Candlelight Alums at 75th Anniversary Reception


Prior to tonight’s final performance of the 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert at Staples High School, some Candlelight alumni and guests gathered at the Inn at Westport for a reception. Here are some scenes from the event. Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Gallery: 75th Candlelight Concert Debuts


Scenes from tonight’s opening night of the 75th Candlelight Concert at Westport’s Staples High School. In an unusual twist, the Symphonic Orchestra was conducted by David Ohanian, Staples Class of 1963 and the son of John Ohanian, director at Staples from 1940 to 1974 and the beloved founder of the Candlelight Concert. In honor of David Ohanian’s presence, Choral Director Luke Rosenberg invited alumni to join in singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from “The Messiah,” something usually reserved for Saturday night’s closing concert. Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

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Guest Conductor

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Guest conductor tonight of the Staples High School Symphonic Orchestra at the opening night of the 75th Candlelight Concert was David Ohanian, Staples ‘63, son of John Ohanian, founder of Candlelight. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

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New Production Number

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At tonight’s 75th presentation of the annual Candlelight Concert at Staples High School, students presented a program ending with a new production number, an entertaining updated “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”  by Don Rickenback. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

BOE Names Weston Schools Head Superintendent Finalist

UPDATE Colleen Palmer, superintendent of schools in Weston, is the finalist candidate to replace Elliott Landon as Westport’s superintendent of schools, the Westport Board of Education announced today.

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Colleen Palmer: in Weston since 2011. Contributed photo

It said it expected to make appointment in January. Landon is retiring in June after 17 years in the post.

Palmer, 61, named last month superintendent of the year by the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, became superintendent in Weston in 2011.

Following the Westport announcement, the Weston Board of Education issued a statement congratulating Palmer on being named the Westport finalist. It said her departure “will be a great loss” for Weston and that it is launching a search for her successor.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Orphenians Entertain at Westport Rotary

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The Orphenians of Staples High School performed holiday songs today at the Westport Rotary Club weekly meeting a Christ & Holy Trinity Church’s Branson Hall. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Fourth Holiday Season for Rosenberg

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Luke Rosenberg led the Orphenians today at a Westport Rotary Club performance. This is the fourth holiday concert season for Rosenberg since taking over as choral director at Staples High School. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Special Holiday Performance for Y’s Men

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There was a special holiday treat at today’s Y’s Men of Westport Weston weekly meeting at Saugatuck Congregational Church—a performance by the Staples High School Chamber Orchestra. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com

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Looking Back at Three Decades of Promoting Musical Excellence

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Adele Cutrali-Valovich, Staples High School’s director of orchestral music, today brought her 33-member “by audition only” chamber orchestra to the weekly Y’s Men meeting at the Saugatuck Congregational Church to play a short pre-holiday performance for the group. She also discussed the Westport music department’s commitment to excellence during her three-decade tenure and reminded the Y’s Men to get their tickets for the upcoming 75th Anniversary Candlelight Concert next weekend. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Staples Boys Soccer Team Wins Academic All-America Honors

For the 13th time in 15 years — and the seventh season in a row — the Staples boys soccer program has been honored with a national award for academic excellence.

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The 2014 Staples boys soccer varsity team: Academic All-Americans. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Photo by Kim Lake

The National Soccer Coaches Association of America gave the Wreckers a Team Academic Award — one of only three boys public high school soccer teams in Connecticut to be so named. The Staples girls team also earned Academic All-America honors.

To qualify, a squad must have a 3.25 grade point average of all varsity players. The award is given for the previous academic year. In 2014, Staples’ varsity players had an average GPA of 3.40 — just .03 points behind the record, set in 2013.

“I’ve always said that our players are some of the smartest and most creative people at Staples,” said head coach Dan Woog.

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