Monday, February 16, 2004
Staples High School in Westport is among state schools suffering because a lawmaker last year thought sleepy students shouldn’t be taking high-stakes standardized tests until they are a little more awake.
As high schools prepare to give the Connecticut Academic Performance (CAP) Test to sophomores this spring, school officials say a new law that bars standardized testing before 9 a.m. is wreaking havoc on schedules, according to an AP report.
The problem is that school officials who finesse the clockwork of a school day don’t know what to do with a large group of students who would be on a totally different schedule than the rest of the student body.
And they say it’s causing kinks in everything from bus schedules to lunch schedules to class schedules.
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Several things were clear from Tuesday night’s Board of Finance session—improved communication is needed with the Board of Education and finance members are now more attuned to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act.
The work session, held in tight quarters in one of Town Hall’s smallest meeting rooms because other rooms were booked, was called to make amends for holding an unnoticed discussion about the same subject following the board’s regular Feb. 4 session.
That discussion had started as an informal calendar-checking talk after the meeting adjourned but turned into a full-scale dialogue about the town’s biggest budget item.
The discussion was a violation of the Freedom of Information Act because it had not been noticed in advance and took place after the meeting was adjourned.
The Westport Board of Finance met tonight to discuss education budget issues. The session, in tight quarters in a Town Hall meeting room, was held to make amends for holding a similar discussion following adjournment of its Feb. 4 regular meeting—a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Board Chair Steve Ezzes said the breach was inadvertent and he apologized to those attending. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE). WestportNow.com photo
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
The Westport Board of Education voted tonight in effect to reverse its controversial decision last year to change the school start times of Coleytown Elementary School and Coleytown Middle School to a half hour earlier to save money. By a 4-3 vote, board members added $249,000 to their proposed budget to cover the additional cost. They defeated a proposal to adjust all school start times by 15 minutes which would not have required additional funding. Audience members lined up to address the board before their votes. Later, by a 6-1 vote (with Mark Owades opposed), the board approved an operating budget of $75,123,677, a 7.25 percent increase over the 2003-4 operating budget. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE). WestportNow.com photo
Friday, February 06, 2004
The Westport public schools are closed today due to the snowstorm, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon announced.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
The controversial issue of school start times was before the Westport Board of Education tonight. The co-chairs of the School Start Time Committee, Angela Wormser and Dan Sullivan, presented results of their survey on the subject to board members (See WestportNow Jan. 29, 2004). The board put off a vote on possibly changing start times until next Monday. WestportNow.com photo
Members of the Westport Board of Finance tonight had a lengthy informal discussion about the Board of Ed budget. Among the topics was whether to ask the Board of Education to hold its budget closer to 5 percent rather than what the superintendent calls a proposed 6.9 percent increase, but which finance members calculate is actually 8 percent not counting insurance savings. They also discussed asking the educators to postpone final approval of their budget pending further talks with their board. The discussion followed formal adjournment of the meeting which was broadcast live on the town’s government access cable channel. WestportNow.com photo
Thursday, January 29, 2004
A survey about the controversial Westport school start time issue released today shows that parents with children at two schools initiating earlier start times this year either have negative or mixed feelings about it, but staff members at the schools mostly favor it.
In addition, a district-wide survey found that parents mostly support a 15-minute later shift in start and ending times while staff members mostly oppose it.
The results were released at an afternoon meeting of the School Start Time Committee. Asked his reaction to the survey, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon had a one-word response: “interesting.”
At a December meeting of the Board of Education, several board members suggested the panel consider a compromise 15-minute change something that also had been raised earlier this year but rejected.
The board was scheduled to hear the Start Time Committee’s report at its Feb. 4 meeting.
Two schools ֖ Coleytown Middle School and Coleytown Elementary School started classes a half-hour earlier beginning in September to save money on transportation costs.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Westport public schools will be closed today due to the snowstorm, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon announced.
Friday, January 23, 2004
Coleytown Middle School students Taylor, Christina, and Margaret, all 13, explain their business plan for a Westport teen restaurant to a panel of judges today as part of their eighth grade computer class. Other student ideas for Westport businesses included a teen job center, an amusement park, and a lighting company that would light athletic fields. (CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Insurance consultant Robert L.Pernicka, senior VP of The Segal Company, told town officials Tuesday night he had good news and bad news about Board of Ed employee insurance claims. The good news claim expenses are 82 percent of what was anticipated this year, resulting in a $700,000 cost savings. The bad news ֖ he can’t guarantee the lower claims will continue. Board of Ed Chair Sandra Urist looks on. WestportNow.com photo
Friday, January 16, 2004
The Westport public schools will be on a two-hour delay Friday due to the extreme cold temperatures, Schools Supt Elliott Landon announced tonight.
Today’s classes were canceled because of an overnight snowfall.
Thursday, January 15, 2004
The Westport Board of Education purchasing policies have again come under criticism this time by a committee of the town’s legislative body.
The board discussed revisions to its policies Wednesday night and heard a plea from a member of the Finance Committee of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) that the policies include seeking three written quotations even if a state bid list is used.
The committee had made such a recommendation eight months ago as controversy swirled around a change in vendors for copiers for the schools and how the new vendor was selected.
The Westport public schools are closed today due to the snow.
Monday, January 12, 2004
Westport Schools Supt. Elliott Landon tonight presented what he called a “3 R’s budget” of $74.9 million to the Board of Education for the 2004-2005 school year that is a 6.9 percent increase over the current year’s budget.
Schools Supt. Elliott Landon goes over budget figures tonight with board chair Sandra Urist. WestportNow.com photo
In a document prepared for tonight’s Board of Education meeting at Staples High School, Landon characterized the budget as being built on “3 R’s” re-examination, rationale, and responsibility.
“Whether addressing personnel, curriculum, equipment or facilities, every decision in this budget is both educationally and fiscally responsible,” he said.
He told the board that he shaped the budget “clearly cognizant of the fiscal pressures bearing down on the Town of Westport.” He called the 6.9 percent increase “modest.”
The Westport public school system is on a two-hour delay today due to an overnight snow fall.
Friday, January 09, 2004
Despite today’s frigid temperatures, work continued on the $74 million Staples High School renovation and addition project. The first phase is expected to be completed next year. WestportNow.com photo
Sunday, December 28, 2003
David Abbey, a former special education coordinator at Staples High School, takes over as New Canaans school superintendent on Thursday.
He replaces Gary Richards who announced in May that he had landed a job in California. Abbey, 55, has been the district’s second-in-command since last year.
Abbey was special ed coordinator at Staples from 1981 to 1988. He then took a similar job at New Canaan High School, moving up to the principal position there in 1991.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
This years holiday season provided ample opportunity for Westport students to learn about the spirit of giving.
They raised money for gifts, donated toys and food to the needy, and played Santa to dozens of youngsters who had written to the North Pole via the Bridgeport Post Office.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
As expected, Westports Staples High School was among Connecticut high schools identified today as not meeting standards set under the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
Staples was cited because not enough students participated in the 2003 Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), according to the AP.
Under the federal law, 95 percent of students are required to participate.
On Dec. 3, the state cited Westport as among Connecticut school districts that failed to make “adequate yearly progress,” a requirement of the law.
While the state at that time did not specifically cite Staples, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon confirmed that not enough students taking tests at the high school had contributed to the Westport deficiency listing.
He said only 44 of 48 Staples special education students participated in the CAPT mathematics test and 43 of 48 participated in the CAPT reading test.
However, he noted that for the special education students who did participate, 92 percent scored at or above the proficiency level in mathematics, and 100 percent achieved proficiency in reading.
In August, Bedford Middle School was listed on the state list of schools in need of improvement because one student did not take a test, according to Landon.
CAPT evaluates sophomore students in four subject areas: reading, writing, math and science. Student scores are the basis for determining which high schools are making “adequate yearly progress” in meeting the standards of the federal education reform law.
Full results are available at www.captreports.com.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Sunday, December 14, 2003
In an effort to accommodate more Board business and public input, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon is proposing the Board of Education meet three times a month instead of two and start a half hour earlier—at 7:30 p.m.
In a memo to Board members in advance of Monday nights meeting, Landon proposed that the Board have one monthly meeting devoted solely to public input and not take public comment at the other two meetings.
ғDepending on the press of business, the Board could schedule one of the meetings for extended public comments or, if the meeting is deemed not necessary, the meeting could be canceled, he said.
Landon added, ԓIf the Board approves this approach, members might wish to consider eliminating public comment on non-agenda items for two meetings per month and opening the floor for general public comment at the third meeting.
In response to concerns from Board members and the public about starting important topics late in the evening, Landon proposed moving up the meeting start time a half hour from 8 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
He said this would mean starting executive sessions at 6 p.m., and following the practice of the Board of Finance, bringing in dinner for members.
The proposed Westport school calendar for 2004-2005 looks pretty much like the ones in the past.
In a submission for Board of Education action at its Monday night meeting, Schools Supt. Elliott Landon said the proposal is for a traditional calendar, preserving the three extended vacations in the customary places with eight weeks between each vacation period.Ӕ
Landon said Westport schools will continue to be in session on Veterans Day but added that all principals will pay particular attention to having a significant observance of the meaning of the day.Ӕ
There had been some criticism by Westport veterans after this years observance that school children should not have school on Nov. 11 so they could attend the townҒs annual Veterans Day ceremony at Town Hall.
The calendar proposal calls for school to start on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004, and end on Thursday, June 23, 2005. Students will be off for Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 6.
The Christmas break will be from Friday, Dec. 24, 2004, to Monday, Jan. 3, 2005.
There will be a vacation break from Monday, Feb. 21, 2005, to Friday. Feb. 25, with a staff development day on Monday, Feb. 28, meaning students won’t return to classes until Tuesday, March 1.
The final vacation will be Monday, April 18, to Friday, April 22.
Landon told the board in a memo that since the calendar is a traditional one, he hoped the board would approve it Monday night as we have already begun to get phone calls from parents trying to plan ahead for their childrenӒs summer activities and their family vacations.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
The Westport school systems committee studying the controversial issue of adolescent sleep time and school starting times says it needs six to nine additional months for its work.
In a progress report prepared for MondayҒs Board of Education meeting, the School Start-Time Committee said it agrees that adolescents need more sleep, that the issue is complex and multi-faceted, and that scientific evidence is inconclusive.
The scientific literature does not provide a clear answer regarding school start time,Ӕ the committee said.
It also agreed that the community needs to understand the problem and be actively involved with determining a solution.Ӕ
To deal effectively with this issue will require more time,Ӕ the committee said. It said if the Board agrees, it would issue a final report between July and October 2004, depending on the pace of its remaining work.
The committee, co-chaired by Dan Sullivan, principal of Greens Farms Elementary School, and Angela Wormser, principal of Bedford Middle School, has met 10 times since Sept. 30.
Its charge is to examine, develop and make recommendations for school start time for all Westport schools.
It was formed after the Board of Education this year ordered classes at Coleytown Middle School and Coleytown Elementary School to start half an hour earlier to save money on transportation costs.
The cost-saving measure produced an outcry from parents and was hotly debated during the recent Board of Education election.
In its progress report, the committee suggested that the issue was even more complex than the educators initially believed.
ғAs we learn more about the topic, more areas of issues appear, the report said.
The committee said its remaining tasks included reviewing parent and staff surveys from Coleytown Elementary and Coleytown Middle School and conducting community forums.
It also said it wanted to calculate costs and implications of various start-time options as well as conduct a ԓscientifically randomized telephone survey to determine community support for various school start time options.
The Hartford Courant, in an editorial, has praised the reaction of Westports Staples High School to reports of cheating among its students.
It wrote: ғCheating among high school and college students is at an all-time high. Technology makes it possible, even tempting. Term papers and fake diplomas are offered for sale with abandon on the Internet. Copyrighted music is available with a click of the mouse. Electronic gadgets are capable of providing information from anywhere and using it without permission or attribution.
Young people raised in this milieu seem not to understand or care that passing off someone else’s work as one’s own is plagiarism. File sharing, the practice that has the music industry in an uproar, is illegal but nonetheless rampant. It’s sharing, said students at a recent high school journalism workshop. How could that be wrong?
“In some ways, this cavalier attitude is encouraged by well-publicized breaches of ethics by adults in the corporate, political and financial arenas.
ԔJohn J. Brady, principal at Westport’s Staples High School, is doing something about this disturbing trend among young people by making cheating an issue. He was prompted by an essay in the school newspaper chronicling ‘epidemic’ cheating at the school, followed by examples of elaborate cheating schemes among students driven by academic competition.
A funny thing happened on the way to a culture change at Staples High: The students welcomed the honest talk about the difference between pursuit of knowledge and pursuit of grades. They are involved in forming strategies for making cheating socially unacceptable. Parents and teachers are part of the effort, too.
ԔWestport’s recognition of the seriousness of this issue and its intelligent attempt to address it should be a model for Connecticut and the nation. Parents and educators don’t do children any favors by failing to teach them that hard, honest achievement is the most satisfying route to success.