Monday, April 03, 2017
Scenes from tonight’s TEAM Westport diversity essay contest ceremony at the Westport Library. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Three Staples High School students have been chosen to represent the school at July’s Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit in Singapore. Hwa Chong Institution invites only the top student leaders from some of the best schools around the world to the summit. For the past five years, Westport has been invited to send three juniors who are both high performing students and interested in world affairs with a special interest in Asia. This year’s attendees include (top row, l-r) Samantha Ginzberg, Staples English teacher and chaperone and Jackson Delgado; (bottom row) Marshall Heiser and Jessica Xu. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Friday, March 31, 2017
To the Editor:
Budget cuts or not, we’re in good hands.
Recently many have been worried about the future of our schools. I’ve been looking for a way to explain why I’m not worried about the future of our schools — not yet anyway, and tonight I found it.
I don’t know what will happen with our budget, but I know that our students will always be in good hands and in great schools regardless.
In support of fellow WEMS volunteer Ben Frimmer and several kids that I’ve watched over the years, I went and saw Coleytown Company’s performance of “Cinderella” — directed by Ben and put on by the kids of Coleytown Middle School.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Scenes from today’s dress rehearsal by Coleytown Middle School’s Coleytown Company of its production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” which runs Thursday through Saturday. Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com
The Coleytown Company’s “Cinderella,” running Thursday through Saturday under Artistic Director Benjamin Frimmer, is bringing a modern day vision to the production.
In this version Cinderella, or Ella as she is known, is reimagined as a strong, independent young woman who wants to make the world a better place.
Returning are choreographer and Broadway veteran Michelle Berti and set designer Peter Barbiere. Joanna Pan is overseeing costume design. Brett Boles is musical director.
In all, 85 eager and talented students have been rehearsing and working hard to make this one of the school’s best productions ever.
Bedford Middle School sixth graders prepare for “The Witches.” Contributed photos
Bedford Middle School sixth grade students present “The Witches,” the Roald Dahl classic tale on Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
“The Witches” is a tale of a boy and his grandmother who use their wits to defeat the Grand High Witch’s plan to squelch all the children of England by turning them into mice.
“This Roald Dahl story is both stupendously scary and gleefully giddy and will appeal to young kids, adolescents and adults alike,” an announcement said.
Tickets are available online at: http://www.bedfordactinggroup.com — $10 for children and $12 for adults. Children 2 and under are free. Seats are also available at the door.
Monday, March 27, 2017
George E. LaCava of Danbury, a retired Westport educator, died March 22. He was 86.
He was appointed head of instructional materials at Staples High School in 1967.
He received a B.S. from Danbury State College, a M.S. at the University of Bridgeport, and did graduate work at Fordham University and the University of Arizona.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, March 31 at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Church, 8 Robinson Ave., Danbury. Interment will follow in St. Peter Cemetery, Danbury. There will be no calling hours.
An earlier version of this story said incorrectly he was a member of the English department.
The Westport schools today announced student winners of the 2016-2017 PTA Reflections Art Program, a nationwide arts contest sponsored by the PTA that provides students with the opportunity for artistic creative expression and positive recognition for their efforts.
This year’s winners from Staples High School included: Literature “We Will Break Through” by Natasha Johnson; Film: “Moments” by Antonia Sousa; Photography: “Growing - An Upward Spiral” by Sarah Barnett; Dance: “Close to the Sun” by Colin McKechnie, and Visual Arts: “Sophie Elizabeth” by Sophie Driscoll.
Coleytown and Bedford Middle School winners include :Visual Arts: “My Piece” by CMS student Sophie Alcyone, and Dance: “Ballerino” by BMS student Jamie Mann. These students and their work will now move on to the national level for judging.
Additional Westport Public School students receiving recognition include:
Westport music students are going to Hartford to participate in the 71st Annual Connecticut Music Educators Association (CMEA) All-State Conference on March 31, the school system announced today.
They include three ensembles comprised of 45 students from the Long Lots Elementary School Pan Island Express Steel Drum Band, the Westport Middle School Percussion Ensemble, and the Bedford Middle School Jazz Ensemble.
Each school year, CMEA hosts regional concerts that highlight students’ advanced achievement in music performance.
In March, CMEA hosts a statewide in-service conference for music educators and concludes with the All-State ensemble performances by high school students.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Westport’s Staples High School and Bedford Middle School Chamber Music students performed at Symphony Hall in Boston on Friday. They also had a master class with the Boston Symphony Orchestra members. It was the same day that Superintendent Colleen Palmer’s latest budget message mentioned the possible elimination of individual music lessons in grades 4 to 8. The subject will be discussed at Monday’s Board of Education meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Emily Schussheim (l) has been named valedictorian of Staples High School’s Class of 2017 and Christopher Scherban is salutatorian. Emily has spent her entire academic career in the Westport school system while Christopher moved here in 10th grade, in large part for the schools. They will be featured speakers in June — she at the graduation ceremonies, he the night before at baccalaureate. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (r) told a meeting of the Westport Democratic Town Committee (DTC) tonight that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy “doesn’t have the votes” to push through his plan to make municipalities responsible for paying a portion of teacher pensions. “It’s not going to happen,” he said, adding that Democrats will have to find revenues elsewhere. At the same meeting, Board of Education Chair Michael Gordon said the board will seek full or partial restoration of the $1.67 million cut from its budget last week by the Board of Finance. “There’s not a scenario in the world that we could sustain a $1.67 million cut” without seriously impacting children’s education, he said. The finance board will consider the request at its Wednesday, April 5 meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo
Saturday, March 18, 2017
James Gikas, 15, a Staples High School sophomore, today won first place in the National History Day competition at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield for his performance as the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He will go on to compete in the state competition in April. Twenty Westport middle and high school students won awards at today’s event.(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Thursday, March 16, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Fiscal realities trumped pressure from school officials and parents as the Board of Finance tonight voted 5 to 2 to cut $1.7 million from the $115,351,346 proposed school budget for 2017-18.
With that cut and the unanimous official approval of Wednesday night’s provisional $78 million municipal budget, the total town and school budget, including aid to private and parochial schools and debt service, is $203,514,189 for next year.
Following a finance board directive to cut $1.7 million, Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer and Board of Education members tonight revisited their budget, recommending only $977,000 in cuts.
She and Michael Gordon, school board chairman, as well as more than a dozen parents who spoke, argued that cutting more would have a negative impact on students and the reason people move to Westport.
Holocaust survivor Ivan Becker will appear in a forum at the Westport Country Playhouse on Wednesday, March 29.
The 7 p.m. event is presented by the Playhouse, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and TEAM Westport.
Called “From Hate to Hope: A Conversation with Holocaust Kindertransport Survivor Ivan Backer,” it will take place in the Playhouse’s White Barn Center, adjacent to the theater.
Free by reservation and open to the public, the event is presented in conjunction with the Playhouse’s April production of the musical memoir, “The Pianist of Willesden Lane.”
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
UPDATE Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer said tonight there will be a three-hour delay for Westport public schools on Wednesday.
“Cannot get our drivers from Bridgeport for a.m. - will borrow drivers of closed districts,” she said in a tweet.
“School crews working thru night - 3-hr. delay.”
Later, responding to a question whether Wednesday’s shortened day counts as one of the state-required 182 school days, Palmer replied: “Yes! If students are in school for any length of time, the day counts.”
Monday, March 13, 2017
Due to the state’s fiscal uncertainty, Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer tonight recommended $977,000 in cuts from the schools’ proposed 2017-18 operating budget.
Board members later suggested the number be reduced to $967,000. The board will consider the recommendations before finalizing the proposed budget—possibly at $114,384,346—before sending it to the Board of Finance.
The finance board had recommended the school system cut an extra $1.7 million.
“If we thought they were 100 percent acceptable, they would have been in the original budget,” Palmer said about her proposed cuts.
By James Lomuscio
First Selectman Jim Marpe said today he is closely monitoring but not joining Ridgefield’s threat to sue the state over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s push to municipalities to pay 30 percent of teacher pensions.
Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi threatened legal action last week if Malloy moves ahead with his proposal. Other towns have reportedly gotten behind Ridgefield.
“I’m in touch with First Selectman Marconi and a number of other town chief executive officers in the area who are exploring this option, and I will monitor their activity,” Marpe said.
“There is some belief it’s not legally possible for a municipality to sue the state, so it would be interesting what the research finds,” he added.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Calling herself a “weather geek,” Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer took to twitter tonight to offer a lengthy explanation about her school cancellation decision early today.
“Why supt. hate calling snow days at 5 a.m. when all we have to go on is the meteorologist’s forecast!,” she wrote. “More snow Tues.”
And, showing her advanced computer capabilities, she bypassed the 140-word twitter limit by attaching an image of her much longer explanation.
Her tweet recalled the uproar over her predecessor Elliott Landon’s 6:45 a.m. late closing call and and subsequent explanation during a February 2014 snowstorm when other districts made it much earlier. (See WestportNow Feb. 7, 2014)
Thursday, March 09, 2017
By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomaswww.ctmirror.org
Connecticut’s small towns today pressed the General Assembly to take the governor’s proposal to shift a third of teacher pension costs onto communities “off the table” in state budget deliberations — but administration officials held firm on their plan.
And while some legislators already have said — privately or publicly — that the controversial plan effectively is dead, the Connecticut Council of Small Towns said the looming threat alone has paralyzed local budget preparations.
COST also raised a new legal argument that could force Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to choose between his public description of the pension billing plan, and his legal definition.
In other words, either stop describing it as a “spending cut” and admit it is a new $400 million annual fee imposed on cities and towns, or risk a legal battle.
Wednesday, March 08, 2017
More than 325 musicians performed tonight in the town-wide Westport Music Festival at Staples High School. Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer tweeted this picture, noting that more than 1,200 students in the school system play a string instrument. @WestportSuper/twitter.com
The Westport Youth Commission is seeking rising ninth through twelfth grade students and adult members for the 2017-2018 school year, Human Services Director Sarah Heath said today. There are limited vacancies available.
“The Youth Commission serves as advocates for youth issues in Westport and encourages programs and resources for addressing those needs,” she said.
Its 30 members, 15 students and 15 adults, are appointed by the First Selectman. Incoming ninth grade students are invited to join the Freshman Committee prior to applying for appointment as sophomores.
“If you are currently in grades eight through eleven and/or an adult who is interested in discussing youth issues on a monthly basis while making a difference in your community we invite you to join,” Heath said.
Members of the Kings Highway Elementary School PTA pack books from their One Book, One School reading initiative to be donated to the Luis Munoz Elementary School in Bridgeport. The project involved every family receiving the book “Gooseberry Park” to help promote reading at home with family members. The school’s literacy team then asked the families to consider donating their gently used books back to the school so they could be donated. Pictured (l-r) are Tracey Carbone, Kisha Canady, Cheryl Smith, John Brakeman and Tara Doyle. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Monday, March 06, 2017
By James Lomuscio
In the throes of budget season, it wasn’t business as usual but business unusual tonight for Westport’s Board of Finance as it grappled with planned state cuts and eleventh hour costs totaling about $8 million.
After hearing public input at the special meeting and following much deliberation in an executive session, the board agreed that the total town and school proposed budget of $206 million for 2017-18 should be decreased by $3.5 million.
That way, budgets would be in place by the start of fiscal year beginning July 1, said Brian Stern, finance board chairman. And if the remaining $4.5 million actually hits when the state’s budget in finalized in September, the finance board would revisit the budget — and a modest tax increase is likely.
The reason for all the uncertainty? Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed that municipalities pay one-third of teacher pensions, a potential liability translates into an extra $5.9 million per year here, $8 million when tallied with $2.1 million in state cuts to Westport for next year.
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) Jose Hernandez, Jackson Delgado, Casey Rubin, Kristina Wasserman, and Tamikah Boyer; (middle row) Sophie Tricarico, Abigail Genser, Justine Shikowitz, and Sydney Winthrop; (front row) Michelle Levy and Sarah Berkowsky. Missing from picture is Matthew Epstein. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Westport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer was a Coleytown Middle School today and tweeted this picture with the caption: “CMS students enjoy poems and supporting artwork. QR codes link to student voices reading their works.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) @WestportSuper/Twitter.com
Students from Jane Garard’s first grade class at Coleytown Elementary School today celebrate the 16th annual National Education Association’s (NEA) Read Across America Day with Don Rebar, Westport Country Playhouse’s associate director of marketing, as he reads them Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat.” The Read Across America program is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of children’s author Dr. Seuss. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
By James Lomuscio
Westport Board of Finance Chairman Brian Stern said tonight that a “modest” tax increase is likely despite the fiscally responsible proposed town and school budgets.
“I do think we will have a modest tax increase in the fall,” he said after hearing details of the budgets tonight.
The reason? Stern only had to point to Hartford, and harsh words flowed.
“Hartford should quit asking us to fill the gap for their own ineptitude,” Stern said about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s plan for towns to pay one-third of teacher pensions.
Nine Staples High School seniors have been named finalists in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program. All have a chance to earn one of 7,400 National Merit Scholarship awards, together worth more than $35 million. Pictured are (back row, l-r) Ulyana Piterbarg, Nicole T. Kiker, Alexander D. Ialeggio, and Tia Pogue; (front row) Phoebe Spear, JiSu Ahn, Isabelle Amlicke, and Lindsey N. Marks. Missing from picture: Grace McGinley. Greens Farms Academy announced one finalist: Christopher Glynn of Stamford, (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
By Andrew Ba Tran, Jake Kara and Jacqueline Rabe Thomaswww.ctmirror.org
The zero-to-100 grade the state gives every public school and district each year declined for the vast majority of public schools and districts, according to data released today by the State Department of Education.
[The Westport School District dropped to 84.4 in 2015-16 compared to 92.2 in 2014-15. Only Staples High School and Greens Farms Elementary school showed marked overall improvement. (see chart HERE)]
But the state’s education commissioner said the widespread declines in scores should be seen as part of a recalibration of the grading system. The majority of students scored better on standardized tests.
The state’s grading system is based on more than a dozen different measures, including factors such as test scores and how many students are chronically absent, enroll in arts and Advanced Placement college-prep courses, graduate from high school and enroll in college within a year of graduation.
Greens Farms Academy’s Head of School Janet Hartwell says she will retire from the Westport-based independent school in June 2018.
“These years at GFA have been so deeply rewarding for me, professionally and personally,” she was quoted as saying in a school news release. She is now in her 14th year at the PreK-12 co-ed day school on Beachside Avenue.
Last year’s graduating class named Hartwell as an honorary “lifer” — a term for students who attend the school from kindergarten through to 12th grade — having started with them back in 2003.
“One of the great joys of working with our students is to watch them grow and develop at GFA, finding their voices, passions, and their sense of self,” Hartwell said.