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Westport Police Nab Employee in Bank Robbery

Westport police today announced the arrest of a 24-year-old employee of the Hudson United Bank branch on Post Road West in connection with last Fridays armed robbery at the bank.
A police statement said Phong P. Pham of Branford turned himself in after a warrant for his arrest was issued.


The Nov. 28 robbery at this Hudson United Bank branch at 420 Post Road West turned out to be an inside job. WestportNow.com photo

According to the statement, Westport police detectives, working with the FBI and Hudson United Bank security personnel, discovered that money was taken from the bank vault prior to the robbery.
ғThe armed robbery on Friday morning was a cover-up for this theft, the statement said.
Police said more than $8,000 in cash was taken during the robbery and about $49,000 was discovered missing from the vault.
ԓThe robbery occurred prior to 8:30 a.m. and Pham returned to the bank at 10 a.m. that day for work, finding police and bank officials still on the scene conducting the investigation, the statement said.
Police said Pham cooperated with police and the FBI during the investigation and assisted in recovering the clothing and a knife used during the robbery, as well as more than $3,000 in cash.
He was charged with robbery first degree and larceny first degree with bond set at $25,000 pending a court appearance Dec. 15, police said.

Westport Cited for Violating No Child Left Behind Law

Westport has been cited as among Connecticut school districts violating a key provision of No Child Left Behind, the new federal education law.

The state Department of Education Wednesday listed Westport as one of 99 Connecticut districts that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress, a requirement of No Child Left Behind.

Westport was cited officially as among 27 districts not having the required 95 percent of every category of students taking the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and/or Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) during 2001-2002.

As reported by WestportNow Nov. 24, Westport educators were nervous that Staples High School would be cited by the state because not enough students participated in testing.

The latest report did not cite specific schools but was based on performance of all schools in the district.

However, Supt. of Schools Elliott Landon confirmed that not enough students taking tests at Staples had contributed to the Westport deficiency listing.

Only 44 of 48 (Staples) special education students participated in the CAPT mathematics test and 43 of 48 participated in the CAPT reading test,Ӕ he told WestportNow.

As a result, this subgroup of students did not achieve the 95 percent participation rate target for Adequate Yearly Progress as required by the law, he said.

Inklings, the Staples newspaper, had reported in its October issue that Staples had already been put on notice that it had failed the latest round of student achievement testing because not enough students had taken the test.

But Landon told WestportNow last week the Inklings report was premature as he was still awaiting the official report.

Landon also gave additional details about the Staples performance.

On the mathematics component, there was a 92 percent participation rate recorded for special education students and a 90 percent participation rate in the reading component,Ӕ he said.

Nonetheless, 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.Ӕ

Landon said of the overall Staples population, 95 percent of our students scored at or above the proficient level in mathematics (up from 88 percent last year) and 96 percent of our students achieved at or above the proficient level in reading (up form 94 percent last year).Ӕ

For the full Staples report, click here.

In August, Bedford Middle School ended up on a state Education Department list of schools in need of improvement because one student did not take a test, according to Landon.

The state will officially release a list next week of high schools failing to make adequate yearly progress based on 2003 CAPT scores.

State education officials said the latest list of failing districts, including Westport, is based on the aggregate performance of subgroups at all of the district’s schools, including schools that did not make the list this summer.

Subgroups include 40 or more students and include poor and minority students, students with disabilities, and English as second language learners.

No Child Left Behind, which separates students’ test scores based on demographic groups, requires that at least 95 percent of students in each group take standardized tests, to ensure scores are not skewed.

Westport was not the only affluent district in the state to fall short of No Child Left Behind’s goals. Greenwich, Fairfield, Cheshire, and Guilford also made the state Department of Education’s list for not testing enough students in each subgroup.

Both Norwalk and Stamford were identified as failing to make adequate yearly progress, based on their performance on math and reading tests.

In all, 54 percent of Connecticut’s 185 school districts and charter schools failed to make adequate yearly progress.

This was the first time the state Department of Education released a comprehensive list of schools failing to meet the standards of No Child Left Behind.

Journalist Calls for Urgent Action on Indian Recognition

Investigative journalist Jeff Benedict told a Westport audience today urgent congressional action is needed to head off federal recognition of an Indian tribe that could lead to construction of a casino in Fairfield County.WestportNow.com Image
Investigative journalist Jeff Benedict addresses the Y’s Men today. WestportNow.com photo

The time for action is now, not in January, said Benedict in an address to an overflow crowd of the Ys Men of Westport/Weston at the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

He said unless Connecticut’s congressional delegation intervenes with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation could gain recognition and move to purchase the former Union Carbide property in Danbury for a casino.

Benedict released a copy of a letter he sent to the delegation Tuesday as head of a Ridgefield-based anti-casino group called The Connecticut Alliance Against Casino Expansion.