Tuesday, May 30, 2023


School Officials React to Allegations of Racism at Staples High School

Board of Education Chair Candice Savin said that Thomas met with Michel earlier today after the letter was published.

“They are looking into her concerns, so I’m waiting to hear more back from them,” she said.

“I have confidence that they are handling this with sensitivity and care,” she said of the administration.

Coincidentally, Savin said that on Tuesday she attended a meeting of TEAM Westport—the town-run committee centered on issues of diversity—which she described as “a great group of people who are really interested in working with the district to improve sensitivity.”

“I know that everyone on our board is fully committed to doing everything they can to create and encourage an environment that is equitable, respectful, supportive and fair to every student,” she said.

“I know that we always are interested in a more diverse staff,” she said, “and that’s a goal.”

In her letter, Michel also states that the hiring of Thomas as principal was done “for the Images, meaning he was only really out there to show that Staples looks diverse.”

While he didn’t respond directly to her accusation, said John Bayers, director of human resources and general administration, outlined the process for hiring any new principal, which in this case included the work of an outside consultant.

“Westport is continually seeking to diversify its workforce,” Bayers said.

Owing to a statewide push to diversify the workforce in public schools, he said Westport is one of eight districts participating in a pilot program called “Creating a District Plan to Increase the Racial, Ethnic, and Linguistic Diversity of Your Educator Workforce.”

“The work will not only assist us with the recruitment of a diverse workforce, but with the retention process as well,” Bayers said, noting an initial meeting was just held last month, with many workshops planned this year.

“We are excited about the work and eager to apply the learning to our district recruitment and retention efforts,” he said.

Lawmakers Appear to Favor Revival of Aid in Dying, Crisis Pregnancy Centers Legislation

Religious groups and people with disabilities have denounced the measure, citing concerns about coercion and misdiagnoses. Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, a co-chair of the health committee, said “strongly held” religious beliefs among lawmakers contributed to the bill’s demise last year.

While the issue has come up several times in Connecticut, it has never made it to the House or Senate floor. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow aid in dying, also known as death with dignity.

A proposal to ban deceptive practices at faith-based pregnancy centers managed to pass the health committee and the House last year, but was not called for a vote in the Senate.

The bill would have given the state Attorney General’s office the power to seek a court order to stop deceptive practices at the facilities. Under the measure, the attorney general could have required the pregnancy centers to pay for and disseminate corrective advertising or to post a remedial notice that rectifies misleading advertisements.

Critics say staff at the facilities sometimes pose as medical professionals to lure women and hand out false information about abortions. The centers have also been accused of posting misleading information on billboards, buses, brochures and websites.

Republicans opposed the measure last year, saying it unfairly targeted faith-based institutions and gave unnecessary powers to the Attorney General’s office.

A bill that would have halted deceptive advertising practices by faith-based pregnancy centers is likely to return this year.

Today, some members of the health committee questioned why the controversial issues were being resurrected in a short session. Lawmakers have only three months this year to move bills through the General Assembly.

“I wish the [committee] chairs would exercise a little bit more restraint in raising every single issue that legislators want because, when we raise too many bills, we don’t do things well,” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford.

“There are a lot of demands – whether it be tolls, our transportation infrastructure – that are going to take up a lot of time in this building. And when we take up issues like these, it will swallow up a lot of that time.”

Steinberg encouraged the committee to tackle difficult topics, saying it would set a “bad precedent” to shy away in a short session.

“That could be a slippery slope to us not doing our jobs,” he said.

Others noted that the outcomes for both proposals would likely be unchanged from last year, since the same people are debating them. The session ends in May, and lawmakers won’t face re-election until the fall.

Members suggested that the bills be tweaked so legislators aren’t deadlocked over the same points as last year.

Despite the lofty challenges, Rep. Jack Hennessy, D-Bridgeport, said it’s important to address issues like aid in dying.

“There are people leaving the state over this,” he said. “They’re going to states that do have this. And [more] people will leave the state of Connecticut if we don’t pass it.”

Over GOP Leader’s Objections, Trump Faces Primary in Connecticut

State law required Secretary of the State Denise Merrill to announce the list of candidates precisely at 10 a.m. on Friday, the 74th day preceding the April 28th primary.

The secretary of the state decides who makes the ballot based on a low bar set in state law: A candidate must be “generally and seriously advocated or recognized according to reports in the national or state news media.”

Guided by that law, Merrill said, she opts for access.

“We don’t make any determination requiring any measure of viability, or whether or not someone is going to win,” Merrill said. “That is not the measure we use.”

J.R. Romano, the state Republican chairman, said Merrill is imposing a primary on a Republican Party that doesn’t want one, and she did so without consulting him, a snub he called petty.

“I don’t think she did her due diligence,” Romano said. “We are actually looking at challenging it.”

Nothing in state law suggests the secretary of the state should consult with party leaders, make a judgement about the viability of candidates, or the consider the cost to the towns of printing ballots for a primary challenge of a sitting president.

“What J.R. calls pettiness, we call democracy,” said Gabe Rosenberg, a spokesman for Merrill. “Our office followed both the letter and spirit of the law, and let the voters decide.”

Anyone paying moderate attention to the campaign will recognize the eight Democrats placed on the ballot by Merrill. Another path to the ballot is gathering signatures from one percent of the party’s enrollment.

No one is suggesting the Trump’s renomination is in jeopardy. But should Republican challengers be allowed to try? And should Republican voters not enamored with the president be afforded the opportunity to signify that in a primary?

Romano said the answer is no. Merrill says state law indicates otherwise.

Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, is offering himself as the leading alternative for GOP voters who cannot abide a second Trump term. De La Fuente is making his second run, but his first as a Republican.

Weld finished second in the Granite State’s crowded primary with 9.1%. De La Fuente garnered 146 votes, good enough to finish ninth with one-tenth of one percent.

Ballot access in New Hampshire is purchased by paying a $1,000 filing fee. (Mark Stewart Greenstein of West Hartford, who also ran for governor in 2018, was the first to sign up for the New Hampshire primary in 2016 primary and again in 2020.) He won fewer than 50 votes each time.

Four years ago, De La Fuente petitioned his way onto the Democratic ballot in Connecticut. He lives in California, but De La Fuente also has run in primaries for the U.S Senate in nine states. He went 0-for-9, hitting a high-water mark of 12.3% in a two-way R.I. primary.

By Merrill’s reckoning, De La Fuente has attracted sufficient press coverage to qualify in Connecticut this year. Besides, he has a habit of suing for access. (He won a suit against Connecticut years ago over its requirement that only state residents circulate his petitions.)

“He is a very persistent candidate,” Merrill said.

Connecticut is one of six states participating in what is variously dubbed the I-95 or Acela primary on the eastern seaboard. The others are Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Trump won a four-way Connecticut primary in 2016 with 123,523 votes. John Kasich, then the governor of Ohio, was second with 60,522. Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson also were on the ballot.

Hillary Clinton beat Sanders in a three-way race, 170,045 to 152,379. De La Fuente was third with 960.

Letter: Racism at Staples

Although some black people live in Westport, we are always asked “if we live in Bridgeport,” “If this is our real hair,”” If we can give out the Ni**a or Ni**er” pass.

Several guidance counselors have told the Hispanics females at school “they couldn’t wear the same outfits as the white girls because we had too much to show.”

Not once this month has it been mentioned that it’s black history month over the morning announcements.

In the year of 2019, Principal D’Amico stripped away all our chairs and tables in the lobby so we wouldn’t sit there anymore.

We’ve tried every way to voice our opinions on how we are being treated at this school. Some of us feel like we’re being “held in prison for punishment.” No one listens to us and we want change.

Please help us voice our opinions and seek awareness to this situation.

Niah Michel (17)

Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 ♥

10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – Curio Cottage Thrift Shop (44 Imperial Ave.) – Westport Woman’s Club “Sweetheart of a Sale”
10 a.m. – Westport Library – Language Conversation Group: Japanese
11 a.m. – Westport Library – Language Conversation Group: French
11 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Westport Museum for History & Culture – “Becoming Westport”
Noon – Town Hall Room 201/201A – Affordable Housing Subcommittee
3 p.m. – 5 p.m. – Westport Library – Drop-in Tech Help
8 p.m. – Town Hall – Westport Community Theatre: “Our Mother’s Brief Affair”

See more events: Celebrate Westport Calendar

Gallery: Ocean Explorer in Library Talk

Scenes from tonight’s Westport Library overflow talk by Robert Ballard, an ocean explorer most known for the discoveries of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989, and the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in 1998. He discovered the wreck of John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 in 2002. He was in conversation with Andrew Wilk. In the Q&A with the audience, someone asked, what was your favorite exploration?  Ballard, 77, snapped back: “The one I’m going to do next.” Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Library Love Tale

WestportNow.com Image
Jack Powell, 16, a junior at Brookfield High School, planned an inspirational prom invitation to his classmate, Mia Ballard, 16, (no relationship to Robert Ballard, the Westport Library featured speaker tonight.) The Valentine Day eve photo was planned with the assistance of his mother, Robin, administrative assistant to Library executive director Bill Harmer, who shot the photo at the moment the anticipated Titanic movie scene would appear on the Library auditorium screen. The screen wording; ” Mia: I’ll be sunk if you don’t go to the prom with me.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo