Friday, April 12, 2024


Mary E. Ashton, 95

Often known as Aunt Mary, she touched the lives of many and always strived to help others to be true to themselves and realize their potential through positive encouragement.

In 2017, she moved to Westport to be closer to her daughter and family.

She is survived by her three children, Jack Ashton, Rae Ashton, and Mary Grace (Ashton) Gudis, in addition to her son-in-law, Mark Gudis and three grandsons, Gregory, Elliot and Graham Gudis.  She was preceded in death by her husband, Stewart; parents, Frank and Grace Hollandsworth of Longview, Texas, and her granddaughter, Aimee Elizabeth Ashton.

Services were private, and interment will be at the Memory Park Mausoleum in Longview, Texas.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to The Dementia Care Program at Nuvance Health, Norwalk Hospital Foundation at 34 Maple St., Norwalk, CT 06856, or 203-852-2216.

Lamont Modifies School Reopening Guidelines

Lamont said he believes most districts still will opt to open and offer students full-time, in-person instruction.

“You know every town, every city’s got very different metrics. So, in the majority of the cases — the vast majority — will be able to have in-classroom, especially in the lower grades. But in some situations you’ve got to give them that flexibility,” said Lamont.

He pointed out that most students and teachers want to return, according to a survey that the State Department of Education recently completed. That survey found 76% of students are expected to return and 81% of teachers plan to teach in-person.

The state reported three days worth of COVID-19 data Monday showing that the number of patients hospitalized with the disease continues to drop. As of Monday, there were 59 people hospitalized in the state, 12 fewer than there were Friday.

The state also reported an additional 207 positive COVID-19 cases since Friday, for a total of 48,983, and five additional deaths. The number of people who have died in Connecticut from the disease now stands at 4,418.

Parents’ plans for sending their children back to school vary vastly by district.

In Wilton, 12% of families said they plan to opt out of in-person instruction. In Fairfield, 18% of families favored remote learning. In Bridgeport, however, 47% of students are expected to remain home.

Lamont’s announcement comes as pushback builds from the teachers’ unions to delay a full reopening and after his hometown of Greenwich released a plan that contradicts his instructions from late June, when he told districts to offer every student the option to return to school full time in the fall.

Greenwich parents were told recently that high school students would not be able to return full-time because there are too many students enrolled in the school to socially distance.

In late June the administration announced that COVID infection rates were low and that districts should plan to reopen full-time in the fall.

“Given the Connecticut health data as of today, districts should plan for fall reopening for all students every day,” said Cardona, adding that plan could change if there is an uptick in the spread of the virus.

Last week, Cardona emailed superintendents that they must have a plan for students to return in-person to school full-time.

“Any plan submitted to the Connecticut State Department of Education on July 24, 2020 that does not include a full reopening option as one of the three models, where all public school students have the opportunity to access school in-person 5 days a week, will not be in compliance with current state law regarding the number of school days, or the expectations of State leadership,” he wrote.

Lamont said in June he made the decision to tell local school districts to plan for reopening because it’s what is best for students and the economy.

“We wanted to have as close to possible a normal school day in a normal school week,” he said. “It also allows employers to be able to plan in terms of what the workday is.”

He also said having a statewide standard was best.

“We wanted to have some consistency across all 169 of our towns. We wanted to do that for the sake of making sure the quality and the experience was consistent for everybody,” he said.










Another Attempt at Reducing State’s ‘Digital Divide’

Andrew Ferguson, Chief Education Officer for Dalio Education, said that the organization commissioned a report by technology consultant John Horrigan, who authored a report on Baltimore’s digital divide last year.

Set to be completed by Labor Day, the report will survey the breadth of the digital divide problem in Connecticut and provide recommendations for addressing it, he said.

In the meantime, Ferguson said, Dalio Education will announce plans in the coming days and weeks for individual, local “creative collaborations” between mayors and community leaders to start addressing access at the local level.

“This digital divide is bigger than any one philanthropy, any one CCM, any one mayor, any one state official,” Ferguson said. “Rather, it requires all of us to work together.”

He said that the Dalios’ financial support for these collaborations would take the form of “matching funds” from other funders, including cities, in unspecified amounts.

The announcement that the Dalios plan to re-engage with the issue comes just months after the messy dissolution of their partnership with the state, which originally promised last year that each party would contribute $20 million annually for five years to invest in low-performing school districts.

A slew of issues contributed to the Dalio-initiated collapse of the partnership in May, including criticism for the partnership’s lack of transparency from the start, Dalio’s mistrust of lawmakers who objected to its lack of transparency, and Dalio representatives’ sudden attempt to force out the partnership’s executive director near the end.

In the end, the former partnership spent only $25 million and collectively purchased over 50,000 laptops for students, of which 46,000 have already been delivered. The remaining 7,000 are being delivered this week, said Peter Yazbak, director of communications at the State Department of Education.

Dalio said that the current effort isn’t a continuation of the failed partnership, but rather is simply “continuing to work in collaboration” and “bringing together all the players, the state, the philanthropy, the community, everybody to really find the solutions.”

“We share this common vision and common goal of getting this done, so whatever bumps happened in the past or along the way, that’s not something we’re not going to focus on,” said Joe DeLong, executive director and CEO of CCM.

DeLong said that CCM’s role will include providing research and data, as well as facilitating the connections and collaborations with municipal leaders. He stressed that the collaboration will not be an exclusive partnership, but a “joint effort toward a like minded goal.”

Ferguson said that “Congress, the FCC, the state of Connecticut” all must act in order to “create systemic improvements to close the divide.”

“But we should not wait for that action,” he said. “Rather, there’s a lot that municipal leaders can do today by working collaboratively with their communities to help take concrete steps to close it.”


Gallery: Construction Equipment Rollover

A large piece of construction equipment and its trailer rolled over today following a motor vehicle accident near 213 Greens Farms Road. The vehicle pulling the trailer remained upright and the driver of the vehicle did not sustain any injuries, said Assistant Chief Brett Kirby. Firefighters ensured the vehicles were stabilized and mitigated the leaking fluid, he said. The roadway was shut down for an extended period while the scene was cleared. Westport Fire Department photos

Opinion: Tale of Two Rallies

We were friendly to customers, answering questions about why we were there. A couple of days before, the regional Starbucks office finally banned the racist from their stores. But we know that the next step is to get them to listen to and support their Black partners from the start — not just wait for white wealthy customers to say something.

We disbanded at around 9:30 a.m., and at 10 a.m. a second group from Fairfield came to the same location (I had heard they were coming and asked them to join us at the earlier time, but they politely declined).

When they arrived, it was immediately clear that their agenda was not the same as ours. It was not to support our community, but to disrupt it. They taunted the police. They blocked the entrance to Starbucks. They disrupted downtown merchants who are already struggling. They even surrounded a woman getting out of her car, calling her a “Karen” and videoing her. Eventually they blocked the roads.

I am in support of protesting against police brutality, which was clearly this group’s focus, judging from what they were yelling. The thing is, our friend at Starbucks did not experience police brutality.

Rather, he experienced hideous racism from a customer, and then the systemic, corporate racism that supported her atrocious behavior. The police offered him whatever support he needs, and he never claimed to have experienced any negative treatment by them. In fact he has repeatedly told me how overwhelmed he felt with the support and love he has received from all of us in Westport.

This town welcomes support from our neighbors in other towns. But the Fairfield group did nothing to support us. They distracted everyone from the important facts. Their anger toward police, our merchants, and our community was a destructive misfire and did not effectuate awareness or change.

As a teacher and as an organizer of protests, I look for windows of opportunity so we may educate ourselves and each other — and to strengthen our community. Communities that feel united stand up for one another, and that is what we were doing.

Racism is an insidious machine which thrives on opacity. I am always learning how little I know. But in order to make change, we need to look closely at the intricacies of what is happening, and be clear with our audience.

I have learned the hard way that anger can blind us and make us sloppy, hurting the very cause we are setting out to support. Misguided, unfounded messages solidify polarization, shut down debate, and worse, distract from the culprits. This allows companies like Starbucks to quietly close their doors to the messy distractions outside, and return to the unethical business practices which facilitate the very racism we see on our feeds and TV screens.

Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Education may not be a release for anger, and it is not always exciting. But it is the key to the change we desperately need. I am proud of how our town is responding to incidents of racism, and I know we can continue to be better and better. We just need to stay on task, because the task is huge.

Noted Actress Olivia de Haviland, 104, Was Westport Performer—and Bride Image
Olivia de Havilland, who died today in Paris at age 104, was in the Westport Country Playhouse production of “What Every Woman Knows” in August 1946. On the same day she was set to open the show, she married the novelist and journalist Marcus Goodrich. The 12:30 p.m. wedding ceremony took place at the Weston home of Armina and Lawrence Langner, Playhouse founders.  Immediately after, the bride left for the Playhouse performance. The bride was given away by Langner. He had been a friend of de Havilland’s late father, who, like Langner, was a patent attorney. The ceremony was performed by the rector of Christ and Holy Trinity Church of Westport, and the license arranged by Judge J. Kenneth Bradley of Westport. Pictured from left, Bradley, de Havilland, Goodrich, and Langner. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Westport Country Playhouse archival photo