Friday, February 03, 2023

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Education

Getting Ready for Grim Reality Day

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Members of TAG—the Teen Awareness Group—at Staples High School stay late today to put up posters for Tuesday morning’s Grim Reality Day. Formerly Grim Reaper Day, the club decided this year to make the event a little less maudlin, but still try to send a message. This year, instead of having a wrecked automobile in front of the school, and having 30 students dress up as drunk driving fatalities in succession throughout the day, in the morning students will instead be greeted by 30 students just standing mute outside in the front of the building to symbolize those victims. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

State: Greens Farms Tops, Saugatuck Lowest in Measles Vaccination Rate

State health data released today showed that among Westport’s five elementary schools in 2017-18, Greens Farms had the highest kindergarten vaccination rate against measles while Saugatuck had the lowest.

The rate for Greens Farms was 98.1% while Saugatuck was 88.6%. Other schools: Long Lots 95.3%, Coleytown 93.8%, and Kings Highway 93.4%. (Greens Farms Academy was 98.1%.)

Seventh grade data showed Coleytown at 98.8% and Bedford at 96 .2%.

Data was also released on immunizations against polio, varicella, and hepatitis and showed relatively high numbers of students receiving religious or medical exemptions from vaccines.

Discussing the Uncomfortable Subject of Microaggressions

By Jarret Liotta

They may not have found all the answers to curing — or even curbing — microaggressions based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion, but tonight a group of residents and town officials strived to talk openly about the questions.

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Students and moderators John Dodig, former Staples High School principal, and Elaine Daignault, director of the Department of Human Services, listen to comments . (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

A forum called “Microaggressions: Continuing the Conversation” was hosted at — and sponsored by — the Westport Arts Center in conjunction with the Westport Arts Advisory Committee.

The term “microsaggressions” is described by Wikipedia as being used “for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group.”

The discussion, moderated by Elaine Daignault, director of the Department of Human Services, and former Staples High School (SHS) principal John Dodig, used essays from the recent TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest to spark discussion of how we all — regardless of our personal identifiers — commit these thoughtless acts, and what can be done about it.

Public Pleads with BOE to Keep Focus on CMS

By Jarret Liotta

Parents expressed frustration at Monday night’s Board of Education (BOE) meeting with attempts to tie redistricting and building utilization issues to the Coleytown Middle School (CMS) crisis.

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Sandra Krenzer, co-president of the Long Lots School PTA, tells the Board of Education, “The community is exhausted.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

Some PTA representatives and parents urged the board to keep the focus on restoring what was.

Other issues, including the search for a new Superintendent of Schools, Staples High School principal, and investigating reported discontent among other school administrators, were also cited as things for the BOE to deal with before embarking on new items, related or not.

“The community is exhausted,” said Sandra Krenzer, PTA co-president at Long Lots School.

Help Wanted: Staples Principal

The JE Consulting firm, hired by the Westport Board of Education to find a new Staples High School principal to replace James D’Amico, has published a help wanted notice.

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James D’Amico: successor must be “visionary.”Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Seeking a “strong visionary leader,” the firm said defining attributes of this individual must include:

“The ability to oversee and enhance teaching and learning in a 9-12 school of national distinction;

“The daily practice and demonstration of high moral and ethical character traits which will enhance secondary school culture and climate for student success;

New Staples Principal Aims to Start July 1

The Westport school system hopes to appoint a new Staples High School principal by the end of June, Acting Superintendent Anthony Buono said today.

In an email to parents, Buono said the district has hired JE Consulting to conduct a search for the replacement of James D’Amico, who announced his departure on March 8.

D’Amico, who took over the Staples job on July 1, 2016, said he has accepted the position of principal of his hometown high school, New Fairfield High School, commencing July 1.

“The position will be officially posted next week,” Buono said.

Focus Now on Finding New Superintendent

By Jarret Liotta

With Board of Education (BOE) approval tonight of a separation agreement for Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer, attention turned to finding a permanent replacement.

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Anthony Buono at tonight’s meeting where he was named acting superintendent. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, was unanimously named acting superintendent indefinitely. He will serve until such time as a permanent or interim superintendent can be found.

“Given the timing, I anticipate that we will probably look for an interim superintendent next year while the search for a superintendent is underway,” BOE Chairman Mark Mathias said in advance of tonight’s meeting.

“We do have some names of people that have been recommended to us for an interim,” he said, but those will not be made public.

Palmer Out, Buono Named Interim Superintendent

Without discussion or public comment, the Westport Board of Education (BOE) tonight approved a separation agreement for Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer and named Anthony Buono, currently assistant superintendent, acting superintendent until an interim superintendent is appointed.

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Board of Education Chair Mark Mathias and Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer at the March 18 board meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for WestportNow.com

No details of the agreement were disclosed. The board had discussed the agreement in an earlier executive session. “For the remainder of her employment with the board, Dr. Palmer will be on leave for medical reasons,” said BOE Chair Mark Mathias.

Last year, Palmer received total pay of $318,608.70, which included $13,804.40 in vacation pay and a $4,392.90 in an annuity on top of her $300,411.40 salary.

“On behalf of the board, we want to thank Dr. Palmer for her dedicated service to the Westport public schools over the past three years,” said Mathias.

Library Sponsors Indian Classical Concert

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Saugatuck Elementary School today was the site of a Westport Library presentation of a Jugalbandi of North Indian classical music. The concert complimented the year-long study of Indian culture and arts in the Westport public schools. Taking part were musicians Abhik Mukherjee (sitar), Apratim Majumdar (sarod), and Ranendra Das (tabla). (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Honors for BMS Students

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Westport’s Bedford Middle School had a top notch showing at today’s National History Day Regional Competition at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, taking home multiple awards in various categories. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and state Sen. Will Haskell stopped by to congratulate BMS Social Studies teacher Caroline Davis and team members Sabrina Paris, Samantha Paris, James Dobin-Smith, Max Ardery, and Sophia Betit on their hard work. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo