Monday, December 11, 2023



Foundation Makes Major Investment in CT Schools

By Keith M. Phaneuf

East Hartford — Gov. Ned Lamont today announced a plan to invest $300 million in private and public dollars in Connecticut’s schools — a plan centered on a $100 million contribution from hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic foundation. Image
Barbara Dalio at the podium today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) photo

State government will match the Dalio Foundation’s $100 million donation over the next five years, and work with that group to raise yet another $100 million from other philanthropic groups, Lamont said. The funds will be focused on communities with a high poverty rate and a high concentration of youth.

“I love public education. I’m always humbled and inspired by everything you do,” Barbara Dalio, who leads the foundation, told hundreds of students, teachers and administrators gathered at East Hartford High School to announce the contribution. “You are amazing.”

Ray Dalio, who heads the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates of Westport, said he grew up in a “lower-middle class” household and was fortunate “to have parents and teachers who cared for me.”

TEAM Westport Essay Finalists Present Moving Personal Prose

By Jarret Liotta

Team Westport 2019 Winning Essays

The intensity, heartbreak, and subtle ignorance of “microaggressions” were passionately and visually highlighted tonight as the four finalists in this year’s TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest shared their work. Image
Finalist from Staples High School include (l-r), Angela Ji, 17, Olivia Sarno, 16, Chet Ellis, 17, and Daniel Boccardo, 18. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

Gasps and breathless attention met the powerful words of four Staples High School students at Saugatuck Congregational Church as they read about their personal experiences, respectively, dealing with issues their treatment and mistreatment as part of their race, ethnicity and identity.

The annual competition was sponsored by TEAM Westport, the town’s official diversity committee. Created in 2003, TEAM stands for Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism.

“I think Westport as a whole isn’t the most diverse place overall,” said Olivia Sarno, 16, who appreciated the chance to bring light to the issues facing many students.

BOE Wants More Info Before Deciding District’s Future Face

By Jarret Liotta

The Westport Board of Education (BOE) remains far from deciding what changes — if any — regarding building utilization and redistricting it intends to approve following last September’s health-related closure of Coleytown Middle School (CMS). Image
Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said after Monday night’s meeting he is “definitely not” going to put his hat in for consideration for the superintendent of schools position. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

Monday night the board unanimously sanctioned a list of general upgrades to CMS, which it hopes the CMS Building Committee can incorporate into its renovation project as the town works to get the school back in operation by August 2020.

The board remains stymied, however, over whether redistricting should take place to balance the elementary schools and/or the middle schools, or whether the CMS building might even best serve the town as a sixth grade “academy.”

With a new superintendent of schools officially needed by July 1 to replace Colleen Palmer — who is out indefinitely on a family leave — some BOE members said there were already enough issues facing them without having to implement an entirely new school configuration.

BOE to Mull Over CMS Plans

By Jarret Liotta

The Westport Board of Education on Monday will consider the future of the now shuttered Coleytown Middle School (CMS) and how best to configure it in Westport’s school system. Image
Range of options up for discussion. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

With an eye to getting it back online at the earliest in September 2020 at a cost that could exceed $20 million, educators are looking at a range of options.

A draft report published in advance of the Monday meeting says one option to best balance the current sixth through eight grade model is to redistrict approximately 120 students from Long Lots School (LLS) and 19 from Kings Highway School (KHS).

Two ways to avoid any redistricting would be to create a townwide grade six academy at CMS or a townwide grade five-six school.

Education Committee Approves Lamont’s Watered-Down Regionalization Bill

By Kathleen Megan

Gov. Ned Lamont’s two key education bills — including one intended to push school districts toward regionalization — were approved by a legislative committee Friday, but with a few notable changes.

Members of the Education Committee eliminated the governor’s proposal to have municipalities chip in on teacher pensions and scrapped a plan to require homeschoolers to register in their school districts.

The votes, which went largely along party lines, were on House Bill 7150 — an act implementing the governor’s budget — and Senate Bill 874, the controversial bill that includes what some view as punitive steps to push school districts toward regionalization. The latter bill also would have established a commission charged with creating a plan for redistricting.

Last week, the Lamont administration changed language in Bill No. 874 making it more palatable to many by removing every reference to “redistricting” and “consolidation” and by empowering the commission to make only recommendations.

TEAM Westport Essay Winners to be Announced April 3

Winners of sixth annual TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest, co-sponsored by the Westport Library, will be announced Wednesday, April 3, at the Saugatuck Congregational Church, it was announced today.

The event is scheduled to be held at 6:30 p.m. in the church’s Hoskins Hall at 245 Post Road East.

The contest asked students to describe their experiences in 1,000 words or fewer their experiences witnessing, delivering or being on the receiving end of “micro-aggressions” focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

The contest, open to Westport students from grades nine through 12, also asked students to consider steps organizations and other can take to reduce or eliminate such behavior. Deadline for entries was Feb 28.

KHS Principal, Staffers Back at Work

Kings Highway Elementary School Principal Mary Lou DiBella and four staff members, put on administrative leave almost two months ago, are back at work, the district’s acting superintendent said today. Image
KHS Principal Mary Lou DiBella: out since Jan. 28. Westport Schools photo

Word came in an email to parents from Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning who has taken over the duties of Superintendent Colleen Palmer, who is absent due to a family emergency.

“I am pleased to announce the successful resolution of an administrative leave affecting five of our fine educators at Kings Highway Elementary School,” Buono said.

“Dr. Mary Lou DiBella and four other educators have returned to their duties serving the students, parents, and faculty of KHS.”

BOE Informs Parents of Palmer Absence ‘Until Further Notice’

Four days after Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer informed the Board of Education she would be absent to attend a family emergency, the board today told parents about her absence and said she would be gone “until further notice.” Image
Board of Education Chair Mark Mathias and Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer at the March 18 board meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

By today, most parents were already aware of the development through news reports and social media posts.

In an email to parents signed by Chair Mark Mathias and six other board members, the board said:

“Late Thursday evening, Dr. Colleen Palmer notified the Board of Education that she would travel out of the area to attend to a family medical emergency. 

CMS Company Presents ‘42nd Street’ Image
Coleytown Company, Coleytown Middle School’s renowned theatrical troupe, will present an all-school musical, “42nd  Street” next weekend at Bedford Middle School. Performances are Friday, March 29 and Saturday March 30 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, March 30 and Sunday March 31 at 1 p.m. Tickets are available at http://www.SHOWTIX4U.COM (search the term “Coleytown”) for $15, plus a small processing fee. A limited number of $15 tickets will be available at the door prior to showtime. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Photo by Colleen Clear Photography

BOE Chair: Palmer Away on ‘Family Matter’

Board of Education Chair Mark Mathias said tonight Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer is away on a “family matter” and her duties have been assumed by Assistant Superintendent Anthony Buono during her absence. Image
Colleen Palmer: taking time off. Dave Matlow for

There was no public announcement of the abrupt temporary leadership change which came a day after publication of a survey by administrators critical of Palmer.

On Thursday, Palmer responded to a WestportNow request for comment on the survey this way: “We are aware of the survey, and our BoE has been working to create productive conversations to listen to and assist in resolving these concerns. We value our administrative team, and we are taking the results of the survey very seriously.”

It has been a rough time for Palmer, who announced on March 14 her intention to resign effective Aug. 1 after three years on the job.