Wednesday, March 29, 2023



Finance Board Cuts $250,000 from School Budget

By James Lomuscio

Westport’s Board of Finance voted unanimously tonight to trim the Board of Education’s 2019-20 proposed budget by $250,000, an amount finance board members called reasonable in the wake of the school system’s tumultuous year and the need to keep the mill rate flat.

BOE Chair Mark Mathias had asked for $118,500,464, an increase of 2 percent over the current year.

He had previously said that the driving forces behind the lower percentage compared to previous years were: the impact of operating the district with a new sixth through eighth model while Coleytown Middle School (CMS) is not occupied, plus a reduction in staff saving $846,847.

But finance board members felt that number still needed trimming, despite the challenges the school system has faced with the shutdown of CMS due to serious mold problems and the need to reconfigure grades.

Palmer Retiring as Schools Superintendent

Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer is retiring effective Aug. 1 after three years on the job, Board of Education Chairman Mark Mathias said today. Image
Colleen Palmer: leaving after three years on job. Dave Matlow for

“This caps 35 years of public service to the students of Connecticut, including 15 years as superintendent,” Mathias said in an email to parents.

Mathias thanked Palmer for her “many contributions to the Westport schools” and said she has “worked tirelessly on behalf of our students through a challenging time for our community.”

Those challenges include the closure of Coleytown Middle School (CMS) because of mold issues, the resignation announced last week of Staples Principal James D’Amico, and the placing on administrative leave of principals at Long Lots Elementary and Kings Highway Elementary for unspecified reasons.

Staples Students Participate in Rotary Speech Contest Image
Contestants from Westport’s Staples High School today participated in the Westport and Sunrise Rotary Clubs’ annual four-way speech competition. They are (l-r) Melanie Lust, 17, senior; Andreas Lolis, 15, sophomore; Lina Singh, 15, sophomore; Elana Atlas, 15, sophomore; Chet Ellis, 17, senior; and Ben Gross, 16, junior.  Olivia Utter, 17, a senior, was absent from the photo. Atlas was first place winner ($300 award), Lolis second place ($200), and Lust third place ($100.) Atlas advances to the regional competition level to be held in Trumbull on April 27. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Addressing Inclusivity in Westport Schools

By Jarret Liotta

Westport parents today heard overt and shocking examples of racism among some elementary school students as well as subtle cases of unintended “microaggressions” among Staples High School students. Image
TEAM members Zoe Tarrant (l) and Catherine Lewis listen at today’s meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

The occasion was a meeting with members of TEAM Westport, the town’s diversity committee, at the Saugatuck Congregational church. It was entitled “Tackling Microaggressions & Promoting Diversity & Inclusivity in Westport’s Schools.”

Attendees agreed that a public recognition of the problem is an important first step in addressing it.

“The goal is really to make this a more inclusive town,” said Zoe Tarrant, TEAM member.

School Regionalization Bills Sow Confusion, Spread Fear

By Kathleen Megan

Ever since Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney’s controversial school regionalization bill referenced realigning districts “in a manner similar to the probate districts,” the brightly colored map delineating those court districts has been shared widely on social media by alarmed parents and educators.

“It divides Easton and Redding, which is already a Regionalized school system!” wrote one concerned parent in a Facebook post.

And, indeed the probate court map would plunder the current school districting pattern, tearing apart regional districts, creating giant districts in rural parts of the state and pairing, in some cases, bucolic small towns with cities.

But what are the chances Connecticut’s school districts will be reshaped to match the probate court map?

Staples Players ‘Curtains’ Opens Friday Image
Tickets for the Staples Players production of “Curtains,” a musical mystery comedy, are on sale now.  It is the final project of Kander and Ebb—the songwriting team behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago”  It opened on Broadway on March 22, 2007 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre and garnered eight Tony Award nominations, David Roth (SHS ’84) and Kerry Long (SHS ’97) co-direct the cast of 46 in six performances from Friday, March 15 to Saturday, March 23. Click HERE for ticket information. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Photo by Kerry Long

Staples Principal Resigns; Search on for Successor

Westport Staples High School Principal James D’Amico has submitted his resignation effective at the end of June and a search is underway for a successor, Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer said today. Image
James D’Amico: took over July 1, 2016. Dave Matlow for

In an email to parents, Palmer said D’Amico has accepted the position of principal of his hometown high school, New Fairfield High School, commencing July 1.

“This transition date will allow Mr. D’Amico to remain in his current position until the end of June, providing an orderly and effective end to our school year,” she said.

“We extend our best wishes to Mr. D’Amico as he moves on to his new role this summer, and thank him for his years of dedicated service to our District.”

Coleytown Middle School Building Committee Gets Down to Work Image
Less than 24 hours after being appointed by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), the Coleytown Middle School (CMS) Building Committee got down to work today with the goal of reopening the school in time for the fall 2020 start of classes. Chair Don O’Day, former chair of the Board of Education, led the group in discussing first steps in hiring a project manager and a construction manager in addition to reviewing examination of the now shuttered school. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

RTM Okays $400K for CMS Work, Names Building Committee Image
The Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight approved $400,000 for initial work to reopen the now shuttered Coleytown Middle School (CMS) for the fall of 2020. Public Works Director Peter A. Ratkiewich (at podium) said the funds would be used to “kick start the project and get going” on work that eventually will cost millions of dollars. The appropriation would cover hiring of a design consultant, a dedicated project manager, and a construction manager, he said. The RTM also approved appointment of a building committee headed by Don O’Day, former chair of the Board of Education. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for