Monday, June 17, 2024



BOE Will Ask for Portables But Could Still Reverse on K-6

By Jarret Liotta

Because of the closure of mold-plagued Coleytown Middle School (CMS), the Board of Education (BOE) is asking the town to expedite an appropriation of up to $4 million for portable classrooms at other schools. But it still could reverse its decision to have Westport elementary schools go to K-6 next year. Image
Parents line up to address the Board of Education Monday night and early today. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

In a 6-to-1 vote, which came at 12:30 a.m. today, the BOE approved a request for an appropriation that would fund 14 portable classrooms at the five elementary schools, or could instead go toward funding portables as Bedford Middle School (BMS), should it decide next week to change its K-6 decision.

As one member put it, the request will serve as “a placeholder” until its meeting next Monday, at which time there will likely be discussion — and possibly a new vote — on changing the facilities plan for next year to include a townwide middle school at BMS instead of K-6 at the elementary schools.

“I truly do believe over the last couple of weeks we have a lot of new information … that we didn’t have in December,” Andrea Moore, a Board of Finance (BOF) member, told the BOE during public comment.

Proposals to Force Regionalized School Districts Spark Debate, Distress

By Kathleen Megan

Two proposals that would force school district regionalization have ignited a storm of protest in some communities, as well as debate at the State Capitol.

At a packed Education Committee meeting today, Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, said the “distress” she has heard from constituents about possible forced regionalization “has been so great, I’ve never quite seen anything like it.”

“They don’t feel that someone far away should be telling them what to do with their children, or how to shape the institutions in their town,” Lavielle said. “They really feel the school is the soul of their community.”

Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington, countered, saying that if “regionalism is what we have to do to make education in the state of Connecticut work, then we need to figure out how to make that work.

Superintendent: KHS Principal, Staffers in Unexplained Absences

UPDATE The principal of Kings Highway Elementary School (KHS) and several staff members will be absent for the next few days because of unspecified “allegations,” Westport Schools Superintendent Colleen Palmer told parents today in emails. Image
KHS Principal Mary Lou DiBella: unexplained absence. Westport Schools photo

In a second of two afternoon emails on the subject, Palmer said she could not disclose the nature of the allegations but that those involved had been “placed on paid administrative leave, without prejudice” while the district reviewed the allegations “regarding recent events.”

She said the district was obligated “to follow prescribed protocols when we receive such information, even before we have reviewed such allegations.”

The development came as school officials scrambled to come up with a short and long-range plan to accommodate Coleytown Middle School students following the mold-caused closure of their school.

‘State of the Town’ Addresses Set for Sunday, Feb. 10

Issues facing the town and the Westport Public Schools will be the focus of a “State of the Town” discussion set for Sunday, Feb. 10, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium, it was announced today.

First Selectman Jim Marpe and Mark Mathias, chairman of the Board of Education, are scheduled to speak at the town hall-style meeting.

It will be followed by a question-and-answer period moderated by Jeffrey Wieser, deputy moderator of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) and president of the Westport Rotary, the announcement said.

According to Eileen Lavigne Flug, president of the Westport Sunrise Rotary, the talk is being co-sponsored by both Rotary clubs, and refreshments will follow in the Town Hall lobby.

High Portable Costs Draw Criticism at BOE

By Jarret Liotta

The Board of Education (BOE) Tuesday night heard a cautionary earful from some town officials and parents about a $3.6-million funding request it may seek for portable classrooms to house grade six at the elementary schools. Image
Anooshke Sethi, 15, and her brother Nakul, 9, addressed the Board of Education about the importance of having Mandarin taught with a live teacher, rather than by Skype for sixth grade, which has been talked about to augment the K-6 plan. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Jarret Liotta for

Paul Drummey, project manager, said $3,590,820 is needed to rent 13 portable classrooms for five years, including a fourth at Long Lots School (LLS).

While he said he is hopeful that state grant money could eventually absorb the cost, the town must first demonstrate that locally authorized and certified funding is in place, as well as a designated building committee.

Further, to meet stringent deadlines aimed at getting the portables operational for the start of the 2019-20 school year, Drummy said the timeline requires approval from the town funding bodies by Feb. 1.

Addiction Talk Draws Crowd Image
There was a large turnout tonight at the Staples High School auditorium for a talk by Ruth Potee, a nationally renowned expert in addiction and adolescent brain development. The event was sponsored by the Department of Human Services’ Positive Youth Development Initiative in partnership with the Westport Prevention Coalition. It was a return visit by Potee, who spoke a year ago at Bedford Middle School. She presented an overview of brain physiology and its impact on addictive behaviors. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Lawmakers Renew Teacher Pension Cost-Sharing Debate

By Keith M. Phaneuf

Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy first raised the idea of sharing the fastest-growing cost in the state budget with cities and towns.

But while Malloy failed to win legislative support before he left office one week ago, the debate over whether to bill communities for a share of municipal teacher pension costs is not over.

Legislative leaders revisited the issue today at the Connecticut Council of Small Towns’ annual meeting.

And while Republican leaders remain steadfastly opposed to cost-sharing, two Democratic leaders were open to shifting some expenses onto local budgets — albeit at more modest levels than Malloy originally suggested.

Academic Honors for Staples Boys Soccer Team

For the 16th time in 18 years — and the 13th season in a row — the Staples boys soccer program has been honored with a national award for academic excellence. Image
The 2017 Staples High School boys soccer team: Academic All-America winners for the 16th time in 18 years. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Alan Frost photo

And they did it with one of their highest GPAs ever.

United Soccer Coaches presented the Wreckers with a Team Academic Award at last weekend’s annual convention in Chicago. The only other Connecticut boys public high school to earn the award was Ellington.

To qualify, a squad must have a 3.25 grade-point average of all varsity players. The award is given for the previous academic year. In 2017, Staples’ varsity players had an average GPA of 3.40. That was just shy of the previous year’s GPA: 3.46.