Tuesday, April 16, 2024



Letter: Praises Ed Budget

To the Editor:

Last night the RTM unanimously voted to approve the schools budget for 2018/19. Spending is increasing in our schools by over 1.5 percent.

Congratulations to all the players involved: Board of Finance for their strength; The RTM for their excellent focus and attention to detail; PTA for their continuing oversight; Teaching unions for reaching a win-win deal — and finally the Board of Education for their commitment to our children.

At the start of this process the requested school budget represented a growth rate of almost 5 percent — the largest increase in several years. Head count was going up and the growth rate in per student spending was more than doubling. The budget needed taming.

Westport will be spending $21,042 per student next year. Every child can thrive with that generous spending commitment.

Staples No. 8 in USN&WR 2018 Rankings

Westport’s Staples High School ranked No. 8 among the top high schools in Connecticut and No. 394 nationally, according to a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

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The annual report, released today, said the rankings are based on the school’s performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college. Last year, Staples was No. 5 in the state and No. 391 nationally.

The public school with the highest ranking in the state is Ridgefield High School, which ranked No. 5 and No. 322 nationally.

In the 2018 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings, Connecticut has 15 gold medal schools, including Staples, 26 silver medal schools and 15 bronze medal schools.

Westport Student is National Merit Scholarship Winner

A Westport senior at New Haven’s Hopkins School today was named a National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winner.

Helena Cecilie Lyng-Olsen, 17, was chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding finalists in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program, an announcement said.

National Merit $,2500 Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, it said.

Helena, who will attend Yale University in the fall, has been a student at Hopkins since the seventh grade and will graduate next month. She enrolled in Hopkins from Bedford Middle School.

RTM Approves $116M School Budget for Next Year

Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) tonight unanimously approved the school board’s proposed $116,173,800 operating budget for 2018-19, a 1.57 percent increase over the current year.

The RTM also approved $124,00 in school revenue offset program expenses, $386,995 in aid to private and parochial schools and $10,628,163 in debt service for the schools.

The schools’ budgets combined with Monday night’s unanimous approval of an $80.17 million municipal budget totaled $207,493,035, the overall town budget, which the RTM unanimously approved.

That total, town officials say, will assure a flat mill rate for the third year in a row — 16.86, one of the lowest in the state.

Holocaust Bill Gets a Vote, and CT House Gets a Blessing

By Clarice Silber


It was a unique ending to a legislative debate: Rabbi Philip Lazowski, a Holocaust survivor who has watched the rise of a neo-Nazi movement that denies history, blessed the House of Representatives today after it unanimously passed a bill requiring schools to teach a lesson about genocide.

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House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz and Rep. Andy Fleischmann stand as Rabbi Philip Lazowski blesses the House. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Pazniokas for CTMirror.org

“I thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is a very important bill. In this, an election year, I wish you all good luck,” Lazowski said. “May God bless you for many years — and be with your family, your friends and have the joy of serving the people of Connecticut. God bless you.”

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, embraced Lazowski, who serves as a chaplain to the state Senate, after the passage of a bill he had sought for many years, but for which he found a receptive and bipartisan audience in 2018. Aresimowicz offered him the dais.

The Senate also passed the bill unanimously.

Preschool Title I Eligibility Screening Set

Westport Public Schools will be conducting a screening to identify preschool children who are “at risk” for learning under the federal and local Title I eligibility criteria, the school system announced today.

The Title I screening looks at the child’s development in the areas of concepts, language, and motor skills.

The current Title I program is incorporated into the Westport Public Schools, Stepping Stones Preschool Program.

Screening for Title I will be held on Friday, June 1, 9 a.m. to noon at Coleytown Elementary School, 65 Easton Road.

Instead of Seeking Budget Restoration, Schools Tighten Belts

When Westport’s Board of Education goes before the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) next week, it will not ask for a budget restoration, education officials say.

Instead, it will seek approval of it $116,173,800 operating budget — a 1.57 percent increase for next year — approved by the Board of Finance. The education and finance committees will meet Thursday night to make their recommendations.

The full RTM is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday night, and the legislative body can either let the proposed budget stand or make further reductions.

The original budget submitted by the school board was $118,223,800, a 3.36 percent increase. The finance board originally cut $2.05 million, and ended up restoring $1.128 million.

Richard Leonard, Former Staples Teacher, 88

Richard Leonard of Darien, a longtime Westporter, Staples High School teacher, and 20-year head of the teachers union, died today. He was 88.

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Dick Leonard: retired Staples teacher. File photo

He and his wife Paula moved to assisted living in Darien in 2015 after they said they could not find similar housing in Westport.

Leonard, moved with his parents to Westport in 1946. He was just 15 but commuted daily on the 6:30 a.m. train to New York, so he could finish up at St. John’s Prep in Astoria, Queens. Paula Leonard moved with her parents to Westport in 1952, graduating from Staples High School that year.

It wasn’t long before the two met and began dating.

State History Winners

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Fourth eighth graders at Westport’s Bedford Middle School (BMS) have placed first in the Junior Group Website Division of the Connecticut history state level competition held at Central Connecticut State University. They are: Oliver Clachko, Liam Kelly, Alex Markus-Malone, and Eli Shorrock. The students presented the website they created to discuss the 1967 Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The boys will now represent the state in their division and compete at the National History Day Competition to be held at Maryland University June 10-14. They are grateful for the mentorship and support provided by Caroline Davis, BMS social studies teacher. Nine other BMS students also advanced to the national finals. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Agreement Will Avoid Most Teacher Layoffs, Save $1M

An agreement announced late today between the Westport Board of Education and the teachers union will result in about $1 million in budget savings and avoid most teacher layoffs.

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Colleen Palmer: “pleased” with agreement.  Dave Matlow/ WestportNow.com file photo

Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer, in an email to parents, said the board and the Westport Education Association (WEA) were “pleased” to announce the agreement on the teachers joining the state health plan.

“In recognition of the fiscal challenges the Board of Education faces for the 2018-2019 school year and in the spirit of collaboration, the Westport Education Association has agreed that the district may seek to move health insurance to the State Partnership Plan 2.0, effective September 1, 2018,” she said.

The agreement will help the board make up for a cut imposed by the Board of Finance on the proposed 2018-19 education budget following this week’s finance board restoration session. (See WestportNow April 25, 2018) Board of Education members had pledged to return savings to the town if agreement were reached with the teachers.