Eastern Connecticut Ballet Offers Hybrid Rendition of the Nutcracker

NEW LONDON — The Eastern Connecticut Ballet is trying a novel approach to its yearly performance of the Nutcracker — a hybrid performance that is half on-screen, half on-stage. The COVID pandemic was, of course, responsible for the shift. The Nutcracker requires a large number of child performers, many of whom have, until recently, been unable to get vaccinated because of their age.   “We really wanted to include all of our dancers this year in the Nutcracker,” said Jenna Berloni, a project coordinator at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet. “And there was a lot of conversations about how can we do

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Con Brio Choral Society to Perform Three Centuries of Gloria

In their 25th anniversary Christmas concert, the Con Brio Choral Society will perform Glorias that traverse three centuries: Bach’s Mass in B Minor, completed in 1748 during the baroque period, a Gloria from Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, written in 1863, during the romantic period and the contemporary Rutter Gloria, composed in 1974.  The Rossini Gloria relies heavily on vocals, with only piano providing spare chords underneath. In exchange, the Mass in B Minor has a strong confluence of brass, vocal and strings. The Gloria starts out exuberantly, with voices layered in a way that makes the sopranos sound almost ethereal,

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East Lyme Schools to Consider Southern Connecticut State Model For Bias

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EAST LYME — The school district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is considering the usefulness of developing a formal protocol to address issues of hate speech and bias in the district.  The model is based on a document created by Southern Connecticut State University that aims to create a process for students to bring forward complaints of bias to a team of individuals who are trained to handle these incidents.  “This is something I would really like to potentially replicate here in East Lyme,” Superintendent Jeffrey Newton said at a meeting of the committee on Tuesday.  Newton told CT Examiner

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New Regulations for Whelk and Horseshoe Crabs a Challenge for Commercial Fisheries

New state regulations intended to rebuild the whelk and horseshoe crab populations in the Long Island Sound could substantially limit the catches of local fisherman.   The proposed regulations would limit whelk fishing to whelks with shells larger than 5.5 inches in length. Justin Davis, assistant director in the Fisheries Division at Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the length minimum came from research from New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which showed female whelks in the Sound do not produce eggs until their shells reach this size.  Nancy Balcom, the associate director and extension program leader for the

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Connecticut Schools Face Tricky Balance of Costs, Staff and Services for Special Ed

A decade of rising costs for special education and increased student need are facing a staffing shortage that is frustrating efforts both by parents to provide suitable services for their children and by local districts needing a balanced budget. According to state data, the total number of students in special education has increased from 63,482 in 2010-11 to 79,058 in 2020-21. Also increased is the percentage of students who are in need of special education — from 11.6 percent of the student population to 15.9 percent over the same time period.  One of the most dramatic increases is in diagnoses

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A Mecca for Japanese Collectibles and Games in Clinton

CLINTON — Town residents Justin Teague and his partner, Carolyn Dickson, love to vacation in Japan. They’ve gone three times since 2015, traveling through Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Kobe on the country’s bullet train.  But there’s another purpose to their travels besides pure enjoyment — stocking up on Japanese collectibles to take back to their store, Akiba Underground. The small novelty shop in downtown Clinton contains a plethora of Japanese comic books, snacks, fashion and collectibles that draws people from around New England.  The counter offers Pocky sticks in at least seven flavors, arranged against a backdrop of two women

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Madison Selectmen Okay $89.5 Million in Borrowing, Debate Use of Undesignated Fund

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MADISON — The Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to recommend borrowing up to $89.5 million for a school renewal project and $15.9 million for the conversion of the former Academy School building to a community center.  The bonds would be paid off over 25 years. First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons estimated that the cost to the taxpayers would average of $181 per $100,000 of assessed property value per year — $28 for the Academy School bond and $153 for the bonds associated with the school renewal plan — taking into account expected reimbursement from the state.  The cost would be

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Medical Community Encourages Child Vaccinations for COVID

Questions about the safety of child vaccinations and the need for booster shots have taken center stage as the widespread availability of COVD vaccines coincides with a recent statewide increase in COVID-19 cases.   According to data from the state Department of Public Health, approximately 36,000 children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least one vaccine — a number amounting to about 13 percent of the children in that age group in the state.  Dr. Tom Balcezak, Chief Clinical Officer at Yale-New Haven Health, said in a Thursday press conference that children have exhibited minimal side effects

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Middletown Board of Education Cancels Planned Closed-Door ‘Retreat’

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MIDDLETOWN — The Board of Education walked back a decision to hold a behind-closed-doors retreat on Saturday that would have violated state freedom of information laws. According to the posted agenda, the board planned to discuss five items in an executive session, or behind closed doors. These items included a discussion of the responsibilities of the school board, an overview of the Strategic Operation plan, board goals, the school website, and a discussion of a committee on personnel.  That plan came under fire from one local resident, in a widely distributed letter, who pointed out that such a meeting would

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Lyme-Old Lyme Parents Voice Concerns at Board of Education Meeting

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LYME-OLD LYME — Local parents voiced concerns on Wednesday evening about a $42 to $52 million facilities project that could potentially change the ways that grade levels are distributed across the different school buildings.   In a presentation to the Board of Education, Rusty Malik, a partner at the architectural firm QA + M, laid out six options for the community to consider. The options ranged from upgrades to HVAC and heating systems and accessibility upgrades to the building of a new school.  Malik said that the most basic of the options — an estimated cost of $42 million to the

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Meeting Tonight in Westbrook to Allocate Federal Aid

WESTBROOK — The town will hold a special meeting tonight in order to approve portions of $2 million in federal coronavirus relief funds that would benefit senior citizens in town.    First Selectman John Hall said that the Board of Finance and the Board of Selectman wanted to direct the funding towards the people who were the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic: seniors, youth and those in an economically tenuous position.  Sara Zaientz, the director of Westbrook’s Youth and Family Services, said that her agency, along with the Senior Center, Social Services and the Visiting Nurses Association, wanted to prioritize

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Board of Education Hears Outpouring of Public Concern in Middletown

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MIDDLETOWN — In a  meeting on Tuesday night, parents and members of the community, Mayor Benjamin Florsheim and party leaders of the Common Council, implored the city’s Board of Education to pursue a fair and transparent investigation of claims of harassment by current and former employees of the school district.  More than 20 people addressed the board to voice their concerns about the impartiality of the investigation, the perceived lack of transparency by the board, and to offer support to the superintendent of schools.  Those comments are in part a response to a mid-October joint statement by the teacher’s union,

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Stamford YMCA Faulted for Treatment of Child With Autism

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STAMFORD — The Department of Justice is requiring the Stamford YMCA to make its childcare programs accessible to children on the autism spectrum after a child with special needs was expelled from an afterschool program without warning in January 2020.  The child’s mother, who asked not to be identified out of privacy concerns, said that the child started attending the aftercare program at the YMCA in August of 2018. In the fall of 2019, when her son was in first grade, she said he started coming home very upset almost every day. She said this was shortly after the facility

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Gateway Community College Pitches Automotive Program for Leap to Electric

NORTH HAVEN — Seven students enrolled in the General Motors Automotive Training Program at Gateway Community College are gathered around a 2013 Chevy Equinox on a Thursday morning. Today’s assignment? Find the leak.  A laptop is hooked up to the front of the car to communicate with the vehicle’s computerized system. The students listen as their professor, Dan Fuller, tells them how to solve the puzzle — blow smoke into the fuel system and watch where it comes out.   The students are second-years taking a course called engine diagnostics. Each student is also working a paid internship with a car

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Madison Board of Education Okays $89 Million School Plan

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MADISON — The town’s Board of Education voted to approve a proposed $89 million school renewal plan on Tuesday after hearing residents’ concerns about tax increases, future enrollment numbers and increased traffic in the area.  During a Board of Education meeting that doubled as a public forum, current and former parents in the district, as well as community residents, listened in-person and on Zoom as Superintendent Craig Cooke presented an overview of the plan. The plan is expected to go to a referendum on February 15, 2022.  The project includes four parts: constructing a new pre-kindergarten to fifth grade elementary

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Fifty One Area Parishes Asked to Join Diocese of Norwich Abuse Settlement

The 51 individual parishes that make up the Diocese of Norwich are being asked to choose either to pay a yet-undetermined sum of money as part of the diocese’s bankruptcy settlement or risk responsibility for both legal fees and the cost of settling any future lawsuit brought against individual parishes.   A committee of three pastors in the Diocese of Norwich, in conjunction with legal counsel, is asking the individual parishes to join the court proceedings as a group, as a way of protecting themselves from potential future lawsuits. In order to do this, each parish will have to pay $5,000

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Clinton Town Leaders Talk Election, Priorities

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CLINTON — While retaining a Republican majority, the town council has shifted from a three-party to a two-party body after incumbent Eric Bergman, a Green Party member, was not re-elected on Tuesday.  Two Democrats Carrie Allen and Chris Passante, and one Republican, Tom Hollinger, were elected to fill the three vacant seats. The seven-member council now has four Republican members and three Democrats.  A third Democratic candidate, Paul Gebauer, was not elected.  Bergman said he felt the shift toward a two-party system was influenced by the partisan nature of national politics.  “If we’re stuck on a two-party paradigm … we

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Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Ed Reviews Options for $40+ Million Renovations

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LYME/OLD LYME — A project to  upgrade four Lyme-Old Lyme school buildings is projected to cost taxpayers between $40 and $45 million, according to estimates provided the architectural firm QA + M on Wednesday night.  Earlier in June, the district approved a contract with the Farmington-based firm for $45,850 to evaluate the need for improvements to Mile Creek, Lyme School, Center school, as well as the district middle school.  On Wednesday, Rusty Malik, a principal at QA +M, presented the Board of Education with several options projected to cost between $41.8 and $44.5 million.  The district will need to bond

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Clinton Board of Education Votes to Create a Subcommittee on Personnel Issues

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CLINTON — The Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to create a subcommittee devoted to looking at personnel issues in the district.  Board Chair Erica Gelven proposed the idea for the subcommittee in response to the concerns raised over the last two weeks regarding complaints by former teachers in the Clinton school district of a toxic work environment.  Gelven said that while the board was not responsible for the day-to-day management of personnel, she said there is still a role that the board can play.  The subcommittee would study and make recommendations to the Board of Education in areas

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Local Ballot Drives Appear Key to Driving Huge Gains in Absentee Voting

For a second consecutive election, a law passed in the Connecticut state legislature will allow residents to cite COVID as a reason for voting by absentee ballot on Nov. 2. And in several towns across the state, the rates of absentee voting vastly exceed totals in 2019. But according to local election officials, absentee voting patterns appear to rise and fall depending on town-by-town efforts by the parties to distribute ballot applications.  In some towns, the number of residents requesting ballots has declined to pre-pandemic levels, others are still seeing abnormally high numbers of voters deciding to vote absentee. Town

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Voters to Decide Whether to Close Lyman Elementary in Durham/Middlefield

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DURHAM/MIDDLEFIELD — Voters will be asked to grant the Region 13 Board of Education the ability to close Lyman Elementary School in a referendum question on the Nov. 2 ballot.  The closure would reconfigure the four remaining schools in the district. Although the reconfiguration has not yet been decided, the most likely outcome would  place Pre-K through 2nd grade at Brewster Elementary School, 3rd through 5th grade at Memorial School, 6-8th grade at Frank Ward Strong Middle School and 9-12th grade at Coginchaug Regional High School.  Robert Moore, chair of the Board of Education, said that the major reason for

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Lamont to Support Stricter Policies on Juvenile Crime, Advocates Point to Lack of Services

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In the aftermath of the death of a 14-year-old in Waterbury, Gov. Ned Lamont expressed support for stricter policies to address crime, including changes to the juvenile justice system and a greater police presence in municipalities. Commissioner James Rovella of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection spoke about the teen’s death at a press conference convened by Lamont on Thursday. Rovella said that the youth was brought into St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury at approximately 3 a.m. on Monday. The teenager, who was shot, subsequently died from his wounds.  Rovella said there were approximately 100 to 200 youths

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Lyme-Old Lyme Schools to Host Forum Tonight on Strategic Planning

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LYME-OLD LYME — The school district will be hosting its first open community forum tonight to discuss a strategic plan outlining the district’s goals for its students and hear community members want from the schools going forward. Superintendent Ian Neviaser said the last time the district developed a strategic plan was seven years ago, and that the plan needed to be updated.  Neviaser said that after initial meetings with employees and representatives from the town, parent groups and the Board of Education, a few major focus areas appeared. He said that members of the group wanted the students to be

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Vote on School Hiring in Middletown Draws Mixed Response

MIDDLETOWN — On November 2, voters will be asked to approve a change to the town charter that would shift the hiring and supervision of school district employees without teaching credentials from the purview of the Mayor to the Board of Education and superintendent of schools. Support for the change has been mixed, with the Mayor’s Office and Majority Leader of the Common Council touting the new arrangement as more efficient and less convoluted, while representatives for the local union say that the change could weaken their negotiating power. Under the current charter, employees who are certified by the state

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UConn Prof Crunches Numbers, Pitches Plan to Fix Racial Disparities in Education

Greenwich Public Schools spent $22,370 on each student in the district in the 2019-20 school year, but Danbury spent only $13,521. That same year, Madison spent $21,098 on each of its students, but if you went west to New Haven, that number dropped to $16,751.  This discrepancy is a statewide phenomenon. According to the non-partisan School and State Finance Project, in 2018-19, Connecticut schools in which 75 percent or more of the students are students of color spent an average of $2,300 less per pupil when compared with districts in which more than 75 percent of the student population is

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Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education Candidates Take Questions in Public Forum

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OLD LYME — With less than two weeks until the municipal elections, competing slates of candidates for the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education answered questions on Wednesday evening about topics that ranged from vaccines and masks to a study of kindergarten to 8th-grade facilities and a three-year strategic plan for the schools. The Democratic slate includes incumbent Martha Shoemaker and newcomers Alexander Lowry, Jason Kemp and Marisa Calvi-Rogers. The slate endorsed by the Republicans includes Michael Presti and Christopher Staab as well as two unaffiliated candidates, Mona Cowell and Laura Dean-Frazier. The event was hosted jointly by the Lyme-Old Lyme

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Candidates for Old Saybrook’s Police Commission Sound Off

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OLD SAYBROOK — The Democratic candidates for the Old Saybrook Police Commission — incumbents Alfred “Chub” Wilcox and Renee Shippee, as well as newcomers Jessica Calle, Jill Notar-Francesco, and Carol Manning — sat separately for interviews with CT Examiner to answer questions about their thoughts on the role of oversight, the accessibility of the commission to the public, and the handling of complaints from the public and police staff. No Republican candidate for the commission was willing to be interviewed for this story. Biographies in brief Chub Wilcox is a retired lawyer who spent 40 years practicing complex litigation, including

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In Packed Meeting, Labor Officials Decry Reporting on Clinton Schools

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CLINTON —Members of the Education Association of Clinton packed a Board of Education meeting on Monday in response to allegations from former and current teachers in Clinton about a hostile work environment in the district and criticism directed at the district’s union representative.  On Sunday evening, Michael Meizies, president of the Education Association of Clinton, sent an email to members in the district, asking that they attend the Board of Education meeting on Monday.   “In light of recent developments regarding the loss of a longtime Joel School faculty member, and that loss being referenced by a recent newspaper article, the EAC

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Griswold Fields Esports Team in League of 3,400 Participating Schools

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Jim Rand, a social studies teacher and coach at Griswold High School, stands in front of his players at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon giving a pre-game pep talk.  “It’s always better we win, but even if you don’t… don’t fear,” he said.  He reminds the players that the season is still young — it’s early October and only their second full match of the season. But he wants them to remember that every game brings them closer to the championships.  With that, it’s time for their warm-up. Fifteen or so students pull their equipment out of their bags

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Madison Releases a $61 Million Plan for a New Elementary School

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MADISON — A project to build a new elementary school for the local school district is expected to cost about $61 million, according to a recently published budget document. Chuck Warrington, the director of project management from the firm Colliers International, which the district contracted to oversee the project, explained the cost of the project at a Board of Education meeting last Tuesday.  In September, school officials released the first draft of a plan for the new Jeffrey Elementary School, which would have space for about 600 elementary school students, from kindergarten to fifth grade. The new building is part

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