Future Enrollment Drives Vote to Expand Elementary School in Lyme and Old Lyme

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LYME/OLD LYME — Mile Creek Elementary School is out of space.  That was the conclusion of four board of education members after touring the school on Wednesday.   “They are busting at the seams a little bit, and in two years they are going to have three levels of a couple of grades,” said Laura Dean-Frazier, one of the board members who toured the elementary school. The board held a special meeting Wednesday to authorize Rusty Malik, principal at the architectural firm Q A + M, to submit a grant application to the state for a project that would add classroom

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Numerous Anonymous Complaints Allege Misdeeds by Top Middletown School Officials

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MIDDLETOWN — CT Examiner obtained copies of 15 anonymous complaints against top school officials that offer details not included in the executive summary released on Monday of a recently concluded investigation requested by the Board of Education.  Over 35 single-spaced pages, the complainants allege that top district administrators engaged in bullying, gross sexual harassment, nepotism and patterns of unprofessional conduct dating to 2018 that allegedly prompted the departure of over a dozen female employees. The findings of the investigation supported at least some of these claims.  Some complaints also claimed that former Superintendent Michael Conner manipulated student achievement data, and

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Investigation Supports Some Claims of Misconduct by Middletown School Officials

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MIDDLETOWN — An independent investigation into claims of harassment and a hostile work environment within the district supports certain claims of misconduct by three of the district’s four senior administrators — including sexual harassment, unprofessional and retaliatory behavior and failure to effectively enforce COVID-19 protocols.   The findings were summarized in a statement released on Monday by the Board of Education, who affirmed that the investigators “substantiated separate and distinct instances of misconduct” in line with some of the complaints that were made.  “Although not always definitive, the findings of fact highlight areas of deficiency in the administration and operation of

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Hispanic Alliance Announces Scholarships, Partners with Eastern Connecticut State

WILLIMANTIC – David Galvez, who will begin his fifth year at Eastern in the fall, found out during finals that he would be receiving a scholarship through the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut. He said the scholarship was exactly what he needed to complete his tuition payment for next year.   “It’s a blessing, because at this moment I definitely needed that amount so that I could keep going to school next year,” he said. “It came to me at the right time.” Eastern Connecticut State University is partnering with the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut to offer scholarships to students

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High Cost, Flood of Applicants Cut Small Business Out of Connecticut’s Marijuana Lottery

Seven years ago, Ivelisse Correa told her father that she was going to open up a marijuana dispensary.   Correa’s father had been arrested when she was a freshman at East Hartford High School, and he’d gone to prison for three-and-a-half years, she said, after the remains of smoked marijuana was found in his car. For Correa, the prison term also meant that her father wasn’t there to see her graduate from high school. Correa said the dispensary was a way for her to “stick it to the State of Connecticut” for her father’s arrest. She said that she would

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Guilford Superintendent Responds to Numerous Anonymous Special Education Complaints

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GUILFORD — Superintendent Paul Freeman said Monday that the district plans to add two new staff positions to the district’s special education department and include questions in the district’s annual climate survey directly related to special education services.  The changes were in response to ten anonymous letters of complaint against the district’s special education department that were sent to the Guilford Human Rights Commission earlier this year.  The letters were dated between January 31 and March 8 of 2022.  Several of the complaints alleged changes being made to Individualized Education Plans without parental notification, a violation of the federal Individuals

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Schools Near a Decision $43+ Million Renovations, Mile Creek Expansion Undecided

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LYME/OLD LYME – Citing concerns about space at Mile Creek, the Board of Education voted to authorize Rusty Malik of QA + M Architecture to speak with the state of Connecticut about a facilities plan that would expand Mile Creek Elementary School.  The discussion represents the next step in the district’s plan to renovate four of the district’s five schools: Mile Creek, Lyme Consolidated School, Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School and Center School.   The renovations include upgrades to the HVAC system, installing central air throughout the buildings, replacing the boiler and putting in a back-up heating system. It also includes updating

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Guilford Schools May Launch Open Choice Program with New Haven as Soon as 2023

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GUILFORD — A change in state law could allow Guilford schools to begin an Open Choice program with New Haven Public Schools as soon as September 2023.  The Open Choice program allows students from urban school districts such as New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford to send a number of students to nearby suburban districts that agree to receive them. Districts that participate in the program receive state funding to support the education of the students they accept into their schools.   Recently, the program has been a point of contention in Fairfield County, where an attempt to launch  an Open Choice

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Legislators Pass Far-reaching School and Mental Health Bill

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Expansion for school-based health centers. A grant for minority teachers. Tax breaks for early childcare centers and wage supplements for their workers. A remote learning option for elementary schoolers (but no more hybrid teaching).  These are a few of the items passed into law on Tuesday in two bills focused on recruiting more mental health workers in schools, expanding teacher diversity and supporting early childcare centers and their workers.   The bills, which received broad bipartisan support, did raise concerns among some lawmakers regarding the parental role and consent in the care of children.  Senate Bill 1 includes grants to help

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The Death of their Child Sparks Creation of a Mental Health Nonprofit

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FAIRFIELD — After Jim and Kristen Kuczo’s son, Kevin, took his own life in February 2021, Jim started to see his son’s experience reflected across the country — a 16-year-old in Brunswick, Maine. An 18-year-old in Chicago.  All were stories of teenagers who had been good students, athletes – young men who were making plans for the future. In all three cases, the parents said that isolation from COVID had exacerbated the depression that the teenagers were suffering.  Jim Kuczo said that beyond what he was hearing in the news, he was also receiving phone calls from parents nearby, telling

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Durham-Middlefield Schools Invite Speaker on Racial Justice, Drawing Mixed Response from Parents

DURHAM/MIDDLEFIELD — After a number of incidents of racial discrimination and bullying in the district, parents and community members have expressed mixed opinions about the district’s plan to have a speaker on equity and racial justice lead a day-long event at Coginchaug High School.  The speaker, Calvin Terrell, is scheduled to lead the event on May 3, which will include a two-hour assembly in the morning with the sixth through 12th graders. In the afternoon, Terrell will meet with teachers and staff for a training session, and in the evening, he will hold an event that parents and community members

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Colchester Superintendent Resigns

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COLCHESTER — The Board of Education voted Friday to accept the resignation of superintendent Jeffrey Burt and to form a search committee to find a new superintendent.  While the board did not give a reason for Burt’s resignation at the meeting, it comes after the board has held multiple meetings to discuss a formal complaint made against an administrator.  Through a Freedom of Information Act, CT Examiner obtained a complaint filed against Burt on January 31, 2022. The complaint, made by Principal Matthew Peel of Bacon Academy, described multiple instances of “workplace bullying,” including meetings in which Burt allegedly spoke

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Sweeping Children’s Mental Health Bill Passes State House

A sweeping children’s mental health bill providing everything from broader insurance coverage to loan forgiveness for mental health workers to trauma-informed training for teachers passed the State House of Representatives by a 149-0 vote on Wednesday.  This is the first of three bills focused on children’s mental health to pass in the State House this session. The bill includes provisions that affect every aspect of the mental health system, from state agencies to insurance companies, local school districts, physicians and mental health providers.  State Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, co-chair of the children’s committee and one of the bill’s authors, said

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Lawmakers Pitch Bill to Fast-Track Funding for Connecticut’s Public Schools (Updated)

Daniela James, a senior at Farmington High School, said she saw stark differences between the opportunities afforded her in Farmington compared to her former school, Waterbury Arts Magnet School.  Her current high school in Farmington offered 24 Advanced Placement Courses, in comparison to the three offered in Waterbury. She said that in her former school, students regularly dropped out, while 99 percent of students at Farmington High School graduated last year.  “The generational privileges that there are in Farmington, along with the multitude of AP classes to beef up [students’] transcripts makes them much more equipped to look appealing to

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Connecticut House Approves $30 Million Childhood Lead Exposure Bill,146-0

The Connecticut House voted 146-0 on Tuesday to pass a bill that will increase testing for lead exposure in children, lower the threshold requiring municipalities to investigate and remediate for lead, and provide $30 million to cover the estimated cost of compliance.  The bill requires health centers to report lead poisoning when a child’s blood levels are greater than 3.5 micrograms per deciliter, in conformance with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. It also requires the state to begin an epidemiological investigation and conduct remediation when a child’s blood level is greater than 5 micrograms per deciliter. “We

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Push for Primary Care Raises Alarm Among Mental Health and Disability Advocates

Two years ago, in response to ever-rising healthcare costs, Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order allowing the Office of Health Strategy to create targets — called “benchmarks” — for how much the cost of healthcare should grow each year, and to create metrics that measure the quality of healthcare in the state. The executive order also included a plan to increase the amount of money directed toward primary care doctors.  Now, the legislature is considering turning that executive order into law. But the bill is opposed by various organizations on the grounds that the extra funds for primary care

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Schools Officials Calls Florsheim Claims “Patently False,” in Push For 6% Budget Hike

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MIDDLETOWN — The town’s superintendent and Board of Education pushed back hard against recent charges by Mayor Ben Florsheim that the proposed school budget shows a lack of investment in school staff and a lack of transparency. An eight-page document signed by Superintendent Alberto Vazquez-Matos and Board Chair Deborah Cain offered point-by-point rebuttals to criticism leveled by the mayor in his April 1 budget address, calling the idea that the district was cutting funding for school staff “patently false.”  “Every component of the Board’s proposed budget invests in our employees and our community. Using our strategic operating plan as our

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Bid to Improve Training for Teacher’s Aides Loses Out to Cost and Budgetary Concerns

A provision that would have improved access to training and career advancement for some of the state’s lowest-paid workers in the classroom, many employed to help high-need students, appears to have lost out this year due to cost and budgetary concerns. Kelly McQueeney, a paraprofessional in the Avon school district, said she had to learn a variety of skills for her job helping students with different needs, including sign language, the use of alternative communication devices and certain types of walkers.  Soccorro Testut, a paraprofessional in Norwich, said that some of the most valuable training was how to translate and

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Colchester Board of Education Meets to Discuss Special Education Concerns

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COLCHESTER — The Board of Education voted on Thursday to form a subcommittee to draft an anonymous survey for parents to share their experiences regarding the district’s special education program. They also voted to schedule an additional meeting after the results of the survey come in to have a more “robust conversation” about parent concerns. Multiple parents have spoken to CT Examiner about their deep frustration with what they describe as the district’s willingness to provide an adequate education for the town’s children with special education needs. Their complaints include a refusal to conduct evaluations or accept outside evaluations needed

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Independent Review Supports Parent Complaints About Special Education in Colchester

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COLCHESTER — An independent review of the town’s special education program has identified a number of concerns regarding organization, staff retention, communication with parents and the measurement of student outcomes. Those and other concerns were shared by several Colchester parents, and education advocates, who spoke at length with CT Examiner to express a deep frustration with the district’s willingness to provide an adequate education for the town’s children with special education needs.  Of the district’s approximately 2,300 students, about 15 percent, or 360 students, are classified as special education students – close to the state average.  One parent, Tina Pappalardo,

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Stamford Board of Education Denies Teacher Grievance in Thursday Meeting

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STAMFORD — The Stamford Board of Education voted 2-1 on Thursday to deny a grievance by the city’s teachers union alleging that Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Amy Beldotti violated board policy by failing to involve teachers in the decision to change high school scheduling beginning next fall.  The grievance was spurred by a proposal to transition the current high school schedules to what is called a 4×4 hybrid block schedule — a model which schedules students to attend 90-minute sections of the same four classes each day for the fall semester, and then switch to four new classes

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Scheduling Change Prompts Grievance Hearing, Resistance from Stamford Teachers

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STAMFORD — The city’s public school teachers have come out in force against a proposed change in scheduling at Stamford high schools which the district’s administrators say is needed to help address the large number of students currently failing classes.  The Board of Education will be hearing a grievance on Thursday from the local teachers union regarding the district administration’s alleged failure to include teachers in the decision to adopt the new schedule at the district’s three high schools.  CT Examiner spoke with a number of teachers who say that a new schedule will not solve the underlying problems —

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Florsheim Rejects 6 Percent Budget Hike for Middletown Schools, Calls for Audit

MIDDLETOWN — Mayor Ben Florsheim said in a public address on Friday that he could not support the Board of Education’s proposed budget increase, and called for an independent audit of the board’s financial practices.  Florsheim’s comments were in response to a vote on Thursday by the board to increase the district budget by 6 percent, or $5.5 million, to $97,678,459.  Acting Superintendent Alberto Vazquez-Matos told members of  the Common Council and the Board of Education on March 29, that the budget included funding for mental healthcare, including a full-time social worker in every school and an expansion of the ICM

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Republican and Democratic Lawmakers Debate Childcare Subsidies, Tax Credits, Sustainability

Lawmakers on Tuesday debated a bill that would subsidize childcare providers with funds appropriated from the state’s cap on revenues. Although members of both parties expressed support for added funding, Republicans questioned the use of funds set aside as part of a bipartisan budget deal crafted in 2017, while Democrats questioned how else to fund the measure. State Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, emphasized that the proposal would not require a tax increase or additional spending, but would use funds that already exist.  “Person after person in this meeting has said they want to solve this problem. If not now, when,

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Limited Funding as Schools Report Waitlists, Growing Demand for Mental Health Services

Several of Groton’s five school-based health centers have waitlists. So do all five of the school-based health centers in New London. At New London Multi-Magnet High School, there have been waitlists to see behavioral health counselors since October.  “From a behavioral health standpoint, the need is incredible. Incredible,” said Mark Robel, practice manager for school-based health centers at United Community and Family Services, which operates school-based health centers in the Norwich, Waterford, Montville and Griswold Public Schools.  School-based health centers – miniature doctor’s offices that provide students with everything from check-ups to sick visits to mental health assessments and consultations

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Old Saybrook Police Commission Debates By-Laws, Town Attorney Raises Doubt

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OLD SAYBROOK – Changes to policies that will affect how the Old Saybrook Police Commission deals with comments, inquiries and complaints from the public regarding the Old Saybrook Police Department were discussed at Monday’s meeting as the commission awaits further clarification of an opinion from town attorney Michael Cronin.  Committee Chair Alfred Wilcox said on Monday that Cronin was reconsidering an opinion he had provided that referred to a proposed change as “illegal.”  The current by-law says that all complaints submitted to the police commission will be turned over to the Old Saybrook Police Department. The revised bylaw would give

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War Sparks Search By New London Man for Family Roots on the Borders of Ukraine

NEW LONDON — For Keith Kimball, a question mark had always hovered around his maternal lineage. He knew that his great-grandfather had immigrated to the U.S. from somewhere in Eastern Europe, bringing customs that Kimball learned from his grandfather and his mother. But the family’s country of origin and ethnic background remained unknown.  “He was a mystery, always, to the family,” said Kimball of his grandfather.   The pieces of information that Kimball did have were confusing. His grandfather’s aunts would claim different things — one would say they were Polish, the other would say Ukrainian. But the family spoke an

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State Expected to Bond $1.4 Million for East Haddam Athletic Complex

EAST HADDAM — The State of Connecticut’s Bond Commission is expected to vote next Thursday to approve a $1.4 million bond for an athletic complex at Nathan Hale-Ray High School.  The $1.4 million will account for just under half of the project’s proposed cost of $2.9 million, according to Marc Pisciotti, the chair of East Haddam’s Board of Education.  The proposed complex includes a 6-lane, full-oval track with eight sprint lanes, a soccer field, an area for throwing events, concession stand, restrooms and a storage area. Pisciotti said that the town has one of “less than a handful” of high

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Connecticut Lawmakers Aim Legislation at Attracting Young Doctors

Lawmakers are proposing a bill that would offer physicians who either attended medical school or completed their residency in Connecticut a 20 percent reimbursement for federal and state loans each year that they practice in Connecticut. Lawmakers also discussed incentives, limits on malpractice claims and non-compete agreements required for doctors. The legislation aims at least in part to address the state’s difficulty retaining medical students who begin their training in Connecticut. Over half of the approximately 4,000 doctors who completed their residency in Connecticut last year left the state to practice medicine somewhere else. That number places Connecticut 47th out

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B.P. Learned Center Fills Gaps in New London’s Early Childhood Education

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NEW LONDON — Balls of socks and colorful balloons fly through the air at the B.P. Learned Center in New London on Wednesday evening, where about thirty families have gathered for one of the center’s tri-weekly community events centered on early childhood education.  The night’s focus is on gross motor skills, and the activities are designed to reflect the theme. In one corner, children are batting balloons back and forth with cut-off pool noodles. In another, they throw balled-up socks at towers of red solo-cups. The third station — bowling — has water bottles filled with liquids in different colors,

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