Conn College Organizes Interviews with Young and Old on Race, Housing and New London

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When Spencer Lancaster, a World War II Army veteran, bought a house in New London in 1972, the neighbors circulated a petition to keep him out. Lonnie Braxton II, a Navy veteran who tried to buy a house in New London around the same time, watched his friends at Electric Boat get approved for mortgages while his application languished. And the summer after Donetta Hodge bought her home in Waterford in 1976, she woke up one morning to find white plastic cutlery planted all over her front yard.  These are some of the stories that older residents of color are

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‘Truth in Education’ Candidates Sweep Guilford GOP Board of Ed Endorsements

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GUILFORD — Republicans voted Thursday evening to place five candidates on the ballot for Board of Education who were endorsed by the organization Truth in Education, a local group that has focused its opposition on Critical Race Theory. Several candidates endorsed by the group said they felt there was a lack of transparency from the current board and that their concerns were not being heard.  The five candidates were chosen out of eight nominees and beat out the three incumbent members on the Board of Education who were up for re-election: Joseph Golino, Ted Sands and Amy Sullivan. Truth in

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Board of Finance Gives Preliminary Approvals for Tax Incentives, Debates Limits

MADISON — The Board of Finance gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to two developers who would become the first beneficiaries of the town’s Tax Incentive Program.  The program was developed in 2018 as a way to encourage new businesses to come to the town, according to First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons. Lyons said at the Board of Finance meeting that the Board of Selectman had received these applications before COVID, but had not been able to move forward because they could not hold a Town Meeting.  Developers who are approved will receive a temporary deferral on taxes accrued from the increase

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Guilford’s Human Rights Commission Proposes Speaker on Critical Race Theory

GUILFORD — The town’s Human Rights Commission is proposing to host an educational session for members of the community interested in learning about Critical Race Theory.   The commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to present the proposal to the Board of Selectmen at their August meeting. The speaker would be Angela Robinson, a professor of Critical Race Theory at Quinnipiac Law School who presented an overview of Critical Race Theory to the commission at the Tuesday meeting. Jo Keogh, chair of the commission, said she hoped the event would “give people information so they can make an informed decision, one way

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Connecticut Lawmakers Debate Response to Repeat Juvenile Offenders

Spurred by a recent series of car thefts and break-ins, Republican and Democratic legislators are trying to identify and close the cracks in the system that have, according to police, allowed a handful of juvenile offenders to commit multiple serious crimes without facing significant consequences.  Lawmakers have zeroed in on two major issues — better communication and information sharing between state and local agencies and improving juveniles’ access to services — in talks with police officers, Department of Children and Families, Judicial Branch, public defenders and representatives of the Connecticut Youth Services Assocation. One idea under discussion among legislators is

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Previewing the Black and Latino Studies Elective in Connecticut Public Schools

An ancient African king who made a religious pilgrimage accompanied by caravans of gold. An FBI operation spying on members of a movement for Puerto Rican Independence. A Black female cowboy from the 19th century who “broke more noses than any other person in central Montana.” These are a few of the histories and stories included in the state’s new Black and Latino Studies curriculum. In 2019, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to require every public high school to offer an elective in Black and Latino history. The new curriculum, which was completed on July 1, will

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After 60 Claims of Abuse, the Diocese of Norwich Files for Bankruptcy

The Diocese of Norwich has filed for bankruptcy, saying it was unable to pay damages for over 60 claims of abuse alleged to have taken place at the Mount Saint John School, a former residential school in Deep River. The Diocese announced Thursday that it would be filing under Chapter 11, a provision under the U.S. bankruptcy code that allows businesses to “restructure” their debts in order to pay their creditors. Bishop Michael R. Cote, the head of the diocese, said that filing a Chapter 11 was “the most equitable way” to address the lawsuits.  Cote said that the decision

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Economists Debate Connecticut’s Steep Drop in Workforce Numbers

From May 2020 to May 2021, Connecticut’s workforce — the number of people in the state working or actively looking for work — dropped by 135,000, or 7.2 percent. That’s the second-largest decrease among any of the 50 states during that time period, according to numbers from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Of the 18 states reporting declines, the largest was in Ohio (283,000) followed by Connecticut (135,000) and Pennsylvania (97,000). Numbers just released from the Connecticut Department of Labor estimate that the state recouped about 19,000 people to the workforce in June. Patrick Flaherty, director of research at

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Madison Plans Referendum on Several Long-Term Projects

The Town of Madison is preparing to hold a referendum on several long-term projects, including the development of the former Academy School into a community center, the sale of the former Island Avenue School and a building project that will overhaul the schools in the local district.  First Selectwoman Peggy Lyons said that she wanted to move the projects forward as soon as possible. She said she wanted to get all of these issues on a single ballot.  “I think it would be the right thing to aspire to that. We need to make decisions and move on and allow

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Clinton Schools Invest in Vocational Classes For Middle and High School Students

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CLINTON — Jessica Flanagan is looking forward to her senior year at The Morgan School where she’ll be working on a catapult that can shoot melons across the river behind the school.  Flanagan said the catapult was inherited from former engineering classes, but still needs design modifications before it’s ready to launch the fleshy projectiles.  And that’s not the only project in the works by engineering students at Clinton’s public high school. In the lab on the bottom floor of the school, students are programming robots, engraving blocks of wood with lasers, and welding together the metal frame of a

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School Officials React to New CDC Guidelines

The Connecticut State Department of Education is considering new guidelines by the U.S. Center for Disease Control as it prepares to make recommendations for what public health guidelines schools will have to follow in the fall.  The new guidelines say that vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks indoors. They recommend that unvaccinated students and staff continue to wear masks inside school buildings, and that schools should continue with the 3-foot distancing rule between students. The guidelines further say that when the distancing is not possible, or in schools that serve children under the age of 12 who are

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Lawmakers Debate Repeat Juvenile Offenders as Crime Rattles Local Communities

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, asked Democratic lawmakers to join him in signing a petition to bring the legislature back into special session sometime this summer to address a recent rise in juvenile crime. On Wednesday afternoon, Republican and Democratic lawmakers met at the Capitol to discuss the proposal. But while some community members, police officers and Republican legislators spoke of fears of a spike in teenage crime, calling for stricter punishments for repeat youth offenders and the restoration of juvenile services and facilities sacrificed to funding cuts, Democrats questioned the need for broad punitive measures, saying that

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Facing Steep Enrollment Declines, Fiscal Cliff, Community Colleges Accelerate Advisor Hiring

Enrollment at Connecticut’s community colleges suffered a “dramatic drop off” during the pandemic, falling to 19,000 students this year from a peak of 35,000 over the last decade — posing a significant financial risk to the Connecticut State Colleges and University system unless the decline is reversed before federal aid runs out in 2025. In response, the Board of Regents has announced plans to accelerate the hiring of 174 academic advisors, part of a nationwide “Guided Pathways” program currently being piloted at 3 of the state’s colleges to help improve enrollment, retention and graduation rates. The accelerated program comes at

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States Lay Groundwork for 250-year Anniversary of 1776

With five years to go before the celebration of 250 years of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, more and more states are making preparations for what promises to be a nationwide celebration of Herculean proportions.  Terry Brown, Director of Federal Partnerships with the U.S. National Semiquincentennial Commission, said on Thursday that the 250th anniversary was going to be “the biggest event in history.” He said they planned to produce 100,000 programs and attract more than 350 million visitors across the state. All of this, he said, would mean billions of dollars infused into national, state and local economies. 

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UConn Awarded $40 Million Grant to Develop Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Data Network

It can probe the inner workings of a Lithium ion battery, it can shed light on genetic diseases, and it’s even been used to develop cancer treatments — it’s a technique called Nuclear Magnetic Resonance.  Nuclear Magnetic Resonance is similar to magnetic resonance, most commonly known for its use in MRI machines, and both techniques use magnetic fields to gather information on a molecular level. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance causes the electric charges in the atoms of a given molecule to emit frequencies, which give scientists information about the size, structure and movement of molecules.   “They act as little atomic spies,

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UConn and UConn Health Use Multiple Strategies to Balance 2022 Budgets

The Board of Trustees was able to approve balanced budgets for the University of Connecticut and UConn Health for the 2022 fiscal year because of a generous amount of federal and state aid and an anticipated return to near-pre-pandemic levels of student residential life.  “It’s actually kind of a low-drama result from a high-drama year,” Scott Jordan, the university’s Executive Vice President for Administration & Chief Financial Officer, said at a Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday.  In 2021, the university faced a $75.5 million deficit mainly from a loss in revenue from housing and dining during the coronavirus pandemic.

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New Region 4 Assistant Superintendent Believes in Teaching Kids to be Critical Thinkers and Collaborators

“When am I going to use this in real life?” Dr. Sarah Brzozowy, Region 4’s new assistant superintendent who is starting today, loves it when her students ask this question. In an interview with CT Examiner in March, Brzozowy explained that the question has been the foundation of her philosophy as a teacher and an educator. Her goal, she said, is to equip her students with practical skills that they can put to use in the real world.  Brzozowy began her career as a middle school science teacher in the Plainville Public Schools, where she spent seven years in the

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Lamont Vetoes Prison Bill Limiting Solitary Confinement

Gov. Ned Lamont vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have limited the use of solitary confinement in state prisons, saying that the bill would “put the safety of incarcerated persons and corrections employees at substantial risk.”  The veto overrode bi-partisan support for the bill in the state legislature earlier this month. The bill was approved in the Senate 26-10 and in the House 87-55 with some modifications.  The approved version of the bill, also called the PROTECT Act, stipulated that individuals receive at least 6.5 hours per day outside of their cells, barring a serious incident, and required mental

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Nothing Radical About Curriculum or Reforms, Says Guilford Superintendent

What does it mean to teach Moby Dick with cultural sensitivity?  Guilford Public Schools Superintendent Paul Freeman says it’s a matter of perspectives. “In Moby Dick, Queequeg is the only character of color, and Queequeg is presented as a noble savage,” Freeman said.  One way to broaden the lesson, he explained, would be to have students look at whaling in different cultures. Another would be to introduce students to stories of New Englanders of color who also engaged in whaling.  “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to stop teaching Moby Dick or look to pull down statues of Melville,” Freeman

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Staff and Faculty Immunizations Unresolved as State Schools Finalize Student Mandate

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Students at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, by and large, will be required to be vaccinated this fall — but the requirements for unionized faculty and staff remain unresolved. The policy, which the Board of Regents adopted in a meeting on Thursday, requires all students on campus to be vaccinated when they return to campus for the fall of 2021. Students can apply for a medical or non-medical exemption. Those who are approved for an exemption may have to follow other protocols, including a modified quarantine, masking and periodic COVID testing.  “An unknown mixture of vaccinated and unvaccinated persons

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Talks on Teaching, Race and Racism Attract Several Hundred in Guilford

GUILFORD — A crowd of several hundred people gathered at the Guilford Community Center on Thursday evening to listen to a talk warning against the dangers of Critical Race Theory and urging parents to push back against the teaching of systemic racism in the local schools.  The talk was organized by Truth in Education, a self-described grassroots movement founded by a group of Guilford parents and community members. In a pamphlet that accompanied the talk, the group listed its goals. They include: “end critical race theory indoctrination,” “embrace capitalism,” “explain explicitly that systemic racism is a lie and does not

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11-2 Vote Supports Student Resource Officers in Middletown Schools

MIDDLETOWN — An exploratory committee tasked with evaluating the Student Resource Officer Program in Middletown Public Schools voted 11-2 to keep the current program, but to update the memorandum of understanding between the police department and the district. The current document would be revised to include specific policies related to hiring, removal, training and chain of command structure. The committee was created in March to solicit perspectives from parents, officers, educators and students and to return recommendations to the town’s board of education. The committee includes two members of the board of education, three school principals, two teachers, a social

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Connecticut Plans Statewide Online School For K-12

Virtual classrooms may become a permanent fixture in the state of Connecticut.  New legislation tasks the state’s Department of Education to develop plans for a K-12 statewide remote learning school that would use the same curriculum and have the same school year length as a traditional school, but would be under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education. Peter Yazbak, director of communications for the Department of Education, said that state officials still need to work out the specifics of how the school would be funded and which students would be eligible.  A proposal should be sent to legislators

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A Minor Tweak that Doubles Funding for Some Regional Schools

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A minor tweak in Connecticut’s funding formula for school districts will more than double the amount that Lyme-Old Lyme schools receive from the state over the next two years.  In 2021, Lyme received $60,216 and Old Lyme received $238,583. According to projections from the School and State Finance Project, Old Lyme’s state funding will increase to $370,531 in 2022 and $502,478 in 2023. Lyme’s will increase to $89,603 in 2022 and $118,989 in 2023.  The increase is a result of a “regional bonus” that gives regional school districts $100 for every student enrolled in a regional school. A previous bonus

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Hack, Corrigan Head to a Tokyo Olympics ‘More Focused on the Competition’

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By the end of the summer, Louis Zubek, the former rowing coach for Lyme-Old Lyme High School, will be able to say that he has coached not one, but two Olympic athletes.  That’s because Lyme-Old Lyme alumni Austin Hack, 29, and Liam Corrigan, 23, will be part of the U.S. men’s eight boat that races on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo at this summer’s Olympic Games.  Although Hack and Corrigan are competing in the same boat, Zubek said it was a shame that he didn’t have the opportunity to coach both athletes together at Lyme-Old Lyme — Hack graduated

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Lamont: ‘I Think They Took a Lot of the Guts Out of That Bill’

Legislative efforts to further regulate broadband internet as a utility fell flat out of fear that the new rules could make Connecticut the target of a lawsuit. But a less ambitious bill passed earlier this month will allow the state to create detailed maps of broadband infrastructure and establish a grant program for companies willing to expand into underserved areas. State Rep. David Arconti, D-Danbury, co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, said that federal rules prevented state lawmakers from creating stronger oversight on the state level.  “Companies were going to take it to court,” said Arconti.  The original bill

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Wave of Teaching Hires Challenges Connecticut’s Job Market

Madison is hiring two new teachers for the fall. East Lyme needs two kindergarten teachers, two second grade teachers, a social worker and six paraeducators. Stonington plans to hire at least 20 teachers, tutors and interventionists. Region 4 and Guilford are hiring permanent substitutes. Old Saybrook is hiring temporary therapists, social workers and psychologists through outside agencies. Norwich schools are hiring 15 specialists, 35 summer school teachers and 14 paraeducators. But there’s a catch — many of these positions may last just one or two years.  The federal government has sent a wave of funding to local schools across the

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Baby Bonds Bill Passed to Aid Savings for Low-income Families

Connecticut children born into low-income families are poised to receive a government-funded savings account that could provide them with as much as $10,600 by the time they turn 18.  The legislature approved the proposal on Wednesday as part of the general bonding bill, which still needs to be signed by the governor. Under the bill, $50 million will be directed toward providing accounts of $3,200 for about 15,600 children whose mothers are receiving insurance through HUSKY A, the state’s Medicaid program.  State Treasurer Shawn Wooden, who originally proposed the program, called its passage “historic.” “While Connecticut has the highest annual

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Westbrook Schools Field Ideas for Federal Funding, Electives, ‘Wellness Rooms’

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WESTBROOK — How should local schools spend $700,000 of federal grant money? Local residents have plenty of ideas, starting with air conditioning. According to school Superintendent Kristina Martineau, many of the 100 people responding to her request for feedback on spending the federal aid asked whether the money could be spent on air conditioning installation and HVAC improvements in the three school buildings. Martineau spoke to the Board of Education on Tuesday. While that was the most common request, Martineau said it certainly wasn’t the only one. Outdoor classrooms were also a popular suggestion. Others wanted to fund specific activities,

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Westbrook Selectmen Form Committee to Study Building a New Community Center

WESTBROOK — On Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen discussed a survey commissioned by the town demonstrating support for building a new community center, still unresolved are questions regarding the cost of the project and the source of funding. In February, the Board of Selectman commissioned the consulting firm GreatBlue to survey residents for their views on a new community center. Out of a pool of 712 residents, 57 percent of surveyed expressed interest in the center, compared with 38 percent who said they weren’t interested. Residents over the age of 65 expressed the greatest support.  Courtney Burks, the director of

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