Goulart and Nolan Stake Different Directions in New London Race

After competing once before in a 2019 special election to fill the seat of then-State Rep. Chris Soto, who left to join the incoming Lamont administration, Democrat State Rep. Anthony Nolan and Republican Kat Goulart face off again to represent New London and the 39th District in the State House of Representatives.  Nolan, a father and grandfather, longtime New London police officer and 4-term city council member who won 51 percent of the vote in the four-way 2019 race, said he is hopeful for a second-term in Hartford. Goulart received 14.7 percent of the vote in that race. “I think I’m

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Adoptions Drop By Half as Connecticut Copes with COVID

Adoption days can brighten a month of work, said Judge Bernadette Conway, chief administrative judge for juvenile matters for the State of Connecticut. “We all used to fight over who got to do them because they were so much fun,” she said.  Often the courthouse is filled with balloons as family and friends gather, sharing sweets and excitement about a soon-to-be member of the family.  Such celebrations have been impossible unfortunately since policies were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. “The courts had to drastically reduce its work product in March and we have since worked very

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Streicker, Paglino Challenge Long-time Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

Democrat Rosa DeLauro is running for re-election after representing Connecticut’s third district in Congress for the last 30 years. DeLauro faces Republican Margaret Streicker, an entrepreneur and single mother of four from Milford, and Green Party Candidate Justin Paglino, a physician and father of two from Guilford. After initial agreements in September by press aids, DeLauro’s campaign later declined to participate in this story. Streicker and Paglino, however, had a lot to say about why they think it’s time for a change in representation for the third district.  “I want people to understand that they have a choice. This is

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McCarty and Welch-Collins — By the Issues

In a rematch of the 2018 election, incumbent Republican State Rep. Kathleen McCarty faces Democrat Baird Welch-Collins in a race to represent Waterford and Montville in the Connecticut General Assembly. In their previous contest, McCarty bested Welch-Collins by 351 votes, 51.6 to 48.4 percent. After three terms in Hartford and six years on the legislature’s Education Committee, McCarty — who also served for 20 years on the Waterford Board of Education — said that her focus will remain on schools and students if she is re-elected.  “We are going to be more challenged to narrow the gaps in education that

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Local Residents Question Turf Field Proposal at Open Forum

LYME/OLD LYME — The need for an artificial turf field was the topic of a Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education’s public forum on Wednesday night.  The project – which has been in the works for years – would cost the district at least $2.1 million and replace the current unirrigated, practice field with a 140,000 square foot artificial turf field with the lines for soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball marked. The field would be placed above tubing components of the school’s geothermal wells, but would not cover the access point or pump.  Funding for the project would be drawn from

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Homeschooling, Pre-Schoolers, Charter Schools May Explain Drop in Public School Enrollment

Over the last year, 6,000 families joined the Connecticut Homeschool Network bringing the total number of families to about 15,000, according to Diane Connors, the organization’s co-founder.  “We’ve seen a large increase this year unlike any other that I’ve been involved with and I’ve been involved for decades,” Connors said. “We have thousands of new homeschoolers across the state.” According to Connors, more than 5 percent school-age children in Connecticut are homeschooled, up from 3.4 percent last year. At the same time, the state public school student population has dropped by more than 3 percent this year, according to the

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Finance Director Resigns After 4 Months with Region 4 Schools

ESSEX/DEEP RIVER/CHESTER — After less than four months on the job, Kelly Sterner, finance director of the Region 4 Public Schools announced her resignation.  “Our Finance Director, Kelly Sterner has announced her intention to resign from the position later this fall,” said Brian White, Superintendent for the Region 4 School District. “Ms. Sterner is committed to supporting the district through this period of transition.” Sterner’s resignation comes after a year of frequent turnover in the district. The last full-time business manager, Kimberly Allen, resigned in November of 2019 following the departure of the former Superintendent Ruth Levy and the Facilities

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Connecticut Schools Report Largest One-Year Drop on Record

Statewide the percentage students enrolled in public schools dropped by more than 3 percent, the largest one-year decline on record. For the last decade, Connecticut has reported annual declines of about 0.5 to 1 percent. “It definitely looks like we are seeing lower enrollment this year, lower than what we would have normally seen from one year to the next,” said Ajit Gopalakrishnan, bureau chief for the Connecticut Department of Education. “We don’t know as of yet what are some of the reasons for this … we know that we have seen declines in a lot of districts, not just

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$69 Million Deficit, Surprise Drop in Enrollment, Add to Labor Tensions at CSCU

The Connecticut State College and University system is facing a larger than expected $69 million deficit in fiscal year 2021 after a 15 percent decline in enrollment at its twelve community colleges added to a $52.5 million deficit at the four state university campuses. The drop undercuts conventional wisdom that lower cost and public unease with dorm life during the pandemic would boost community college enrollment in the fall, and underscores deepening tensions with organized labor to close the gap. “We are facing serious financial challenges. We are seeing reduced enrollment, reduced residence hall occupancy and at the same time

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Strong Gains Reported for Distance Learning in Low-Performing Districts Across Connecticut

One month into the fall semester, school officials report significant improvements in participation rates among public school students in disadvantaged districts enrolled in distance learning. Compared to this spring, when makeshift measures to resume education online lost about 70 percent students in New Haven, the state’s largest school district, during the last week of September reportedly just 6 percent of students learning remotely across Connecticut failed to participate in classes. These numbers are part of an effort by the state Department of Education to more closely monitor Connecticut’s 170 public school districts, in response to concerns that statewide efforts to

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Hartford Marathon and Fall Races Go Virtual

This Saturday Jennifer Zayas along with two friends will lace up for the 27th annual Hartford Marathon.  Unlike past years, she won’t be starting at 8 a.m. and she won’t finish under the Arch in Bushnell Park, steps away from the State Capitol. She expects to see just one fan on the course. Zayas will be heading out the door an hour early, running the entire 26.2 miles on the Farmington Canal Trail and relying on her husband for water, fuel and encouragement the entire way.  “Originally, I was signed up for the Chicago Marathon on the Autism Speaks team.

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Added Nursing Staff Can Save Lives, Report Shows, But Cost Remains a Hurdle

A higher ratio of staff to residents correlated in the first six months of the pandemic to fewer cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes across Connecticut according to a recent review by Mathematica of the state’s public health policy and practices. According to Mathematica’s final report published last week, the lower the ratio of staff hours to residents, the more the cases and deaths of COVID-19 in a nursing homes. “Staffing rating was highly predictive of the ability to limit the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes,” the report states. “Nursing homes with a high staffing rating (4 or 5

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Needleman and Saunders Stake Positions on Coming Term if Elected

In 2018, Democrat Norm Needleman of Essex won the long-held Republican State Senate seat for the 33rd district by just 0.2 percent of the vote. This November he faces Republican Brendan Saunders of Westbrook in what may well again be a close race in a district that stretches from Clinton to Deep River to Portland.  For Saunders, who formerly pastored a Baptist church in Old Saybrook and currently works full-time at a hotel in Colchester, the number one reason he’s running is because he believes the district needs a voice in Hartford more representative of the district. “When I looked

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East Lyme Officials Debate Balance of Conservation and Development Before Wednesday Hearing

On Wednesday, the East Lyme Board of Selectman will host a public hearing to discuss the proposed plan of conservation and development first proposed in January. Since the prior plan was approved in 2009, several hundred units of multi-family housing have been added to town and many new businesses, including Costco Wholesale in the new Gateway Planned Development District.  “Our commercial zones are slowly being consumed by multi-family housing. If we continue on that same progression, what does that mean for East Lyme?” said Gary Goeschel, director of planning in East Lyme. “The community might be saying the growth is

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$500 Million in School Construction Grants Expected to be Approved in Special Session

In the second special session of the year, the Connecticut House and Senate will take up a bill to provide about $500 million in grants for school construction projects across the state.  “It’s a very skinny school construction bill, meaning that there is not a lot to it,” said State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the appropriations committee. The bill contains grant funding to assist 11 school districts in either new school construction or renovation projects that have already been approved by local taxpayers and reviewed by the Departments of Education and Administrative Services. The 11 school districts are

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In Wake of Black Lives Matter, Advocates Press for Curriculum Changes in Connecticut Schools

As a mother, it’s what’s missing from the curriculum, far more than what is taught, that bothers Rashanda McCollum. “The story of Black Americans is not just oppression, there’s so much more that’s important,” said McCollum, the executive director of Students for Education Justice. “I’m frustrated as a parent because that’s what my daughter was taught.”  When her daughter was in elementary school she was assigned a project to research an influential person in Connecticut’s history. The entire class was told to choose from a list of 30 historical figures. According to McCollum, of those 30, just one was not

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Social Media Posts Spur Wave of Resignations as Police Accountability is Dropped from Special Session

Kevin Coughlin, director of communications for the Connecticut Senate Democrats, confirmed that revisions to the police accountability bill will not be considered in a second special session of the legislature planned for the last week of September. According to Andrew Matthews, attorney for the Connecticut State Police Union, the union and attorneys representing the legislature have developed 22 proposals over the past two months targeting areas of concern in the bill and places for potential change.   The Connecticut State Police Union has been in discussions with legislative leaders and supporters of the bill since it was signed into law by

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State Leaders Debate Spending to Bridge Urban-Suburban Achievement Gap

Both New London High School and Valley Regional High School spent about $16,500 per pupil in 2017-18, according to the state Department of Education. The schools are about the same size – with 568 and 583 students respectively – and are less than 30 minutes apart by car. And yet, every year students at the two schools have vastly different scores on standardized tests. In 2017-18, just 36.7 percent of students at New London High School met or exceeded the state standard in math. In the same year at Valley Regional, 59.1 percent of students met or exceeded the same

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As State and Federal Efforts Wane, Phragmites Control is Left to Private Efforts

Much of the Connecticut River is fringed with phragmites. Its light green reeds grow thick and tall, shutting out native plants, mucking up the water for native birds and fish and shielding the waterfront from view. Ten years ago, controlling this invasive plant was a major focus for both the state and federal governments. The Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service often had grants available to fund shoreline restoration projects. With consistent herbicide application and diligent mowing by a team of seven full-time employees, and many more seasonal workers at the state Department of Energy

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Old Lyme Zoning Commission Postpones Vote on Synthetic Turf Field

OLD LYME — The Old Lyme Zoning Commission voted to postpone a vote on the proposed Lyme-Old Lyme turf field at Monday night’s meeting. “I wonder why this didn’t go to our engineer, I don’t feel confident to evaluate drainage,” said Jane Cable, a member of the Old Lyme Zoning Commission. “This is just all drainage.” Every commission member present agreed that they needed more information and voted to postpone the vote to the October meeting. The $2 to $3 million project, which has been in discussion for years, passed the Inland Wetlands Commission in Old Lyme this past May.

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Despite the Changes, Lyme-Old Lyme Students Say They Are Glad to be Back

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It was quiet. Not your typical hustle and bustle of chattering students showing off new outfits, sharing summertime stories and class schedules. Instead, everyone – teachers and students alike – seemed nervous.   “It’s a really hard thing to put a name to, because it was the first time I ever felt that. Even though there were kids and people in the building and it should’ve been filled with that spirit and that energy of the first day of school, everybody was very hesitant and tentative and not sure what to expect,” said Marc Vendetti, a sixth grade English teacher at

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Deep River Seeks $119,000 STEAP Grant for Information and Communications Technology

DEEP RIVER — Instead of new sidewalks, this year Deep River is hoping to receive a $119,000 Small Town Economic Assistance (STEAP) grant from the state to assist the town in making meetings more accessible to the public. “With this proposed request we will have a couple of cameras and microphones so that people on zoom will be able to hear and see those at the meeting and those in the town hall will be able to hear and see those on zoom,” said Angus McDonald, first selectman of Deep River. Six months ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic policies moved

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State Officials Release Guidance on Truancy for Students Enrolled in Distance Learning

Statewide, 1 in 4 students failed to participate in remote education between March and June when schools were closed to limit the spread of COVID-19. In other words, 25 percent of students were chronically absent compared to a typical school year, according to data provided by the state Department of Education, when about 10 percent of students are chronically absent. So, with about 1 in 4 students choosing to study remotely this fall, state and local administrators have expressed concern that a high rate of absenteeism will continue into the new school year. But when students are not actually attending

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COVID Forces Temporary Closure of Valley Regional High School

ESSEX/DEEP RIVER/CHESTER — Two positive cases of COVID-19 among students at Region 4’s Valley Regional High School forced the school to shutter and resume fully-remote learning for Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  “We closed VRHS for two days this week, yesterday and today, to allow for contact tracing and the deep cleaning of the building,” explained Brian White, superintendent of Region 4 Schools, in a statement to CT Examiner. “This decision was made in concert with local health authorities and the State of Connecticut DPH.” In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID, the district is following a

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Democratic and Republican Legislators Question State Guidance Limiting High School Football

After the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference announced on Friday that full-contact high school football will not resume this fall, Democratic and Republican state representatives sent letters to Gov. Ned Lamont and the state commissioner of public health urging them to reconsider the decision. “We write to urge you to convene a meeting with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the Department of Public Health, and your office to continue the conversation, work collaboratively and see if we can find a way for our young people to play football this fall,” read a letter sent by 24 Democratic representatives. In contrast to

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Take-out from Bar Bouchée in Madison

When you think take-out, you typically think pizza or Chinese. It’s a simple meal, or at least quick. But for the last six months, many other sorts of restaurants have been trying to change that. Fine dining restaurants like Bar Bouchée in Madison adapted their menus and meals for taking home. I have to admit, I was skeptical about gourmet to-go, but in mid-August I decided to give it a try. Instead of calling close to the dinner hour, as you might with pizza, at Bar Bouchée you select your pick-up time hours – or even days – ahead to

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As Reopening Stalls in Connecticut, GOP Leaders Call for a Greater Legislative Role

Connecticut has remained since June 17 in “phase two” of reopening — a significant delay in the scheduled rollback announced, by Gov. Ned Lamont in early May, of statewide mandates to control the spread of COVID-19. Lamont’s announced plan for reopening called for each phase of the reopening to last about one month, meaning that “phase three” should have begun in mid to late July, and a full reopening — “phase four” — started in mid to late August. “As of now, the Governor remains steadfast in maintaining the current level of the reopening process,” said Max Reiss, communications director

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Five Things to Know about the State’s New Special Education Data Management System

In an effort to improve and standardize data management for special education programs, the state Department of Education announced the purchase of a new statewide electronic management system this Tuesday. The statewide special education data system will be built this year in partnership with Public Consulting Group, piloted in select small, medium and large districts in 2021-2022 and launched across all 170 districts in the fall of 2022. Here are five things to know about how the system will change special education for staff, students and parents. #1: The system will put into place a statewide, standardized Individualized Education Plan

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State-level Officials Urge Teamwork as Tensions Mount for Reopening Schools Across Connecticut

In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Connecticut Department of Education, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE) and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents urged boards of education and superintendents to prioritize teamwork this school year. “The best way to have the best outcome for students is to have a good relationship between the superintendent and the board of education,” said Spokesperson Peter Yazbak, for the state Department of Education. The statement comes after two months of tough decision-making by the 170 school districts across the state on how to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We always

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Hybrid Education Strains Working Parents as Connecticut Returns to School in the Fall

Flor Efscarcega’s daughter will be starting first grade in West Haven next week. Much like last year, her daughter’s backpack is ready, she has an outfit picked for the first day and she has arranged for after-school care. The only difference this year is that her daughter’s outfit features a mask and her after school care begins at noon. West Haven, like most school districts across Connecticut, has opted to return to school in a hybrid model — combining at-home distance learning and in-person classroom instruction. Instead of alternating days, however, West Haven has decided to send students home before

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