Citing Job Vacancies, Hartford Schools to Offer Bonuses to Staff and Teachers

There are 372 job vacancies in the Hartford Public School District – that’s 11 percent of the number of teachers and staff needed to best operate the 46 schools that comprise the district, according to Jesse Sugarman, Senior Advisor for Strategy and Institutional Advancement at the Hartford Public Schools. In a pre-COVID year, the district nearly always filled about 95 percent of teaching and staff positions, Sugarman said. It’s a problem that isn’t unique to Hartford. According to the National Education Association, in February 2022, “55 percent of teachers said that the pandemic is pushing them to plan on leaving

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Bill Adds Mandate for Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies in Public Schools

In 2018, the Connecticut legislature mandated Holocaust Education in all public schools. In 2019, the Connecticut legislature mandated Black and Latino Studies in all public schools. In 2021, the Connecticut legislature mandated Native American Studies in all public schools In 2022, the Connecticut legislature is considering another mandate, this time the teaching of Asian American and Pacific Islander studies. To many legislators, HB 5282 is the logical next step. “The history of Asian Americans is just as important as the history of Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans,” said Rep. Antonio Felipe, D-Bridgeport. “This is the history of our country and

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Legislators Push Back on Sheff Settlement, Say Hartford Educational Issues not Addressed

“The big educational issue is outcomes…are kids learning, can kids read, write, compute, think. Those are the educational issues that have not been solved,” said state Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, in an interview with the CT Examiner. To McCrory, and others in the legislature and Hartford community, the most recent settlement in the Sheff vs O’Neill case does little to address the real educational issues in Hartford, where in 2019, 27.9 percent of students were chronically absent, just 47.3 percent met grade-level standards in math and only 17.4 percent met the benchmark on college readiness exams. The 2022 Sheff vs.

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A District-by-District Look at Lifting the School Mask Mandate

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On Monday, the majority of Connecticut public, private and parochial schools will make mask wearing optional for students and staff, after the passage of Special Act No 22-1. The end of universal masking in schools comes as data released Thursday showed at least 800 fewer COVID cases among students and staff in Connecticut in the past week and a positivity rate of 3.99 percent, down from a peak of 24 percent. According to guidance released by the state Department of Public Health on February 18: “Given the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines, at-home COVID-19 testing, medications to treat COVID-19, falling

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Has Connecticut Finally Arrived at a Solution for Hartford Schools?

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On Jan. 27, the State of Connecticut reached its latest settlement of more than 30 years of litigation of Sheff v. O’Neill.  The landmark 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court decision found that Hartford Public Schools have failed to provide students with the equal educational opportunity required by the state constitution, but the court allowed the legislature the opportunity to craft a remedy. Nearly a quarter-century later, the 2022 settlement – which still needs approval by the legislature — would require the state to expand available seats in the Open Choice program, expand seats in interdistrict magnet schools available to Hartford students,

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Delays Implementing Dyslexia Legislation, Staffing, Leave Advocates Irate

After passing legislation between 2014 and 2017 mandating education standards for public school students with dyslexia, the state legislature revisited the issue in 2021 to pass a further bill requiring the Department of Education to enforce those standards. Unlike other legislative mandates, lawmakers in this case also appropriated $480,000 to create an Office of Dyslexia and Reading Disabilities with oversight of the department’s handling of dyslexia.  The money became available on July 1, 2021, the start of the fiscal year, and the intention, according to State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, a strong proponent of the bill, was for five new employees

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Anger, Aggression on the Rise, as Patients Face Long Waits, Limited Hospital Visits

“It is now unusual to not have at least one employee reported to occupational health because they have been assaulted by patients at every morning rounds across our health system,” said Marna Borgstrum, chief executive officer of Yale-New Haven Health System.  Borgstrum told CT Examiner that on top of the expected incidents of aggression from patients hospitalized with dementia, every other area of the health system has been coping with public misbehavior rising to the level of assault during the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the last few weeks Borgstrum said that a fist fight had broken out

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Lamont Pledges Support for Keeping Connecticut’s Children in the Classroom

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As Connecticut’s positivity rate for COVID-19 tops 24 percent, Gov. Ned Lamont pledged on Tuesday to do everything possible to keep the state’s children in the classroom.  “I’m going to do everything I can do to keep kids in the classroom safely,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday morning. “Nothing compares to a great teacher in a great classroom.”  Already, Stonington Public Schools have delayed opening after Christmas vacation, Ansonia Public Schools have closed for the full week and many other districts have closed one or two schools to cope with bus driver and teacher shortages stemming from

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Reporter Julia Werth on the New Year

In March of 2021, one year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic ,17 percent of women with young children were considering downshifting their careers and 23 percent were considering leaving the workforce completely, according to research done by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey.  I was one of those women.  I had a four-month-old daughter, a husband with a demanding career and a lot of concerns about daycare. I was also lamenting leaving behind those early morning baby snuggles, wondering how and when I was supposed to do the dishes and laundry when I returned to full-time work and doing the financial

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‘Whole Child’ Curriculum Sparks Debate in Connecticut Over Parental Role, Opting Out

In June, the Connecticut Department of Education released a new framework for health education –  Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child – in keeping with the most popular buzzword among educators over the past few years: social emotional learning. “The most critical part of this is that there is much more emphasis on education of the whole child,” said John Frassinelli, division director at the Department of Education’s Bureau of Health, Nutrition, Family Services and Adult Education. “It’s woven in alignment with the social emotional learning standards.”  According to Frassinelli, the new framework places a greater emphasis on teaching self-awareness,

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As Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect Jump 150%, a Growing Share Are Never Substantiated

In 2019, school staff across Connecticut reported 10,821 cases of abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families, compared to just 4,071 reports in 2010.  The more than 150 percent increase comes in the wake of several high-profile cases of abuse and neglect that went unreported by school personnel in the early 2000s, and a 2016 expansion of a law meant to address the problem by penalizing so-called “mandated reporters,” including teachers, for failing to report suspected cases. Asked about the jump in cases, Lyme-Old Lyme Superintendent Ian Neviaser told CT Examiner that a few high-profile firings had

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Yale Chief Medical Officer Gives Downbeat Take COVID Pandemic

“We will continue to see outbreaks like we’ve seen, and we have to continue to live and deal with it. I’d say we’ve got another year or so of what we’ve been living with,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, Chief Medical Officer at Yale New Haven Health System.  In other words, according to Balcezak, masking, booster shots and restrictions on indoor gatherings are nowhere near over because mortality rate due to COVID is too high a risk.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2020 there were 20.6 million cases of COVID-19 and with a mortality rate of 1.8 percent.

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As Nursing Homes Resume Normal Visitation, Patient Population Remains Down

After 20 months of restrictions, on Nov. 12 family and friends of nursing home residents in Connecticut were once again able to visit at any time, on any day without a prior appointment, a significant step toward normalcy for the population hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This will make a significant difference this week for residents and facilities,” said Mairead Painter, the Long-term Care Ombudsman for the State of Connecticut. “Family members are going to see all the time what is happening inside facilities. It’s not at the building’s convenience anymore.”  Conditions within nursing homes and other long term

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Student Quarantines Pose a Significant Challenge for the New Normal

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Large numbers of student quarantines in districts across Connecticut may be undermining the state’s plans for a normal, fully in-person school year.  In the past six weeks, 132 students in the Region 4 schools have been sent home to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days due to potential exposure to COVID-19, according to superintendent Brian White. The district is not alone with high numbers of quarantined students.  Lyme-Old Lyme has had 41 students sent home to quarantine since classes began, Guilford has reported a total of 110 student quarantines and according to the State Department of Education it’s a

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After Tragedy, Clinton Teachers Claim Age Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment

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CLINTON — On September 27, kindergarten teacher Jack Reynolds was put on administrative leave by superintendent of schools Maryann O’Donnell. The next day he was found dead at the Pattaconk Recreation Area.  According to a letter sent on September 27 to Reynolds, O’Donnell was placing him on leave after he allegedly “struck a student on the forehead with [his] hand.”  The day he died, Reynolds was scheduled for a pre-disciplinary hearing to discuss the matter and the potential for “serious disciplinary action.”  After twenty-four years of work in the Clinton Public Schools, Reynolds’ death is a tragedy that cannot be

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Bracing for the Return of Flu Season, Doctors Encourage Vaccination

After an unusually light flu season in 2020-2021 and months without a single flu case at Yale New Haven Hospital, Dr. Scott Roberts said he is preparing for an onslaught of cases this year.  “We are all bracing for a bad winter season. Essentially everyone has had a lost year of building immunity to colds, the flu, RSV. That’s one year additionally removed from potential immunity,” said Roberts, an infectious disease specialist at Yale New Haven Health System. “If you’re asking me to make a prediction, I would say it’s going to be a bad respiratory virus season this winter.”

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The Measure of Safety for Connecticut’s Public Schools

Last year, again and again, I was told by educators and health professionals alike that “we are going to keep doing what works.” I heard the same this summer as schools reopened and prepared for in-person learning. “We know the masks work,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, chief medical officer at Yale New Haven Health System at a July press conference.  “We have the same types of protocols as last year,” said Patty Cournoyer, the health teacher at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School. For Lyme-Old Lyme, that means masks, some outdoor classes and lunch times, one-way traffic in the hallways and using

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Lamont Faces Pressure to Allow Funding for Air Quality in Public Schools

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After receiving $995 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan, advocates for towns, school districts, teachers, superintendents and other staff are asking the legislature to include repairs for school ventilation systems in the statewide plan for the additional federal dollars.  “The Connecticut General Assembly’s approval of Governor Lamont’s spending plan for federal funds under the American Rescue Plan must include HVAC repairs needed by local public schools across the state; and HVAC repairs must be included as part of the State Department of Education’s annual bond funding to towns for school construction and repairs,” according to Kevin Maloney of

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CEO Marna Borgstrom to Retire in March after 43 Years at Yale New Haven

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After 43 years at Yale New Haven Hospital and Health System, Chief Executive Officer Marna Borgstrom, announced that she will be retiring on March 25, of 2022.  “I have loved growing the Yale New Haven Health System and being part of this really incredible organization,” Borgstrom said.  The board of Yale New Haven Health voted this morning to appoint Chris O’Connor, the current president of the Health System, to the position upon her retirement.  O’Connor, who was born at Yale New Haven Hospital, also served as the chief operating officer at Yale New Haven Health and the head of Saint

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A Shortage of Bus Drivers Stymies Return of School Across Connecticut

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On the first day of school in Hamden, 300 students were left without a school bus route, and were told instead to take public transit or have a parent drive them to school. “We were just informed by the bus company that they do not have coverage for 7 bus routes affecting Hamden Public Schools, St. Rita’s and Sacred Heart Academy. There is a nationwide bus shortage which has impacted many school districts across the country,” read a notice posted by Hamden Middle School’s Parent Teacher Association on Saturday afternoon. According to First Student, the bus company that works with

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Yale Doctors Warn of Breakthrough COVID Infections, Counsel for Masks

As of August 23, in Connecticut 369 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s three times more than just one month ago.  “We are going to see a handful to more than 100 cases in the hospital in a cyclic fashion, up and down for about a year or two,” predicted Dr. Tom Balcezak, the chief medical officer for Yale New Haven Health System at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.  Compared to the peak in spring 2020, that surge might not seem like much, but compared to one month and one year ago, it is considerable, Balcezak said. And it’s

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Taking Stock of the Learning Losses as Schools Reopen for the Fall Semester

In two weeks, Megan Szczesny’s 8-year-old daughter will be starting third grade in Madison public schools. She hasn’t attended traditional all-day, five-day-a-week classes without wearing a mask since she was in first grade and being diagnosed with dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “When COVID first hit in March 2020 the schools closed and we panicked,” remembered Szczesny. “Our services were cut by 85 percent, so we had to seek outside help.”  Even in a normal classroom setting, with one-on-one support and special education, Szczesny’s daughter struggled.  But without most of that support, at-home remote education was a disaster. 

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Nursing Homes Face Further Labor Squeeze With Mandated Vaccination

Last week Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order requiring staff at all long-term care facilities in Connecticut to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before September 7.  “We know for a fact that COVID-19 presents increased risk of severe illness and death among older adults, particularly those who have chronic conditions and compromised immune systems,” Lamont said. “Now that vaccines are widely available and scientifically proven to be safe and the most effective method for preventing hospitalization and death, it would be absolutely irresponsible for anyone working in a long-term care facility to not receive this

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Flooding, 7 Dead Beavers, Spark Local Action in Old Lyme

OLD LYME — Two years after the town’s Open Space Commission voted to allow beaver activity to continue unhindered on the Ames property, local officals plan to install three beaver management devices at the Whippoorwill Road and Buttonball Road culverts. “We do have a plan to address beaver activity with our mandate, and we will work with abutting property owners who are adversely affected by flooding originating on open space land,” said Gregory Futoma, a member of the Open Space Commission. This summer, during an aerial survey of the Ames property to assess the rising water levels that prevented a

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Goulding Talks COVID, Party Politics and 8 Years on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Ed

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After eight years on the Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education, Rick Goulding, along with three other members, including the current chair Diane Linderman, will not seek re-election this November, leaving nearly half of the seats open for first-time members. “Eight years was enough of a contribution to the community for now,” Goulding said. “We decided family-wise and job-wise it just didn’t make sense to continue.”  According to Goulding, when he first took his seat on the board in 2013 it was a very different time politically. “At the time I reached out to both parties before the election and they

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COVID Underscores Longer Trends, and a Longing to Come Together for the Faithful

On January 2, at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut, my daughter was baptized into the Catholic Church.  It was a strange ceremony, what with us all wearing masks and seated far apart, spread out across the pews, but in one way I’m grateful she was born and christened in the middle of the pandemic. It meant that my family members all across the country, who would never have been able to travel to New Haven even under normal circumstances, were able to watch and laugh right along with us as she shrieked for nearly

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As COVID Overwhelms Mental Health Availability, Providers Move to Self-Pay

Joy Zelikovsky expanded her therapy practice — Nourish the Heart Counseling — from a part-time, side hustle to a full-time job with four employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.  “We are completely full and I have a waiting list,” Zelikovsky said. “I get anywhere between two and five referrals a week.”  While that’s great for job security, Zelikovsky said, it makes the process of finding a therapist for anyone suffering from mental health disorders incredibly challenging.  “It is a serious problem ranging from available beds for residential eating disorder treatment and psychiatric problems to outpatient therapy,” she said. “We are starting

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Eastern Connecticut ‘Dreamers’ Navigate Life After Graduation, and Politics of Immigration

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Editor’s note: the subject of this story has requested anonymity as a condition for speaking on the record. His name has been changed to protect his identity. As a child, Patrick arrived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. Without the chance to qualify for financial aid or most merit scholarships in his home state, he grew up knowing that attending college was likely impossible.  But everything changed in 2016 when he received a scholarship from TheDream.US, a private program that has provided scholarships to more than 3,000 students to attend one of more than 70 partnering colleges. “TheDream.US

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Districts Opt to Exclude Remote Learners from High School Prom

Almost every person who attended public high school has a story about prom: dress shopping, asking out a date, over-the-top photo shoots, after parties, the list goes on.  In 2020, just two months into the COVID-19 pandemic, no one was surprised when the big event was cancelled at almost every school in the state. But one year later, when most districts are able to host prom, students who have chosen to continue distance learning may still be left out. “I understand that the school wants to abide by COVID-19 guidelines, but it is completely unacceptable and unfair that distance learners

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Local and State Efforts to Change Connecticut’s Public School Curriculum Inch Forward

If House Bill 6619 passes, Connecticut will have a new curriculum available by 2023 for public school students from kindergarten through 8th grade. The bill would combine several previously proposed bills that included LGBTQ+ studies and Native American studies, and would add Asian Pacific American studies, climate change, personal financial management and financial literacy, and military service and experience of American veterans. The legislation follows protests last year that in part called for substantial changes to school curricula, and a 2019 law requiring all public schools to offer Black and Latino Studies electives.  “Recent civil and political discourse has demonstrated

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