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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Independent-Democratic Slate in Guilford Makes its Case for Board of Education

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GUILFORD — A “fusion slate” of Democratic and Independent candidates for the Guilford Board of Education spoke to CT Examiner about their views on the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative, the importance of maintaining top-rated public schools and how the board can improve education with the larger community.  In August, The Independent Party of Connecticut endorsed five candidates, including two Democrats, for the Board of Education, in an effort to sidestep rules that would guarantee at least some members of a slate of Republican candidates affiliated with Truth in Education would be seated after the November elections.  The Democrats

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Lyme-Old Lyme to Consider Cost of Renovating Schools to ‘As New’

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LYME-OLD LYME — On Thursday night, the architecture firm QA + M presented the initial findings of its study of the Lyme-Old Lyme Public Schools. 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. The study was paid for with federal funding.  At the meeting, Rusty Malik, a principal at QA +M and Angela Cahill, an architect for the firm, discussed the current conditions of the buildings and offered suggestions about how the district could address

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Shoreline Schools Report High Staff Vaccination Rates

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Shoreline schools across eastern Connecticut are reporting high rates of compliance with Gov. Ned Lamont’s vaccine mandates, according to numbers provided by the  districts.  Lamont signed an executive order in September requiring that all K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are approved for a medical or religious exemption. School employees are allowed to opt-out of the vaccination, but must undergo weekly testing for the virus.  All the employees listed under the order were required to receive the first dose of a vaccine by September 27,  Of the districts stretching from Waterford to Guilford

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Local Manufacturers Encourage Robotics Classes in Westbrook Public Schools

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WESTBROOK — At 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning, seventeen teenagers huddled around lab tables in the back of a science classroom trying to prompt a half-dozen crablike blinking robots to wake up and move their legs.  Screws and plastic robotic legs are scattered across the table, along with a stray Dunkin Donuts bag and a bottle of Coke. Laptops are open to tutorial videos for robot-building (and the occasional soccer game being watched on the sly). Blue boxes filled with robot parts, user manuals and makeshift cardboard stands are labeled with group names. The Martian Manhunters. The Flying Crab. 

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Guilford’s New Family Equity Liaison Rydell Harrison Goes On The Record

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Dr. Rydell Harrison, Guilford’s new Family Equity Liaison, has an eclectic taste in music. He’s a pianist and a classically trained singer. He says he likes every musical genre except country.  Harrison, who started his new job with Guilford last Tuesday, began his 22-year education career as a music teacher. He said he found his true passion not only in music itself, but in sharing it with students.  “I’m one of these people who believes that teachers have such an incredible impact on students,” said Harrison.  After receiving a degree in music education at Rutgers University, he went on to

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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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Little Rebound from Dramatic COVID Declines for Eastern Connecticut Schools

Public school enrollments along the eastern shoreline of Connecticut aren’t showing the rebounding numbers some expected after dramatic declines during the pandemic. In a review of preliminary enrollment data for districts stretching between Guilford and New London, school officials reported generally disappointing numbers. Last year, Guilford schools lost 154 students — nearly as many as the district lost over the previous five years combined — but gained back just 11 students this year. Old Saybrook similarly reported a gain this year of 14 students, after losing 121 students last year during the pandemic. Waterford, which lost 102 students last year,

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‘Equity Analysis’ Draws Praise of East Lyme School Officials

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EAST LYME — Superintendent of East Lyme Public Schools Jeffrey Newton praised the results of a district-wide audit by the not-for-profit Equity Institute that solicited feedback from students, parents and staff. The Rhode-Island-based group was hired by the district in April 2021 to perform an “equity analysis” on the district, and presented its results to the town’s Board of Education on Monday. Newton said the district chose the group, which asked $15,000 for their work, based on positive experiences with two other districts in the neighboring state. “We liked what they had to offer and what they were sharing for

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Slate Opposing Critical Race Theory Sweeps Guilford Primary in Heavy Turnout

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GUILFORD — Candidates running in opposition to Critical Race Theory once again swept the Republican slate in a primary on Tuesday night. As of 7:30 p.m. — thirty minutes before polls closed — 47 percent of 3,511 registered Republicans had come out to vote. Republican Registrar of Voters Gloria Nemczuk called the turnout “incredible.” Four years ago, she said, the turnout for the primary for first selectman was 29 percent. Danielle Scarpellino, Tim Chamberlain, Nick Cusano, Bill Maisano and Aly Passarelli – who formed a campaign called “5 Reasons Why”. – received between 1,275 and 1,265 votes each.  Their opponents

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Newly-Appointed Commissioner of Education Charlene Russell-Tucker is on the Record

CT Examiner sat down with newly-appointed commissioner of education Charlene Russell-Tucker, to talk about how schools will address the challenge of COVID-19 this school year, the efforts to hire a sizable and diverse body of teachers and staff, and the use federal money to support students with academic learning loss. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.  What are some of your goals for your tenure as commissioner?  My big audacious goal is making sure that every school building in Connecticut has the resources necessary to support the behavioral health needs of our students and staff, because studies

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Madison Students Buck Statewide Trend, Show Gains in Learning Last Year

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New standardized test data for students enrolled at public schools in Madison buck widespread declines by school districts across the state, when compared to 2018-19 test scores. According to state data from the Smarter Balanced Assessment, 69 percent of students in grades 3 to 8 in Madison performed at grade level in English in the year 2018-19. Remarkably, that number rose to 73.2 percent for students learning fully in-person for 2019-20. The number of students learning at grade level in math rose as well, from 66.8 percent to 69.2 percent last year.  Craig Cooke, superintendent of schools in Madison, said

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Test Scores Show Clear Advantage of Classroom Learning over Remote Models

According to data released on Tuesday by the state’s Department of Education, primary and secondary students studying remotely and in hybrid models last year lagged significantly in standardized test scores measuring achievement in math and English compared to students who learned in a classroom setting. Data drawn from Smarter Balanced Assessments, Connecticut’s standardized test for students in grades 3 to 8, showed that remote learners in Connecticut at these grade levels showed a 15.6 percent decrease in English proficiency and a 25.7 percent decrease in math proficiency last year compared to their peers in 2018-19. Students enrolled in hybrid learning

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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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Old Lyme Candidates for Board of Education Speak to the Issues

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As Lyme-Old Lyme’s Board of Education prepares for a sizable turnover in November, slates endorsed by the Democrats and Republicans took questions from CT Examiner about their spending priorities, about communicating with the public, the teaching of History and measures needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Four incumbent members of the Board — Richard Goulding (D), Stacey Leonardo (R), Jean Wilczynski (D) and chair Diane Linderman (D) — are not seeking re-election. The Old Lyme Democrats have endorsed incumbent Martha Shoemaker (D) and newcomers Alexander Lowry (D), Marisa Calvi-Rogers (D) and Jason Kemp (D). The Old Lyme Republicans have

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