Saturday, October 23, 2021

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Supt. Abbey & Other Retirees Praised at BOE

By Jarret Liotta

High praise and heartfelt words were heard at. tonight’s Board of Education meeting regarding 18 school employees retiring this year, including interim Superintendent of Schools David Abbey.

While the virtual forum limited the traditional atmosphere of celebration experienced in past years, colleagues and the retirees themselves took moments to share their feelings about the impact of more than 450 years of service on the district, students and those individuals.

“I’m very moved by this, more than you know,” Abbey said, following a litany of praise from staff and board members.

Abbey, who took over in an interim role 13 months ago, expressed his gratitude and praise for the district, saying he was likewise humbled by the contributions of the other retirees.

Staples Senior Wins College-Sponsored Merit Scholarship

WestportNow.com Image
Nathan Wang: Tufts awards scholarship. Contributed photo

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) today announced more than 3,300 winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by U.S. colleges and universities, including Staples High School senior Nathan Wang who will attend Tufts University.

Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among the finalists in the 2020 National Merit Scholarship Program who plan to attend their institution.

These awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

The NMSC said Wang was undecided about his career field.

SHS Graduations Plans Revised With Walk-On

By Jarret Liotta

UPDATE Days after announcing Staples High School 2020 graduation plans, school officials have revised them to include an “in-person graduation experience.”

The change was in response to a loosening of the governor’s social distancing restrictions. [On Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that outdoor, in-person graduations will be allowed starting July 6 with no more than 150 people attending.]

The first-ever Graduation Parade for Staples High School (SHS) — or more accurately a series of nine small ones — is due to take place on Thursday, June 11, beginning at Long Lots Elementary School (LLS) around 10 a.m.

Principal Stafford Thomas announced tonight that students will also be given a chance to get out of their cars in front of SHS, where a stage will be set up.

In-Person Summer School Canceled This Year

By Jarret Liotta

Citing health risks and the extensive rules that would be required to mitigate them, the Westport Public Schools will not be holding summer school in person this year.

“Given the potential health risks to students and staff, and complex state regulations, which would significantly alter programming even if they could be adhered to, we have come to the conclusion that it would be untenable for the WPS to offer in-person summer programs, ” Superintendent of School David Abbey said in an email to parents tonight.

As the decision impacts camps, Extended School Year (ESY) special education services, and Continuing Education, the district intends to provide a lot of programs online, including all the high school courses that are being offered for credit.

“During the next few weeks we will be doing everything we can to design and strengthen our summer programs,” Abbey said.

Unknowns Continue to Drive BOE Plans for Next Year

By Jarret Liotta

Amid various evolving guidelines and ever-changing anticipations, the Board of Education tonight continued its look at future plans.

“We’re still on track for an October opening,” Don O’Day, chair of the Coleytown Middle School (CMS) Building Committee, said in his report,. He noted they were still on budget and that things were in very good shape overall.

But whether students will have the chance to return there—or anywhere—in the fall remains an unanswerable question.

“We may not be able to come back to school in September,” said Anthony Buono, assistant superintendent for teaching & learning, who is co-chairing the School Reopening Steering Committee (SRSC).

SHS Graduation to Include Parade

By Jarret Liotta

Despite the limitations of COVID-19, the 2020 graduating class of Staples High School (SHS) will experience something potentially more memorable for its closing ceremonies than other classes before.

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A memory: members of the Class of 2019 turn their tassels at the commencement ceremony. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The first-ever Graduation Parade for SHS—or more accurately a series of nine small ones—will take place on Thursday, June 11, beginning at Long Lots Elementary School (LLS) around 10 a.m.

“While we understand that seniors want, above all, to be together, and have asked us to wait to hold an in-person graduation or a socially distanced graduation on campus, at this time these options are not available to us,” Meghan Ward, assistant principal, wrote in an email to parents and SHS seniors.

Instead, parents or guardians will chauffer students, who are asked to wear caps and gowns while seated in the front passenger seat, so as not to be distracted.

Letter: Re Staples Graduation ‘Westport is Better Than This’

To the Editor:

I know that these are unprecedented times and that the health and safety of our community is of the utmost importance. However, the current plan for the graduating seniors is simply not good enough. We have all been anxiously awaiting the big plans that have been repeatedly hinted at in emails, to end up with a virtual graduation.

The past eight weeks have been especially hard on the seniors. They left Staples at the last minute for a “two-week hiatus” that turned out to be permanent — not realizing that they would never walk those halls again, never get to say goodbye to classmates and teachers.

My daughter wept as she turned into the Staples parking lot to pick up her lawn sign, seeing the school one last time. They have missed out on so much, on so many memories, on once in a lifetime moments that they will never get back. On top of that, they may not even be able to physically attend the colleges that they all worked so hard on getting into.

Given that our neighboring towns have been able to figure out a way to do something creative and special for their seniors, not simply a “Zoom” graduation, it is clearly not a state regulations issue or even a county issue for that matter.

Staples Top Scholars Named Benjamin

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Staples High School today named its valedictorian and salutatorian for the class of 2020. Besides the highest GPAs in the school, both are named Benjamin, and share the last initial S. And both play saxophone in the Jazz Band. They are valedictorian Benjamin Spector (l) and salutatorian Benjamin Schussheim. Spector plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Michigan. Schussheim plans to attend Duke University and hopes to major in computer science. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photos

Lamont Announces End to CT’s Education Partnership with Dalio Philanthropies

By Keith M, Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

www.ctmirror.org

Gov. Ned Lamont today announced the dissolution of Connecticut’s education partnership with Westport hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic group — a deal marred by transparency issues and oversight scandals — less than one year after its creation.

The final straw appears to be centered on Dalio officials’ efforts to remove the partnership’s executive director — days before state lawmakers had been notified about the problem.

Lamont made it clear that the decision to dissolve the partnership was initiated by the Dalios. Barbara Dalio, the co-founder and director of Dalio Philanthropies, released a statement today blaming certain Republican lawmakers for sabotaging the experiment.

“I think there was a sense from the Dalios there were some people who really wanted to undermine the mission,” Lamont said during a news conference outside of the Capitol. “Due to a breach of trust we have both decided to disband the partnership.”