May 21, 2017

Country School Classes Over in June, but Learning Opportunities Continue Through Summer

Recording thoughts in her writer’s notebook for the camp Word Play: Creative Writing at The Country School.

AREAWIDE — Each year the offerings at Country School’s Summer Fun and Learning become more engaging and more popular with area families. Not limited to students at The Country School, we welcome children in grades PreK-8 to our full or half-day week-long programs, all of which take place on our newly appointed 23-acre campus in Madison.

Whether you’re searching for something academic, artistic, or athletic, we’ve got you covered. Country School teachers, outside educators and professionals, athletes, and alumni will present workshops throughout the summer. Academic camps include Scratch, Minecraft and Crafting, 3-D Printing, Beginning Robotics, Robotics for Girls, Intro to Algebra, Word Play Creative Writing, Exploring Media and Technology, Debate, and Learning Olympics. More interested in the arts? Check out Intro to A Cappella, Young Actors’ Workshop, and Art Adventure. Need to release some energy? Multi Sport Camp with Madison Racquet and Swim Club, Soccer with Victory or Shoreline FC, and Running will keep the children moving.

Learn more about these camps at http://www.thecountryschool.org/summer2017. Summer Fun and Learning 2017 – Follow your passions and discover new ones!

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves 200 students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School is committed to active, hands-on learning and a vigorous curriculum that engages the whole child. Signature programs such as Elmore Leadership, Public Speaking, STEAM, and Outdoor Education help prepare students for success in high school and beyond. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Vista to Host Spring Open House in Westbrook, Saturday

WESTBROOK — Vista Life Innovations, a nationally accredited post-secondary program for individuals with disabilities, is hosting an Open House on Saturday, April 22, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at its Westbrook campus.

Ideal for prospective students and families, school district officials and educational consultants, Vista open houses have successfully aided many families in beginning the admissions process. This free event will include guided tours of the Dormitory and Residence Hall, information about programs and services provided at Vista, and an opportunity to hear from current Vista students and members about their experiences in the program.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet Vista leadership and staff. Light refreshments will be served.

To RSVP for Vista’s Open House, register online at www.vistalifeinnovations.org/openhouse or contact the Admissions Office at (860) 399-8080 ext. 106.

Vista’s Westbrook campus is located at 1356 Old Clinton Road, Westbrook.

Vista Life Innovations is a 501©3 nonprofit organization. Vista’s mission is to provide services and resources to assist individuals with disabilities achieve personal success. For more information about Vista, please visit www.vistalifeinnovations.org.

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Country School Hosts Tee Off for Scholarship Golf Classic, June 12

A successful foursome at last year’s Golf Classic.

AREAWIDE On Monday, June 12, The Country School will host its Tee Off for Scholarship Golf Classic at the Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club. Proceeds will go to the Founders’ Promise Fund for Scholarship at the school. This event is open to the public.

Since 2012 The Country School Golf Classic has raised over $100,000 for the Founders’ Promise Fund (FPF) for Scholarship. This investment in a child’s future awards need-based scholarships to a wide range of students. Established in 2006 by Allee and Jeff ‘61 Burt P ‘00, ‘03 and their family to honor The Country School’s founders and their desire to help all children reach their full potential, the FPF for Scholarship has helped 173 unique students in the past decade, awarding more than $4.6 million dollars during this time.

This year’s event offers the chance to win a Mercedes with a hole-in-one. Don’t have the best drive? Don’t worry, there will also be a live and silent auction as well as on-the-course prizes so you too can go home a winner or simply join us for dinner at the club.

Join us! thecountryschool.org/giving/tcsgolfclassic #countryclubs

Questions? Contact joanne.arrandale@thecountryschool.org

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves 200 students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School is committed to active, hands-on learning and a vigorous curriculum that engages the whole child. Signature programs such as Elmore Leadership, Public Speaking, STEAM, and Outdoor Education help prepare students for success in high school and beyond. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Community Music School Announces Pacheco-O’Donnell as Greenleaf Music Award Winner

Santiago Pacheco-O’Donnell

CENTERBROOK — The selection committee for the Carolyn R. Greenleaf Memorial Fund of Community Music School (CMS) has chosen guitarist, vocalist, and pianist as the recipient of the Spring 2017 Carolyn R. Greenleaf Music Award.

This award is given each semester to a middle or high school student who has demonstrated exceptional musical ability and motivation.

The award is for a semester of private lessons at Community Music School in Centerbrook and Santiago has chosen to study guitar with CMS’s guitar instructor, John Birt.

An Honor Freshman of Xavier High School, Santiago received his first guitar from his grandmother when he finished first grade, and he’s been playing unstoppably since then. He has attended CMS since 2012, as a guitar student of John Birt for the last four years.

He also studies piano and voice with Greta Moorhead and recently joined the Jazz Ensemble with Tom Briggs. His favorite band is The Beatles.

Outside of CMS, he has played in musicals at St John School in Old Saybrook, performing as a solo singer in last year’s performance. Aside from music, he enjoys soccer, basketball, and archery. Santiago is also an avid photographer and has received many awards at the Chester Fair.

Last summer he volunteered in the children’s section of the Essex Public Library and has been a big supporter of the Valley Shore YMCA’s Community Garden which provides vegetables for the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries.

The Carolyn R. Greenleaf Memorial Fund was established at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County in 2008 by her friends to honor Greenleaf’s dedication to music and education. The Carolyn Greenleaf Memorial Music Award is open to students of Middlesex County and the Lymes and is awarded twice a year.  It is entirely based on merit and is the only such award at Community Music School.

Community Music School is an independent, nonprofit school which provides a full range of the finest possible instruction and musical opportunities to persons of all ages and abilities, increasing appreciation of music and encouraging a sense of joy in learning and performing, thus enriching the life of the community.

Community Foundation of Middlesex County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in Middlesex County. Working with charitably-minded individuals and organizations to build permanent endowments since 1997, the Community Foundation has provided 850 grants totaling more than $2.5 million to organizations for the arts, cultural and heritage programs, educational activities,  environmental improvements, and for health and human services. 

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30 Plunge Into Frigid Sound to Help Save Plum Island

Plunging for Plovers: these brave souls charged into the freezing waters of Long Island Sound last Saturday to raise awareness of efforts to save Plum Island from sale and preserve the island’s outstanding flora and fauna. Photo by Judy Preston.

OLD SAYBROOK -– A long-planned “polar plunge”-style fundraiser at Old Saybrook Town Beach got a shot of drama from unexpectedly cold temperatures, strong winds, and high waves this weekend.

CFE/Save the Sound’s Chris Cryder, in seal costume, speaks at the press conference. Photo by Laura McMillan.

Students from Old Saybrook High School, area officials, and representatives of a regional environmental organization—some in costumes—packed into a heated school bus for a press conference last Saturday morning, March 11, before running into a frigid Long Island Sound to raise awareness and support for protecting Plum Island.

The “Plum Island Plunge for Plovers” has raised $3,700 for Connecticut Fund for the Environment and its bi-state program Save the Sound’s multi-year battle to save Plum Island from sale and private development. Donations are still coming in.

“I’ve met thousands of folks all around the Sound who want Plum Island preserved, but this is something else,” said Chris Cryder, special project coordinator for CFE/Save the Sound, decked out as one of the harbor seals that rest on Plum Island’s rocky shore. “To see dozens of people voluntarily turn out in weather like this to make a statement about the island’s importance is inspiring.”

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, speaks at the press conference prior to ‘The Plunge.’ Photo by Judy Preston.

Rosie Rothman, co-president of Old Saybrook High School’s Interact Club, explained that the plunge was a perfect fit for the Interact Club’s mission of community service and the Ecology Club’s mission of environmental protection.

“Afterwards, we couldn’t feel our toes for a while, but we still had fun,” she said. “With a windchill in the single digits, it was definitely a challenge, but our members still showed up. I think that speaks to our dedication to the cause. It is our hope that our legislators take decisive federal action to protect Plum Island from development that would be detrimental to the wildlife that depends on it, including 111 species of conservation concern.”

“I was very proud to see so many Old Saybrook High School students participate in the polar plunge, on a freezing March day, to support efforts to preserve Plum Island,” said Rep. Devin Carney (Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, Westbrook). “Plum Island is an important natural resource for the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound. By preserving it, these students, and many others, will be able to enjoy its natural beauty for many years to come.”

And they’re off! The plungers enter the bitterly cold water at Old Saybrook Town Beach. (Photo by Judy Preston)

Carl P. Fortuna, Jr., first selectman for the Town of Old Saybrook, joined the hardy souls jumping into the Sound. Addressing the assembled attendees, he reminded them of the region’s land conversation victory in saving The Preserve, and said, “The Town of Old Saybrook fully supports the conservation of Plum Island and its rightful place in the public domain upon the decommissioning of scientific activities. The importance of Plum Island as a flora and fauna host has been amply demonstrated. It is now time for our legislative and executive branches to swiftly put an end to any speculation that this resource will be privately developed. I applaud the bipartisan efforts to conserve Plum Island.”

These were some of the supporters, who braved the cold to cheer on the plungers. (Photo by Judy Preston.)

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy sent letters in support of the effort.

Plum Island, an 840-acre, federally-owned island in the eastern end of Long Island Sound, is home to threatened and endangered birds like the piping plover and roseate tern, as well as other rare species. Seventy Connecticut and New York organizations work together as the Preserve Plum Island Coalition, partnering with grassroots activists and champions in Congress to halt sale of the island. CFE/Save the Sound has also brought an action in federal court claiming that the government’s decision to sell the island violates numerous federal environmental laws.

Fundraising will remain open through the end of the month. Members of the public may donate to support CFE/Save the Sound’s work at www.bit.ly/plum-plunge.

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Essex Garden Club Offers Environment-Related Scholarship

ESSEX – The Essex Garden Club is pleased announce that applications are available for scholarships to be awarded in June, 2017.

To be considered for this scholarship, applicants must be:

  1. a resident of Essex, Centerbrook or Ivoryton, CT
  2. a high school senior or undergraduate/graduate college student
  3. have a “B” or better GPA
  4. be planning to pursue studies related to the environment in an accredited two-year or four-year institute of higher learning. Fields of study may include: Agriculture, Biology, Ecology, Horticulture, Forestry, Environmental Science and Engineering.  Closely related subjects may also apply: Land Conservation, Landscape Design, Nursery Management.

Application forms are available from Guidance Counselors at Valley Regional High School, or essexgardenclubct.org. The deadline for receipt of applications is April 24, 2017. For more information call 860-581-8206.

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Community Music School Hosts Open House This Week

Community Music School’s Jazz Ensemble is a popular band at the school.

CENTERBROOK – Community Music School (CMS), located in the Spencer’s Corner professional complex at 90 Main St. in Centerbrook, welcomes the general public to visit during Open House Week Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. Children and adults can tour the School’s studios, meet teachers and staff, enjoy a free preview lesson, and learn about a vast array of programs for all ages including private and group lessons, guitar, jazz and string ensembles, music therapy services, Kindermusik, and more.

Community Music School is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. Those interested in a 15-minute preview lesson are requested to call 860-767-0026 for scheduling.

Community Music School offers innovative music programming for infants through adults, building on a 30-year-tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities. The School’s programs cultivate musical ability and creativity, and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so that they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.

For additional information, visit www.community-music-school.org or call 860-767-0026.

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The Country School Offers $10,000 60th Anniversary Merit Scholarship

A new academic year all-school photo of The Country School taken in September 2016 on the school’s new athletic fields. Photo by Joseph’s Photography, Inc.

MADISON, CT – In honor of The Country School’s 60th Anniversary, the school’s Board of Trustees is providing a $10,000 merit scholarship to a student applying for admission to Grades 4-8 for the fall of 2017. Additional scholarships will be offered to students entering those grades based on applicants’ qualifications and/or need.

This will be the third 60th Anniversary Merit Scholarship awarded in celebration of The Country School’s founding six decades ago. An 8th Grader from Lyme won the first 60th Anniversary Scholarship, while a 4th Grader from Madison was the second recipient. In addition, other students received partial scholarships after applying for the merit scholarship.

Head of School John Fixx will share information about the 60th Anniversary Scholarship program on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 12:30 p.m. in conjunction with the school’s Winter Open House (taking place from 1 to 3:30 p.m.). While students sit for the Merit Scholarship test, parents will have the opportunity to tour campus and speak directly with faculty members, current parents, and administrators. To learn more and register, go to http://www.thecountryschool.org/scholarship.

The recipient of the $10,000 Merit Scholarship will be selected on the basis of academic merit and personal promise as demonstrated by merit scholarship testing, school records, and an interview. Finalists will be asked to write an essay describing how a Country School education might benefit them and will be invited to spend a day on campus. The scholarship recipient will be notified in early March.

On Jan. 29, visitors will learn about the academic program and the wide academic, artistic, athletic, and leadership opportunities on campus. They will also learn about The Country School’s six-decade history of preparing graduates for the strongest independent secondary schools and high school honors programs in the area. Families will receive the impressive list of where Country School graduates attend college and hear how the Secondary School Placement Office assists families in attracting similar scholarship support for secondary school.

The 60th Anniversary Scholarship is for a new student and is renewed each year that the student is enrolled at The Country School, provided the recipient stays in strong academic standing and consistently demonstrates good citizenship. It is The Country School’s expectation that merit scholarship recipients will contribute significantly to the life of the School, creating a stronger overall experience for all students.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving 200 students in PreSchool through Grade on its 23-acre campus in Madison. In celebration of the school’s 60th anniversary, the campus has been undergoing a major transformation, with the installation of new athletic fields, tennis courts, and playground areas completed last year and a reconfiguration of campus infrastructure and outdoor common spaces taking place this year.

For more information, contact Pam Glasser, Director of Admission and Curriculum, at 203-421-3113, extension 122, or pam.glasser@thecountryschool.org. You may also learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Region 4 Returns 2015-16 Surplus to Towns, Sinking Fund

AREAWIDE — On Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, the Region 4 Board of Education approved a report from the accounting firm of Mahoney and Sabol that reflects a surplus of $157,046 from the 2015-2016 academic year. “This audit is a great endorsement of our continued focus on meeting the needs of our students while keeping a very close eye on the bottom line …” said Chris Riley, Region 4 Board of Education Chairman.

Per the Region 4 Board of Education policy, the surplus is split with 50 percent returned to member towns, and 50 percent deposited in the Region’s Sinking Fund accounts. Accordingly, member towns will receive refunds as follows:

  • Chester $18,838
  • Deep River $24,876
  • Essex $34,809

In addition, $78,523 will be deposited in the Region 4 Sinking Funds allocated as follows:

  • Paving $26,175
  • Flooring $26,174
  • Field and Repair $26,174
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VRHS’s Ginny King Honored as Connecticut’s “PE Teacher of the Year”

On Nov. 17, Ginny King of Valley Regional High School was honored with the CTAHPERD High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

On Nov. 17, Ginny King of Valley Regional High School was honored with the CTAHPERD High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

REGION 4 — The Connecticut Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CTAHPERD) held the Annual Fall Conference on Nov. 17 and 18 and Awards Banquet on Nov. 17, at the Radisson Hotel in Cromwell, Conn.

Among the honorees was Virginia King, Physical Education teacher at Valley Regional High School (VRHS) in Deep River, who received the CTAHPERD High School Physical Education Teacher of the Year Award.

A graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University with a B.S. degree in Physical Education with a Health minor, King continued her Education at the University of Connecticut with a M.S. degree in Sport Management and Leisure Studies. She has 24 years of teaching experience at VRHS in Deep River. In addition to her teaching duties, King is the Regional School District #4 Health and Physical Education Department Coordinator for Grades 7-12.

King has deep content knowledge, a fine repertoire of pedagogical skills, and contagious enthusiasm for teaching and learning. She has spearheaded a transformation in curriculum and course offerings that has created a more personalized approach for high school students.

The primary focus of the curriculum is lifelong fitness through lessons that embrace standards in an atmosphere that is fun, engaging and supportive. PE Fit is an elective course characterized by goal setting by students, exposure to a variety of fitness activities, guest instructors, and field trips to local fitness centers. A Recreation and Leisure unit was developed to include lifelong leisure activities that promote 21st century learning skills to help the students better meet academic, social and civic expectations within physical education.

Students are encouraged to participate in and then teach these activities to friends and family outside of school hours to promote a better sense of community. Seniors may take an additional physical education course as a Physical Education Assistant/Student Leader. These students assist with such teaching duties as taking attendance, setting up and distributing equipment, officiate, disseminate handouts and reading materials, run round robin tournaments, and work one on one with students that need help with game skills or weight room techniques. This modern curriculum has fostered a transformation in student attitude.

Since becoming a certified Zumba Fitness and Zumba Toning instructor, King introduced the group exercise program into the Wednesday Cardio Workout Sessions for every block of the day at VRHS. Students are enthusiastically engaged through her excellent presentation skills, sense of humor and abundant energy. She has expanded the Zumba instruction into a cross curricular unit with the Spanish class and held Zumba sessions during halftime at home football games.

King has contributed to the school community in many ways: she was a BEST Portfolio scorer; Assistant Girls’ Basketball Coach; Head Volleyball Coach; Athletic Director; is a TEAM mentor teacher, cooperating teacher; intramural Spring sports director; intramural weight room director; member of NEASC sub-committee; Team Handball Tournament Director for VRHS Heart of a PE Warrior Scholarship.

Her service to the greater community includes: free Zumba session for Camp Hazen’s YMCA Women’s Wellness Weekend Retreat; guest lecturer at CCSU; charity Zumba session Chester Fire Hose Company for a VRHS scholarship fundraiser; Zumbathon for Chester Elementary School PTO; Zumbathon for breast cancer at Ifoundfitness; and community projects with the Tri-Town Youth Services Bureau.

Committed to excellence and developing herself as a professional, she is fully committed to providing students with a rigorous and relevant learning experience. CTAHPERD is highly honored to recognize Virginia “Ginny” Mislick King as High School Teacher of the Year for 2016.

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Valley/Old Lyme Warriors Qualify for Class M Football Playoffs

Coach Tim King didn’t bother to tell his players that a win Saturday would earn the Valley Regional/Old Lyme cooperative program a trip to the CIAC Class M football playoffs.

His first concern was taking care of business against a struggling opponent, winless Canton.

“The kids did exactly what we asked,” King said. “We wanted to get our varsity kids off the field by halftime and we wanted to get our JV group some experience.” … Read the full article by “Day Staff Reports” and published in The Day on Saturday, Nov. 12,  at this link

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The Country School Presents a Timeless Lesson — Starting With the Holocaust

Author Robert Gillette addresses Middle School students at The Country School.

Author Robert Gillette addresses Middle School students at The Country School.

AREAWIDE — The Country School regularly offers rich learning opportunities, inviting authors, community leaders, and alumni to speak to students. Most recently, TCS welcomed Robert H. Gillette, retired teacher and author of Escape to Virginia: From Nazi Germany to Thalhimer’s Farm, to share the story of two Jewish teenagers who fled from Nazi Germany.

Gillette spoke to his audience about a book’s meaning, what he calls White Fire. The Holocaust, he says, was written in black letters and screamed, “Beware!” White Fire, in contrast, invites readers to learn and not to be afraid. The White Fire in Escape to Virginia teaches readers not to be a perpetrator, a passive victim, or a bystander.

These lessons echo those The Country School teaches as part of its signature Elmore Leadership and Affective Education programs. In a unit called “Bullies, Victims, and Bystanders,” Middle School students learn about the power of words. Mr. Gillette’s message, the White Fire of his historical account of two young students, offers the same.

Seventh-grader Phineas Scott reflected on Mr. Gillette’s presentation, “It could not have gone better. He kept us all on the edge of our seats with his descriptions of what life was like for those refugees. We met the children of Eva who helped Mr. Gillette with the research for his book. Mr. Gillette told us we can learn a lot from history. We can learn about courage and hope from stories like Eva’s and we can learn to always stand up for what is right. He told us that The Country School’s motto, Education that Lasts a Lifetime, is the motto that Eva believed in.”

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves 200 students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School is committed to active, hands-on learning and a vigorous curriculum that engages the whole child. Signature programs such as Elmore Leadership, Public Speaking, STEAM, and Outdoor Education help prepare students for success in high school and beyond.

See The Country School community in action during their Fall Open House on Sunday, Nov. 6, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Country School Begins Year on High Note with Jump in Enrollment, New Facilities

A new academic year all-school photo  of The Country School taken on the school's new athletic fields.  Photo by Joseph's Photography, Inc.

A new academic year all-school photo of The Country School taken on the school’s new athletic fields. Photo by Joseph’s Photography, Inc.

AREAWIDE – The Country School kicked off the new school year having reached two major milestones before even opening its doors. This summer, the coeducational, independent day school celebrated the opening of its new, state-of-the-art recreational facility and broke ground on the second phase of Shaping the Future, the school’s 60th anniversary campus transformation plan. At the same time, The Country School opened with the highest new student enrollment increase in more than a decade, the 50 new students marking a 66 percent increase over last year’s number.

The school’s 60th anniversary, celebrated during the 2015-2016 school year, was a banner year at The Country School. More than 300 members of the school community came together to donate nearly $2 million to support the school’s campus transformation project and other 60th Anniversary initiatives, including increased scholarship support and programmatic enhancements. This marked the largest one-year gift total in the school’s 60-year history.

The campus improvements completed this summer include two full-sized, side-by-side athletic fields, a baseball and softball diamond, the four-court Rothberg Tennis Center, a full-sized outdoor basketball court, new playgrounds, a reconfigured ropes course, an enhanced cross country course, and more. With these new and expanded facilities, the school was able to welcome more than 200 students to campus this summer for its Summer Fun and Learning camp programs and also to coordinate with Madison Racquet & Swim Club for USTA tennis matches. This fall, the town of Madison is using the school’s baseball diamond and RUSH soccer its soccer fields.

Phase 2 of the Shaping the Future project, begun in July, moved vehicular traffic to the periphery of campus, creating a pedestrian village for learning at the center. The plan, designed by Centerbrook Architects and Planners, enhances academic and collaborative opportunities for students and teachers and makes the traffic pattern simpler and safer for all.

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves 200 students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School is committed to active, hands-on learning and a vigorous curriculum that engages the whole child. Signature programs such as Elmore Leadership, Public Speaking, STEAM, and Outdoor Education help prepare students for success in high school and beyond. See our community in action during our Fall Open House on Nov. 6, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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The Country School Partners with Level Up Village for Pioneering Global Steam Enrichment

These photos show campers with flashlights, which they created in a Global Inventors camp. During the camp, students in Madison were partnered with students in Kenya, communicating about their inventions through video exchanges.

These photos show campers with flashlights, which they created in a Global Inventors camp. During the camp, students in Madison were partnered with students in Kenya, communicating about their inventions through video exchanges.

This summer, The Country School teamed up with Level Up Village to offer pioneering global STEAM (STEM + Arts) courses as part of the school’s Summer Fun and Learning program. In addition to engaging in STEAM programs, participants collaborated one-on-one with partner students from one of Level Up Village’s Global Partner organizations in a developing country via video message exchanges.

Camps offered through the Level Up Village-Country School partnership included Global Inventors and Global Video Game Designers. At the Global Inventors camp, participants used 3D printers to create solar flashlights – and they did so while collaborating with friends in Kenya. For Global Video Game Designers, participants explored Scratch and used video camera sensors and drawings to build and hack video games, collaborating through videos with friends in Palestine.

“Joining forces with Level Up Village is a natural extension of what we do throughout the year at The Country School, developing 21st Century skills and incorporating STEAM into our PreSchool through 8th Grade programs,” said John Fixx, Head of School. “In addition, the global collaboration ties in seamlessly with our curricula that stir appreciation for various cultures and traditions, important for the fulfillment of our school’s mission as we prepare our students to enter an global and interconnected world.”

Level Up Village empowers children to make a difference in the world with courses that promote design thinking and one-to-one collaboration on real-world problems between K-9 students in the U.S. and Global Partner students in 20+ countries. U.S. school partners directly sponsor Global STEAM education in developing countries through Level Up Village’s “take a class, give a class” model: a portion of the tuition is used to deliver the same class to students at one of Level Up Village’s Global Partners, many of whom are living on less than $2 a day. More information is available at www.levelupvillage.com.

Level Up Village - Global Inventors (2)

“We connect students from around the world for shared STEAM learning experiences that are both impactful and relevant so they can develop the skills and mindset they need to become compassionate global citizens,” said Amy McCooe, CEO of Level Up Village. “Our cutting-edge global STEAM courses include fully developed curricula, comprehensive teaching training and experienced management of the global collaboration process.”

The Country School looks forward to continuing its partnership with Level Up Village – and with its partner schools – during the coming school year. What did campers think of the program this summer?

From Gabriel, a rising Country School 3rd Grader, who collaborated with a Palestinian student for the Global Video Designers camp:

It was really cool making my own video game! My friend from Palestine was like me. He had the same things. He liked to play outside, has an Xbox, and made video games too. He also had a brother!

From Nadia, a rising Country School 4th Grader:

It was neat to use the computer to make my own video game and then play it and share it, which is really awesome. It was awesome to have a friend from somewhere else in the world. Abdul loved burgers just like me. I didn’t know they have burgers in Palestine.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving students in PreSchool-Grade 8 on its 23-acre campus in Madison. The Country School is committed to active, hands-on learning and a vigorous curriculum that engages the whole child. Signature programs such as Elmore Leadership, Public Speaking, STEAM, and Outdoor Education help prepare students for success in high school and beyond. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

For more about Level Up Village, contact Andrea Sherman, PR & Communications at Level Up Village at andrea@levelupvillage.com

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Old Saybrook Schools, Saint John School Announce Free, Reduced Price Meal Policy

school_lunchThe Old Saybrook Public Schools and Saint John School have announced their policy for determining eligibility of children may receive free or reduced-price meals served under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP),  served under the Special Milk Program (SMP).

Local school officials have adopted the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEGs) for family size and income criteria for determining eligibility.

The income guidelines at this link will be used in Connecticut from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 for determining eligibility of participants for free and reduced-price meals and free milk in the Child Nutrition Programs.

The above income calculations are made based on the following formulas: Monthly income is calculated by dividing the annual income by 12; twice monthly income is computed by dividing annual income by 24; income received every two weeks is calculated by dividing annual income by 26; and weekly income is computed by dividing annual income by 52.  All numbers are rounded upward to the next whole dollar.

Children from families whose income is at or below the levels shown are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.  Application forms are available through online registration, on the district website www.oldsaybrookschools.org and are being sent to all homes with a letter to parents.  To apply for free or reduced-price meals , households should fill out the application and return it to the school. Additional copies are available at the principal’s office at each school.]

Only one application is required per household and an application for free or reduced- price benefits cannot be approved unless it contains complete eligibility information as indicated on the application and instructions.  The information provided on the application is confidential and will be used only for the purposes of determining eligibility and for administration and enforcement of the lunch, breakfast and milk programs.

Note that the district MAY share your eligibility information with education, health, and nutrition programs to help them evaluate, fund, or determine benefits for their programs, auditors for program reviews, and law enforcement officials to help them look into violations of program rules.  This information may also be verified at any time during the school year by school or other program officials.  Applications may be submitted at any time during the year.

For up to 30 operating days into the new school year, eligibility from the previous year will continue within the same local educational agency (LEA).  When the carry-over period ends, unless the household is notified that their children are directly certified or the household submits an application that is approved, the children must pay full price for school meals and the school will not send a reminder or a notice of expired eligibility.

No application is required if the district directly certifies a child based on a household member receiving assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) program.  All children in these households are eligible for free meal benefits.  Households receiving assistance under the SNAP/TFA programs will be notified of their eligibility and their children will be provided free benefits unless the household notifies the determining official that it chooses to decline benefits.

If any children were not listed on the eligibility notice, the household should contact the district or school to have free meal benefits extended to those children.  Households receiving SNAP or TFA benefits for their children should only submit an application if they are not notified of their eligibility by August 31, 2016.

If a child is not directly certified, the household should complete a free and reduced-price meal application form.  The application for the SNAP or TFA households require the SNAP or TFA case number.  The signature of an adult household member is also required.

Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals.  Please send in an application or contact the determining official for more information.

When known to the district/school, households will be notified of any child’s eligibility for free meals if the individual child is Other Source Categorically Eligible because the child is categorized as either:  Homeless; runaway as defined by law and determined by the district’s or school’s homeless liaison; or enrolled in an eligible Head Start or pre-kindergarten class as defined by law.  Households with children who are categorically eligible under Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs should complete an application and check-off the relevant box.

Questions should be directed to the determining official.  For any child not listed on the eligibility notice, the households should contact the school or determining official about any child also eligible under one of these programs or should submit an income application for the other children.

Households notified of their children’s eligibility must contact the determining official or school if it chooses to decline the free meal benefits.  If households/children are not notified by the district/school of their free meal benefits and they receive benefits under Assistance Programs or under Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs, the parent/guardian should contact the determining official or their school.

Foster children that are under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court, are categorically eligible for free meals.  A foster parent does not have to complete a free/reduced meal application if they can submit a copy of the legal document or legal court order showing that the child is a foster child.  Additionally, a foster child may be included as a member of the foster family if the foster family chooses to also apply for benefits.  If the foster family is not eligible for free or reduced-price meal benefits, it does not prevent a foster child from receiving free meal benefits.  Note however, that a foster child’s free eligibility does not automatically extend to all students in the household.

Application forms for all other households require a statement of total household income, household size and names of all household members.  The last four digits of the social security number of an adult household member must be included or a statement that the household member does not have one.  The adult household member must also sign the application certifying that the information provided is correct.

Under the provisions of the policy for determining eligibility for free and reduced-price meals, the determining official,  Julie Pendleton, Director of Operations, Facilities and Finance jpendleton@oldsdaybrookschools.org (860) 395-3158 x1013 will review applications and determine eligibility.  If a parent is dissatisfied with the ruling of the determining official, he/she may wish to discuss the decision with the determining official on an informal basis. If he/she wishes to make a formal appeal, a request either orally or in writing, may be made to Jan G. Perruccio, Superintendent of Schools, 50 Sheffield Street, Old Saybrook, CT 06475 jperruccio@oldsaybrookschools.org (860)395-3157 for a hearing to appeal the decision.

The policy contains an outline of the hearing procedure.  Each school and the central office of the school district has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by an interested party.

If a household member becomes unemployed or if household size changes at any time, the family should contact the school to file a new application.  Such changes may make the children of the household eligible for reduced-price meals, free meals, , if the family income falls at or below the levels shown in the Income Guidelines.

Questions regarding the application process may be directed to the determining official at (860)395-3158.

This is the Public Release we will send on August 3, 2016 to the following news media outlets, the local unemployment office, major employers contemplating layoffs, etc.

1. The Hartford Courant 3. New Haven Register
2. The Day 4. CT Department of Labor

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)  mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)  fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)  email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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The Country School, Madison Racquet & Swim Club Join Forces at Country School’s New Rothberg Tennis Center

Will de Chabert, a Madison resident, Country School student, and player for Madison Racquet & Swim Club, serves during a match on one of the new Rothberg Tennis Center courts at The Country School.

Will de Chabert, a Madison resident, Country School student, and player for Madison Racquet & Swim Club, serves during a match on one of the new Rothberg Tennis Center courts at The Country School.

MADISON, CT — As part of a new partnership designed to dramatically expand tennis opportunities in Madison and on the shoreline, Madison Racquet & Swim Club (MRSC) and The Country School (TCS) held a joint open house at the Rothberg Tennis Center — The Country School’s new, state-of-the-art tennis complex. Several families gathered to explore the new facilities and to enjoy a celebrational barbecue on the new patio overlooking the athletic complex.

Through this newly announced arrangement, Madison Racquet and TCS are co-hosting USTA tournaments, offering clinics, running training camps for adults and children, and scheduling social tennis outings. In addition, MRSC has agreed to have one of their teaching pros join the coaching staff of The Country School’s varsity tennis team.

Going forward, TCS and MRSC will share scheduling technology, so that members of the school community and MRSC members can access available courts with ease.  Madison Racquet has also created a new membership featuring use of courts and programs at both sites.

“This partnership is exciting and supports our strategic plan to advance our athletic program,” said Head of School John Fixx. “By teaming with Madison Racquet & Swim Club, the premier tennis club in our area, we provide our Country School families and the greater shoreline community a state-of- the-art tennis complex and facilities.”

Robert Dunlop, owner of Madison Racquet & Swim Club, shared Fixx’s enthusiasm about the new partnership. “Each of us has been providing educational and recreational opportunities for many years,” he said. “By joining forces, we will offer our members and TCS families a bigger, stronger MRSC.”

The Country School opened The Rothberg Tennis Center in May as part of the school’s new outdoor athletic and recreational complex, created in celebration of the school’s 60th anniversary. The complex also includes two new soccer fields, a baseball /softball diamond, new playground, and full-sized outdoor basketball court.

Since opening in late spring, the new facilities have been used for soccer and tennis camps and clinics through the school’s Summer Fun and Learning program. The tennis portion of the school’s annual Golf & Tennis Classic for Scholarship last month was also played on the school’s new courts.

Madison Racquet & Swim Club and The Country School held a joint open house at The Country School's Rothberg Tennis Center to celebrate their new partnership. Pictured are: (top row) Taylor Fay and Dawn Fagerquist, both pros at Madison Racquet; (middle row) youth players Will de Chabert, Sam Duffy, Loden Bradstreet and John Kelly; (sitting) Ellery Bradstreet and Connor Duffy.

Madison Racquet & Swim Club and The Country School held a joint open house at The Country School’s Rothberg Tennis Center to celebrate their new partnership. Pictured are: (top row) Taylor Fay and Dawn Fagerquist, both pros at Madison Racquet; (middle row) youth players Will de Chabert, Sam Duffy, Loden Bradstreet and John Kelly; (sitting) Ellery Bradstreet and Connor Duffy.

Madison Racquet & Swim Club has developed an outstanding tennis program under the leadership of Rick Fay, Director of Tennis.  In addition to Fay, MRSC has five other senior level tennis pros year round, including Kitty Palmer and Dawn Fagerquist, the coaches of the Daniel Hand High School girls and boys tennis teams, which have consistently been at the top of their conference and in the state. Both have been named Coach of the Year several times.

Junior Tennis begins with the 10 & under program and offers programs for the recreational and competitive level player through college. The club’s USTA and interclub teams have had great success. MADRackets, the 14 & under intermediate team, has won the New England Sectionals the past two years and placed second in the country at the nationals held in South Carolina.

In addition to programs for juniors, Adult Tennis includes clinics for all levels, starting with the introductory Play Tennis Fast clinic. More competitive players on USTA or interclub teams have one practice and one match per week. Play programs such as Cardio Tennis and Point Play have become very popular, as they provide excellent aerobic workouts.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is an independent, coeducational school serving students in PreSchool-Grade 8. In addition to a rigorous academic program that seeks to educate the whole child through active, hands-on learning, The Country School is committed to vital offerings in the arts and athletics. Each year, Country School graduates go on to play sports at the high school and collegiate levels. The school looks forward to hosting athletic contests and tournaments at its new athletic complex in the coming months and years.

Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Valley Regional Celebrates Class of 2016 With Memories, Music and Merriment

In the distance on the bleachers, the Valley Regional High School Class of 2016. All photos by Laura Matesky of lauramateskyphotography.com

In the distance, the Valley Regional High School Class of 2016 stands on the bleachers. All photos by Laura Matesky of lauramateskyphotography.com

A clear blue sky accompanied by 75° weather and a gentle breeze created the perfect ambience for the Valley Regional High School’s (VRHS) 151 students of the Class of 2016 to graduate this past Wednesday, June 15.

The girls of the Class of 2016 filed into the stadium.

The girls of the Class of 2016 file into the stadium.

Teacher Kevin Woods (wearing sunglasses) filed in with the faculty.

Teacher and boy’s varsity basketball coach Kevin Woods (wearing sunglasses) files in with the faculty.

Valley Regional Principal Michael Barile hugs this year's VRHS Hall of Fame inductee.

Valley Regional Principal Michael Barile hugs this year’s VRHS Hall of Fame inductee.

Valedictorian Christina Mitchel.

Valedictorian Christina Mitchel (above) and Salutatorian Acacia Bowden (below delivered heartfelt and inspirational speeches that led the graduates to reflect on the past, the present, and the future.

Honor Essayist Mary Proteau (below) completed the triumvirate with an equally compelling speech.

Honor Essayist Mary Proteau.

 

While the students gave their speeches, the dignitaries listened attentively.

Principal ?? beamed as he listened to the speeches.

Michael Barile, VRHS Pricipal, smiles broadly as he listens to the speeches.

Several students in the graduating class lightened the mood with two musical numbers.
The bright Scottish tune, “Loch Lomond” was sung by Valley’s senior ensemble choir, including sopranos Angelina Annino, Miranda Holland, Carly Zuppe, Emma Colby, Eme Carlson, Avery Carlson, and Erica Vaccaro; altos Cassidy French, Leslie Clapp, Jordan Adams­Sack, Joy Molyneux, Amanda Hull, Caitlin Glance, and Rachel Breault; tenor Dilan Rojas; and basses John Cappezzone, Brooks Robinson, Riley Sullivan, and Will Elliot. This song showcased seniors Dilan Rojas, Emma Colby, Carly Zuppe, and Eme Carlson.

Valley Regional's Senior Ensemble sang 'Loch Lomond' and "I lived' during the event.

Valley Regional’s Senior Ensemble sang ‘Loch Lomond’ and “I lived’ during the event.

The second musical song, a cover of “I Lived”, by One Republic, was performed by singers Dilan Rojas, Carly Zuppe, and John Cappezzone, supported by Tyler Atkinson on the guitar and Brooks Robinson on drums.

Senior Class Treasurer Julia Hammond and Secretary Katie Amara presented the Class Gift.

Senior Class Treasurer Julia Hammond and Secretary Katie Amara presented the Class gift of benches for the art hallway during the ceremony as well.

The presentation of diplomas began ...

The presentation of diplomas began …

Girl_receives_diploma

… and continued … with Region 4 Superintendent Dr. Ruth Levy shaking each graduate’s hand …

... and ended!

… and ended!

 

Hat_toss

The evening culminated when the class tossed their caps high into the air, symbolizing their level of energy and high ambition for the next chapter of their lives.

When the ceremony was complete, all that remained were fond memories ... and a handful of hats on the ground.

When the ceremony was complete, all that remained were fond memories … and a handful of hats scattered on the ground.

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Hambor’s School-to-Career Program at VRHS Celebrates 10 Successful Years

The 10th Annual Partnership Celebration brought interns and their mentors together to enjoy food and farewells.

The 10th Annual Partnership Celebration brought interns and their mentors together for food and farewells.

AREAWIDE — Ten years ago Valley Regional High School (VRHS) School-to-Career Consultant Mary Hambor started a program for students at the school interested in finding out more about jobs in the real world with five internships.  On May 26 this year, at the 10th Annual Partnership Celebration, she described how during the 2015-16 academic year, she had placed 95 seniors and seven juniors in a total of 102 internships.

Poster boards listed all the businesses and organizations which had taken interns during the 2015-16 academic year.

Poster boards listed all the businesses and organizations which had taken interns during the 2015-16 academic year.

Describing the success of the program as “very rewarding,” a delighted Hambor noted that she felt its “goal [had been] achieved” in that it had now become, “a comprehensive internship program … offering invaluable hands-on experience.”  She expressed her appreciation to all those who had taken on interns during the year and the VRHS administration saying, “I continually feel blessed to be part of such a supportive community.”

Dr. Dave Scruggs of Deep River Animal Hospital stands with Mary Hambor, VRHS School-to-Career Cordinator.

Dr. Dave Scruggs of Deep River Animal Hospital stands with Mary Hambor, VRHS School-to-Career Cordinator.

Many of the student interns spoke about their experiences during the celebration.  Katie Amara and Maddy Ball described how at Deep River Animal Hospital, they had “everyday learned something new,” including “holding a few snakes” and “how to draw blood,” summing up the internship as one in which they, “had learned a lot more than we expected.”

Anastasia Cusack-Mercedez explained that as a direct result of her internship with Integrated Refugee and Immigration Services (IRIS) in New Haven she now knew that she “would like to work for a non-profit.”

Sevigny Fortin said he had been, “very fortunate” to work in the State Prosecutor’s office at New London Superior Court with Attorney Paul Narducci and had even been involved with work on a murder trial. He believed he had benefited from “an opportunity not many high schoolers have,” noting, “I have been very fortunate to work with a mentor so passionate and helpful.”

Mary Hambor (right) stands with Ibby Carothers of iCRV Radio and the students who interned at the radio station.

Mary Hambor (right) stands with Ibby Carothers of iCRV Radio and the students who interned at the radio station.

Hannah Halsey spoke about the experience that she and several of her peers had enjoyed interning at iCRV Radio in Chester and then Ivoryton. She said it was, “a really great learning experience during which she and her friends had “learned about marketing” and acquired many new skills, such as “how to operate a database.”  The interns had actually hosted a radio show at one point!

Sometimes the students explained that the internships had caused them to experience a change in their planned careers.  Tina Mitchell, who had worked at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, had gone into her internship believing she was “interested in politics,” but during her time working with a policy analyst in the House Speaker’s office, determined that she had “found a home in policy.”

Other students like Elizabeth Forsythe freely declared, “I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” but went on to say that her internship at Aaron Manor with Karyn Cotrona had taught her “what HR is all about.”  She thanked her mentors for giving her “the experience to explore what she wanted to do.”

Our very own wonderful ValleyNewsNow.com intern, Maggie Klin.

Our very own ValleyNewsNow.com wonderful intern, Maggie Klin!

Several of the mentors took the opportunity to say publicly how the internship had gone from their angle.  Rebecca Foley from IRIS said, “Anastasia did an incredible job” and noted that she had gone far beyond the call of her internship and raised $827 for the organization in her own time.

Dr. Dave Scruggs of Deep River Animal Hospital commented that when he had first been asked to take an intern, he just said, “No.”  Then he met with the students and was “so impressed” to the extent that — speaking of this year’s interns — , “I would hire both of these young ladies today,” adding in words that seemed to sum up the universal experience of the mentors, “Every student from this high school has achieved the bar … and gone beyond it.”

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VRHS Students Finish Strong at State’s Robotics Competition

Valley robotics Relaxing after their second competition

Valley robotics relaxing after their second place finish

REGION 4 – Valley Regional High School was among 40 teams from Connecticut and Massachusetts that convened at two weekend-long First Robotics’ Competitions (FRC) New England held in March and April of this year. The April event took place at Hartford Public High School, April 1-3, and officials of the school said it was the biggest event in the state related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM education.

In only their second year with a robotics team, Valley Regional High School’s “Human Error” took second place at the March competition held in Waterbury, beating out nearly 30 other teams. Then, on day one of the Hartford event, Human Error placed second overall but ultimately dropped in rank on the final day just missing the cut to advance.  Last year Valley’s team was awarded Rookie of the Year.

“It’s a little disappointing that we didn’t get picked for an alliance in order to advance, but we accomplished every one of our goals set for the robot we built and we all feel really good about that,” said Valley sophomore Rocket Otte.

Being Otte’s first time with the Valley team, he described the competition experience as “electric” and “exciting” and like no other. He explained he really appreciated the spirit of cooperation among all the teams.

“I really like how FRC organizes their events. They have this term called ‘gracious professionalism’ where they encourage all the teams to cooperate with each other in alliances and helping out with tools and equipment. If you’re missing a part you can post it and other teams will help out regardless. That’s really cool.”

Valley’s team Human Error, made up of about 30 students, spent more than 200 hours working after school and on weekends to build and refine the robot’s functionality. Each member or specific group works on a particular aspect of the robot, from sensors, to gears, to bumpers to programming, using math, science, logic and other educational disciplines. But the key is teamwork.

“Working collaboratively and coordinating skills and talents is what happens in this space; students determine themselves who does what to get the robot working, they organize themselves; the other teachers, mentors and myself are on the sidelines offering guidance and support when needed,” explained Valley Biology teacher Dr. Peano.

Another key element to the team is programming skills. This year that effort was led by rookie member and sophomore Sam Paulson, who worked in the Java programming language to accomplish the task of instructing the robot’s functions, programming it to drive and move its metal arm.

“Programming is something I learned myself with online sites and it’s something that interests me, so when I joined the team I offered to work on that. I learned programming the robot to drive is easier than programming the arm to move,” said Paulson.

He added, “I learned a lot this year and I’ll be able to do a lot more next year like make the robot do more complex tasks. But for this year I was content with what our team did and how the robot worked.”

In the end the competition was more than winning or losing. It was about brainpower, creativity, collaboration and having fun, all done in an environment outside the usual classroom setting.

Valley Regional High School team roster:
Alexandro Adamson, Tanner Aikens, Samantha Bartlett, Ian Bott, Matt Caron, Allie Champion, Gavin Collins, Jaedyn Correa, Jared Dompier, Meagan Gephart, Samuel Griswold, Michael Johnson, Nate Luscomb, Patrick Myslik, Nicholas Otte, Samuel Paulson, Cooper Robbins, Francis Stino, Sam Swap, Nolan Tackett, Ethan West
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Community Music School Names New Executive Director

CENTERBROOK – Community Music School has named Abigail Nickell as its new Executive Director, where she will be responsible for the leadership and management of the active school and its outreach programs.  She replaces Robin Andreoli, who left the organization in March.

Abigail Nickell is a seasoned non-profit executive with more than a decade of experience in the social sector.  She took the helm at the Community Music School in April.  She most recently served as the Executive Director of MADD Hawaii, overseeing their statewide operations and fundraising.  Prior to that, she served as the Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Hawaii, a statewide grantmaking agency, and Executive Director of Save the Food Basket, an AIDS service organization.

Nickell began her career as the Assistant Director of the Northampton Community Music Center and is thrilled to be working in arts administration again.  Her undergraduate degree is in music and dance from Smith College and she received her MBA from Chaminade University’s Non-Profit Management program.

“I’m so pleased to join the staff and our incredible faculty at CMS in our mission to make music education accessible to all,” said Nickell.  “I look forward to working with our dedicated board of trustees to develop innovate strategies that will allow us to operate efficiently while engaging new audiences in support of our efforts.”

Community Music School offers innovative music programming for infants through adults, building on a 30 year tradition of providing quality music instruction to residents of shoreline communities. CMS programs cultivate musical ability and creativity and provide students with a thorough understanding of music so they can enjoy playing and listening for their entire lives.  Learn more at visit www.community-music-school.org or call (860)767-0026.

 

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John Proctor Wins 2016 Generativity Award from Tri-Town Youth Services

 

Gail Beck, director of Tri-Town Youth Services, present award to John Proctor

Gail Beck, director of Tri-Town Youth Services, presents Generativity Award to John Proctor

REGION 4 – Tri-Town Youth Services’ 2016 Generativity Award was recently presented to John Proctor, Superintendent of Region 4 Schools, 1986-1998. John and his wife, Sherry, have been residents of Ivoryton since 1986, when he began his role of Superintendent of Schools here.

Upon retirement, John held a position at UConn, where he supervised teachers as well as student administrators. Over the years, he has made numerous presentations on the Civil War.

When John was Superintendent of Region 4 Schools, he said enthusiastically he was “here for the kids.” He made it a point to attend numerous school functions such as sports games, proms and banquets, and he was frequently seen in all schools.  His philosophy holds that each child is an individual with unique expectations, strengths and needs.  He believes students need to be informed, thinking citizens with well-developed character.  Over the years, he promoted youth developmental assets, including diversity.  He supported including social emotional programming in Region 4 schools.

John Proctor has received numerous awards. In Region 16 he was named Educational Leader of the Year.  A magazine, “Executive Educator,” named him as one of the best 100 small school superintendents.  A professional organization, Connecticut Association of Public Schools Superintendents, presented him with their Emeritus Award for 45 years of service.

Tri-Town Youth Services has presented a Generativity Award annually since 2005. Recipients of the award are people who, over time, have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to youth and have contributed significantly to building youth developmental assets.  Previous awardees include: Marilyn Malcarne, Rick Stabbins, Pat Kosky, Jane Cavanaugh, Ingrid Walsh, Rev. Tim Haut, Linda Hall, Barbara Nidzgorski, Phil Miller, Dr. Ruth Levy and Michael Fearon.

Tri-Town Youth Services supports and advances the families, youth and communities of Chester, Deep River and Essex. We coordinate and provide resources needed to make positive choices, reduce substance abuse, and strengthen the relationships that matter most.  Discover programs and information for families, as well as opportunities for community collaboration at www.tritownys.org

 

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Op-Ed: Carney Says Proposed State Education Budget Cuts Will Seriously Impact 23rd District

State Rep. Devin Carney

State Rep. Devin Carney

Does Governor Malloy have a problem with communities that succeed? This is a question we need to ask ourselves. Year after year, the schools of the 23rd District work diligently to provide quality education to our youth. Our teachers and administrators add to the success of our state by instilling the proper foundation to produce the industrial, business, and community leaders of tomorrow. Many of our best and the brightest students chose to continue their education in Connecticut – something of which the governor should be incredibly proud. Just last year the valedictorians from Region 18 (Lyme and Old Lyme) and Westbrook as well as the salutatorian from Old Saybrook chose UConn.

We have seen two budget proposals over the past two weeks that would do damage to the schools in the 23rd District. The Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee released an incomplete budget that would cut Education Cost Sharing (“ECS”) funding to the towns in our district by 33 – 56%. This was bad enough. But, under the governor’s updated proposal, the four towns in the 23rd went from receiving a recommended amount of $1,831,496 in ECS funding to $0 for FY 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017). A total of 28 towns were zeroed-out, while many cities, like the governor’s hometown of Stamford, were held harmless. Talk about a shared sacrifice.

These proposed cuts – made at a time when most local Boards of Finance are crafting their own fiscal year budgets – are unfair. The clear lack of respect and care on the governor’s part is alarming. All four towns in the 23rd District will now have funding gaps and may require local property tax increases to offset them. This would add an even greater burden to Connecticut’s taxpayers and Connecticut simply cannot afford to lose additional wealth at this time. However, that’s where these indirect tax hikes would be directed – all 28 communities being zeroed-out are considered ‘wealthy’.

Although these cuts are debilitating to small towns like ours – which already receive far less back from the state than we put in – we must keep in mind that this is only a proposal.

I remain committed to finding a solution with other members of the legislature to address this inequitable cut to our towns and to solving our $930 million deficit. The state wants people to move to Connecticut and one of our best selling points is our top-tier education. While we are faced with many serious and pressing economic issues, predominantly the ongoing budget crisis, great public education is one area on which we can pride ourselves.

I have written a letter to the governor urging him not to turn his back on the children and the taxpayers of the 23rd District and to request that he amend his updated budget and eliminate these cuts. The taxpayers of Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook provide a great deal to this state and the deficits would be much, much higher without us. If either the legislature’s or the governor’s cuts are enacted, then it would be only fair that some of the approximately 380 unfunded state educational mandates be eliminated.

Instead of education, the governor and the legislature must look to balance the budget through real structural changes in the way state government is run. Changes could include pension and benefit reform, re-negotiating of union contracts, a moratorium on unnecessary government projects, serious spending and bonding caps, and tighter controls on overtime. When I last checked, many don’t live in Connecticut for bloated government overtime, but they do for our great schools. In fact, it may just be the only thing keeping them here.

To read my letter to Governor Malloy: click here

To see how Connecticut towns fare under the Appropriations budget: click here

To see how Connecticut towns fare under the governor’s budget: click here

To read the governor’s budget proposal: click here

To see the approximately 380 unfunded educational mandates: click here

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Essex Library’s Career Series for High Schoolers Continues Through May

Essex Public Library where the Career Series is being held.

Essex Public Library where the Career Series is being held.

ESSEX — As the middle of the winter season drags on and springtime can be just vaguely made out in the distance, many are looking forward to the exciting prospects that the new season will bring. For some, it is merely the release from Connecticut’s raw winter weather and the enticement of warm weather activities; while for a body of young people, the anxious wait for college application decisions has begun.

Selecting a college major, along with a career path, may appear to be a perplexing ordeal to those who have not yet found their niche. As a member of the restless class of teenagers who are anticipating the decision that will become the foundation for their future careers, I empathize with others who are in the same boat as I am and have not yet chosen a designated career path.

logoThankfully, the Essex Library has teamed up with Education Solutions of Essex to lend a helping hand to students who freeze up when that all-too-familiar, “What do you want to major in?” question strikes.

The Essex Library is a professionally-run, free public library that encourages all visitors to explore all that is offered. The youth and teen program, headed by Jessica Branciforte, is especially vibrant.

Branciforte is the smiling face behind the wonderful programs that are offered at the library for adolescents ranging from toddlers to teens. Education Solutions is a consulting firm that helps students and families identify and navigate through the process of selecting a school or career pathway.

Exterior_brick&sign_213KBA career series entitled “Demystifying the Future” has been created for students aged 12 and older who are searching for the career path that will suit them best. During each session, the Essex Library hosts a professional from a wide variety of areas ranging from communications to engineering, robotics, business and beyond. These informational sessions give students the opportunity to learn about classes required, industry trends, job prospects, degree information, salary ranges, and additional principal information regarding the career path.

Branciforte is co-heading the project along with Teal Reamer at Education Solutions, and discusses the motive behind creating the program. Branciforte comments, “Students are entering into a world where the options are overwhelming, and the pressure is on. Seeing a career description on paper is quite different from immersing oneself in the field, so it is both thrilling and reassuring to bring in experts who are willing to share their passion.”

The series runs through May 2016. The third session in this series is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1, from 6 to 7 p.m. and will feature keynote speaker Jeff Reamer who will share his experience with business and finance. The program is an opportune time to interact with people who have had first-hand experience in career areas that gives invaluable insight into a career field that may be of interest.  

To register for the session or for more information, contact the Essex Library at (860) 767-1560.

Editor’s Note: Essex Library Association is located at 33 West Avenue, Essex, CT 06426. Opening hours are Monday and Wednesday, 10am – 6pm; Tuesday and Thursday, 10am -7pm; Friday, 10am – 5pm; and Saturday, 10am – 4pm. The library is closed on Sundays. For more information, visit  http://www.youressexlibrary.org or call (860) 767-1560

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Vista Accepting Applications for Summer Program until May 2

    Vista is accepting applications for its summer program.Vista is now accepting applications for its two-week summer program.

AREAWIDE – Individuals with disabilities 17 and older are invited to experience life at Vista Life Innovations for two weeks during the Exploring Independence summer program.

Exploring Independence is designed to provide prospective students with an introduction to Vista and the independence of adulthood in a supported learning environment. Participants will experience living away from home in a dorm-style setting and take part in a variety of interactive activities. The program combines hands-on learning in the areas of social skills, life skills and team building with fun activities, such as off-site day trips, arts projects and community immersion.

Participation in the Exploring Independence summer program is the first step in the admissions process for many Vista students and members. Among them is Vista student Tim Maloney, who participated in the 2015 summer program.

“I learned that you can be yourself and have a nice time away from home,” Tim said of his experience in the summer program. “My favorite part was making friends and doing activities.”

This year’s Exploring Independence program will run August 1-12. Applications are being accepted through May 2. Space is limited. For more information or to apply, contact Esther Vallas, admissions manager, at evallas@vistalifeinnovations.org or 860-399-8080 ext. 136.

With campuses in Westbrook, Madison and Guilford, Vista Life Innovations is a nationally accredited community-based education program for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, seizure disorders, traumatic brain injuries, intellectual disabilities and ADHD.

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Country School Invites Community to TEDx Event, Saturday

tedxtcspicMADISON – What do a digital citizenship expert, a team of fourth grade poets, a 20-time Moth StorySLAM champion, and young artists-activists have in common? They are innovators in their respective fields, and are using their creativity to boldly make a difference in local and global communities. They are sharing these ideas at Spindrift, a TEDx event hosted by TEDxTheCountrySchool on Saturday, April 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

At Spindrift, the first-ever TEDx Youth event planned and organized by students at The Country School, you will hear from speakers who will bring their different ideas and areas of expertise in TEDx talks to the shoreline community. TEDxTheCountrySchool, a team of current students working with Country School alumna Marina Sachs ’07, has collaborated all year to design and plan Spindrift, a day-long event focused on empathetic action, diverse ideas, equitable outcomes and the power of play.

Selected by the TEDx team as the theme of the conference this year, the word “Spindrift” means the perfectly symmetrical part of an ocean wave, the crest of the wave that forms just as the wave is built up enough before it breaks. It’s also the ocean spray that comes off the top of the wave, affected by the wind and how tall the wave is. Metaphorically, it’s an analogy to the present moment – the exciting time that we’re living in, our young age and how we’re poised to make the future into something incredible, how our past experiences affect who we are now and how we can use them to make a better version of ourselves for the future.

This day will include amazing talks given by speakers. Attendees can expect to get involved with tons of hands-on stations. Want to get your hands dirty? Be a part of our tree-planting initiative in celebration of Earth Day. Love playing with LEGOs? Jump in on the big LEGO building station. Ever been to a musical instrument petting zoo? There will be one.

Speakers include storyteller and novelist Matthew K Dicks, tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar, singer-songwriter Geordann Daguplo, poets from the fourth grade at TCS, children’s author Katie Davis, and more.

Register and learn more at www.thecountryschool.org/tedx. This event is open to the public. All ages are welcome, and the event is wheelchair accessible. A suggested donation of $10 per person would be greatly appreciated. Donations may be made online or at the door. Please contact TEDx@thecountryschool.org with questions.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving students in PreSchool-Grade 8. Students in Kindergarten-Grade 8 have been working to plan this TEDx event all year. The Country School is located at 341 Opening Hill Road in Madison.

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Essex Resident Earns High Honors at Sacred Heart Academy

ESSEX – Sacred Heart Academy Principal Sr. Maureen Flynn, ASCJ recently announced the Honor Roll for the second marking period of the 2015–16 academic year.

Sophie Park of Essex earned high honors this quarter.

Honors are awarded at the end of each quarter to students attaining an average of 3.5 or better. Those students who achieve a grade point average of 3.8 or greater are awarded high honors.

Founded in 1946 by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sacred Heart successfully prepares young women in grades 9–12 for learning, service, and achievement in a global society. Sacred Heart Academy welcomes 500 students from more than 80 schools and 60 towns in Connecticut and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Visit www.sacredhearthamden.org to learn more.

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The Country School Offers $10,000 Merit Scholarship

AREAWIDE –– In celebration of The Country School’s 60th Anniversary, the school’s Board of Trustees is providing a $10,000 merit scholarship to a student applying for admission to Grades 4-8 for the fall of 2016. Additional scholarships will be offered to students entering those grades based on applicants’ qualifications and/or need. Founded in 1955, The Country School is celebrating its 60th anniversary during the 2015-2016 school year.

This will be the second 60th Anniversary Merit Scholarship awarded in honor of The Country School’s founding six decades ago. Eloise de Landevoisin Campbell, currently an 8th Grader from Lyme, was awarded the 60th Anniversary Merit Scholarship for the 2015-2016 school year. In addition, other students received partial scholarships after applying for the merit scholarship.

Head of School John Fixx will share information about the 60th Anniversary Scholarship program on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 12:30 p.m. in conjunction with the school’s Winter Open House (taking place from 1-3:30 p.m.). While students sit for the Merit Scholarship test, parents will have the opportunity to tour campus and speak directly with faculty members, current parents, and administrators. To learn more and register, go to http://www.thecountryschool.org/admission/60th-anniversary-merit-scholarship.

The recipient of the $10,000 Merit Scholarship will be selected on the basis of academic merit and personal promise as demonstrated by the merit scholarship testing, school records, and an interview. Finalists will be asked to write an essay describing how a Country School education might benefit them and will be invited to spend a day on campus. The scholarship recipient will be notified in early March.

On January 31, visitors will learn about the academic program and the wide academic, artistic, athletic, and leadership opportunities on campus. They will also learn about The Country School’s six decades-long history of preparing graduates for the strongest independent secondary schools and high school honors programs in the area and throughout New England. Families will receive the impressive list of where Country School graduates attend college and hear how the Secondary School Placement Office assists families in attracting similar scholarship support for secondary school.

Students will sit for the Merit Scholarship test and experience hands-on learning and design challenges similar to those our current students experience on a regular basis. They will also explore campus and meet teachers and students.

The 60th Anniversary Scholarship is for a new student and is renewed each year that the student is enrolled at The Country School, provided the recipient stays in strong academic standing and consistently demonstrates good citizenship. It is The Country School’s expectation that merit scholarship recipients will contribute significantly to the life of the School, creating a stronger overall experience for all students.

The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving 200 students in PreSchool through Grade 8, ages 3-14, on its 23-acre campus in Madison. This year, also in honor of the school’s 60th anniversary, the campus is undergoing a major transformation, with new athletic fields, tennis courts, and playground areas being installed. Future enhancements will affect classroom buildings, campus infrastructure, and outdoor common spaces.

For more information, contact Pam Glasser, Director of Admission and Curriculum, at 203-421-3113, extension 122, or pam.glasser@thecountryschool.org.

For further information, visit www.thecountryschool.org.

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Learning Engineering Concepts Through Legos at Essex Elementary

Fourth graders - Devon Welch, Noah Santangelo and Ben Rector - work with Luke DeFrino of Chester, a junior at Valley Regional High School, during a new LEGO robotics program at EES.

Fourth graders – Devon Welch, Noah Santangelo and Ben Rector – work with Luke DeFrino of Chester, a junior at Valley Regional High School, during a new Lego robotics program at EES.

ESSEX — A special after-school program recently began at Essex Elementary School (EES).  Boys and girls, in grades 4 through 6, are learning about engineering concepts by building Lego Mindstorms robots.

Jimmy Christensen, a science teacher from Bushy Hill Outdoor Education and Leadership Center, is working with students each week, alongside a team of high school mentors.

This program is sponsored by the Essex Elementary School Foundation, a not-for-profit, volunteer organization that provides funds for enrichment opportunities, such as author visits and an iPad lab.

For donation information, head to www.essexelementaryschoolfoundation.org.

 

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Egyptologist Kent Weeks Inspires Students at The Country School

gyptologist Kent Weeks visited The Country School to speak with students about his work in Egypt. Fifth Graders are pictured here with their teacher, Kerri Kelly, and Dr. Weeks, along with a hieroglyphic message they created in his honor. Standing, left to right, are: Andrew Walter-Zona, North Branford; Ian Marshall, Killingworth; Philip Warren, Old Saybrook; Colin Higginson, Madison; Elke Zigmont, Madison; Wendol Williams, Madison; 5th Grade teacher Kerri Kelly, Essex; Liliana Boone, Middletown; Kameron Borden, Clinton; Madison Grady, Clinton, and Dr. Kent Weeks. Pictured front row, left to right, are: Jenson Taylor, Westbrook; Erik Howie, Madison; Jackson Chontos, Old Lyme; and Willa Wurzbach, Killingworth. Photo by Kate Cordsen

Egyptologist Kent Weeks visited The Country School to speak with students about his work in Egypt. Fifth graders are pictured here with their teacher, Kerri Kelly, and Dr. Weeks, along with a hieroglyphic message they created in his honor. Standing (L-R): Andrew Walter-Zona, Ian Marshall, Philip Warren, Colin Higginson, Elke Zigmont, Wendol Williams, teacher Kerri Kelly, Liliana Boone, Kameron Borden, Madison Grady, and Dr. Weeks. Front (L-R): Jenson Taylor, Erik Howie, Jackson Chontos and Willa Wurzbach. Photo by Kate Cordsen

MADISON – The Country School was delighted to welcome world-renowned Egyptologist Kent Weeks to campus recently to discuss his groundbreaking work in the Valley of the Kings. In addition to sharing stories about his efforts to excavate and catalog ancient Egyptian monuments, Dr. Weeks spoke about the library he founded in Luxor to support archeological research, educate local children about the importance of preserving Egypt’s monuments, and provide a community gathering place.

More than 200 people attended Dr. Weeks’ lecture. Along with all Country School students and teachers, visitors included students and teachers from Madison’s Brown Middle School and Country School alumni, parents, grandparents and friends.

Dr. Weeks’ visit was a particular thrill for Country School fifth graders, who are currently immersed in a multi-month study of ancient Egypt — an undertaking that will culminate this spring with a visit to the Egyptian wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As a class, students have read, discussed and watched videos about Dr. Weeks and his work with the Theban Mapping Project, through which he is setting out to catalog the thousands of tombs and temples in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. They also know details of his major find – the discovery of KV5, the tomb of the sons of Ramses II.

During his talk, Dr. Weeks explained that resources for schools in Luxor are very scant, so the nonprofit Theban Mapping Project Library is filling a critical role in teaching local children about their heritage. Although researching, cataloguing and protecting Egypt’s monuments have been his life’s work, Dr. Weeks said the library may be the most important contribution of all.

“We’ve been at this for a number of years, but I think the library we are establishing is going to be one of the most important additions to protect the monuments of ancient Egypt,” he said. “They are important not just for the children in these slides here but for everyone all over the world. They’re all part of our own heritage.”

Country School students have been holding a series of fundraisers to support Dr. Weeks’ library, and after his visit they were able to donate $350 to benefit the Theban Mapping Project Library. They look forward to holding additional fundraising initiatives, including an ongoing student-run pop-up Farmers Market.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent PreSchool-Grade 8 school in Madison. The school regularly invites speakers to campus to talk with students and/or parents about topics of interest and importance.

The next event will be held on Thursday, Feb. 4, when the school hosts a screening of Most Likely to Succeed, the acclaimed documentary about the future of education. A panel discussion will take place following the screening, featuring Madison Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools Douglas Lyons, and education writer Laura Pappano, author of Inside School Turnarounds: Urgent Hopes, Unfolding Stories and a frequent contributor to The New York Times Education Life, among other publications. The screening is free and open to the public.

The Country School will also have a series of speakers on campus this spring when, on April 23, the school hosts TEDxTheCountrySchool.

For more information about these and other events, visit www.thecountryschool.org.

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Region 4’s $53,350 Year-End Surplus to be Returned to Member Towns, Applied to R4 Sinking Funds

REGION 4 — On Jan. 7, 2016, the Region 4 Board of Education received the final audit of the 2014-15 school year that reflects a surplus of $53,350 at the close of the school year.

“The results of this year’s audit are great news, given the significant financial challenges the board and administration faced last year,” said Chris Riley, chairman of the Region 4 Board of Education. “Dr. Levy and her team are to be commended for their continued commitment to both our students and our taxpayers.”

Under a policy adopted last year, the Region 4 Board voted to return 50 percent of the surplus to the member towns and apply the other 50 percent toward capital sinking funds.

Funds will be returned to member towns based on the student population in John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School as follows:

  • Town of Chester: $6,439
  • Town of Deep River: $8,267
  • Town of Essex: $11,969
    TOTAL $26,675
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Country School Screens “Most Likely to Succeed” Feb. 4, Acclaimed Film on Future of Education; All Welcome

A scene from 'Most Likely to Succeed,' a documentary being screened at The Country School, Feb. 5.

A scene from Most Likely to Succeed, a documentary about the future of education being screened at The Country School, Feb. 4.

AREAWIDE – The Country School is pleased to join the national conversation about the future of education when on Thursday, Feb. 4, it hosts a screening of the acclaimed documentary Most Likely to Succeed.  A question & answer session and discussion with education leaders will take place following the screening. Panelists include Tom Scarice, Superintendent of Madison Public Schools; Douglas Lyons, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools; and Laura Pappano, an award-winning journalist whose work often focuses on education.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 6:15 p.m. in The Country School’s DeFrancis Gymnasium. Space is limited, so attendees are asked to preregister at www.thecountryschool.org.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.11.43 PMMost Likely to Succeed examines the history of education in the United States and explores the shortcomings of the current system, which was designed in 1893 for a very different world. The film explores new approaches that aim to revolutionize teaching and prepare students to thrive and be innovators in the 21st century.

Since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January, Most Likely to Succeed has been shown at venues across the country. In Connecticut, other schools and colleges hosting screenings have included Yale and Choate Rosemary Hall.

Most Likely to Succeed, directed by Greg Whiteley, has received rave reviews from educators, film critics, and journalists. From Sal Khan of Khan Academy: “The 21st century is going to be all about building, creating, and innovating. This remarkable film shows a path of how we can empower all of our children to do that.” From the Huffington Post: Most Likely to Succeed offers “a message Americans need to hear, and desperately test.”

Learn more about the film at www.mltsfilm.org.

“We couldn’t be more excited to share this groundbreaking film with the broader community, and we are delighted to welcome Tom Scarice, a leader in the discussion of education reform in the public sector; Douglas Lyons, a leader in the independent sphere; and Laura Pappano, whose thought-provoking books and articles invite us all to consider new approaches,” said John Fixx, Head of School at The Country School. “The future of education belongs to all of us, and we are thrilled to come together in a public-private partnership to share ideas about how we can make learning meaningful, lasting, and relevant in a changing world.”

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Addams Family on Stage at Valley Regional, March 11-13

REGION 4 – They’re creepy and they’re kooky!  This year’s musical, The Addams Family, will be performed the weekend of Friday, March 11, through Sunday, March 13, at Valley Regional High School in Deep River. The cast, crew and pit are putting the finishing touches on staging, lights and songs as they prepare for opening night. Ingrid Walsh, director, comments, “I’m just speechless and so proud of how much and how far the cast has dared to go to join the Addams Family.

From the dancing and singing to the elaborate scenery, props, makeup and costumes, this is one show that is not to be missed. There are sure to be feelings of nostalgia for those who grew up watching this iconic show.

Performances are offered on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. Tickets are $12 each for all shows, except the Saturday matinee ($10). They can be purchased at Celebrations, The Wheatmarket, Elephant Crossing, Toys Ahoy and Valley Regional. Those with questions can call the school at 860-526-5328 and speak with Tina Stoddard.

Starring in The Addams Family at Valley Regional: front row (L-R): Jonny Leffingwell, Miranda Holland, Nathan Russo and Maggie Walsh; back: James D’Amico, Zane Bouregy, Mitch Conrad and Annie Brown. Photo by Joseph’s Photography

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Country School Selected as Finalist in United Arab Emirates STEAM Initiative

Learning through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

Learning through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).

The Country School is one of three finalists selected to advise the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Education as it seeks to implement a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) curriculum for all Kindergarten-3rd Grade students.

Following a global search, the UAE identified the independent Pre-School through 8th Grade school as one of its top three choices to assist with the planning and implementation of the nationwide STEAM initiative. If selected, The Country School will partner with SmartStart Education, an academic solutions company based in New Haven, to plan and oversee implementation.

“We couldn’t be more honored that our signature STEAM program may serve as a global model for 21st century learning,” said Head of School John Fixx. “For the past five years, Country School teachers have immersed themselves in this effort to inspire meaningful, deep, and lasting learning through integrated science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. We know it works on our campus, and we look forward to sharing what we have learned with others across the globe.”

Fixx said The Country School was also delighted to be partnering on this venture with SmartStart Education, a team of administrators, teachers, and academics committed to helping people reach their full potential. He commented, “Like The Country School, SmartStart is all about promoting excellence in teaching and learning.”

Founded in 1955, The Country School serves 200 students, ages 3-14, on its 23-acre campus in Madison. STEAM is one of several signature programs at The Country School; others include Elmore Leadership, Outdoor Education, and Public Speaking. Through STEAM, students are invited to tackle real-world problems that require them to ask challenging questions and work together to come to a solution.

By integrating all elements of the curriculum, STEAM engages all learners, and the hands-on, creative nature of a STEAM exploration means the learning will last. Perhaps most importantly, STEAM gives students the skills they need for success in the future—communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity—and the inspiration to be tomorrow’s innovators.

Since adopting the STEAM model five years ago, The Country School has shared its learning in a variety of ways: during a summer teacher institute, through periodic teacher workshops, and through a series of STEAM events for area students and families. In addition, Country School teachers have been invited to facilitate STEAM workshops at outside conferences.

The Country School also hosts regular forums on the topics of parenting and education through its Teacher Institute-Partnering with Parents program. The next Teacher Institute-Partnering with Parents event will have a STEAM focus when, at 6.15 p.m. on Feb. 4, 2016, The Country School hosts a screening of Most Likely to Succeed, the acclaimed new film that invites us to reimagine education. This has been brought forward from the previously announced 7 p.m. time to allow for a panel discussion and Q & A after the film.

Visit www.thecountryschool.org or contact communications@thecountryschool.org for more information.

For more about SmartStart Education, visit www.smartstarteducation.com.

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Country School Students Fund Well in Uganda with Support from Local Community

Joseph Coyne presents a Run Well t shirt from the school's 5K fundraiser to Jordan Rizza, publisher of Coastal Connecticut magazine. The magazine invited Joseph to speak at a recent VIP reception during a Grassy Strip Music Series concert, where The Country School's well project was the featured nonprofit.

Joseph Coyne presents a Run Well t shirt from the school’s 5K fundraiser to Jordan Rizza, publisher of Coastal Connecticut magazine. The magazine invited Joseph to speak at a recent VIP reception during a Grassy Strip Music Series concert, where The Country School’s well project was the featured nonprofit.

MADISON, CT – Following a full year of fundraising, and with generous help from the local community, students at The Country School recently announced that they had raised enough money to underwrite the creation of a well to provide clean drinking water in Kaberamaido, Uganda.

The successful conclusion of the fundraising effort, a partnership with the Madison nonprofit Call To Care Uganda, means construction can begin this summer. The well will be based at the Odongai Primary School and will provide clean water for as many as 1,500 people, including students at the school and others who live near it. The TCS well will mark the 28th well Call To Care Uganda has dug since its founding in 2007.

The Country School’s well effort began last fall after Joseph Coyne, an 8th Grader and member of the Student Leadership Committee, learned about the work of Call To Care Uganda (www.calltocareuganda.org). In addition to the obvious health benefits, Joseph discovered that a well would mean that children – primarily girls – could remain in school, rather than having to spend several hours each day walking miles back and forth to deliver potable water to their families.

Knowing that The Country School has a strong service learning component, Joseph suggested that his school embark on a well project with Call To Care Uganda, both as a way for Country School students to “serve their communities and the larger world,” as the school mission statement calls upon them to do, and so students could learn about children in other parts of the world.

Joseph Coyne, the student leader on the fundraising project to construct a well in Uganda, with his mother Beth Coyne, Dean of Student Life at The Country School, and Martha Hoffman, founder of Call to Care Uganda.

Joseph Coyne, the student leader on the fundraising project to construct a well in Uganda, with his mother Beth Coyne, Dean of Student Life at The Country School, and Martha Hoffman, founder of Call to Care Uganda.

The full cost of the well is $8,500, and so it was an ambitious undertaking for  students at a PreSchool-8th Grade school, but Joseph and his Service Committee colleagues were confident it could be done. Starting in September, they held a series of fundraisers, from a school wide-coin collection to sales of Ugandan jewelry and dress down day fundraisers. This spring, they organized a 5K run on campus, attracting scores of local runners and inspiring several local businesses to serve as sponsors.

By the end of the school year, they had raised $5,353. With a little over $3,000 still to go, they were considering their options when they were invited by Coastal Connecticut magazine to be the featured nonprofit at the first Grassy Strip Concert of the summer, a performance by Christine Ohlman at the Madison Beach Hotel. During the concert, students sold jewelry and collected donations, and Joseph delivered a speech as part of a VIP reception.

The evening raised close to $1,300, but students still had a gap to close.  Shortly after the concert, they heard from Jordan Rizza, publisher of Coastal Connecticut, who told them the magazine would cover the balance so they can officially proclaim, “Well done!” Construction of the well is expected to begin this month.

The Country School is extremely grateful to Coastal Connecticut, to sponsors of the 5K run (Zane’s Cycles; Dr. Laura Miller, DDS; Bershtein, Volpe, and McKeon P.C.; Group Insurance Associates; Woodbridge Running Company; and Barndoor Lighting Outfitters), to the countless individuals who made donations, and to our partners in this initiative, Call To Care Uganda, and its founder, Martha Hoffman, who visited The Country School repeatedly throughout the year to share news from and information about her program, students at Odongai, and Uganda.

Hoffman also helped Country School students initiate a pen pal program with Odongai students, and last fall, Country School students held a shoe drive, collecting 600 pairs of new and gently used shoes to send to their partner school. Recently, Hoffman forwarded photographs of Odongai students wearing their new shoes. The next photo Country School students hope to see their pen pals drinking clean water from their new well.

Founded in 1955, The Country School is a coeducational, independent day school serving students in PreSchool through Grade 8. At The Country School, a rigorous academic program is accompanied by a commitment to hands-on learning, a dynamic STEAM curriculum (integrated science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), a focus on the whole child, and service learning. The Country School prepares students to meet the future with confidence, encouraging them to reach their highest, both in school and in life. Learn more at www.thecountryschool.org.

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Fifteen Vista Students Embark On New Journey After July 10 Graduation Ceremony

A time to celebrate -- Vista graduates (from left to right) Casey Cincotta, Max Gebert and Danielle Garley share a smile.

A time to celebrate — Vista graduates (from left to right) Casey Cincotta, Max Gebert and Danielle Garley are all smiles after the ceremony.

WESTBROOK — One door closed and another opened recently for the 15 graduates of Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center, a nationally accredited non-profit education program for individuals with disabilities.

Bob Brown, Dana Butler, Kathleen Cassella, Casey Cincotta, Cody Clark, Alex Drago, Sarah Gabow, Danielle Garley, Max Gebert, Jason Jakubovic, Jackie McMahon, Kyle Palubicki, Lan Tagg, Matt Tarnell and Mickey Teubert graduated on July 10 in a ceremony held at Westbrook High School. Over 250 people attended the ceremony, including State Representative Noreen Kokoruda (R-101) and keynote speaker Lisa Mikis, former publisher of Shore Publishing in Madison.

Miksis, who came to know Vista and many of its students and members throughout her career with Shore Publishing, offered the graduates encouraging words of wisdom as they start the next chapters in their lives.

“You all worked hard to be sitting on this stage today. Be confident in what you have learned and achieved and in who you are,” said Miksis, now Vice President and Director of Marketing for Respond Systems. “As you step out into the world of tomorrow, know that all of your friends and family at Vista, and so many of us you meet out on the street in the community, are here to help you succeed.”

The Class of 2015: front row, (seated) from left to right are Alex Drago, Kyle Palubicki, Max Gebert, Jason Jakubovic, Bob Brown, Sarah Gabow and Lan Tagg. Back row (standing) from left to right are Mickey Teubert, Cody Clark, Kathleen Cassella, Danielle Garley, Matt Tarnell, Casey Cincotta, Jackie McMahon and Dana Butler.

The Class of 2015. Front row (seated) from left to right are Alex Drago, Kyle Palubicki, Max Gebert, Jason Jakubovic, Bob Brown, Sarah Gabow and Lan Tagg. Back row (standing) from left to right are Mickey Teubert, Cody Clark, Kathleen Cassella, Danielle Garley, Matt Tarnell, Casey Cincotta, Jackie McMahon and Dana Butler.

Graduation is a monumental occasion that acknowledges the achievements of Vista students who have reached a level of independence and, as a result, graduate from Vista’s Entrance Program— a residential post-secondary program.

Through the Entrance Program, students receive hands-on life skills instruction, vocational training, support and guidance, helping them develop the skills and behaviors needed for adulthood. The next step in their journeys involves living in their own homes or apartments within local communities in Vista’s service area as members of Vista’s Outreach Program.

“We’re so proud on the shoreline of these graduates,” said Kokoruda, whose district covers Madison and Durham. “Whenever I come to the Vista graduations, I know what real perseverance is with the families, with the friends, with the staff— but most importantly, with the graduates.”

In addition to a Vista Diploma, each graduate received a commendation certificate signed by Congressman Joe Courtney (D-2).

The graduation festivities ended with a reception at Chamard Vineyards in Clinton. There, each graduate received gift baskets complete with a cookbook and various housewarming items for their new homes or apartments.

Based in Madison and Westbrook, CT, Vista Vocational & Life Skills Center is a 501©3 nonprofit organization.  Vista’s mission is to provide services and resources to assist individuals with disabilities achieve personal success.

For more information about Vista, visit www.vistavocational.org

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Valley Regional’s Class of 2015 Enjoys Perfect Weather for Graduation Ceremony

Hat_toss

The VRHS Class of 2015 celebrates graduation with the traditional hat toss. Photo by J. Ferrucci.

REGION 4 — Congratulations to the Valley Regional High School Class of 2015!

Adams, Paulina
Alvord, Julianna
Anderson, Lily
Anderson, Matthew
Atkinson, Patrick
Badalamenti, Sergio
Baldwin, Amanda
Bartolotta, Christian
Bauman, Keegan
Berardis, David Joseph
Boland, Garrett
Boland, William Tyler
Bosco, Giulianna
Bott, Scarlet
Bouregy, Elizabeth
Bourez, Benjamin
Bradbury, David
Brooks, Hailey R.
Burgess, Justin
Campbell, Kenna
Capezzone, Marina
Carey, Sarah Sonora
Carlson, Indigo
Carney, Melissa
Cassells, Alexander
Castelli, Michael
Castelli, Sara
Cayer, Jillian
Cheverier, Justin
Cheverier, Tyler
Clapp, Stephanie
Clark, Benjamin
Clark, Ely
Cole, Kevin
Connor, Mikayla
Craco, Justin
Czenthe, Mackenzie
D’Agostino, Alexander
Dalton, Matthew
Daniels, Roman
Dare, Jake
Dee, Philip
DeJesus, Alexander B.
Diley, Patricia
Dilger, Alexandra
Dione, Dakota
Dione, Donald
diTommaso, Joseph
Doran, Brittany Anne
Doran, Julia Marie
Everett, Lacey
Fasulo, Kyle
Feola, Kelly
Ferrucci, Benjamin
Figuenick, Daniel
Flynn, Neve
Gabriel, Andrew
Gardner, MaryHope
Gephart, Charlotte
Giangrande, Benjamin
Girnius, Alexander
Gleason, Kristin
Gonzalez, Siany Nicol
Greatsinger, Brooke
Hansen, Julia
Harger, Leah
Harris, Austin
Hartson, Samantha
Haughton, Alex
Holdmeyer, Madison
Hotz, Emily W
Hunter, Tyler
Jaillet, Eric
Jean Pierre, Christopher
Joia, Ashley
Jones, Ashley Shana
Jones, Peter
Joy, Brennan
Karg, Austin
Kaufmann, Karl
Kelly, Caitlyn
Kilby, Kristen
Klein, Haleigh
Kobe, Brendan
Kohary, Marina
Kollmer, John
Korcak, Mackenzie
LaCasse, Paige
Leffingwell, Daniel
Lenz, Josef
Lewis, Emily
Libert, Emilie
Linfesty, Hunter
Longo, Austin
Longo, Bailey
Lowrey, Hunter
Lucarelli, April
MacWhinney, Garrett
Makowicki, John Evan
Marroquin, Christian
Martin, Jeremy
Matthiessen, Zoe
McCarthy, Britta
McCluskey, Lara
McConnell, Tyler
McKosky, Samantha
Merola, Gregory
Miles, Cassandra N.
Millard, Emily
Mitchel, Amanda
Mitchel, Connor
Morris, Fallon
Morris, Gabe
Morris, Megan
Mueller, Elias
Myers, Patrick
Nelson, Samantha
Nelson, Simone
Nettleton, James
Nevins, Jack
Norton, Julian
Nucolo, Anthony
Nystrom, Kristian
Osborne, William Floyd
Osborne-Lara, Fernando
Pace, Christopher
Palmer, Elesa
Patterson, Brian
Paulson, Maxwell
Pelletier, Dylan
Perron-Warzecha, Christian
Peterson, Sean
Petroka, Ethan
Riccitelli, Holly
Rodriguez, Margaret
Russell, Gretchen
Russell, Thomas
Russo, Daniel
Russo, Spencer
Rutan, Cole
Ryan, Megan
Sandmann, Kaitlin
Saunders, Tyler
Senning, Hunter
Shepard, Myranda
Shepherd, Kevin
Smith, Brendan
Smith, Evan
Smith, George B
Sopneski, Leah
Splittgerber, Christian
Stevens, Benedict
Sticht, Meagan
Suedmeier, Tristan T
Suplita, Quentin
Swartzell, Benjamin
Swerling, Brian
Taylor, Harrison
Taylor, Jenna
Termini, Ashley
Tiezzi, Jenna
Tiezzi, Troy
Tisdale, Jacob
Todd, Shawn
Toles, Elizabeth
Torres-Coello, Daniel J
Tuscano, Andrew
Wachtarz, Robert
Ward, Kelsey
Watts, Katharine
West, Joshua
Wichtowski, Alicia
Williams, Amanda
Winchell, Brian
Winslow, Morgan
Wolff, Abigail L.
Zuse, Amy

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Region 4 School Board Declines Further Action on K-6 Regionalization Plan

REGION 4 — The Region 4 Board of Education voted Monday not to send the  kindergarten-sixth grade regionalization plan developed this year to a referendum vote in the district towns of Chester, Deep River and Essex.

The unanimous vote at a special meeting brings an inconclusive end to months of effort to draft and win support for a plan to regionalize the elementary schools in the three towns under a single elected board of education that would also direct the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The idea of regionalizing the elementary schools under a single school board has been under discussion for a decade, with supporters contending it would be the final step in standardizing all curriculum among the primary grades, while also bringing cost savings through administrative efficiencies and a simpler budget process.

But the method of dividing a combined Region 4 education budget including the elementary schools, which under current state law must be done based on the average daily membership of students from each town, raised concerns that one or more towns could face an abrupt and steep increase in its share of a combined education budget.

School board members had developed an inter-local agreement intended to address this issue that would have required Chester and Essex to transfer funds to Deep River to balance the budget shift. There were also concerns, particularly in Chester, that declining enrollment could lead to a closing of the Chester Elementary School, along with major shifts in grade assignments among the elementary schools.

These issues led the Chester Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance to issue a statement at the end of May expressing opposition to the current regionalization plan, and urging the school boards not to send it to a planned September referendum in the three towns. The regionalization plan would require voter approval from each town to become effective. A June 1 joint meeting of school board members and selectmen and finance board members from the three towns failed to resolve the lingering issues.

When the Region 4 board convened Monday. members had already prepared a brief written statement confirming the plan would not be brought to referendum this year. “Over the past several months, a number of community minded people worked very hard to develop a plan to make our outstanding school district even stronger”, it said.

“After hundreds of hours and over a dozen meetings, we have developed a plan that many of us believe would provide our kids with an even better education while making our governance structure more efficient. Although the Region 4 board believes that regionalization is in the best interests of our students, we have come to the conclusion that our communities have not reached a consensus ion this issue,” it concluded.

Region 4 Board Chairman Chris Riley said the research and planning done this year to prepare for full regionalization remains in hand, though there are no immediate plans to pursue the issue further at the present time.

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VRHS Musical Program Wins Major Awards at CT High School Music Theatre Gala

The cast of 'Band Geeks.'

The cast of ‘Band Geeks.’

Valley Regional High School’s (VRHS) Drama Program continues its tradition of performance excellence with the Valley Regional Musical Production (VRMP) of “Band Geeks,” receiving two notable awards, including the brand new ‘The Future of Theatre Award’ and the ‘Outstanding Graphic Design Award’ on June 1, at the Connecticut High School Music Theatre Awards gala held at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Conn.

scene_from_playIngrid Walsh, ‘Band Geeks’ Director, noted that the ‘The Future of Theatre Award,’ “… was newly created to inspire all to enter uncharted territories and, rather than doing the same shows, to try and produce some new works.”

On receiving the inaugural award, she said,  “We were thrilled.  As you know, something new — or change — is very hard to find a populace, as it is incredibly risky.  But, they recognized all of our efforts to raise ‘Band Geeks’ to the stage and deliver it with success.  We were truly honored and humbled to be recognized, especially because we all were so attached to the show.”

Walsh added, “We would like to send out a special thanks to the following people and companies that supported our ‘Outstanding Graphics Design Award’

  • C. Proctor of Essex Printing – assisted with posters and programs,
  • Whelen Engineering – printing of programs,
  • Casey O’Brien of Gull Associates Old Lyme – assisted with costuming,
  • Tiffany Hopkins – assisted with projection images,
  • Luther Moen, Ingrid Walsh, and projection students: Garrett Boland, Tesla Lowrey, Roman Daniels – assisted with side projection panel adjustments, and
  • Chris LeQuire and Brad Pitman of VHRS – assisted in creating newscast footage that tied the whole thing together to the end.

singerAdditionally, CHSMTA nominated VRMP’s ‘Band Geeks’ for three prominent awards:

  • Leading Actress – Maggie Walsh as Laura,
  • Outstanding Sound, and
  • Outstanding Chorus.

One hundred and twenty-one students from VRHS were involved in cast, crew, and pit to produce the newly released musical.  The involvement of students represents 20 percent of the entire school population, along with countless volunteer hours of the parents, teachers, and community direct commitment to this long-standing tradition of producing excellence in musicals in the Region 4 School District.  As always, the five-performance date and times of the musical were sold out early in our community.

As a surprise to all, the creators Tommy Newman and Gordon Greenberg of ‘Band Geeks’ drove in from New York City along with original Goodspeed Producers to view their final dress rehearsal in March.

The students attended the June 1 black-tie Gala at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury and performed “Lost in the Brass” one last time. Valley Regional High School was among 20 other Connecticut high schools involved in the event, which celebrates high school music theatre.

Editor’s Notes: See VRHS Performing Arts activities on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/VRHS.MusicBoosters/

See VRHS Band activities on http://vrhsband.weebly.com/

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Region 4 Board, VRHS Honors Top Ten Percent Seniors

REGION 4 — The Region 4 Board of Education and Valley Regional High School (VRHS) has honored the Top Ten percent ranking seniors who have achieved outstanding scholastic records.  A Senior Awards ceremony and reception was held Wednesday, June 3, in the VRHS auditorium.

The Top Ten percent senior students listed alphabetically are:

Julianna Grace Alvord — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Alvord, Ivoryton

David Joseph Berardis — son of Mr. and Mrs. David Berardis, Deep River

Giulianna Maria Bosco — daughter of Mrs. Mary Ann Cannella and Mr. Dominick Bosco, Deep River

Benjamin Steven Bourez — son of Mr. and Mrs. David Bourez, Chester

Indigo Jean Rollins Carlson — daughter of Mr. Jeffrey Carlson and Mrs. Jacque Rollins, Ivoryton

Dakota Rose Dione — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Dione, Deep River

Donald Parry Robert Dione — son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Dione, Deep River

Daniel Joseph Figuenick III — son of Mrs. Daniel Figuenick and Mrs. Melissa Figuenick, Ivoryton

Elias C. Mueller — son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Mueller, Chester

Patrick Eugene Myers — son of Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Myers, Essex

Holly Marie Riccitelli — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Riccitelli, Deep River

Margaret A. Rodriguez — daughter of Mr. Leonard Rodriguez and Mrs. Colleen Rodriguez, Essex

Megan Elizabeth Ryan — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Ryan, Ivoryton

Kaitlin Margaret Sandmann — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Sandmann, Essex

Benedict Novinski Robert Stevens — son of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Stevens, Essex

Jenna Taylor — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Bryan Taylor, Ivoryton

Jacob Michael Tisdale — son of Mr. Greg Tisdale and Mrs. Debbie Tisdale, Ivoryton

Abigail Louise Wolff — daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wolff

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Ivoryton Resident Awarded Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Medal

IVORYTON – Fairfield University’s 2015 Bellarmine Medal, awarded to the student with the highest academic average, was presented to Ashley Rose Paholski, of Ivoryton, Conn. She maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout her undergraduate years at Fairfield.

Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., presented the medal to Paholski at the Jesuit institution’s 65th
commencement exercises held May 17.

Paholski earned a bachelor’s degree in English, with a concentration in Literature and Cultural Studies from the College of Arts &
Sciences. She minored in mathematics and education. She plans to attend Georgetown University Law School beginning this fall.

Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than
5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools. In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.

Image: Graduating senior Ashley Rose Paholski received Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Medal at the University’s 65th
commencement exercises.

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Essex Resident DeLeeuw Named CT Middle School Principal of the Year

Judy DeLeeuw, Principal of East Lyme Middles School and CT Middle School Principal of the Year.

Judy DeLeeuw, Principal of East Lyme Middles School and CT Middle School Principal of the Year.

ESSEX — Dr. Judy DeLeeuw, Essex resident and principal of East Lyme Middle School (ELMS), has been named the 2015 Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) Middle School Principal of the Year. Described by former East Lyme First Selectman and current State Senator Paul Formica as an “inspirational and collaborative leader,” DeLeeuw was selected for her intrepid leadership, her commitment to educational equity, and her what’s-best-for-kids approach to school administration.

She has worked with a broad network of stakeholders to build and sustain a student-centered, engaging, inclusive and academically rigorous school where student achievement is abounding; teachers are challenged and supported; and parents are vital partners in their children’s education.

Reacting to the announcement of her selection, DeLeeuw remarked, “I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this award from CAS. I will celebrate this accolade with those who inspire me to lead each day; the teachers and the students.”

During her eight years as ELMS principal, DeLeeuw has distinguished herself as an industrious and reform-minded leader who cares deeply about the well-being of all members of the school community. According to ELMS Assistant Principal Jason Bitgood, who nominated DeLeeuw for the award, “As a leader committed to change, Dr.
DeLeeuw faces challenges with passion, perseverance and compassion.”

Language Arts teacher Audrone Venduras adds, “A sign at the entrance to ELMS reads, ‘Welcome to Your School.’ This is not an empty slogan but a philosophy which Judy embraces by successfully fostering a sense of ownership and collaboration among students, parents and staff to make ELMS the educational powerhouse that it is.”

Selected as the CAS Middle School of the Year in 2012, ELMS is a dynamic, creative, student-centered middle school where innovation and excellence flourish. The energy and vitality that permeate the school building are a direct result of DeLeeuw’s passion for educational excellence.

The 900-student school facility is divided into Kivas, or “gathering places,” which serve as small, personalized learning communities for students and teachers. This unique design concept supports differentiated learning and interdisciplinary instruction, which facilitate the development of 21st-century skills critical for success in the recently implemented Connecticut Core assessments.

Noted one member of the CAS School of the Year Selection Committee: “ELMS is a cutting edge school. Its interdisciplinary units are far-reaching and promote authentic learning; and, its eighth grade Capstone projects are the equivalent of research at the college level.”

DeLeeuw works tirelessly to maintain a vibrant, caring, student-centered culture which allows all children to grow socially and emotionally as well as academically. A constant presence in the corridors and classrooms, she uses every available opportunity to interact with and build relationships with her students.

Says Venduras, “Walk down the hallway, stop by the cafeteria, or observe bus dismissal and you will see a constant stream of children greeting their principal, for Judy has a remarkable relationship with her kids. She is accessible and genuinely interested in what they have to say.”

Recalls ELMS sixth grader Jack Derry, “During our end-of-the-year assembly, Dr. DeLeeuw joined the staff in a flash mob dance to the song ‘Happy.’ She was laughing and just having fun with everyone. My friends and I appreciate that she truly understands and relates to kids our age.”

One of DeLeeuw’s greatest achievements was her successful transformation of ELMS’ instructional services for special education students. She led her staff in transitioning from special education pullout classes to general education inclusion classes, increasing the amount of time students with disabilities spend with non-disabled peers from 56 to 90 percent. ELMS is now a place where all students learn together in the same well-supported classrooms with the values of tolerance, acceptance and sensitivity as cornerstones for success.

The Principal of the Year Program, sponsored annually by the Connecticut Association of Schools, was established in 1984 to bring recognition to the principalship and to spotlight the important role of the principal in shaping the educational environment and experiences of children. The program recognizes outstanding school principals who have succeeded in providing high quality learning opportunities for students. These administrators have demonstrated excellent leadership, commitment to staff and students, service to their communities, and contributions to the overall profession of
educational leadership.

Each year nominations are solicited for an Elementary, Middle and High School Principal of the Year. The winners are chosen by a selection committee consisting of active and retired principals and assistant principals. State principals of the year must demonstrate success in the areas of collaborative leadership; personal excellence;
curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and personalization.

DeLeeuw will be honored by CAS at the “Celebration of Distinguished Administrators” to be held on Oct. 22, 2015.

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Region 4 Budget Passes Overall, But Not in Deep River

REGION 4 — The Region 4 budget passed convincingly in yesterday’s referendum by an unofficial count of 263 votes to 164.

The unofficial town-by-town results, however, tell a different story with Essex giving a resounding Yes vote with 134 supporting the budget and 36 against it.  Chester came out for the budget overall, but with a less decisive result at 57 Yes’s and 26 No’s.

Meanwhile, Deep River voters gave a firm thumbs down to the budget proposal with 102 No votes against 72 Yeses.

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Tributary Mill Allows OSHS Interns to Experience Environmental Preservation Efforts First-hand 

Gathered for a photo are, from left to right, Tyler Clinton, Ashley Bright, Gray Tripp, Morey Tripp, and Jim Tripp.

Gathered for a photo are, from left to right, Tyler Clinton, Ashley Bright, Gray Tripp, Morey Tripp, and Jim Tripp.

The Tributary Mill has stood strong in the heart of Old Lyme since 1672. Originally used to grind grains such as corn and wheat, the mill often became referred to as Rooks Mill in honor of Edward Rooks, an American impressionist who was enthralled with the mill’s beauty, which has since been the subject of many paintings.

The Tributary Mill in Old Lyme.

The Tributary Mill in Old Lyme.

Purchased by Fran Tripp in 1981, her son Jim and his wife Sandra created the Tributary Mill Conservancy (TMC) that exists today from the original foundation. A nonprofit organization that strives to merge science and art through the conservation of the unique tributary ecosystem, the TMC has serviced its surrounding community in innumerable ways.

The waterfall at the mill.

The waterfall at the mill.

Operated by Jim, a carpenter, and Sandra, a high school chemistry teacher, as well as a variety of additional volunteers of all ages, the TMC works closely with a variety of environmentally oriented organizations such as the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), Mystic Aquarium, and the Quebec-Labrador Foundation.

Smile for the camera! Ashley Bright holds a turtle.

Smile for the camera! Ashley Bright holds a turtle.

During the summer and fall seasons, the TMC focuses its energies on trapping and collecting data from snapping turtles by conducting blood tests, fecal tests, and collecting the leeches found on the turtles for further testing.

In addition, National Geographic recently donated a large number of cameras to put on the backs of the snapping turtles to further track them.

Ashley and Tyler work on transferring the baby salmon.

Ashley and Tyler work on transferring the baby salmon.

In the winter, the TMC turns its attention to hatching Atlantic salmon eggs given to them and regulated by the DEEP. An endangered species, the Atlantic salmon thrive in the unique ecosystem found at the TMC.

The highly efficient filtration system used by the TMC to hatch the eggs, which was engineered by Jim Tripp himself, has resulted in an 18 percent death rate for the eggs, significantly lower than the average 20 percent death rate. The eggs, once hatched, are then released into the surrounding Connecticut River tributaries.

In the spring, the TMC collects data on glass eels. Estimating the number of eels migrating up the Mill Brook as well as weighing trapped eels gives them valuable data, which they then send to the DEEP.

Eels galore!

Eels galore!

The Conservancy also focuses on educating and involving the community in their work. Along with offering tours for school groups ranging from elementary to high schoolers, the Conservancy also provides hands on learning opportunities for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students.

Old Saybrook High School seniors Ashley Bright and Tyler Clinton have been deeply impacted by their time at the preserve, which has inspired both of them to pursue careers in environmental science and engineering.

Ashley, who has been interning at the TMC since September, said, “I never expected to get so much out of a high school internship. I feel like I’ve been part of their family. It’s amazing that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done here as a high school student, and I know this experience is something I’ll always remember.”

Tyler, who has been interning at the TMC for two years, echoed Ashley’s sentiment, saying, “I have a second family here,” before going on to praise the kindness of Jim and Sandra Tripp. “They do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They really care about conserving the ecosystem and helping it thrive.”

Jim Tripp notes, “Our original goal was to make a prototype of a mill that could be emulated throughout the area because our location here on the river is such a great place to do wildlife work.”

For more information about the Tributary Mill Conservancy, visit tributarymill.org or email tributarymill@comcast.net. Donations to the nonprofit can also be made through the TMC website.

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Region 4 Regionalization Plan Headed to September Referendum in Three District Towns

REGION 4 — A long-discussed plan for a full K-6 regionalization of district schools appears headed to a September referendum but will also require a separate inter-local agreement in an effort to build support for the plan in each of the district towns of Chester, Deep River and Essex.

About 50 residents turned out Tuesday evening at the Valley Regional High School (VRHS) auditorium for the second in a series of public information sessions on the plan that is expected to go to district school boards for a vote in June. The board votes would set up a possible Sept. 29 referendum in the three towns. Voters in all three towns must approve the plan for it to become effective by the target date of July 1, 2016.

The plan presented Tuesday was developed in recent weeks by a committee comprised of school board members, district staff, and some municipal elected officials. District school boards had previously taken the required step of requesting that a full regionalization plan be prepared and presented for a vote — a move that has been discussed in the district for nearly a decade.

The proposed full regionalization would replace a complicated district governance structure that has been in place since the three towns approved regionalization of grades 7-12 in 1948, a move that led to the opening of VRHS in Deep River in 1952.

The existing structure has an elected nine member board of education that governs VRHSl and John Winthrop Middle School (constructed in 1971), while local school board govern the elementary schools in the three towns. The boards come together as the supervision district to direct shared services, including administration and transportation, for all five schools.

The proposed full regionalization would bring all district schools and services under the direction of an elected 12-member board of education with four members from each town, though the plan for a 12 member board would require General Assembly approval of enabling legislation for a 12- member board. Without the enabling legislation there would be a nine-member board with three members from each town.
Board members presenting the plan Tuesday, including Region 4 Board Chairman Chris Riley, Deep River Board of Education Chairman Michelle Grow, and Essex Board of Education Chairman lon Seidman said regionalization of the primary grades would bring cost savings allow greater consistency in curriculum and also provide greater flexibility in sharing staff, equipment, and resources among the three elementary schools. There would be a single education budget presented to voters of the three towns for referendum approval, ending the current system where the Region 4 (high school-middle school) budget goes to referendum, while the elementary school budgets are presented for approval with town budgets at the annual budget meeting in each town.
Board members said a full regionalization would also give the district greater flexibility in responding to decreasing student enrollment. Projections presented with the draft plan show K-6 grade enrollment for all three elementary schools dropping from the current enrollment of about 900 students to as few as 610 students by 2020.
The continuing decline in enrollment has led to some public concerns that a full regionalization would open the door to an abrupt closing of an elementary school, possibly Chester Elementary School, where enrollment could drop to as few as 183 students by 2020. Many of the questions and comments at Tuesday’s forum came from Chester residents.
Board members said the plan specifies there would be no changes configuration of the elementary schools for the first three years, through June 2019, other than a possible transfer of sixth graders to the middle school. Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy added that any move of sixth graders to the middle school would also require at least two years of planning.
The plan also specifies that no elementary school could be closed without voter approval from a referendum in that town. Seidman said closing of an elementary school is unlikely because student enrollment in expected to begin to rebound by the mid 2020s.
Board members said an inter-local agreement would address other concerns about shared financing of a full K-12 district among taxpayers of the three towns, particularly by cushioning the impact of major shifts in the average daily membership of students that would be used to determine each town’s share of a K-12 education budget. The inter-local agreement, which would probably require town meeting approval from each town, was not available Tuesday, but is expected to be presented to selectmen and finance boards for the three towns over the next few weeks.

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Old Saybrook’s Andrew Pan Honored at State Capitol for Science Fair Win

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OLD SAYBROOK — On Apr. 8, Old Saybrook High School senior Andrew Pan (center) was honored at the State Capitol by Rep. Devin Carney (left) and Sen. Art Linares (right) for winning first place in the Health and Medicine category at the Southern Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair on Feb. 7.

Pan took first place for his research project entitled, “Elevated Levels of Interleukin-8 in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers induce Cell Survival During Chemotherapy.”  The legislators presented Pan with an official state citation.  Pan’s accomplishments were recognized and applauded by the Connecticut General Assembly.

Click here to read an article by our intern Adina Ripin about Pan’s accomplishments.

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St. John School Produces “Twinderella”

SJS_Twinderella_2015
OLD SAYBROOK — More than 30 fifth to eighth graders formed the cast and crew of the St. John School Drama Club production, “Twinderella,” led by their coaches, Sister Gabriela (2nd grade teacher) and Ann Corcoran (5th grade teacher), assisted by St. John School alumnae, Molly Sullivan.

More information about the great performance is available on St. John School website at http://saintjohnschoolos.org/news/2015/04/drama-club-dazzles-with-twinderella

Congratulations to the cast and crew!

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Students Support Meals on Wheels, ‘Blizzard Bag’ Drive a Great Success

OLD SAYBROOK – ‘Meals on Wheels’ in the Nine-Town Estuary region are provided to seniors along the Shoreline exclusively by The Estuary Council of Seniors and delivered by dedicated volunteers. Their volunteers brave all kinds of weather, from extreme heat to thunderstorms to snow.  They go out of their way to ensure that the nearly 200 clients have meals and a friendly visit each weekday.  However, there are days when weather conditions make it impossible to deliver meals and provide that all important personal visit.

An essential part of the Meals on Wheels program is to make certain homebound seniors have food in the case of emergency when delivery is not possible. The emergency meal is a day’s worth of shelf-stable food items, which is provided at no charge to clients. Each time meal delivery is canceled, the emergency meal is replenished.

This year, Old Saybrook students held the first annual “Blizzard Bag Drive”, collecting non-perishable food items for the emergency “Blizzard Bag” food for Meals on Wheels clients. These Blizzard Bags replaced the former pre-packaged emergency meals.  Each Blizzard Bag was decorated by local students and included a personal item for the recipient.

A meals on Wheels spokesperson commented, “The students did an outstanding job reaching out to our community and local businesses to generate incredible support of our homebound neighbors. Thank you to everyone who helped us with this first annual “Blizzard Bag” drive.”

If you, or anyone you know age 60 years old or better, need Meals on Wheels, call Carol Adanti at 860-388-1611, x217 for details.

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VRHS Students Travel to Paris, Transport to JFK Paid by Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund

Ready for take-off: Valley Regional HS language students gather for a photo at the school immediately prior to departure.

Ready for take-off: Valley Regional HS language students gather for a photo at the school immediately prior to their departure across ‘The Pond.’

REGION 4 — The Valley Regional High School (VRHS) World Language Department organized a week-long trip to Paris over the 2015 spring break.

A $1,300 grant from the Christopher Belfoure Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County provided for the group’s transportation to John F. Kennedy airport in New York City for their flight to Paris. These funds were, as in years past, generated by the Run For Chris 5K, held annually in Essex in Belfoure’s memory.

"Embark on your journey and only look forward. Not too fast but not too slow. It is the ones that remain idle that get lost in the memories of the past and not the dreams of the future. We as human-beings need to dream again once more.”   These words were written by Chris Belfoure to his friend Valerie Tinker.

“Embark on your journey and only look forward. Not too fast but not too slow. It is the ones that remain idle that get lost in the memories of the past and not the dreams of the future. We as human-beings need to dream again once more.”  These words were written by Chris Belfoure, pictured above, to his friend Valerie Tinker.

Belfoure was just 24 when he tragically died in July 2011. Yet his passions – his belief in the global community, his dedication to teaching and the environment – will be shared through the Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County (CFMC).

A graduate of VRHS and West Virginia University, Belfoure spoke fluent Mandarin and was pursuing a career as a corporate trainer in Shanghai. He is remembered as a charming, intelligent, ambitious man with a zest for life and adventure.

Belfoure believed knowledge to be a bridge between cultures and a key in developing innovative approaches to education and customer service. He loved to talk and knew that overcoming the barriers of language provided people an opportunity to learn about one another, to share hopes and dreams, and that just by talking, one could encourage people to see themselves as members of a global community.

Belfoure’s mother and stepfather, Robin and George Chapin, established the Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation in January 2012. This designated Fund supports Middlesex County-Lower County public schools and public library programs focused on integrating multicultural experiences, learning foreign languages, and environmental programs into the curricula.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 12.12.48 AMThe Chapins and a host of family friends launched the Fund with the first annual Run for Chris – Run for Education on Saturday, June 23, 2012, in Essex; the proceeds were donated to the Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund.

This year’s event will be held June 27.  There will also be a 2- mile walk, 1-mile run for ages 7-14, and a kids’ Fun Run. Registration is open at ARatRace.com

Robin Chapin says, “Keeping Chris’ dreams alive is so important to us. Chris was passionate about life, and I want to share his passion and determination with others, so they can grow and enhance their lives. He was always smiling and inspiring others to pursue their dreams.” She continues, “The Fund allows us to provide opportunities for schools and libraries to fund their foreign language programs and global education programs. Giving back to the community was a part of who Chris was. This all helps to keep his memory alive.”

Editor’s Note: Information about and the photograph of Christopher Belfoure and the fund named after him have been taken from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County website.

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VRHS Seeking Hall of Fame Nominations, Deadline is April 30

AREAWIDE — Nominations and applications are being accepted for the 32nd annual Valley Regional High School (VRHS) Hall of Fame Award. Anyone may nominate a VRHS graduate who has gone on to excel in a particular profession, avocation, business, hobby, sport, etc., and who was graduated from Valley at least five years prior to nomination.

Call the VRHS office  at 860-526-5328 for an application, or write to the principal, Mrs. Kristina Martineau, 256 Kelsey Hill Rd., Deep River, CT 06417, listing the name of the candidate, address, telephone number, year of graduation and his/her outstanding accomplishments. Deadline for submitting applications is April 30, 2015.

The winner of the Hall of Fame Award will be honored at the graduation ceremony at VRHS on Wednesday, June 17, 2015, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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Old Saybrook Student Takes First Place in Southern CT Science & Engineering Fair

Andrew Pan (right) stands on the podium with the other winners at the Southern Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair.  Photo credit: www.scisef.org

Andrew Pan (right) stands on the podium with the other winners at the Southern Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair. Photo credit: www.scisef.org

In a remarkable achievement, Old Saybrook High School senior Andrew Pan won first place in the Health and Medicine category at the Southern Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair on Feb. 7 for his research project entitled, “Elevated Levels of Interleukin-8 in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers induce Cell Survival During Chemotherapy.”

Pan’s first research experience was the summer before his junior year when he went to intern with the drug development company his father works for in Shanghai called Astrazeneca.  “It was my first exposure to research,” said Pan. “It was a lot of fun and it really intrigued me.”

After his summer with Astrazeneca, he knew he wanted to continue on with his scientific research the summer before his senior year.  “One of my friends who is a year above me had done research at Yale over the summer the year before and recommended it, so I contacted Professor Rong Fan because his work looked really interesting to me.”  Professor Fan’s work, which has been garnering a lot of attention, involves helping to detect variations between various cells to help aid the diagnosis of diseases like cancer.  Pan added, “Cancer is really fascinating scientifically because it’s a very complex, intricate micro environment working together against yourself – I’m curious about these types of things.”

“Researching under Professor Fan’s direction was great – he’s a very relaxed and quiet person.  I worked with Jonathan Chen, a grad student who was studying non small cell lung cancer for his thesis project and under his direction, I was investigating a variant of lung cancer which affects smokers and nonsmokers equally,” said Pan.  Specifically, he focused on a type of protein called interleukin-8 which affects how cancer cells move and grow.

Pan continued, “At first I was assigned a small sub project.  It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to study, but while Jon was gone for a couple weeks working with a lab from another school, I started to focus on a sub-population of cells emitting comparatively higher rates of interleukin-8 by comparing 2,300 individual cell samples – it was really tedious, but fun.”

Andrew Pan (left) stands with his mentor on his winning project, Yale graduate student, Jonathan Chen.

Andrew Pan (left) stands with his mentor on his winning project, Yale graduate student, Jonathan Chen.

He continued, “What I found was that the high producers of interleukin-8 were potentially serving as tumor drivers, something several other studies have confirmed experimentally.”  He went on to explain that blocking interleukin-8 in particular cells had the potential to help prevent cancer and improve upon the current delivery method so that treatments would work faster.  “I’m hoping  my research will help to identify targets for treatment,” said Andrew.

It was this research that he presented to the judges of the Southern Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair.  “I had a poster, and I talked for 15-30 minutes about my research and answered some of the questions the judges had,” said Pan.  “The whole process was a lot of fun, but I never thought I’d win.  There were so many great projects, and it was so interesting seeing the research other students were doing.”

As for winning, he said, “It was really fun to present to the judges; my favorite part of the whole process was presenting my research and being able to share and learn – and it was nice to get recognition not just for myself, but for Old Saybrook High School as well.”

“On its own, my research is one small factor and won’t revolutionize anything, but hopefully building on it will help cancer research progress in the future,” said Pan, adding, “I’m really thankful to my friend for mentioning his research and encouraging me to try it, to the Professor for allocating time and resources for me, to my teachers for letting me leave school early so I could get to the lab on time, and especially to Jon for letting me tag along on his project – he used a lot of time to train me.”

As for what he’ll do next, Pan noted, “I’m going to present my research again at UConn, as well as Quinnipiac University for the next portion of the competition called the Connecticut Science and Engineering Fair that’s statewide, and I’m planning on either writing a research paper or co-authoring one with Jonathan.”

He is also starting a Research Initiative Program to encourage rising juniors and seniors in Old Saybrook High School who are interested in experiencing hands-on experience scientific research.  “Everyone else at the competition came from schools with established research teams, so I’d love to be able to set something up like that for Saybrook so more people can have the experience I had,” said Pan.

Pan’s longer term plans involve him continuing to research a wide variety of things.  “I’m really interested in engineering – specifically, nanotech applied to medical technology, as well as designing devices for microfluidic platforms for the detection and diagnosis of cancer.  I’m also interested in drug development, and potentially tissue engineering or ophthalmology, but the main diseases I’d like to focus on are cancer, HIV, and neurodegenerative diseases because my family has been personally impacted by them.  I’d also love to work with Jon again and investigate some questions previous research brought up.”

Laughing, he added, “It’s really hard to condense everything I’m interested in into a short list.”  One is left with the clear impression that this extraordinary young man will have a long ‘To Do’ list for quite a while!

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