September 22, 2019

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”

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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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Deep River Elementary Celebrates ‘Read Across America’

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The students of Deep River Elementary School are celebrating ‘Read Across America’ this week. This event began Monday, March 2, with a celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday and will continue throughout this week with a variety of activities to promote the love and joys of reading.

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The week-long event culminates on Friday, March 6, with a school Town Meeting when all the students, staff, administrators, family and friends will gather together to celebrate ‘Read Across America.’

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Now in its 18th year, the National Education Association’s (NEA) year-round Read Across America program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.  Its mission is to build a nation of readers.

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‘China Day’ at Essex Elementary Offers Lantern Learning

3rd Grader Raegan Wyrebek-Brasky makes a paper lantern during EESF's China Day.

3rd Grader Raegan Wyrebek-Brasky makes a paper lantern during EESF’s China Day.

ESSEX — Second and third grade students recently practiced martial arts, made paper lanterns and learned new letters during China Day at Essex Elementary School.  The celebration, funded by the Essex Elementary School Foundation’s (EESF) Justus W. Paul World Cultures Program, included activities with Asian Performing Arts of Connecticut and Malee’s School of Tae Chi.
Chinese lanterns made during China Day at Essex Elementary School funded by the EESF.

Chinese lanterns made during China Day funded by EESF at Essex Elementary School. .

The EESF is looking for your support.  The not-for-profit, volunteer organization provides funds for enrichment programs that bring a mathematician and historian-in-residence into the classrooms, as well as an iPad lab and author visits.

For donation information, visit www.essexelementaryschoolfoundation.org.
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Tractor Supply Co. Announces Third Annual National FFA Scholarship Program

AREAWIDE — Coming off the heels of a successful second year in 2014, Tractor Supply Company has announced the third annual Growing Scholars program in partnership with the National FFA Foundation. Last year, Tractor Supply customers donated $447,671, resulting in 334 scholarships awarded to FFA members in their pursuit of a college degree.

The Growing Scholars program will be supported nationally by each of the more than 1,400 Tractor Supply and Del’s Feed & Farm Supply stores Feb. 20 – March 1, which includes National FFA Week. Tractor Supply customers can donate $1 or more at store registers during the checkout process to support local FFA chapters and their members. Ninety percent of funds raised through Tractor Supply’s Growing Scholars program will be utilized to fund scholarships for FFA members. The remaining 10 percent of donations will benefit state FFA organizations.

“The funding we received from our customers last year was tremendous,” said Tractor Supply President and CEO Greg Sandfort. “We’re honored to be able to provide critical funding to FFA members who intend to pursue a college degree. Many of these students go on to be agriculture educators – and we know how important ag. ed. is to our communities, customers, and the lifestyle they value. Local FFA chapters enrich the lives of young members by teaching life skills, citizenship and leadership qualities. Giving back to our 1,300-plus communities that we serve is very important, and the Growing Scholars program is one of the ways that we support our current and future customers and future team members.”

To be eligible for the scholarship program, students must be current FFA members and either high school seniors or a freshman, sophomore or junior college student seeking a two- or four-year degree or other specialized training program. Major areas of study will also be considered when determining scholarship recipients.

“We can’t thank Tractor Supply and its customers enough for supporting FFA, student and alumni members and agriculture education in general,” said National FFA Foundation President Molly A. Ball. “The Growing Scholars program truly makes a difference in the lives of our youth.”

In addition to the Growing Scholars program, Tractor Supply and the National FFA Foundation have many other joint initiatives, including the FFA horse evaluation career development event, National FFA Week and the annual National Association of Agricultural Educators Conference. At an individual store level, Tractor Supply continually hosts fund-raising events and works closely with local FFA chapters and high school agriculture advisors to provide resources and leverage synergies.

“Local high school agricultural advisors and FFA chapters feel at home in their local Tractor Supply stores,” said Christi Korzekwa, senior vice president of marketing at Tractor Supply. “These groups often host fund-raising events at our stores to raise money for community projects, like building a school greenhouse, a new bridge in a public park or an animal care lab. Our stores also work with local FFA members to support specific programs and proficiencies by providing demonstrations from knowledgeable Tractor Supply employees and our vendor partners, which brings significant value to both organizations.”

Tractor Supply has been a sponsor of the National FFA Foundation for 28 years. The National FFA Foundation is the fundraising arm of the National FFA Organization, which provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 610,240 student members in grades seven through 12 who belong to one of 7,665 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Tractor Supply Company

Tractor Supply Company operates more than 1,400 stores in 49 states, including one in Old Saybrook. Located in the outlying towns in major metropolitan markets and in rural communities, Tractor Supply Company stores are focused on supplying the lifestyle needs of recreational farmers and ranchers and others who enjoy the rural lifestyle, as well as tradesmen and small businesses. The Company offers a comprehensive selection of merchandise for the health, care, growth and containment of horses, livestock and pets including select Purina and Nutrena brand feeds; hardware, truck, towing and tool products; and seasonal products, including lawn and garden items, power equipment, gifts and toys. In addition, the company sells work/recreational clothing and footwear for the entire family and maintenance products for agricultural and rural use. For more information on Tractor Supply, access the website at www.TractorSupply.com.

National FFA Foundation
The National FFA Foundation builds partnerships with industry, education, government, other foundations and individuals to secure financial resources that recognize FFA member achievements, develop student leaders and support the future of agriculture education. Governed by a 19-member board of trustees comprised of educators, business leaders, individual donors and FFA alumni, the foundation is a separately-registered nonprofit organization. About 82 percent of all sponsorship dollars received by the foundation support FFA members and agricultural education opportunities. For more, visit the National FFA Foundation at http://www.FFA.org/Give.

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Welcome to Our Newest Intern, Adina Ripin

Adina Ripkin

Old Saybrook High School junior and Shoreline Web News LLC newest intern Adina Ripin

We are delighted to welcome Adina Ripin to the staff of Shoreline Web News (SWN) LLC through the internship program at Old Saybrook Hgh School (OSHS).  Adina will be working for us through June of this year writing for both of our community news websites, ValleyNewsNow.com and LymeLine.com.

Adina is a junior at OSHS and already much involved in the world of journalism.  She has been writing for the school newspaper, “The Rambler,” for two years and serving as an editor for one.  She comments, “I love participating in The Rambler … it’s a lot of fun,” adding, “I also write and edit for cteenvoice.com, which tries to bring together schools from across the region.”  Not surprisingly for someone who is both a talented and an aspiring writer, one of Adina’s favorite subjects at school is English, but she also likes the sciences.

Adina is involved in the upcoming school production of  the musical, “West Side Story,” for which she is assistant in creating the costumes.  She also is a member of the group known as “Goodwin Buddies,” which she explains is, “A program where high school students help elementary schoolers with their homework.”

Outside school, Adina is an avid reader and enjoys walking her dog.

Last semester Adina was an intern at the Shoreline Medical Center in Westbrook where, in her words, she, “learned what it was like to be in a professional medical environment.”  She notes, “It was great — I was mainly in the lab, which I loved because everyone there was so nice and interesting.  It helped me to get a much more concrete idea of what to expect after college.”

Adina will be covering a range of stories for SWN ranging from town events and municipal news to theater reviews and school happenings … and more.  She told us, “I am lucky to be interning with ValleyNewsNow and LymeLine to experience what it’s like to work for a newspaper. I’m excited to get started.”

Well, we’re certainly excited to have you on board, Adina, and hope you not only thoroughly enjoy but also learn from the experience.  Welcome!

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Essex Garden Club Offers Scholarships To Environmental Studies Students

ESSEX — The Essex Garden Club is offering a scholarship of up to $5,000 for the school year 2015-16.

To be considered for this scholarship, applicants must be:

  • A resident of Essex, Centerbrook, or Ivoryton, Conn.
  • A high school senior or undergraduate/graduate college student
  • Have a ‘B’ or better GPA
  • Be planning to pursue studies related to the environment in an accredited two- or four-year institution of higher learning. Fields of study may include:
    >Biology, Ecology, Horticulture, Forestry, Land Conservation, Environmental Science;
    >Closely related subjects may also apply: Landscape Design, Nursery Management

Application forms are available from Guidance Counselors.  The deadline for receipt of applications is April 27, 2015.

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Champions! Valley/Old Lyme Football Defy Odds to Win State Class S-Large

CIAC Class S-Large Champs!

CIAC Class S-Large Champs!  Photo by W. Visgilio.

Congratulations to coach Tim King and his Warriors on an incredible win!

New Britain – Quarterback Chris Jean-Pierre’s four-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds remaining rallied top-seeded Valley Regional/Old Lyme to a 21-20 victory over No. 2 Ansonia in their Class S-Large state championship football game at Willow Brook Park on Saturday morning. Click here to read the remainder of this full initial report of the game by Ned Griffin, which was published in The Day yesterday

And here’s another link to great article about the game.

And, finally, here’s Tim Devlin’s video of all Saturday’s state game highlights.

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Region 4 Education Budget Approved on 274-145 Vote

REGION 4— Voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex approved a $17,776,120 Region 4 education budget for 2013-2014 Tuesday on a 274-145 vote in an eight hour referendum. The budget, which funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School,represents a $269,907, or 1.54 percent, spending increase over the current appropriation. The spending plan won voter approval in all three district towns.

But the result was close in Deep River, where the budget carried on a 68-64 vote. The budget carried in Essex on a 161-69 vote. In Chester, where a decrease in students attending the two secondary schools has set the stage for a one-half mill decrease in the tax rate, the budget carried on a 45-12 vote.

A total of 419 voters from the three towns turned out for the referendum. Voter turnout was down from the 2012 referendum, where 619 voters turned out the approve the budget on a 412-207 vote. A total of 699 voters participated in the 2011 budget referendum.

The low turnout prompted Region 4 Board of Education Chairwoman Linda Hall to suggest the board should reconsider it’s policy of holding an annual referendum vote on the budget. The annual referendums began in 2001, the last year a Region 4 budget was rejected by voters of the three towns. In previous years, the budget had been considered by voters at a district meeting held on the first Monday in May.

Hall, a veteran board member who has served two six year terms on the panel, said she will not be seeking another term in the November municipal election. But Hall suggested said the board that is seated in December, after the election, should take another look at the annual referendum policy based on the decreasing voter turnouts of recent years. “It’s something that should be brought to the table,” she said. “It’s such a low turnout and it is an expense for the towns.”

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Essex Elementary School Board Approved $7.63 Million Budget for 2013-2014

ESSEX— The local board of education has approved a $7,634,917 budget for the operation of Essex Elementary School in 2013-2014. The spending plan approved last week represents a $100,326, or 1.33 percent, increase over the current appropriation for the school.

The budget plan addresses a drop in student enrollment by eliminating two teaching positions at the school. The current enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade school totals about 477 students, down from enrollment of 486 students during the 2011-2012 school year. Projections estimate an enrollment of about 455 students for the coming 2013-2014 school year.
The budget plan calls for reducing the number of classroom sections for the first, second, and third grades from four sections to three. But based on enrollment, the number of sections for the fifth grade would increase from four sections to five. There would be a net reduction of two teacher positions.

The budget funds only two physical plant improvements at the elementary school, including $15,000 for interim repairs to the roof over the 1990 building addition, and $5,000 for repairs to rubber flooring in hallways at the school. Town and school officials are planning for a more extensive roof repair project at the school, including the roof on the 1990 addition that received no improvements during the  school renovation and expansion project that began in 2007.

The board of finance will review the proposed elementary school budget at a meeting Thursday. The finance board could impose changes in the budget, including reductions, either before or after the town/elementary school budgets are presented at the annual budget hearing on April 22. The combined town government/elementary school budgets go to the voters in May, either at the annual budget meeting set for May 13, or in a subsequent referendum vote.

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Board Picks South Carolina Educator as New Principal for Essex Elementary

ESSEX— The board of education has has picked Scott Jeffrey, currently an assistant principal at an elementary school in South Carolina, as the new principal for Essex Elementary School. The board approved the appointment on a unanimous vote after a final interview with Jeffrey at a meeting Thursday.

Jeffrey, a Connecticut native, will replace Joanne Beekley, who had served as principal at the elementary school for nearly a decade. Beekley was selected on June 7 to become assistant superintendent for the Region 4 Chester-Deep River-Essex school district.
Jeffrey has served for the past two years as assistant principal for an elementary school in Clover, South Carolina, located in York County along the state’s northern border. Jeffrey had worked previously as a teacher at elementary and middle schools in Berlin and Farmington. Jeffrey, who also served as a school athletic director, received his Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from Central Connecticut State University, and a Master of Education Degree in elementary education from the University of Hartford. He later earned a additional Master’s Degree in Educational Administration at the University of South Carolina.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said the board was impressed with Jeffrey’s “overall knowledge, integrity, compassion, and commitment to excellence,” along with his “exceptional personal style and enthusiasm for elementary school students”. Jeffrey is expected to begin working in Essex later this summer, before the start of the 2012-2013 school year in early September.

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Deep River Native Picked as New Principal for Deep River Elementary School

Jennifer Byars appointed as the new Principal for Deep River Elementary School (Photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

DEEP RIVER— Jennifer Byars, a town native and Class of 1989 graduate of Valley Regional High School, has been hired as the new principal at the Deep River Elementary School. Byars, who begins working at the school in July, replaces Jack Pietrick, who is retiring in June after 13 years as principal of the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school.

Byars, whose maiden name is Pallon, grew up in Deep River and graduated from Valley Regional High School. Byars has served as principal of the Gallup Hill Elementary School in Ledyard for the past four years. She lives in Deep River with her husband Tim, and daughter Addie.

Byars, a graduate of Smith College in Massachusetts, earned a masters in education and a doctorate degree in administration and supervision at the University of Virginia. She began her career in public education as a high school science teacher at the Augusta County, Virginia, and later worked as an assistant principal at the high school in Rockingham County, Virginia. Byars returned to Connecticut, and Deep River, in 2006, working as an assistant principal at the Juliet Long and Gales Ferry elementary schools in Ledyard. She assumed the principal job at the Gallup Hill Elementary School in 2008.

Deep River Elementary School (photo courtesy of Jerome Wilson)

Byars said Tuesday she first learned of the principal opening at Deep River Elementary School in a school newsletter brought home by her daughter, a sixth grader at the school. Byars said she is thrilled to assume the leadership of the elementary school in her hometown. “You don’t often get that opportunity,” she said.

Byars was selected from a field of 71 applicants for the position. Region 4 Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said interview committees and the Deep River Board of Education, which made the hiring decision last week, were impressed with her “overall knowledge, commitment to excellence, strong leadership skills, exceptional personal style and commitment to students.”

“We are certain she will sustain and encourage an ongoing commitment to a culture of caring, high achievement, and mutual respect within a safe and productive school environment at Deep River Elementary School,” Levy said.

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Proposed $17.56 Million Region 4 Education Budget is up by 1.41% as Essex Share of Budget Rises

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education is prepared to approve a proposed $17,568,403 education budget for 2012-2013, with an increasing number of students at the two secondary schools raising the Essex share of the total budget.

The $17,568,403 total budget is reduced by $241,279 in anticipated revenue to a net budget of $17,327,124 to be assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The net budget, which is up by $217,292, or 1.27 percent from the current net expenditure, is split among the three towns based on the average daily membership of students from each town attending John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School.

The ADM that was established last October is good news for Chester and Deep River, and a hit for Essex, the largest of the three district towns. Chester, with 264 students at the two schools, seven fewer than the previous year, has a 27.13 percent, or $4,700,849 share of the net budget. The Chester share is down by $21,465 from the town’s current assessment for Region 4.

Deep River, with 275 students, 11 fewer than the previous year, has a 28.26 percent, or $4,896,645 share of the net budget. The Deep River share is down by $85,738 from the town’s current assessment for Region 4.

Essex had 434 students at the two secondary in October, an increase of nine students from the previous year. Essex has a 44.61 percent, or $7,729,630, share of the net budget. The Essex share is up by 4.38 percent from the previous year, requiring an additional $324,495 from town taxpayers.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said the Region 4 Board of Education concluded a series of three budget review workshops on Feb. 7, making some changes and reductions to a spending plan she presented in early January. She said the board may make some final revisions before it approved a budget plan for 2012-2013 at a Feb. 29 meeting. The budget adopted on Feb. 29 will be presented to residents of the three towns at the annual budget hearing on April 2. The annual three-town referendum on the Region 4 budget is set for May 8.

Levy said the proposed Region 4 budget is “bare bones,” with no new positions or program initiatives beyond a new teaching assistant for the two schools and a new part-time custodian position.

The Region 4 school boards, including the local boards that supervise the elementary schools in each town, have also approved a proposed $6,269,930 supervision district budget for 2012-2013. The supervision district budget funds programs and services that are shared by all five Region 4 schools, including school transportation.

The proposed budget represents a 4.1 percent increase over the current appropriation for supervision district services.

The proposed supervision district budget includes $45,419 for a new half-time special education teacher to be shared by district schools, and $42,408 for a new unified telephone system for the district schools and central office. Levy said the purchase of the new system would quickly save money on telephone expenses for each building.

After approval by the Region 4, Chester, Deep River, and Essex school boards, the supervision district budget is split among the three towns based on student ADM, and then included in the separate budget plans for Region 4 and the three elementary schools.

Levy said the plan to implement all-day kindergarten at the three elementary schools would be included in the proposed budgets for each elementary school that are now being prepared by the local school boards. Levy said drops in enrollment for the elementary schools would allow the district to implement all-day kindergarten at minimal additional cost.

After approval by the local school boards, the proposed elementary school budgets are subject to review by the finance boards for each town. The elementary school budgets are included as part of the town budgets that are presented to voters for approval at the annual budget meetings in May.

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Region 4 Students Star in MATHCOUNTS Competition

Region 4 students star in MATHCOUNTS competition (from left to right) Charlotte Boland, Sean Watson, Marly Toledano, Julia Hammond, Ian Connelly

On Saturday, February 4, ten students (4 team members and 6 individuals) from John Winthrop Middle School competed in the Eastern Regional MATHCOUNTS competition at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT.  The top seven teams were invited to attend the State competition, held at the University of Hartford in early March, and John Winthrop is one of them!

Twenty-six teams attended the competition and over 200 students participated. John Winthrop 8th grader, Sean Watson, came in 10th place overall. In addition, Julia Hammond scored high enough to attend the state competition as an individual.

MATHCOUNTS is a nationwide middle school math program run by the National Society of Professional Engineers. Math Counts is providing today’s students with the foundation for success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. Currently in their 29th year, MATHCOUNTS is one of the country’s largest and most successful education partnerships involving volunteers, educators, industry sponsors and students.

President Barack Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald W. Reagan have all recognized MATHCOUNTS in White House ceremonies. The MATHCOUNTS program has also received two White House citations as an outstanding private sector initiative.

Particularly exciting for our Mathletes® were the hour-long ESPN programs on each of the National Competitions from 2003-2005. In 2011 the National Competition returned to ESPN with a live broadcast on ESPN3.

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Chester Selectmen Defer Appointment to Fill Region 4 School Board Vacancy

CHESTER— The board of selectmen has decided to defer the appointment to fill a two-year vacancy on the Region 4 Board of Education until after a new board of selectmen is elected in the Nov. 8 municipal election.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Interim First Selectman Tom Englert presented Mario Gioco as the Chester Republican Town Committee’s recommendation to fill the school board vacancy created by the Oct. 4 resignation of member Richard Strauss. Though Strauss, the board’s treasurer and a member since 2006, is a Republican, the vacancy term ending in November 2013 does not have to be filled by a registered Republican.

Gioco, a certified public accountant, is the chairman of the Chester Republican Town Committee. He is also the chairman and a longtime member of the zoning board of appeals. Gioco’s grown children previously graduated from Mercy.

Democratic Selectman Peter Zanardi, himself filling a vacancy term ending in November, said he has no objections to Gioco as a prospective member of the regional school board, but believes the appointment should be made by the board of selectmen that is elected on Nov. 8. “With the election this close, the new board should own the appointment to this position,” he said.

Democratic Selectman Lawrence Sypher said he agreed with Zanardi, and Englert, a Republican, did not object to deferring the appointment.

The makeup of the board of selectmen is expected to change next month, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 8 vote. Englert, who became interim first selectman in August after the departure of former first selectman Tom Marsh, is seeking a second term on the board of selectmen, but not running for the top spot.

Edmund Meehan is the Democratic nominee for first selectman, with Sypher seeking a second term as his running-mate. Meehan and Sypher are challenged by two candidates running on the Chester Common Ground Party ballot line, Andrew Landsman for first selectman and Glen Reyer as the running-mate for board of selectmen. The top three vote-getters on Nov. 8 will comprise the board of selectmen through November 2013.

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Talking About the Preschool Years: Anticipating Full Day Kindergarten

What are the implications of full day kindergarten in Region 4?  Will our schools be ready for this transition?  Will my child be ready?  These are some of the questions that are on parent’s minds as the Region steps into full day kindergarten in September 2012.

A panel discussion led by Region 4 administrators and teachers is scheduled for Monday, November 14, 2011 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at Chester Elementary School.  The evening will include panelists: Ian Neviaser, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Danielle Lipkvich, Essex Elementary School Teacher, Mike Barile, Principal of Chester Elementary School, Meredith Adler, Parent Resource Coordinator at Tri-Town Youth Services.  The evening will be facilitated by Linda Hall, Region 4 Regional Board of Education President.

The evening’s presentation is free, due to a grant from Middlesex United Way and is sponsored by the Early Childhood Council of Deep River, Chester and Essex.  The mission of the Council is to sponsor Early Childhood Scholarships for local families in need and to keep our local families informed on topics related to the needs of families with young children.

Other information about the Council is available on our website:  www.earlychildhoodcouncil.com

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Community Education Forum October 27th

To the Citizens of Chester, Deep River, and Essex,

The Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 Schools Strategic Planning Committee is in the process of reexamining our current goals. The purpose of Strategic Planning is to create long range mission, vision, and goals.

Strategic Planning is most effective when citizens participate in the process of framing a direction for our schools for the next 5 years. The process of creating a strategic plan can be described as the development of a plan that works in concert with our existing Board of Education policies to provide administration and staff the direction they need over an extended period of time toorganize expertise, systems, and resources to achieve the district’s mission.

We are holding a community forum to solicit your thoughts and ideas on October 27, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. in the Valley Regional Auditorium. We would most appreciate your participation in this most important endeavor.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent of Schools 

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Richard Strauss Resigns From Region 4 Board of Education

CHESTER— Richard Strauss has resigned from the Region 4 Board of Education, leaving a vacancy through 2013 that will be filled by an appointment of the board of selectmen.

Strauss, a Republican, had already served previous terms on the Region 4 board and the board of finance when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board in January 2006. He was elected to a full six-year term in 2007.

Strauss had served in recent years as board treasurer. As a member of the board’s finance committee, he had worked to improve financial accounting of the district education budget that funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.

The board of selectmen will appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of the unexpired term ending in November 2013. The replacement does not have to be a registered Republican.

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Valley Regional To Raise “The Titanic”

Valley Regional Musical Productions announces their spring 2012 musical. In remembrance of the maiden voyage of the R.M.S. Titanic on April 10, 1912, VRMP plans to produce TITANIC, The Musical on March 23-25, 2012, for 4 performances.  With a book by Peter Stone and Music/Lyrics by Maury Yeston, this musical proves to be a majestic and poignant memoir of an incredible historical tragedy.  The musical has no connection to the popular movie.  It takes you from departure day to tragedy, following the lives of many significant passengers and crew.

To help VRMP prepare for this grand voyage, we are asking the community to read about Titanic.  There are numerous books published on the topic, many of them available through your public library, including many young adult and children’s books.  We would love to honor those survivors, remember those lost, and recall the lessons learned.

In addition, if you have any nautical items you would be willing to donate or loan to the production, please contact the Director, Ingrid Walsh at ingpilot@comcast.net

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Region 4 Schools Open Wednesday With 27 New Certified Staff

REGION 4— Region 4 schools open Wednesday for the 2011-2012 academic year with 27 new certified educational staff, including 16 new full or part-time teachers. Opening day, originally set for Sept. 1, was delayed by the cleanup from Tropical Storm Irene.

New staff, with their classroom assignments where provided, include seven new positions at Valley Regional High School. The new high school teachers are Joseph Goldman-social studies, Michael Bono-technical education, Desire Fallavolitta-Spanish, Donna Dickerman-science, Kevin Lam-instrumental music, Kathryn Weingartner-special education, and Allison Hopkins as a two-thirds time social studies teacher. There are three new staff at John Winthrop Middle School, including teaching assistants Kristen Budney and Niccole diFilippo, with Jennifer Marino as a part-time social worker.

Positions at the elementary schools include  Bonnie Amburso as the long term substitute physical education teacher at Chester Elementary School, with Angela Fachini as the new second grade teacher at Deep River Elementary School, Jacquelyn Courtmanche as the new remedial reading teacher at Deep River Elementary School, and Kerry Gallant as a new para-educator at the Deep River school.

New positions at Essex Elementary School include Suzanne Deens as the new school nurse, Diana Marchese and Jessica Murray as two new long term substitutes for unspecified grades, and Samantha Morse as the new para-educator.

The Supervision District is funding nine new full or part-time positions that are shared by the five district schools. The new hires include Diana Amara as a new eight-tenths time counselor, Daniel Brownell as a new half-time general music teacher, Andria Benjamin-special education, Rita Negrao-special education, Sarah Layton and Marguerite Caulfield as new pre-school program para-educators, Mallory Coleman as a new long term substitute school psychologist, Nicole Pollock and Elaine Fleischer.

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Director Defends Mount St.John’s School at Deep River Meeting

DEEP RIVER— The executive director of Mount. St. John’s School Tuesday defended policies and procedures at the facility before a small group of concerned neighbors at a meeting of the board of selectmen.

Douglas DeCerbo answered questions from residents about the private, non-profit facility that serves troubled boys between the ages of 13 and 18 under contracts with the state Department of Children and Families. The century-old facility overlooking the Connecticut River off Kirtland Street has been affiliated with the Norwich Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church.

Recent police calls to the facility, particularly the Aug. 4 arrest of 15-year-old male juvenile for an alleged second degree assault that injured another student, had led to a new round of questions and concerns from homeowners in the surrounding neighborhood. The questions led First Selectman Richard Smith to ask DeCerbo, who has meet with the board and residents previously, to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

DeCerbo maintained the number of police calls for incidents arising at or from the facility have actually decreased in recent months. He said a total of 14 incidents led to police calls or arrests over the past year, though nine of the 14 occurred outside of Deep River while students were on leave to their hometowns and families. If a student does not return to the facility after a home visit, the incident is reported as a runaway out of Deep River.

DeCerbo said the facility, which operates an accredited school and vocational training programs, has actually been accepting students with less extensive criminal records, and better chances for success in behavior and academics. “The youth we are getting now have a higher level of skills and motivation,” DeCerbo said, adding “we’ve been having a lot of success with these kids over the past year and things have gone better.”

DeCerbo said the facility had 23 students as of Tuesday, though it allowed accepting up to 32 boys under provisions of the DCF contracts. He said the population has not exceeded 30 in recent months.

Under questioning from neighbor Jack White, DeCerbo said he has the authority to veto acceptance of a potential client if he believes the youth’s background and record is not appropriate for the Mount St. John program. He said the facility does not accept students with records of assault or “sexual acting out”, and does not accept clients who are suicidal. The youth arrested on Aug. 4 is no longer at Mount St. John.

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Essex Park & Rec Youth Sports Programs Starting Soon!

Essex Park and Recreation is excited to bring our community the following Youth Sport Programs. Registration will be available on line Aug. 4 at www.essexct.gov or you may register by mail using a program waiver form. The deadline for Running Rams & Slamma Jamma is September 1 the other program deadline is Wed. Sept. 7.  Register Early as there are a limited number of available spots for each program. If you have any questions please feel free to contact the Park and Recreation OfficeTown of EssexPark and Recreation29 West Ave. Essex, CT  860-767-4340 x110 or 14

Look for the New Fall Program Brochure coming to your mailbox soon! The expanded Fall Programs  include: More Preschool & Adult Programs along with MORE EES After Hours Programs: Irish Step Dancing, Gymnastics, Ceramics, Group Guitar Workshops, Nature Exploration Mad Science, Computer Explorers, Creative Art, Karate, Children’s Music & American Red Cross.

Running Rams-Ready Set Run!: Coach Cap is back! This 5 week program will introduce children to the fun and satisfaction of running. Peter Capezzone is an Ivoryton resident, the Cross Country and Track and Field Coach at Old Saybrook High School and the founder of Running Rams LLC, providing spring and summer track programs to shoreline area youths for over 10 years. Who: Gr.  1-6 Meets: Wednesdays (*Tuesday Sept. 20) Session I: Sept. 7, 14, 20*, 28, Oct. 12Time: 5:30p-6:30p Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 10 Location: John Winthrop Junior High Field

Youth Tennis-Session 1:  Valley Regional High School Coach and Teaching Pro – Gary Ribchinsky is back, teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volleys, serves, and game play. This program will focus on improving all facets of the game.  Who: Boys & Girls Grades K-8Meets: Mondays Time: 3:45p-4:45Dates: Sept. 12, 19, 26 Oct. 3 & *10 (*Columbus Day) Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 5Location:  Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts Teaching Pro: Gary Ribchinsky

Youth Tennis-Session 2: Valley Regional High School Coach and Teaching Pro – Gary Ribchinsky is back, teaching the fundamentals of tennis: ground-strokes, volley, serve, and game play. This program will focus on improving all facets of the game.  Who: Boys & Girls Grades 2—8th ***See BelowMeets: Mondays Time: 5p-6pDates: Sept. 12, 19, 26 Oct. 3 & *10 (*Columbus Day) Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 5 Max 10 Location: Valley Regional High School Tennis Courts Teaching Pro: Gary Ribchinsky***Participants in grades K & 1 may enroll in our 3:45pm clinic only

Boys Lacrosse Clinic: Our instructors will help work on all aspects of lacrosse. Every player will be given individual and group instruction with an emphasis on basic fundaments skills (limited contact). Learn the latest techniques of the game, refine skills to improve your level of play and strengthen team concepts and strategies. This program is ideal for the beginning or intermediate player.  Must bring own LAX equipment. Equipment List: Helmet, Mouth Piece, Shoulder Pads, Arms Pads, Gloves, Cup, Cleats, & StickWho: Boys Gr.1-6 Meets: Saturdays Session I: September 10, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 8, 15 Time: 4:00p-5:30p Cost: $65.00 Limit: Min. 10 Location: Essex Elementary School FieldInstructor: Graham Rider, CT River Ticks Boys Lacrosse Coach.

Shoreline Girls Lacrosse Clinic: Clinic is for girls in grades 1-6 who have never played lacrosse before or who have limited experience.  This is the ideal clinic for beginning players to learn the skills and techniques in a fun, no pressure, and positive environment. Girls will have a great time at this fun and action packed week. Open to girls in the towns of Essex, Deep River, Chester, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook All gear will be provided by the Shoreline Girls Lacrosse Clinic (except mouth guard, which is mandatory to participate). This includes stick and eye gear! Every participant will receive a Shoreline Girls Lacrosse T-Shirt. The clinic will include, cradling, passing catching, stick handling, ground ball shooting, dodging and mobility on the field.  However, there will be no goalkeeper training at this clinic.  The girls will enjoy small sided and skill games along with contests awards and an end of the week raffle. Who: Girls Gr.1-6Meets: Sundays Session I: September 11, 18, 25, Oct. 2, 9, 16Time: TBA Cost: $75.00 Location: Essex Elementary School Field Limit: Min. 10 Max 30Instructor: Greg Ruel, Phys Ed. Teacher and CT River Ticks Girls Lacrosse Coach. US Lacrosse certified.

NEW!!! Slamma Jamma Fall Basketball!! Our fall clinics take certain elements from both our summer camps and individual instruction programs to create a positive learning environment. Skill development is the primary focus. These clinics are a great way to prepare young athletes for their upcoming recreation, travel and school season. Each session is independent of the other so that all aspects of the game are covered. The clinics are tailored to meet the needs of the beginner to the advanced player. Players are broken up into smaller groups within the whole. If you are interested in having Coach Leary and his coaching staff gets you ready for your season, join us at our fall clinics!  Tentative information is below. It is subject change.  Who: Boys & Girls Gr.1-6Meets: WednesdaysSession I: September 7,14,21,28, Oct. 5, 12Time: 3p-4:30pFee: 70.00Location: Essex Elementary School Gym Limit: Min. 10 Max 30Instructor: Slamma Jamma Basketball Coaching Staff

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Saint John School Summer Open House

Old Saybrook, CT – From 10 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 28, an Open House will be held for families with Pre-K three year olds through students in Grade 8, interested in attending Saint John School. Meet school principal, parents and students for tours and Q & A. Personal tours during the summer are also available by appointment.

Saint John School is fully accredited with certified teachers, and is known for its excellent academics. A comprehensive 6th to 8th grade Middle School program, including science lab and Spanish language instruction, prepares students to excel in high school and beyond. Full day Pre-K and Kindergarten is offered, including structured academics and creative play. A secure, modern facility, close-knit family atmosphere, and adherence to Christian values, provides the ideal environment for “educating the whole child.” In addition to regular classroom instruction, the school offers a before and aftercare program, a tournament-winning sports program, instrument lessons and band, and many clubs and activities for all ages.

Saint John School serves all children in grades Pre-K3 through Grade 8 and is now accepting admission registrations for the 2011-2012 school year. For more information, please call 860-388-0849.

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Parent Withdraws Federal Civil Rights Complaint Against Region 4 and Valley Regional High School Administrators

REGION 4–A U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights investigation of Region 4 and Valley Regional High School administrators has been dropped after the parent of the Asian-American student involved in the case withdrew the complaint.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the Department of Education, and an attorney for the school district, each confirmed Tuesday that Bounthanh Outama, father of high school senior Aaron Outama, had recently withdrawn the civil rights complaint he filed against the school district last December. Bradshaw said the case, which included an investigation of the actions of district administrators conducted earlier this year by Office of Civil Rights personnel, had been “closed administratively,” with no further action or report expected on the matter.

Outama’s complaint had alleged that his son, who is of Laotian descent, had received harsher disciplinary action than other students who were involved in a rally held last September in support of former high school principal Eric Rice. The complaint was directed at Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy, Assistant Superintendent Ian Neviaser, and acting Principal Kristina Martineau, who replaced Rice and was hired as Valley Regional High School principal on a permanent basis in April.

Rice, a Chester resident, resigned as principal last October, after barely two months in the job, and received a severance package from the school district. Levy and Rice, who now works in the West Haven school district, have never commented on details of the situation.

But recently released e-mails among school administrators and staff indicate that Levy and Neviaser, who served as Valley Regional High School principal from 2008-2010, had quickly become dissatisfied with Rice’s performance as an administrator after he assumed the principal job in August 2010. Aaron Outama, who is from Essex, graduated with the Class of 2011 on June 20, receiving his diploma from Principal Martineau.

Levy said Tuesday she never doubted the OCR investigation would be resolved favorably for the three-town school district. “I have great confidence in the administrators and staff in all of our schools in Region 4 and that they continually do the right thing for all of our students,” she said, adding ”I am glad that this is behind us and the outcome was favorable to the district.”

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Essex Elementary Raises More Than $8,000 for Haiti Building Project

Essex Elementary School students presented an $8,275 check Wednesday to Sister Cities Essex-Haiti representatives (David Evangelisti, Dan Taylor-Stypa, and Denise D’Avella). The check was given during a schoolwide assembly by the students (Tiffany Kuba, Abby Monaco, Jacob Azzinaro, and Peter Fitton).

Cattle Barn to be Converted into a Library

The group will use the donation to build a library/community center in Deschapelles, Haiti, a community devastated by a major earthquake in January 2010. The funds were raised last month by 107 EES students during a three-week read-a-thon. Fitton raised the most money of any student in the school. The school and PTO also held a family reading night, after-school reading sessions, and other activities.

“We are so proud of the students, who participated and read 34,448 pages for a total of 727 books!” said EES Principal Dr. Joanne Beekley. “I extend my sincere thank you to all of the children and their families for participating in our fundraiser. Additionally, local businesses donated to the read-a-thon including The Red Balloon, Pat’s Kountry Kitchen, Toys Ahoy, Essence, and Conway, Londregan, Sheehan and Monaco, P.C.”

Sister Cities Essex-Haiti aims to build a long-term relationship between town residents and Deschapelles, Haiti, with its first project being the library/community center. The center will provide Haiti children with a place to study after dark. Most households in Deschapelles do not have electricity, which means children often must study and do school work under street lamps. Few libraries exist in rural Haiti, with limited opportunities to borrow or buy books. You can learn more about the project at www.sistercitiesessexhaiti.org

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Newsweek Names Valley Regional High School as one of America’s Best High Schools

Newsweek Magazine’s June 27th edition, on sale now at newsstands, has reported that Valley Regional High School is amongst the top 12 high schools in Connecticut, and the top 500 across America this week.  Newsweek Magazine named Valley Regional High School as one of America’s Best High Schools based on criteria such as our graduation rate, the number Advanced Placement course offered, scores received in those courses, Virtual High School courses, students attending college, SAT scores, and student/teacher ratio.

Valley Regional High School ranked 334 out of the 500 high schools named as “America’s Best High Schools.”  Said Dr. Levy, Superintendent of Schools for Region 4 Schools, “ This simply states what we already knew about our outstanding schools and community.  Recognition such as this are the result of the commitment, dedication, and collaboration of our students, staff, administrative team, Board of Education members, parents, and community, who all come together to provide opportunities for our children to excel in multiple venues. It begins in preschools and continues through our student’ educational experience, in and out of the classroom.

In addition to Newsweek’s recognition, Valley Regional High School also received 1st place in the Michael’s Cup Award for sportsmanship by our Athletic Teams in our SS Class.   This is a prestigious award presented by the Connecticut Interscholastic Conference.

One more award came our way to end this school year.  Mrs. Martineau, Principal of Valley Regional High School, wrote a grant to the Connecticut State Department of Education.  We just received notification that VRHS was awarded $5000 to develop the Capstone Project as a part of High School Reform efforts.  This grant will enable us to develop high school internship programs that will culminate in a senior project and be a part of our graduation requirements.

“I am very proud to be a part of our schools and community at large whose respect and total commitment to the vision, mission, and goals of our schools is evidenced in our most precious resource – our children.”

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Region 4 School Board Chooses Music Teacher Matt Talmadge as New Associate Principal at Valley Regional High School

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education has selected Matthew Talmadge, a music teacher, as the new associate principal at Valley Regional High School. Talmadge was unanimously selected by the board after an in-depth interview conducted at a special meeting last week. He assumes the position on July 1.

Talmadge is the permanent replacement for Kristina Martineau, the previous associate principal who was named acting principal at the high school last October and hired as principal on a permanent basis in April.

Talmadge has served as a music teacher for the high school and John Winthrop Middle School for the past four years. He began his career as a teacher and band director at schools in New Mexico. Talmadge received a B.A. degree and an M.A. degree in Music Education from the University of New Mexico. He is currently completing his Sixth Year Degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Connecticut.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Talmadge was selected from a field of over 50 applicants. She said the school board was impressed with his “overall knowledge, commitment to excellence, strong leadership skills, exceptional personal style, and enthusiasm for the students at Valley Regional High School.” Talmadge lives in the Ivoryton section of Essex with his wife and daughter.

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Valley Regional High School Graduates 2011 Class of 151 in School’s 60th Annual Ceremony

Class of 2011 (photo courtesy of Kirsten Rioux)

DEEP RIVER—Valley Regional High School graduated 151 seniors from the Class of 2001 Monday in the school’s 60th annual graduation ceremony.

A crowd of hundreds of family members and friends of the graduates gathered under sunny and cloudless skies for the ceremony on the southeast side of the school grounds.

Principal Kristina Martineau (Photo courtesy of Burt Jaynes)

Principal Kristina Martineau, who assumed leadership of the high school in April after serving as acting principal for most of the school year, welcomed the crowd by recalling how the towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex came together to form Regional School District 4, build a regional high school, and celebrate the school’s first graduating class in June 1952. Martineau said the parents 60 years ago, “were as proud of those graduates as we are of the graduates today.”

Two local residents who were there for the founding of Valley Regional High School in 1952 were recognized to cheers from the crowd — Harry Archambault, the Chester insurance man who chaired the high school building committee and the Region 4 Board of Education, and Daniel Connors of Deep River, who served as a social studies teacher at the high school for more than two decades.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy praised the Class of 2011, and announced that she had learned Monday the school is one of a dozen Connecticut high Schools included on the Newsweek magazine’s list of 500 best high schools in the United States. “Whether in academics, in sports, in the arts, or simply lending a helping hand or kind word to someone, each of you has left an imprint in our schools,” she said.

Valedictorian Nicholas Takaki recalled the friendly welcome he received when moving to Chester at age nine and attending Chester Elementary School in 2002. He suggested that sense of community, a feeling that “everyone can succeed,” was representative of the Class of 2011.” Takaki noted the successes of the past school year in athletics and other programs. “We win because we welcome everyone eager to join the team,” he said. “We win because we include every player, from all-star to bench warmer, willing to work hard.”

Salutatorian Patrick Campbell noted the experience of four years at Valley extended beyond classroom learning. “The most important lessons were not stated facts, but rather universal truths, basic principles for how to interact with other people, for how to be successful in life,” he said.

Thanks to Burt Jaynes, Kirsten Rioux and Kelly Carufe for some wonderful photos of the graduation ceremony shown below:

The Class of 2011……

Michelle Alvarado
Michaela Anderson
Vanessa Aspilaire
Hennessy Aspilaire II
Jessica Morton Baier
James L. Baker
Heather E. Ballantyne
Lilly May Barbour
Marissa Michele Barnes
Kaitlyn Brianna Barnett
Maximillian Cabrera Barrezueta
Nicole Louise Bauer
Kathleen M. Belton
Tyler Bosco
Tenay Nicole Bouchard
Baylee  Boulem
Mark Brusco
Alanna Lee Burke
Griffin Graham Burrows
Megan Lee Callahan
Adam Paul Camilleri
Patrick Roycroft Campbell
Daniel Joseph Cappiello
Ryan Patrick Wheeler Carufe
Cody John Carver
Katlyn Shane Catubig
George Gaetano Cooper Cimini
James   Clark
Kelly May Cline
Austin James Connolly
Kyle James Connor
Joseph Leo Corriveau III
Derrick Mason Corson
Daniel William Cox
Luc Van Dang
Kaitlynn Alexander Dec
Elizabeth Anne Dee
Robert Lewis  Diley III
Jonathan Allen Dilger
Jason Jordan DiPietro
Brittany Marie Dombkowski
Jeffrey Harold Doran Jr.
Margaret Allen Dubey
Michael Francis Duggan
Heather Kaitlyn Eddy
Kaitlyn Alyce Ernst
Maxwell Daniel John Evarts
Drake Bernard  Ewart-Ledoux
Rachael Linn Farley
Anna Isabella Faust
Peter Abercrombie Faust
Rebecca Marie Feaster
Bradley James Fenniman
Nicholas Ryan Filippides
John Arthur Finkeldey
Cavan M.  Flynn
Katie J. Frese
Erin Lindsey Fusaro
Duncan Robert Galpin
Shannon Elizabeth Gates
Megan Dee Giamei
Tori Leigh Gilliland
Heather Lynn Gleason
Brett Crosby Griffith
Seth Jacob Halibozek
Amelia Mitchell Haney
Daniel Joseph Harrigan
Alexina Amanda Hebert
Rachel Ann Hebert
Nathaniel Kent Heintzelman
Matthew Rhys Herman
Maxwell Francis Hotkowski
Francesca Germini Humble
Joshua Douglas Ierna
Michaela May Indermaur
Ryan D. Javor
Adam Jaynes
David Nelson Johns
Kayleigh Trace Johnson
Erica M.  Kasimir
Matthew Patrick Kaufman
Meredith F. Kelly
Mitchell Carlson King
Stephen Henry Klinck
Jake A. Kottke
Alexander Freeborn Kurz
Brett Michael Lacoske
Erika Shea Lanphear
Max Townsend Lawrie
Shin-Yi  Lee
Etienne Stephan Libert
Melissa Ann Luster
Tyler Austin Lutz
Sara Ann Maclean
Keir Brian Magoulas
Megan Elizabeth Mallon
Zachary Park Mantie
Venera Domenica Manuli
Katherine Sophia Marion
Brandy Marie Marquis
Christine Paige Marsh
Michael Joseph Marshall
Matthew Roger McMahon
Kevin W. McPhee
Cameron S. Mitchel
Cassandra M. Money
Simeon Degen Monroe
Dylan M. Morano
Michaela Alissa Morris
Elizabeth A. Mosher
Rodney Lynn Mosier III
Kelsey Erin Murphy
Deisy Helena Naranjo
Nathan Narducci
Wyatt Naylor
Regina Nettleton
William John O’Hearn IV
Arron Toto Outama
Rory Pariseau
Allison E. Pash
Lawder Williams Paul
Eric J. Pease
Megan Carolann Perkins
Bess Haley Perlstein
Jeremy E. Phillips
Alexander Thomas Polo
Joshua David Proteau
Olivia M. Reed
Taylor Robert Rioux
Trevor M. Rosensohn
Peter W Russo
Zachary Sanders
Elizabeth A. Sanford
Randy Adam Schmidt
Joshua H. Schumacher
Nicole Marie Scionti
Drew Scott
Randal E. Shaw
Alan Shortz
Lilli K. Siretta
Arianna Victoria  Smith
Brian F. Sticht
Alexandria D.B. Stratidis
Nicholas Alexander Denning Takaki
Timothy Byron Todd
Samantha Leigh Tolley
Monica Cathleen Vandehei
Jimmy Javier Vargas
Arianna Zoe Vassallo
Marlena Catharine Vitali
Brian Blake Watson
Justin David Wells
Ryan Joseph Wichtowski
Jacob Michael Wlochowski
Jason Robert Wolf
Kyle Alan Woody
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Get Fit with Free Classes at Essex Library

Put a little “spring” in your step with a series of free mind/body exercise classes at the Essex Library, every Wednesday morning at 10, from May 4 thru June 1.  Offered by local fitness teachers, these hour-long introductory classes are ideal if you’ve always wanted to try a new routine, but were shy to join an established class.

Get a taste of Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, and Mama/Baby Yoga. Marlene Powers of Pilates for Life will teach the Intro to Pilates class, May 4. Yoga will be taught by Riverdog Yoga’s Kimberly Smith on May 11. Tai Chi instruction will be given by Riverdog Yoga’s Christopher Passahl, May 18. Meditation will be taught by Emrys Tetu, also of Riverdog Yoga, on May 25, and Shaun English of Fresh Yoga will teach her Mama/Baby Class, Itsy Bitsy Yoga, on June 1.  Please note that this last class is for mothers with infants who are not yet crawling.

We supply the mats. Wear comfortable clothing, and bring a water bottle. Please call the Essex Library at 860-767-1560 for more information or to register; space is limited, so call soon.

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Region 4 School Board Approves $17.32 Million Education Budget After Quiet Public Hearing

REGION 4—  The Region 4 Board of Education approved a proposed $17.32 million education budget for 2011-2012 Thursday after a quiet public hearing on the spending plan.

Only three residents, all current or former selectmen from Chester, turned out for the annual budget hearing. The board made only one minor adjustment to the spending plan after a hearing where there were no calls for changes or reductions to the proposed budget, trimming an additional $2,725 to account for unanticipated savings in debt service expenses on bonds for school building projects. 

The $17,324,933 gross budget is reduced by anticipated revenue to a net budget of $17,109,832 that will be funded by the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River, and Essex.  The budget funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School.  Both the gross and the net budget totals are up by 1.96 percent over the current appropriation.

The net budget is divided between the three towns based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools. Chester, with 271 students has a 27.6 percent share of the budget, $4,722,314, that is up by $105,990 from the current budget share. Deep River, with 296 students for a 29.12 percent share of the budget, has an assessment of $4,982,383 that is down slightly, by $43,386, from the town’s current assessment.

Essex, with 425 students, has the largest share, 43.28 percent, of the net budget. The Essex assessment, $7,405,135, is up by $266,698, or 3.74 percent, from the town’s current budget share.

The budget approved Thursday goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River, and Essex, for approval in a May 3 referendum. Polls are open from 12 noon to 8 p.m. at the regular election polling places in the three towns. The Region 4 budget has been approved on the first referendum vote in recent years.

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Region 4 School Board Names Kristina Martineau as Valley Regional High School Principal

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education has appointed Kristina Martineau, the current interim principal, as principal of Valley Regional High School.

Martineau, who was first hired by the district as associate principal in 2008, was appointed at a special meeting Tuesday after a final interview with board members.

Six of the nine elected board members turned out for the meeting to approve the selection of Martineau on a unanimous vote. Three board members were absent Tuesday, Elaine Fitzgibbons of Chester, Chris Riley of Essex, and Richard Strauss of Chester. The other finalist in a selection process that began in February was Todd Snyder, a former history teacher and current assistant principal at Sheehan High School in Wallingford.

Martineau, who lives in Guilford with her husband and two children, holds a B.A. in English from Loyala College in Baltimore, Md., and an M.A. from the University of Newcastle in England. She also has an advanced degree in educational leadership from Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport.

Martineau began her career in 2001 as an English teacher at Fairfield Warde High School in Fairfield. She was dean of students at the Fairfield school for a year before coming to Region 4.

Martineau was named interim principal at the high school last October after the abrupt departure of Eric Rice from the position. Rice, a Chester resident who is Strauss’s son-in-law, was hired as principal last July, but left the job in October amid reports he had been given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum from Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy. Neither Levy nor Rice has commented on the specific circumstances of his departure, which generated questions and criticism from some district residents. Rice received a $62,150 severance payment from the school district.
In a statement, Levy said the board and “multiple interview committees” were “impressed with Kristina’s overall knowledge, commitment to excellence, strong leadership skills, exceptional personal style, and enthusiasm for high school students.”

“We are certain that she will sustain and encourage an ongoing commitment to a culture of caring, high achievement, and mutual respect within a safe and productive school environment,” Levy said.

Board Chairwoman Linda Hall said she pleased with the selection of Martineau. “I think it was a very thorough process that involved community members, staff and students,” Hall said, adding “Kristineau has done a wonderful job as interim principal.”

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Region 4 Presents Two High School Principal Finalists to Handful of Residents at Public Meeting

REGION 4— Region 4 school officials presented two finalists for the position of principal at Valley Regional High School to a handful of community residents at a public meeting Tuesday.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said the finalists are Kristina Martineau, the former assistant principal who has served as interim principal at the high school since last October, and Todd Snyder, the current assistant principal at Mark T. Sheehan High School in Wallingford. The Region 4 Board of Education is expected to interview a single candidate, and make a hiring decision, at a closed session meeting on April 12.

The principal job at the high school became vacant last fall after the abrupt departure of Eric Rice, a Chester resident who was hired for the job in July 2010. Rice resigned and received a severance package last October amid reports he had been given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum by Levy after only weeks on the job. Levy has declined to comment of the reasons for Rice’s departure, which generated a lingering controversy in the Chester- Deep River-Essex school district.

In a sign the controversy over the principal job may have subsided, only four parents or community members, two with previous ties to the school district, turned out for the unveiling of the principal finalists. Levy said there were 15 applicants for the position, with six selected for telephone follow-up interviews with Levy, Region 4 Board of Education chairwoman Linda Hall, Assistant Superintendent Ian Neviaser, and Doreen Marvin, a consultant from the Project Learn 24-town regional education consortium.

Levy said four candidates were presented for interviews held last week with small and large groups comprised of selected teachers, parents, students, community members, and school board members. These interviews resulted in the selection of the two finalists.

Snyder, a Rocky Hill resident, said his career in education was preceded by military experience in the Army National Guard, and work in the insurance business. After working at two private schools for special education students, Snyder worked for six years as a social studies teacher and department head at Windsor Locks High School, and three years in the same roles at Newington High School. He has served as assistant principal at the Wallingford high school since 2007.

Answering questions from the group at the meeting, Snyder said he is interested in what happens in the classroom “because I still do consider myself a teacher,” adding that he views the role of a principal as “about being caring and concerned while at the same time firm.” Snyder said he hopes to be “the next long-term proud principal of Valley Regional High School.”

Martineau, a Guilford resident and mother of two children ages 5 and 11 months, began her career as an English teacher at Fairfield Ward High School in Fairfield, spending seven years in the classroom and one year as dean of students. She began working as assistant principal at Valley Regional High School in July 2008, and was named as interim principal by the board of education after Rice’s departure last October.

Describing the principal position at VRHS as “my dream job,” Martineau said student participation and involvement is a “measure of success” that goes beyond test scores.” This is a really exciting time for Valley and I want to be a part of that,” she said.

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April 11 Hearing Set on Essex Town Government and Elementary School Budgets for 2011-2012

ESSEX— A proposed $6.78 million town government budget and a proposed $7.4 million budget for Essex Elementary School will be presented at the annual budget hearing set for April 11 at 8 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall.

The proposed $6, 782, 158 town government budget that was endorsed by the board of selectmen last month represents a $283,912, or 4.37 percent increase, over the current appropriation for town government. The proposed $7,407,913 elementary school budget that was recommended by the Essex Board of Education represents a $211,866, or 2.94 percent, increase over the current appropriation for the elementary school.

The proposed town government budget includes a two percent wage/salary increase for elected officials and non-union town employees. The budget includes $281,250, an increase of $25,000, for the volunteer fire department, and $158,305 for parks and recreation. The spending plan includes $365,000, an increase of $16,000, for the town’s two public libraries, and $791,464, an increase of $48,788, for the highway department.

The budget includes $333,552 for police services, an increase of $13,304 from the current appropriation, and $106,316 for the resident state trooper. The spending plan includes $164,131 for sanitarian services, and $20,000 for a part-time director of health.

The proposed budget for the elementary school includes $121,000 in new salary and benefits costs for school employees, and $18,450 for repairs and maintenance of the school building. The spending plan calls for the elimination of one classroom teacher position due to a drop in student enrollment, a savings of $31,281, and addition of one new part-time special education aide at a cost of $8,993. Enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade school is expected to drop from the current 548 students to 527 students in 2001-2012, a decrease of 21 students.
The town government and elementary school appropriations are combined with the town’s $7,406,944 share of the Region 4 education budget for a total  proposed spending amount of $21,597,015, an increase of $764,285 from current total expenditures.

The current tax rate is 17.63 mills, or $17.63 in tax for each $1,000 of assessed property value. A tax mill is expected to generate about $1.1 million in revenue in 2011-2012.

The board of finance will hold a special meeting after the public hearing Monday to consider any adjustments to the town government and elementary school budgets based on input received from residents at the hearing. The annual budget meeting vote on a total spending plan for 2011-2012 is set for Monday May 9, unless a decision from the board of selectmen or a petition from residents sends the budget to a referendum vote later in May. The Region 4 education budget that funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex in a May 3 referendum.

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Public Hearing on Region 4 Education Budget Put Off to April 14

REGION 4— The public hearing on a proposed $17.1 million Region 4 education budget for 2011-2012 has been rescheduled for April 14. The budget hearing had initially been set for Monday night.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Friday the hearing was postponed because of a delay in the required publication of a newspaper legal notice about the hearing. The hearing will convene on Thursday April 14 at 7 p.m. in the library/media center at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River.

The proposed $17,112,557 budget represents a net increase of about $332,000, or 1.98 percent, over the current Region 4 appropriation. The budget, which funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and the middle school, was approved on a 7-1 vote at a March 3 meeting, with board member Richard Strauss of Chester opposed. The net budget is divided between the member towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools.

Levy said the Region 4 board would hold a special meeting after the hearing on April 14 to make any adjustments to the spending plan based on input received from residents at the hearing. At the special meeting, the board would vote on a final proposed budget for 2011-2012 that would go to the voters on the three towns for approval in a May 3 referendum. The Region 4 budget referendum is conducted from 12 noon to 8 p.m. at the regular election polling places in Chester, Deep River, and Essex.

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