May 6, 2021

$7.74 Million Budget Proposed for Essex Elementary School

ESSEX— The board of finance has received a proposed $7,742,313 budget for Essex Elementary School. The spending plan, which was approved by the local board of education earlier this month, represents a $107,396, or 1.41 percent, spending increase over the current budget for the school.

The budget projects enrollment for the kindergarten-sixth grade school at 428 students when the 2014-2015 school year begins, down from a current enrollment of 451 students. The spending plan includes no new staff positions, but calls for elimination of one classroom teacher position due to the drop in enrollment. The reduction of one teacher position brings a total savings of about $87,000 for salary and benefits, with an additional $27,529 in savings anticipated from other staffing changes.

The only enhancements funded in the budget are $10,000 for painting in the gymnasium and one wing of classrooms, and $7,143 for an improved student assessment system for math and reading.

The spending plan for the elementary school will be presented, along with the proposed town government budget, at an April 24 public hearing. The elementary school budget goes to a vote with the town budget at the annual budget meeting on May 12. The Region 4 education budget, which funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, goes to the voters of Chester,Deep River, and Essex for approval in a May 6 referendum.

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Region 4 School Board Approves $18 Million Education Budget for 2014-2015, Returns $221,242 Surplus to District Towns

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education has approved a proposed $18,377,431 education budget for 2014-2015 that represents a $601,310, or 3.38 percent, spending increase over the current appropriation. The budget plan will be presented to residents of Chester, Deep River, and Essex at an April 7 public hearing.

The budget that funds the operations of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School was approved on a 7-1 vote at a Feb. 26 meeting after budget review workshop sessions that were held on Jan.. 28 and Feb. 4. Board member Mairio Gioco of Chester cast the single dissenting vote, with Deep River member Lori Wichtowski absent from the Feb. 26 session.

The gross budget is reduced by $297,447 in anticipated revenue to a net education budget of $18,079,984 that will be assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River, and Essex based on each town’s average daily member ship of students at the two secondary schools. The net budget represents a $579,395, or 3.31 percent, increase over the current net appropriation.

Chester, with 240 students, will pay a 24,14 percent, or $4,364,508, share of the budget. The Chester assessment is up by $106,615 from the current town share. Essex, with 446 students, will pay a 44.87 percent, or $8,112,489, share of the budget. The Essex assessment is up by only $30,717 from the current town share. The Essex share is down from the current year, when an Essex ADM of 465 students led to a sharp increase in the town’s share of the Region 4 budget.

But this year it is Deep River that faces a sharp hike in its share of the Region 4 budget. With an average daily membership of 308 students, Deep River will pay a 30.99 percent, or $5,602,924, share of the budget. The Deep River assessment is up by $442,063 from the current amount.

The spending plan includes no new certified positions, with reductions of a half-time art teacher, a reduction in hours for a Latin instructor position, and reducing two secretarial positions at the high school from full year to 10-month positions. The budget plan contains only $43,300 in new spending items, with most of this amount directed toward the purchase of new security cameras at the two schools and gates that could be used to limit access to the school properties at various times.

Board Chairman Chris Riley of Essex said the proposed spending plan is a responsible budget considers the needs of both students and district taxpayers. “It’s always a balancing act to meet the needs of students while using the resources provided by the communities appropriately, and this budget does just that,” he said.

The regional school board may have sweetened it’s spending request Thursday then the panel voted to return a $221,242 surplus from the 2012-2013 budget to the towns. The refund is divided based on the ADM split of the budget, with Essex receiving $98,696, with a return of $62,523 to Deep River, and $60,023 to Chester.

The Region 4 budget also includes a share of a $6,591,307 supervision district budget that is up by 3.14 percent from the current supervision district appropriation. Under Region 4’s complex governing rules, the supervision district budget covers personnel and services that are shared by all five district schools, including the elementary schools in each town. The supervision district budget, which was approved by the combined Region 4 and local school boards at a Feb. 27 meeting, is divided between the Region 4 and elementary school budgets based on the student average daily membership split.

The supervision district budget contains one new position, $68,361 for an instructional technology trainer who would provide assistance and support to teachers at all five district schools in integrating instructional technology in to the classroom curriculum.

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Secret Garden Growing At Valley Regional High School

Valley Regional Musical Productions cast and crew members help move a tree limb to be used to construct the set for the production of THE SECRET GARDEN on March 14-16 at Valley Regional High School. (from l-r):  Greg Magruder,  Zach Crosby, Dan Leffingwell, Michael Leffingwell, Madison Estelle, Eryn Star, Olivia Wilkinson and Charlotte Boland.

Valley Regional Musical Productions cast and crew members help move a tree limb to be used to construct the set for the production of THE SECRET GARDEN on March 14-16 at Valley Regional High School. (from l-r): Greg Magruder, Zach Crosby, Dan Leffingwell, Michael Leffingwell, Madison Estelle, Eryn Star, Olivia Wilkinson and Charlotte Boland.

Deep River, CT – Despite a few early snowstorms and a prolonged holiday break, Valley Regional Musical Productions cast and crew has been eagerly cultivating the production of The Secret Garden, with four performances scheduled for March 14 through March 16. Based on the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett and set in Victorian England, the emotionally deep story of struggle and survival will be told through lyrics/book by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon (sister of Carly Simon). With a total of 116 students participating, including 76 cast members, 34 crew members and 6 orchestra pit musicians who will be partnered and mentored by 15 professional musicians, the production’s large vocal ensembles, varied set designs and challenging mix of music should be well tended.

 

As the production’s title suggests, nature plays a key role in the story and presents one of a few new challenges in casting and staging according to VRMP Director Ingrid Walsh. “One important role is Robin, an English robin who lives in the secret garden and imparts many life lessons while interacting with the other characters,” stated Ms. Walsh. “We have decided to use puppetry to bring Robin to life and have reached out to puppetry schools for guidance and assistance. It will be a great learning experience and very exciting for all of us to stretch our creative technique.” In addition to the human and non-human characters, the cast also includes several ghosts and scenes with the ghosts remembering a past moment in time. Special choral groups and projection will be used to help the audience distinguish between characters and place in time.

 

Tickets for the musical are $10 each and will go on sale in early February at Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Gather in Ivoryton, Toys Ahoy! in Essex, Celebrations in Deep River and The Wheatmarket in Chester. More information will be available at the school’s website at www.vrhs.reg4.k12.ct.us. Anyone with experience in the field of puppetry and interest in helping with the development of Robin should email Ingrid Walsh at mailto: iwalsh@reg4.k12.ct.us or call the school’s office at 860-526-5328.

 

 

 

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Region 4 School Board Approve 2014-2015 School Calendar, Second Year with Short February Break

REGION 4— Region 4 school boards have approved a school calendar for 2014-2015, the second year where district students will have a shortened two day February break.

The calendar that was unanimously approved by district school boards on Dec. 5 closely follows the current school calendar that was approved after much discussion by the boards in December 2012. For the second year, district schools will close for the Monday Presidents Day holiday, Feb,. 16 ,2015, and remained closed the following day for students while staff have an in service professional development day.

The next school year will open on Thursday, Aug. 28. The calendar adheres to the district policy for the autumn Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with schools closed if the holiday falls on a week day. For 2014, there will be no school on Rosh Hashanah, Thursday Sept. 25, while Yom Kippur falls on a weekend and does not require a closing.

As was the case this year, there will be no school for students on Columbus Day, while school staff will be in session for a professional development day. This follows a year, 2012, where schools were in full session on the Columbus Day holiday. As was the case this year, school will be in session on Veterans day, Nov. 11.

As was the case this year, there will be no school on Wednesday Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving. The winter holiday break will run from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, with a spring vacation week from April 6-10. There will be five early dismissal days for students, while staff are in service during the afternoons for professional development.

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Essex Elementary School Raises Funds for Sisters Cities Essex Haiti

From left to right: Jeny Sawar- SCEH Board Member, Majorie Russel; EES Social Development Committee and Event Organizer, Jenifer Grant; SCEH Vice President for Deschapelles Projects, Scott Jeffery; EES Principal, David Evangelisti; SCEH Treasurer, Denise D'Avella; SCEH Development Chair, Sue McCann; SCEH Secretary. (Photo by Essex Elementary School Faculty/Staff)

From left to right: Jeny Sawar- SCEH Board Member, Majorie Russel; EES Social Development Committee and Event Organizer, Jenifer Grant; SCEH Vice President for Deschapelles Projects, Scott Jeffery; EES Principal, David Evangelisti; SCEH Treasurer, Denise D’Avella; SCEH Development Chair, Sue McCann; SCEH Secretary. (Photo by Essex Elementary School Faculty/Staff)

The Essex Elementary School Social Development Committee presented a check on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 for $2,754.25 to Sister Cities Essex Haiti. Inc., a 501C3 Foundation. The funds were raised at the Essex Elementary School’s, “Friends and Family on the Green Community Event” held on June 14, 2013.

This family and community event was part of Essex Elementary School’s ongoing partnership and collaborative relationship with Sister Cities Essex Haiti (SCEH) to benefit the people of the town of Deschapelles.

Essex Elementary School began working to support SCEH in the 2011-2012 school year.  Over the past few years our students have grown in their knowledge and understanding of their “sister city” and have worked to connect with Deshapelles, Haiti through their kindness and support.  Efforts from the Essex Elementary School children have raised funds to help support the construction of a library for the students in Haiti who we have learned, while being from a very different culture, with different lifestyles and opportunities, are no different from our own students in terms of wanting to grow, learn and become their personal best.

Through our partnership with SCEH, the students at Essex Elementary School have embraced this and have taken responsibility to help their community friends in Deschapelles, A special thank you goes out to Majorie Russell, the Essex Elementary School Social Development Core Team, Denise D’Avella, Brenda Floyd and Sister Cities Essex Haiti for their efforts in organizing this wonderful event.

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Two Juveniles Arrested Thursday After Bomb Threat at DR Elementary Schools

DEEP RIVER— Two juveniles were arrested by state police Thursday after a morning bomb threat forced an evacuation of Deep River Elementary School. The unidentified juveniles, who are students at the kindergarten through sixth grade elementary school, were arrested and charged with breach of peace and threatening.

A telephone bomb threat was received at the school at 9:20 a.m., leading to an evacuation of the building with students and most staff transported by bus to the John Winthrop Middle School. State police and emergency personnel searched the building and determined there was no threat. Students and staff returned to the school around 11:30 a.m.

The two juveniles were arrested by police later Thursday. Their cases have been referred to the juvenile court in Middletown.

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Region 4 School Boards Approve New Four-Year Contract for Cafeteria Workers

REGION 4— District school boards have approved a new four-year contract for 17 full-time cafeteria workers at the five district schools. The agreement with the worker’s bargaining unit, Council 4 Local 1303-091, was approved by the four district school boards at an Aug. 22 joint meeting.

The contract that runs through June 30, 2017 provides step pay increases, but no across-the-board wage hike, for the current year 2013-2014. There will be two percent pay raises, but no step increases, in the second and third years, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016. There would be a 2.215 percent wage increase, but no step increases, in the final year of the agreement, 2016-2017. The cafeteria workers have a much simpler step pay plan than district professionals such as teachers and para-educators, with three steps that are based on years of service.

The contract also includes a change in the pension plan for newly hired employees. The existing defined benefits pension plan would continue for all current members of the bargaining unit, but employees hired after July 1,2013 would have a different pension plan that requires a matching contribution from the employee. For health insurance coverage, the co-pay requirement for employees would increase from the previous 15 percent to a 17 percent share of premium costs beginning in the current school year.

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Region 4 Schools Open Thursday Aug. 29 for 2013-2014 Academic Year

REGION 4— Region 4 schools open Thursday for the 2013-2014 academic year, with expanded technology in the classrooms, a new teacher evaluation process, and cameras on all school buses among the enhancements awaiting students in the new year. About 2,100 students in grades kindergarten through 12 are expected to return to the five district schools, with teachers and other district staff returning on Monday to prepare for the opening day.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Friday that technology will expend throughout the district, particularly in the primary grades, with about 125 iPads purchased for use in various classrooms. Elementary school students will learn additional keyboarding skills as the year progresses. Levy said the district will begin implementing a new teacher evaluation plan, a step that is linked to instruction for new Common Core State Standards that were required as part of the statewide education reform legislation approved in 2012.

Levy said video cameras will now be in place on all 17 of the First Student Inc. buses that transport district students. In recent years, three cameras have been rotated among the buses over the course of a year. There have also been improvements to school security in response to the Newtown elementary school murders last December. Visitors will be buzzed in to all schools, and will be required to leave a drivers license or some other identification with the office during their visit. Staff, substitute teachers, and visitors will all have color coded ID badges while in the buildings during school hours.

The school year begins with 16 new full and part-time professional staff. Tyson Stoddard, who started working in the district in July, is the new supervisor of pupil services, a new position assisting Director of Pupil Services Tracy Johnston is coordinating special education services in the five schools. Stoddard had worked previously as special education coordinator for the Plymouth school system.

New teachers at Valley Regional High School include Kevin Woods-special education, Sarah Rubelmann-special education, Elizabeth Nischan-English, Amy Farotti-science, para-educator Nancylynn Maselli, and Lori Sullivan as a half-time art teacher. Catherine Vashel is the new math tutor at John Winthrop Middle School. New positions funded through the supervision district include Christine Corcoran as a new half-time instrumental music teacher, and Susan Alfiero-Bavasso as a four-tenths time speech and language pathology therapist.

Kirsten Reynolds is the new network technician at Essex Elementary School, with Katie Duncan in a new one-third time para-educator position. Caitlyn Hardy is a new teacher and Julie Papalia a new long-term substitute at Deep River Elementary School. Pamela Baclaski is the new remedial reading teacher and Marijane Mantie is returning as a teacher at Chester Elementary School. Mantie had worked at the Chester school in the 2011-2012 school year, but was laid off last year due to a drop in student enrollment. She has been rehired to replace a retired teacher. Grade assignments for the elementary school teachers are still being determined.

While schools open Thursday, there will be no classes on Thursday Sept. 5 for the Rosh Hashanah Jewish holiday. Students will have Oct. 14, Columbus Day, off but school will be in session for district staff as a professional development day. Schools will be open on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, with special programs on veterans to be presented during the school day. This is a change from last year, when school was in session for Columbus Day and closed on Veterans Day.

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Essex Vote on Bonding for Capital Projects – Elementary School Roof a Priority

ESSEX— Town officials are planning a vote late this year on a bonding authorization for several capital projects, with a replacement of sections of the Essex Elementary School roof and two bridge replacement projects listed as priorities in a report submitted in July by a volunteer study committee.

The five-member capital committee, chaired by Selectman Joel Marzi, has submitted a report to the board of selectmen that reviews more than two dozen potential capital projects for town buildings and properties. Along with the school roof and replacement of the Ivory Street and Walnut Street bridges in the Ivoryton section, the list prepared by the committee also includes several improvements and renovations to the 1892 town hall building. While some of the projects and improvements could be funded by capital sinking funds in the annual town budget, and some deferred, a bond issue would be needed to pay for some of the larger projects.

The replacement of sections of the elementary school roof, particularly the sections over a 1991 building addition, is estimated to cost about $1.2 million. These sections of the roof are already leaking in some areas after heavy rainfalls.  The committee did not provide a cost estimate for the two bridge replacement projects, though the bridge projects could cost between $500,000 to $1 million each. Some state reimbursement would be available for the school roof replacement, while the bridge projects could be eligible for some state an federal grant funding.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said this week the next step for the capital projects would be hiring an engineering consulting firm to “fill in some of the blanks,” and provide more detailed cost estimates.

Needleman said the consultant would work with the board of selectmen this fall to further prioritize projects and establish a final plan that would form the basis of a proposed bonding authorization. Needleman said the bonding proposal could be as much as $5 million, to be paid off over 20 years.

Needleman said a specific bonding proposal could be presented to the town’s voters by the end of the year, or possibly early in 2014. Needleman said he would recommend voting on the bonding authorization at a town meeting, though residents could petition for a referendum vote on the bonding package. He said any vote on a bonding package would be preceded by a public information meeting.

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Region 4 Appoints Supervisor of Pupil Services – New Position

The Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 Schools are pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Tyson Stoddard to the position of Supervisor of Pupil Services.  Mr. Stoddard most recently served as a Special Education Coordinator in the Plymouth Public Schools from 2010 until now.

Prior to his experience as a coordinator, Mr. Stoddard taught 4thgrade and elementary special education for 5 years.  He has been a volunteer with the Big Brother/Big Sisters program, and a student mentor.   Tyson Stoddard enjoys skiing, cycling, and golf when time allows, outside of his career interests.

Mr. Stoddard received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Philosophy from Trinity College, his Master of Science in Education in Moderate Disabilities from Simmons College, his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, and his Certification in Education Leadership at Southern Connecticut State University.  Tyson Stoddard has received numerous accolades and honors such as a Merit Scholarship recipient at UCONN School of Law, and the Golden Key International Honour Society most recently.

The Supervision District and interview team were very impressed with Mr. Stoddard’s knowledge of both general and special education, his ability to build strong working relationships, his compassion for students and families, and his ability to build forward and creative programs for all students.  The entire team is confident that Tyson Stoddard will provide exemplary leadership in our districts.

Mr. Stoddard grew up in Guilford, Connecticut and is looking forward to returning to the shoreline.  Tyson Stoddard and his wife currently reside in West Hartford with their three children.  They look forward to being active participants in our communities.  Mr. Stoddard will begin his post on July 1, 2013.

Ruth I. Levy, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4

Editor’s Note: The supervisor of pupil services position was established by district school boards earlier this year as a way to retain more special education students from Chester, Deep River, and Essex in the district, and avoid costly out-of-district placements and related transportation costs. Stoddard will work under District Director of Pupil Services Tracy Johnston.

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Valley Regional High School Graduates 158 Seniors in the Class of 2013

DEEP RIVER— The 158 seniors in the Class of 2013 received their diplomas Thursday in the sixty-second annual commencement ceremony at Valley Regional High School. A large crowd of hundreds of friends and family of the graduates gathered amid picture-perfect sunny skies and comfortable temperatures for the ceremony.
High school principal Kristina Martineau said members of the Class of 2013 had pursued their studies while also serving the Region 4 community of Chester, Deep River, and Essex as mentors for younger students and as emergency responders with the town volunteer fire departments and ambulance service. “Achieving and living this balance, the pursuit of personal success and service to others, is what it means to be a Valley Regional High School Warrior,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy urged the graduates, which she described as “the next generation of our workforce,” to be open to change and learning new skills, adding “one skill of great importance is to love what you choose to do in your life’s work.”
Honors Essayist Anna D’Agostino of Chester noted a four-year high school career is comprised of 720 days. “Here, over 720 days, we grew from curious freshmen to confident young adults,” she said, adding the school’s faculty had “taught us about ourselves and about living and from them we learned the values of hard work and the rewards that come with diligence.” Salutatorian Christopher Meyers of Essex noted that while Valley Regional High School is a small school, its faculty had provided the class with “a remarkable range of opportunity.”
Valedictorian Rachael Aikens of Essex noted that effort and a willingness to try can be as important as winning and success. “What is important now, especially on this graduation day and every day forward, is that you get back up and keep trying,” she said.
The school recognized two past graduates as the newest members of the Valley Regional High School Hall of Fame. Patricia Widlitz, Class of 1963, is a ten-term Democratic State  Representative for her current hometown of Guilford. Scott Wisner, Class of 1984, is a former resident state trooper for Essex who is currently a detective with the Connecticut State Police, Wisner was shot and wounded in the shoulder during an April 8 vehicle crash and shoot out with fleeing robbery suspects on Route 153 in Westbrook.

The Class of 2013

Rachael Caelie Aikens
Jerry Aksonelam
Henry Alberto
Ethan Robert Aresta
Jenna Caroline Avery
Gino V. Badalamenti
Devon Cartier Bakoledis
David C. Ballantyne
Kelly Bango
Christian Joseph Bartolotta
Marykelly Beaudoin
Julia Rose Beaulieu
Alex Elliot Belval
Lena Agnes Mae Bisaccia
Will Grayson Bogaert
Alyssa Bogan
Ashley Ann Bongiorni
Molly Jean Bosco
Sarah Joy Bowen
Briley Allen Branden
Olivia Cadley Branden
Jenna Taylor Brophy
Hannah Brown
Michael Edward Bruce Jr.
Lauren E. Budney
Megan Lynn Budney
Luc Townsend Burns
Sarah Hailey Burzin
Christian Caceres
Margaret E. Calamari
Kaitlin Susan Carini
Grace B. Carver
Roger Howard Clapp
Allyson Eleanor Clark
Ian S. Colby
Christopher J. Connor
Alyssa Anne Cornwall
Katherine Cullina
Sean Michael Cunningham
Anna Katherine D’Agostino
Rachel Kathryn Daley
Trevor John Dinwoodie
Jeremy Matthew Doran
Aliza Dubé
Amelia Rose Eppard
Courtney Ernst
Britney Elizabeth Evarts
Megan Elizabeth Farley
Nicholas Mathew Faulkingham
Andrew James Ferrucci
Dylan Christopher Ficke
Karla Janine Figueroa
Gabriella Sophie Clara Fishkind
Emily Antonia Frese
Alistair Stuart Garden
Kylie Nicole Gates
Charles Henry Godwin
Dylan Matthew Grzybowski
Sarah Margaret Hammond
Shelby Lynn Hardgrove
Sierra Beth Harger
Halie Michelle Harris
Mattie Jane Harris
Aryanah Marie Haydu
Morgan Emily Hines
Nicole Elizabeth Hines
Megan Rachel Anne Hunt
Anthony M. Hunter
Danielle Leigh Hunter
Claire Anna Hurwitt
Kathryn Nicole Ierna
Nikole Ann Indermaur
Russell Kenneth Jacobson
Jocelyn Jade Jaillet
Anna Catherine Javor
Ian Gregory Johnston
Shane Thomas Joy
Elsbeth Louise Kane
Helen Renate Kilby
Mason J. King
Samuel Carter Kneeland
Samuel Jackson Krempel
Jordan Nichole LaCasse
Garrett Edward LaMountain Jr.
Tazer Edward Landow
Jonathan Tyler LaPlace
Micaela Rae Leal
Timothy Alan Leffingwell
Andrew Wynn Lewis
Scout Macy Lohrs
Brandon Nicholas Longo
Jonathan David Luster
Christine Ellis Lyons
David John MacDonald
Derek Raymond Manierre
Sean Michael Manierre
Christopher Thomas Marconi
Jaclyn Ann Marino
Brooke A. McConnell
Sarah Elizabeth McDonald
Allison Marie McDougall
Sara Helen McIngvale
Randy Max Menard
Scott Michael Miezejeski
Maya Anne Camera Moen
Justin Joseph Andreas Morano
Carlin Patrick Morris
Christine Marie Morse
Emily Ellen Mosca
Clinton Charles Mosher
Randall Charles Sanford Mudge
Christopher William Myers II
Paul Arthur Myers
Natalie Nelson
Jacob Thomas Joseph Norton
Julia Marie Nucolo
Matthew Lawrence O’Brien
Nile Kohler Otte
Seamus Palm-Baker
Oskar Dakota Partyka
Kelsey Lauren Pearse
Kevin Robert Penkala
Kyle David Peterson
Christopher Joseph Polo
Ryan Michael Pomroy
Amanda Kelsey Preble
Tatumn Daniele Ramcke
Taylor Riggio-McGrath
Mallory Elizabeth Rioux
Marisa Lynn Romano
Haley Rosel Samuelson
Megan Florence Sasena
Katherine Marie Schroeder
Erin Cynthia Scionti
Isaac Joseph Siegel
Zachariah Taylor Skalandunas
Elizabeth Smith
Patrick Andrew Smith
Norma Lucille Louise Socci
Sten Philip Spinella
James Bailey Steele
Brittany Paige Sullivan
Daniel Joseph Thayer
Abigail Wyeth Tibbetts
Nicolas Marivo Tiezzi
Curtis A. Turner
Rebecka Lee Tyrseck
Nicholas George Van Wyngaarden
Charlotte Ann Vigue
Geoffrey Charles Vincelette
Parker Bevan Wallis
Robert Cory Welsh
Timothy R. Westerman
Hailey Nicole Whitworth
zackerie Alan Whitworth
Julia Rochelle Wlochowski
Cheyenne Mya Wohlstrom
Joan Langley Wyeth
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Valley Regional High School Receives Travel Grant in Memory of Chris Belfoure

Robin Chapin, Chris' Mother presenting grant from Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at Community Foundation of Middlesex County

Robin Chapin, Chris’ Mother presenting grant from Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at Community Foundation of Middlesex County

A $2,000 grant for the bus transportation has been given to the Valley Regional High School World Language Department to help offset the cost of each trip to France and Costa Rica this year. The grant was presented to the students at each of their fundraising events. Chris’s dreams of expanding his horizons were being fulfilled.

Christopher Belfoure was a 2005 Valley Regional High School Graduate. In his junior year he went on the foreign language department’s trip to Italy. This experience opened his eyes to a new and vastly different view of the world. It inspired him to further discover what lay beyond the horizon and explore the possibilities. This was the beginning of his journey to learn about other people and their cultures. He went on to study Chinese at West Virginia University, and this afforded him the opportunity to study abroad in China. This is where he developed a passion for the Chinese people and their language. It ultimately led to employment at EMC Shanghai, China (a computer technology company) where he trained the Chinese employees in learning English, other cultures and customer service.

The Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County was established a year ago, after a tragic and fatal accident in July of 2011.

The fund will serve as a catalyst toward integrating multicultural experiences and a broader understanding of people around the world.

The 2nd Annual Run for Chris will also be held on Sat. June 22, 2013, at 8 a.m. in honor of Chris.  All are welcome to participate  including runners and walkers. Click here for more details of the run.

Family and Friends of Christopher thank you for your support.

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Region 4 School District Returns $67,875 to Member Towns

DEEP RIVER, CT – During its most recent meeting, the Region 4 Board of Education voted unanimously to return $67,875 to member towns based on the 2011-2012 financial audit conducted by the accounting firm Grant Thornton, LLP. The Region 4 School District covers John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School.

“The Region 4 School District is entrusted with the resources needed to provide all our students with the opportunity for an excellent education,” said Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent of the Region 4 Schools. “Our Board and Administration work diligently throughout the year to meet this obligation while conducting our business in a financially responsible manner at all times.”

Funds are returned based on the number of students enrolled from each town during the 2011-12 school year. The 2011-12 surplus will be refunded as follows:

Town of Chester $18,734
Town of Deep River $19,765
Town of Essex $29,376

TOTAL $67,875

The district continually looks for budgetary efficiencies throughout the year, and has consistently been able to return funds to member towns. The approved budget for the 2011-2012 school year was $17,324,933 and expenditures for the year came within ½% of the appropriation.

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State Grant Helps Fund Emergency Communications System for Region 4 Schools

DEEP RIVER— An $18,025 grant provided through the state Office of Policy and Management will help pay for a new emergency radio communications system that will link the five Region 4 schools and the district’s administrative office.

Voters at a town meeting Tuesday approved a resolution accepting the grant provided under the Inter-town Capital Equipment Incentive Program (ICE). With Deep River as the host town, selectmen and town meetings in Essex and Chester are also authorizing a joint application to apply the funds to the school district shared by the three towns. Region 4 is expected to provide matching funds to cover the estimated $38,000 to $40,000 cost of the radio system.

The funds will be used to purchase radio repeater equipment that would be attached to an existing 100-foot telecommunications tower at John Winthrop Middle School. The new system will provide direct radio communications between the middle school, central office, Valley Regional High School, and the elementary schools in Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The radio system could be used during any emergency, whether weather-related or as a result of an incident at one of the schools. The new radio system is expected to be installed over the summer to be put in operation during the next school year.

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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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Chester, Deep River Elementary School Budgets Reduce Teaching Positions

CHESTER/DEEP RIVER— The 2013-2014 spending plans for Chester Elementary School and Deep River Elementary School include reductions in teaching positions in response to drops in student enrollment at the kindergarten through sixth grade schools. The budget plans were approved by the local school boards late last month.

The proposed budget for Chester Elementary School totals $4,182,373, a decrease of .98 percent, or $41,527, from the current budget. An enrollment at Chester Elementary School of 251 students this year is expected to drop to about 236 students in the 2013-2014 school year. The spending plan eliminates two teacher positions, for a savings of $94,000, and one seven-tenths para-educator position for a savings of $16,000. But an anticipated increase in special education students led the school board to accept Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy’s recommendation to fund a new special education para-educator position at a cost of $26,147.

The proposed budget for Deep River Elementary School totals $5,561,158, an increase of 2.97 percent, or $160,371, over the current budget. With enrollment at the elementary school expected to drop from the current 347 students to 326 students in the 2013-2014 school year, the budget eliminates one teaching position for a savings of $46,907.

The elementary school budgets are now subject to review by the finance boards in each town. The elementary school spending plans will be presented at the annual budget hearing for each town, and sent to the voters in May for approval with the general government budgets for each town.

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Valley Regional High School Hosts Blood Drive

 (left to right): Elsbeth Kane, Valley Regional student, and Cathy Poulin, Bob’s public relations director

(left to right): Elsbeth Kane, Valley Regional student, and Cathy Poulin, Bob’s public relations director

Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Conn. hosted a blood drive on March 28. Students at Valley Regional High School are coordinating blood drives throughout the school year with the American Red Cross as part of the Bob’s Discount Furniture $100,000 High School Heroes Scholarship Program.

This annual program recognizes outstanding high school seniors in Massachusetts and Connecticut who have made exceptional contributions to their schools’ volunteer blood programs by awarding $100,000 in college scholarships each year. 

For more information, please visit www.mybobs.com.

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Region 4 Continues Study on Moving Sixth Graders to John Winthrop Middle School

REGION 4— School officials will spend another year studying the option of moving sixth graders from the three elementary schools to John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River, a step that would probably require referendum approval from voters in Chester, Deep River, and Essex of a change in the agreements establishing the regional school district.

The combined district school boards, including the Region 4 Board of Education and local school boards governing the three elementary schools, last week received a preliminary report from a study committee established last fall to analyze the option of relocating sixth grades to the middle school.  Bill Duffey, the first year principal at the middle school who presented the report, said most middle schools in Connecticut now include grades 6-8, with the state’s new common core standards also focusing on a grades 6-8 middle school program. Duffey said the committee that includes teachers, parents, and administrators has “nearly unanimous support” for pursuing a move of the sixth grades to the middle school.

Duffey said the 42-year old middle school, which underwent a renovation and expansion that was completed in 2005, has 26 classrooms and could accommodate sixth grades from the three elementary schools without any need for new renovations or construction. He said the committee determined that transportation of sixth graders to the middle school could be done without a need for additional buses.

But any relocation of the sixth grades would also require “governance” changes, particularly a change in the current regionalization agreement between the towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex that refers to a regional school district serving students in grades 7-12. It is this agreement which provides for an elected Region 4 school board that manages the middle school and Valley Regional High School, and elected local school boards that run the elementary schools in the three towns.

A change to this agreement would be expected to require referendum approval from voters in each of the three district towns. District schools boards have been studying options for governance changes for several years, but have not yet presented a specific proposal for changes to the towns. There has been reluctance to propose a full regionalization of the school district to include the elementary schools, creating a full regional school district like Region 17 (Haddam-Killingworth), and Region 18 (Lyme-Old Lyme).

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Monday the need for governance changes that could require referendums is one of the issues the committee would continue to study in to the 2013-2014 school year. Other issues include more details on transportation and any other costs, and the possible need for some of the current nine sixth grade teachers to update their state certifications to allow them to teach a middle school curriculum. Levy said there is currently “no end point” for the sixth grade study committee’s work, though another report to the school boards is expected in the spring of 2014.

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No Residents Attend Hearing on Proposed $17.77 Million Region 4 Education Budget

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education Monday approved a proposed $17,776,907 education budget for 2013-2014 that goes to the voters of Chester, Deep River and Essex in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 7.

The board made no changes to the budget plan it adopted on March 7 after no residents from the three towns attended the annual budget hearing Monday evening. The board and school administrators came equipped with plenty of information, including a comparison between the latest Region 4 teacher contract and other teacher contracts negotiated in recent months around the state, but there were no residents on hand to question or comment on the budget.

The total budget represents a $269,907, or 1.54 percent, increase over the current appropriation that funds Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School. The gross budget is reduced by $275,532 in anticipated income to a net budget of $17,500,589 that is assessed the taxpayers Chester, Deep River, and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools. The net budget represents a $235,655, or 1.36 percent, increase over the current net billings to the towns.

Based on the current average daily membership of 973 students, Chester, with 245 students will pay a 24.33 percent share of the budget. Deep River, with 297 students, will pay a 29.49 percent share of the budget. Essex, with 465 students, will pay a 46.18 percent share of the budget.

The Chester assessment, $4,257,893, is down by $426,084, or 9.1 percent, from the town’s current expenditure for Region 4. The Deep River share, $5,160,924, is up by $281,854, or 5.78 percent, from the current amount. The Essex assessment totals  $8,081,772, an increase of $379,885, or 4.93 percent, from the current amount.

After closing the public hearing, the seven of the nine elected board members approved the spending plan, with member Mario Gioco of Chester abstaining. Gioco had voted against the budget at the March 7 meeting, contending he had not received sufficient detail on the number of students in the various classroom sections, including half-credit courses, at the high school. Member Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River was absent Monday.

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VRHS Seeking Hall of Fame Nominations

Nominations and applications are being accepted for the 30th annual VALLEY REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL 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 Valley Regional High School office (526-5328) for an application, or write to the principal, Mrs. Kristina Martineau, 256 Kelsey Hill Road, 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, 2013.

The winner of the Hall of Fame Award will be honored at the graduation ceremony at Valley Regional High School on Thursday, June 20, 2013, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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Region 4 Board of Education Approves $17.77 Million Budget for 2013-2014

REGION 4— The Region 4 Board of Education last week approved a $17,776,120 budget for 2013-2014, an amount that represents an increase of $269,907, or 1.54 percent, over the current appropriation.

The budget that funds the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School is reduced by $275,532 in anticipated income for a net budget of $17,500,588 that is assessed the taxpayers of Chester, Deep River and Essex based on the number of students from each town attending the two secondary schools. The net budget billed to taxpayers is up by $235,655, or 1.36 percent.

Essex continues to pay a larger share of the net budget, with enrollment data showing Deep River paying more in 2013-2014 while the Chester assessment is down by nine percent. With 465 students attending the two secondary schools, Essex is assessed a 46.18 percent, or $8,801,772, share of the net budget. The Essex assessment is up by $379,885, or 4.93 percent, in the proposed budget. With 297 students attending the two schools, Deep River is assessed a 29.49 percent, or $5,160,924 share of the proposed budget. The Deep River assessment is up by $281,854, or 5.78 percent.

But the changes in student average daily membership have given Chester taxpayers a break for next year. With 245 students attending the two schools, Chester has a 24.33 percent, or $4,257,893 share of the proposed budget. The Chester assessment is down by $426,084, or 9.1 percent.

A large portion of the total $275,532 spending increase is directed to salaries for professional staff after district teachers received an average 3.9 percent salary increase under a three year contract approved in December. The only new position in the budget is a special education para-educator position at the middle school at a cost of $25,990.

The budget plan was approved by the Region 4 board at a March 7 meeting on a 7-1 vote, with board member Mario Gioco of Chester opposed. Gioco, a Republican elected to fill a vacancy at a December 2011 town meeting, said he had asked at the first budget workshop session last month for a breakdown of the number of students in each class at the high school, including half credit courses.

Gioco said information provided by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and Principal Kristina Martineau showed averages for the number of students in the various classes. “The averages don’t work for me, I can’t get a handle on it,” he said.
Other board members said they were satisfied with the information provided, while Levy said she felt “micromanaged,” by the request. Martineau said gathering all the data for each class was time consuming, adding that she found the request “disturbing and insulting.”

The proposed Region 4 budget will be presented at the annual budget hearing, set for April 1 at 7 p.m. in the library/media center at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. The budget goes to the voters of the three towns in a 12 noon to 8 p.m. referendum on Tuesday May 7.

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Region 4 School Boards Approve $6.39 Million Supervision District Budget

REGION 4— The four district school boards Thursday gave unanimous approval to a $6,390,898 supervision district budget that funds shared services in the Chester-Deep River-Essex school district. The budget total represents a 2.06 percent, or $129,160, increase over the current supervision district appropriation.

Most of the new spending is directed toward a new administrative position, assistant director of pupil services, at a cost of $127,710, including salary of $109,791, and $16,919 for medical and other benefits. Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said the new position would upgrade services for about 300 identified special education students, and enable the district to avoid out-of-district placements, and related transportation costs, for many of these students.  The number of identified special education students in district schools has increased from about 267 students in 2009-2010. Levy said several area school districts, including Region 17 (Haddam-Killingworth), Madison, and Old Saybrook have more than one supervisory position for special education programming.
In an effort to hold down the total spending increase in the budget, administrators identified about $138,000 in savings that includes some reductions in teaching hours for art, music, and elementary school foreign language positions.. Levy said the reductions in teacher hours are a direct result of declining enrollment at the three elementary schools, and would result in no reductions in instructional time for the elementary school art, music, and foreign language programs.

The supervision district budget was approved on unanimous votes of the Region 4, Chester, Deep River, and Essex school boards that gathered at John Winthrop Middle School Thursday for the joint meeting. The approval locks in a portion of the 2013-2014 spending plans that are now being prepared by the school boards. The supervision district appropriation is not subject to direct voter approval, but is divided between the Region 4 and three elementary school budgets based on the number of students from each town attending district schools. Essex, with the largest average daily membership (ADM) of students is expected to pay a 45 percent share of the budget.

The Region 4 Board of Education and local school boards for the three towns are expected to adopt proposed 2013-2014 budgets later this month. The proposed Region 4 budget goes to voters of the three towns at the annual referendum in early May. The elementary school appropriations, which are subject to review and adjustment by town finance boards, are presented for voter approval in May as part of the town budgets.

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Region 4 Cuts Two Days From April Vacation Week to Make up for Snow Days

REGION 4— Region 4 schools reopened Wednesday after losing three school days to Blizzard Charlotte, forcing school officials to cut two days from the April vacation week to make up for the lost class time. The April vacation week will last for only three days, April 15-17, with school in session for Thursday April 18 and Friday April 19. Any additional snow cancellation days this winter would also be made up by taking one or more days from the remaining three April vacation days.
The district lost a week of school to Storm Sandy from October 29 to November 2.  The loss of days last fall forced district school boards to push back the June closing date. With the plan for additional make-up days in April, the last day of school is expected to remain fixed on Tuesday June 25. The Valley Regional High School graduation for seniors in the Class of 2013 will remain fixed on Thursday June 20, which was originally expected to be one of the final days of the school year.
District schools will be closed next week for the President’s Day holiday and the traditional winter break. But under a 2013-2014 school calendar approved by district school boards in December, next year, the February break will be limited to two days, the Monday President’s day holiday and the following Tuesday.
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Chester School Board Approves New Three-Year Teacher Contract

REGION 4—  The Chester Board of Education Tuesday approved the new three-year contract for Region 4 teachers, setting up a required 20-day on-file period before the agreement becomes effective.   The board approved the contract, which will provide about 220 teachers serving Chester, Deep River, and Essex with a total 9.5 percent salary increase over three years, on a 7-1 vote, with member Ashley Marsh opposed.

The Chester board, which governs the operations of the Chester Elementary School, lacked a quorum when the district’s three other school boards, the Region 4 Board of Education and the local school boards for Deep River and Essex, approved the agreement at a Dec. 6 meeting. The approvals were unanimous for the two local boards, but the vote for the Region 4 board that governs the two secondary schools was three members supporting the agreement, two opposed, and one abstaining. Two members, including board Chairwoman Linda Hall, were absent.

Members Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River and Mario Gioco of Chester voted against the contract, with member Ann Monaghan of Chester abstaining. Each had questioned the impact of the total salary settlement on future budgets and tax rates for their towns. Board members that had participated in the negotiations that led to the agreement, including current Supervision District Chairwoman Wendy King of Chester, maintained the salary package was in line with other nearby school districts, and that rejecting the contract would lead to last and best offer binding arbitration with the cost of the process to be paid by the school district.

The contract provides teachers with an average 3.9 percent salary increase in 2013-2014, a 1.7 percent pay increase in 2014-2015, and a 3.9 percent increase on 2015-2016. The totals include step increases on the 12-step teacher salary schedule in 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, but not in 2014-2015. The anticipated total cost increase of the package would vary among the four boards, ranging from 9.12 percent over three years for Region 4, to a total 11.3 percent hike in salary expenses for Deep River Elementary School.

Under state las the contract is now filed with town clerks for the three towns for 20 days, a period where the board of selectmen for any town could request a town meeting vote on the agreement. Rejection of the contract by voters in any of the three district towns would block approval and send the contract negotiations to binding arbitration.

While selectmen in the three towns are expressing varying degrees of concern about the budget and tax rate impact of the contract, a move to force a town meeting vote on the agreement is considered unlikely with the tight 20-day on-file period that falls over the Christmas and New Years holidays. Such a challenge has never occurred in previous Region 4 contract negotiations.

Deep River selectmen discussed the contract at a Dec. 11 meeting, with all three selectmen, First Selectman Richard Smith and selectmen Angus Mcdonald Jr. and David Oliveria, expressing concern about the cost of the three-year package. Smith said he objected to providing a 3.9 percent pay hike in the first year, with two additional increases building on that. Mcdonald predicted “a sticky spring” for education budgets that could lead to teacher job cuts to limit the budget and tax rate impact. But Deep River selectmen did not move to challenge the contract, and are not scheduled to hold another meeting until Jan. 8, at the end of the 20-day file period.

Essex First Selectman Norman Needleman said the contract “is not the way I would have negotiated it,” but added that board negotiators “did the best they could,” given that pay raises for district teachers have been lower over the past five years. Needleman said it would be “counter-productive” to challenge the agreement and send the negotiations to binding arbitration. The Chester Board of Selectmen were scheduled to discuss the Region 4 teacher contract at a meeting Wednesday evening.

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Region 4 Teacher Contract has Salary Increas of 9.5 Percent Over Three Years

REGION 4-— A new three-year contract for teachers provides a total salary increase of 9.5 percent over three years, including 3.9 percent for 2013-2014, 1.7 percent for 2014-2015, and 3.9 percent in 2015-2016.

The contract for about 220 teachers in the Chester-Deep River-Essex school district has been approved by the union. The agreement was approved at a Dec. 6 meeting by three of the district’s four school boards. The Chester Board of Education, which governs the operation of Chester Elementary School, lacked a required quorum at the Dec. 6 meeting, with a Dec. 18 special meeting called to vote on the agreement which must be approved in separate votes by each of the four boards.

The votes at Thursday’s meeting were not unanimous, with some board members expressing concern about the total cost of the salary package after details of the agreement were presented by labor lawyer Kevin Roy with the Hartford firm of Shipman & Goodman. The agreement had been concluded in early October with assistance from a state mediator. While the local school boards for Deep River and Essex were unanimous in approving the contract, three members of the Region 4 Board of Education dissented after first asking for more time to consider the agreement.

Board member Ann Monaghan, a Chester Democrat, questioned whether the total salary package would “sit well”, with district taxpayers in the continuing economic slowdown. Wendy King, the chairwoman of the Chester Board of Education who is chairwoman of the combined Supervision District Board for 2012-2013, said  “these numbers are the best numbers we could have obtained,” without entering last and best offer binding arbitration. King said the binding arbitration process would cost the district up to $100,000 with no guarantee of a lower salary package. Monaghan later abstained from voting on the agreement, with board members Mario Gioco of Chester and Laurie Tomlinson of Deep River, both Republicans, voting no.

The salary increases will vary for each teacher, depending on what step the employee is on in the district’s salary schedule. About 25 percent of the district’s teachers are veteran educators at the top step of the salary schedule. The salary package includes step increases for 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, but no step increases in 2014-2015.

The agreement also requires teachers to pay an increasing share of their health insurance costs. The employee share under the district’s preferred provider plan would increase from the current 18 percent to 18.5 percent in July, 19 percent in July 2014, and 20 percent in July 2015. Employee shares under the health savings account option would rise to 15.5 percent in 2015-2016. Teachers volunteering for extracurricular activities, such as coaches, advisors and tutors, would receive a one percent increase in their annual stipend in each of the three years.

The overall cost of the salary package will vary for each school board depending on the number of teachers at the various steps on the salary schedule. For the Region 4 Board of Education, which governs the operation of Valley Regional High School and John Winthrop Middle School, the cost increase over three years would be 9.12 percent. The salary package would be most costly for the Deep River Board of Education, 11.3 percent over three years. The total increase would be 9.65 percent for the Essex Board of Education, 9.39 percent for the Chester Board of Education, and 9.34 percent for personnel providing shared services for the supervision district.

The current contract which expires June 30 was part of a two-year wage/salary reopener that was provided under an agreement first negotiated in 2009. The salary reopener negotiated in the fall of 2010 with help from a state mediator provided a one-half percent general increase for 2011-2012, with a two percent increase for teachers at the top step. For the current year, there was a one-half percent increase for teachers at the top step, with basic step increases for all other teachers.

If the agreement is approved by the Chester school board on Dec. 18, it must then be posted with the town clerks of each town for 20 days, a period during which the board of selectmen of each town could decide to challenge the agreement and send it to a town meeting vote. Such a challenge has never occurred in previous Region 4 contract negotiations. Negotiations would move to binding arbitration if the agreement is not approved by the four school boards.

Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith said Friday he believes the raises provided under the contract are “pretty high,” and “front loaded” to have a major impact on the budgets and tax rates for 2013-2014. Smith said Deep River selectmen would discuss the contract at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

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Region 4 Approves 2013-2014 School Calendar with Shortened February Vacation

REGION 4— The school district has approved a 2013-2014 school calendar that cuts the February winter break while holding classes on Veterans Day and restoring the Columbus Day holiday. The calendar, along with some minor revisions to the calendar for this year, was approved Thursday by the Supervision District Committee.

The committee unanimously approved a calendar option that was endorsed last week after lengthy discussion by a calendar subcommittee. The 2013-2014 calendar will continue to recognize the two autumn Jewish holy days, which was done for the first time this year, while making the second Monday in October Columbus Day holiday a day off for students but a professional development day for district staff. School was in session for Columbus Day this year. In 2013, school will be open for the first time on the second Monday in November Veterans Day holiday.

In the biggest change, the 2013-2014 calendar will reduce the February winter vacation to just two days, Feb. 17, which is President’s Day in 2014, and Feb. 18. The reduced break will start early for students with a half-day professional development day on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. The school year would end on June 11, 2014, depending on the number of days lost to weather events.

The major point of discussion for the calendar committee last week was whether to hold a half-day session on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, the day before Thanksgiving, and add one additional day to the February break, or whether to have the day before Thanksgiving off, as was done this year. The committee decided that with absences increasing on the day before Thanksgiving, students would gain receive more instructional time by having that day off and attending class on the Wednesday in the winter break.

In a minor change to the current calendar, there will be a one-half-day session on Friday Jan. 18. This would open up one additional snow cancellation day in a year where a full week of school has already been lost to Storm Sandy.

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Region 4 Schools Boards to Consider Three-Year Teacher Contract, School Calendar Changes at Meeting

REGION 4 — The Region 4 Supervision District Board of Education will consider a new three-year contract for district teachers, and proposed changes to the 2013-2014 school calendar, at a meeting Thursday. The session convenes at 7 p.m. in the library at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River. The supervision district board is a large group comprised of all of the elected members of the Region 4 Board of Education, and the local school boards for Chester, Deep River, and Essex.

The agreement with the Region 4 Education Association bargaining unit was negotiated in early October with assistance from a mediator assigned by the state Department of Education. Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said last week the three-year contract that extends to June 30, 2016, has been approved by the teachers union. Levy said details of the contract, including salaries and benefit changes, would not be released until the Dec. 6 meeting.

Last week, a calendar committee of the boards gave a tentative endorsement to a proposed 2013-2014 school calendar that would again honor the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, make Columbus Day a holiday for students and a professional development day for teachers, and hold classes on the second Monday in November Veterans Day holiday. The proposed calendar would also cut the February 2014 winter vacation from a week to two days, including the required President’s Day holiday. Both the calendar and the teacher contract require approval from each of the four Region 4 school boards.

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Region 4 Considers Proposed 2013-2014 School Calendar That Cuts February Vacation, Holds Classes on Veteran’s Day

REGION 4— The Region 4 school boards will consider a proposed 2013-2014 school calendar that cuts the February vacation week to two days and holds classes on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day holiday.

The revised 2013-2014 calendar received a consensus endorsement at a meeting Wednesday of a calendar committee comprised of members of the four district school boards. The group also endorsed minor changes to the current year calendar in an effort to prepare for possible snow cancellations this winter after already losing five days of school to Storm Sandy during the week of Oct. 29-Nov. 2.

For the current calendar, the committee endorsed a change to make Friday Jan. 18 an early dismissal day to allow for one additional snow cancellation day. The summer closing day is now June 24, but the graduation ceremony for the Valley Regional High School Class of 2012 remains fixed on Thursday June 20. Any additional snow cancellation days would be made up with days taken from the spring vacation week set for April 15-19.

The committee spent nearly two hours discussing, and sometimes differing, on a 2013-2014 calendar presented by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy. The superintendent noted the calendar must accommodate the 180 school days requires by state law, and an additional five days for teachers and other staff required under existing union contracts. These must also be at least 18 hours for staff professional development activities.

The proposed 2013-2014 calendar again closes school on the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, though in 2013 this requires only one closing day for Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 5. The district began honoring the Jewish holidays this year in response to appeals from Jewish parents and students.

But the current calendar also opened schools on the traditional second Monday in October, Columbus Day holiday. Levy acknowledged there had been “a few comments” from residents objecting to holding classes last month on Columbus Day. For 2013, Columbus Day would be a day off for students, but a professional development day for staff.

The 2013-2014 calendar for the first time would open schools on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day holiday. Schools had been closed on Veterans Day this year. Levy said she would work with local veterans groups to present in school educational programs on the meaning of Veterans Day for 2013.

Another big change for 2013-2014 is the shortening of the February winter vacation from a week to two days, including Presidents Day on the third Monday in February. Levy said there is a trend in state school districts, including nearby districts using the Project Lean model calendar, to shorten the February break. She noted the winter months are “meat and potatoes time,” for classroom instruction. But some committee members, particularly Region 4 board member Jennifer Clark of Essex, contended the near eliminatiion of the February break would be a “big shock” for some parents.

Clark suggested holding school on Nov. 27, 2013, the day before Thanksgiving, and adding one day back to the February vacation. For the first time this month, district schools were closed on the day before Thanksgiving. Levy said this was partly a response to labor contracts that required Columbus Day as a holiday, but was also a response to high absentee rates on the day before Thankgiving that is usually a big travel day for some families. Schools had previously been open for only a half day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

After discussion, the committee endorsed the option of closing again on the day before Thanksgiving, and cutting the February 2014 winter break to two days, Monday-Tuesday Feb. 17-18 2014. The proposed 2013-2014 calendar that will be formally adopted by district school boards in the coming weeks also allows for an early summer closing in June 2014. Barring snow days or major storms, district schools would close on June 11 in 2014.

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Region 4 Schools Remain Closed Thursday and Friday, Ivoryton Post Office Shut Down by Tree Damage

Tree damage to the roof of Ivoryton Post Office (photo by Jerome Wilson).

AREAWIDE— Region 4 schools will remain closed Thursday and Friday, as John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River continues to be used as an emergency shelter for residents of the district towns of Chester,Deep River and Essex.  In another development in the wake of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy Monday, the Ivoryton Post Office has been closed after a large tree fell on the building’s roof and caused extensive damage. The building is expected to remain closed for up to a month.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy announced the school closing Wednesday afternoon. District schools have been closed since the arrival of the storm Monday, making for a full week of missed classes due to Hurricane Sandy. Levy said the emergency shelter at the middle school is expected top remain open through Friday.

Though some sections of Deep River and the Ivoryton section of Essex had electric power restored overnight Wednesday, large sections of Deep River, Chester, and Essex remain without electricity. Only portions of the Centerbrook section of Essex were spared outages from the storm. Levy said about 500 meals were served to residents at the middle school cafeteria Tuesday, with at least 30 people staying overnight at the shelter. Dozens more used the shower facilities at the school.

Levy said the school district is paying most of the costs of the emergency shelter in anticipation of later reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A costumed Halloween parade was held at the middle school Wrednesday afternoon after traditional Halloween activities, such as the parade in Essex, were cancelled. The Ivoryton Post Office is closed after a large tree fell during the storm and breached the roof of the structure.

A postal employee said Wednesday the 275 boxholders at the Ivoryton facility will be able to pick up mail at the Centerbrook Post Office using there regular postal box numbers. The Ivoryton Post Office, which was built in the 1960s, is expected to remain closed for up to a month for repairs to the building’s roof.

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Board of Education Update from Essex Board of Education Chairman

Dear friends,

Here’s the latest info I have:

School Closure Update:

I just received word that schools will be closed for the remainder of the week. Please help spread the word.

The AlertNow system suffered a failure that prevented our administrators from getting communications out to all of you. I am told it is now back up and running so you should be receiving notifications through there shortly. We will certainly review what happened with them once we get schools reopened. I suggest that if you do not have power but have a battery operated radio, tune into WLIS 1420 AM for updates. Please also help to share the news with your friends and neighbors who may not have internet access.

A note from Stacia Libby regarding Halloween activities in Essex:

The Halloween Parade that was scheduled for the evening in downtown Essex will NOT be rescheduled. There will be no Essex Parade for 2012. The parade at JWJHS at 2:30 p.m. today (October 31) is open to ALL ages. If you have candy please feel free to bring it to distribute to the children. Finally, with regards to Trick or Treating this evening, please limit your canvassing in areas in town that still do not have power. There are many sections of town that do have power, we encourage you to Trick or Treat in these areas of town. Again, if anyone has any additional questions please feel free to message me or contact me on my cell phone at 860-662-0928. Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Lon Seidman -Essex Board of Education Chairman

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VRHS Student Interviews Julie Andrews

Valley Regional High School student Laura Harkness recently had the opportunity to interview Julie Andrews about her new book that is being turned into a musical “The Great American Mousical.” She talked to her about the inspiration behind the book and what she likes about working with Goodspeed and in particular, The Norma Terris Theater.

Q: When you were writing your book, was it your intention to be a musical?

A: No, not at all. The reason being, at the time I couldn’t conceive how it could’ve been a musical. I think in the best of all possible worlds, maybe it could’ve been an animated film. But I never thought of it being a live musical for the theatre, even though it is a book about theatre. And we sent the book as a gift to Mr. Micheal Price at Goodspeed Musicals (Executive Director) and Mr. Alwine at Goodspeed Musicals (Associate Producer) and to our astonishment, from this gift, within 48 hours they came back and said, ‘We’d love to acquire the rights and develop it for the theater as a musical.’ And the difficulty in adapting it for the stage is the perspective issue. It is about a group of performing mice who have their own theater beneath the boards of a great Broadway theater. So how do you have actors playing mice and make it believable and get the audience to accept that? So, it’s one of the reasons that we never thought of it as being possible, and all of a sudden here we are just about to start rehearsals tomorrow!

Q: Are you excited for that?

A: Yes, very and quite thrilled with what we do have. Because we now have a new scene developed and a script for the musical by a lovely guy called Hunter Bell who has done a such honor by developing some of the characters; more than we could’ve ever have hoped. And then the music and the lyrics, the music is by Zina Goldrich and the lyrics are by a lady called Marcy Heisler and they’ve done us proud.

Q: What was the inspiration for the book?

A: Something quite silly! I was performing on Broadway and somebody announced that there was a live mouse in the wardrobe department. I suggested that instead of a killer trap, that they could have a heart trap (a humane trap) it in the wardrobe department and maybe they would be kind to carry the mouse out and deposit it somewhere far, far away. And they were realizing, of course, that Broadway in general is riddled with mice below the boards of any theater. But this one little mouse I just said, ‘Oh please, dear, look after him! Take it away.’ And then somebody said, jokingly, ‘He probably came up to see the stars above the stage!’ And a light bulb went off my head, and I go, ‘That would be the best idea for a middle grade novel!’ So, I began to write it with my daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton. And in the end result, here we are! It was written about 7 years ago and acquired about certainly 6 years ago.

Q: You’ve written other books with her, your daughter…

A: Yes. I’ve written, to date, about 22 with her and other 5 just coming out soon.

Q: Oh really! That’s exciting!

A: Yeah thank you!

Q: Yeah, that’s so cool. So, what’s it like to write with her?

A: A joy, an absolute joy. It would be as if I’m sitting across from you, and you were once this high (measures two feet off of the ground), and now I’m talking with my daughter as an absolute full grown woman with her own talent and her own thoughts of humor. We are very compatible. We finish each other’s sentences when we write like, ‘I was just going to say that!’ That kind of thing.

We laugh a lot, we drink a lot of tea together, and we’ve never had an argument. We have different strengths and the best idea wins in our opinion. So if we might have a discussion about something, there’s this sort of unspoken feeling that if each other one of us is most passionate about an issue is probably right.

Q: Out of all of the places, you chose Chester, CT. Why did you choose this town?

A: Well first of all, this is the second stage for the Goodspeed Musicals, this lovely Norma Terris Theater in Chester. Since Mrs. Price and Mr. Alwine acquired the rights here. This is also one of the rare few theaters where you can get something up on its feet and it isn’t judged. The audience knows that it’s a work in progress. So this allows us here, that rare opportunity of developing something that we hope is going to be terrific, and we feel it is. But it allows us to find out what we have in that speaks, so to speak.

Q: Okay, I have one last question. Do you have any advice for aspiring singers and writers, such as myself?

A: Yeah, I do. I’ve been asked that question a lot.

Q: Oh yeah, I bet.

A: And that is, if you’re passionate about what you do, then go for it wholeheartedly. Be prepared that if anytime, you may be surprised by a phenomenal opportunity that may come your way, and that’s when I say, do your homework. Be ready. Because you never know when something’s going to be offered to you and you say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ So in other words, be prepared to go.

Q: Thank you so much! Thank you.

A: Oh, you’re welcome.

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Valley Regional High School Principal Honored as Outstanding First Year Principal

Valley Regional High School Principal Kristina Martineau

REGION 4— Valley Regional High School Principal Kristina Martineau has been named as an outstanding first year principal by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

Martineau, a Guilford resident, completed her first full year as principal at Valley Regional High School in June after serving as acting principal for much of the 2010-2011 school year.

A former English teacher and dean of students for the Fairfield school system, Martineau was hired in Regional School District 4 in 2008 as the associate principal at the high school. She is one of two first year principals to receive the statewide award from the Connecticut Association of Schools.

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Region 4 Begins Study on Options for Sixth Grade

REGION 4—  The Region 4 school boards have formed a study committee to review options for the district’s sixth grades, including the possibility of moving sixth grade from the three elementary schools to the John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Thursday the study committee would hold it’s first meeting this week, with a goal of presenting a report to the district school boards by April 2013. The study committee, with about 18 members, is comprised of board members, administrators, teachers, and parents.

Levy said anticipated declines in student enrollment could free up classroom and program space at the middle school for the sixth graders now attending the elementary schools in Chester, Deep River, and Essex. John Winthrop Middle School, which underwent a renovation and expansion completed in 2005, currently serves seventh and eighth grades. But middle school programs in many Connecticut school districts now include sixth grade.

Levy stressed the study is not intended to set the stage for a building project proposal for the middle school. She noted the study would help determine whether there is space at the middle school to accommodate the sixth grades. Any move of the sixth grades to the middle school would require approval from all four of the Region 4 school boards, along with approval from voters of the three district towns at a district meeting or referendum.

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Region 4 Schools Open Thursday with Three New Principals

REGION 4— Region 4 schools open Thursday for the 2012-2013 school year with three new principals, the start of full-day kindergarten and a veteran elementary school principal moving in to the position of assistant superintendent of schools.

In what may be the largest number of new administrators in the 60-year history of the Chester-Deep River-Essex district, there will be new principals on the job at John Winthrop Middle School and the elementary schools in Deep River and Essex. The new assistant superintendent is Joanne Beekley, who had served as principal at Essex Elementary School for the past eight years. Beekley replaces Ian Neviaser, a former principal at Valley Regional High School ,who held the job for two years before he was named as superintendent of schools for the Region 18 Lyme-Old Lyme school district last spring.

Beekley’s promotion created an opening at Essex Elementary School that is filled by Scott Jeffrey, a Connecticut native who is returning to his home state after working as an assistant principal at an elementary school in South Carolina.

The other two new principals were hired after retirements. Jennifer Byars, a Deep River resident is the new principal at Deep river Elementary School, replacing 13-year principal Jack Pietrick . The new principal at the middle school is William Duffy, who worked previously as assistant principal for a middle school in Glastonbury. Duffy replaces David Russell, who retired in June after  leading John Winthrop Middle School for 17 years. The two returning principals are Michael Barile at Chester Elementary School and Christina Martineau at Valley Regional High School.

The full-day kindergarten will begin at each of the three elementary schools. After two years of study and planning, district school boards decided that declines in student enrollment at the elementary schools would allow the district to implement full-day kindergarten at a minimal increase in costs and with classroom space available at the schools. Funding for the full-day kindergarten was included in the elementary school budgets that were approved by voters of the three towns at the annual budget votes in May.

While there are several new administrators, the number of new teachers and other certified staff at the schools is lower than in many previous years. There are three new staff at the high school, Michael Scott as the in-school suspension monitor, Jacquelyn Sullivan as the art teacher, and Joseph Moller as a one-third time Latin teacher.

New at the middle school are Denise Ripley teaching English, math tutor Lucy Hotkowski, special education teacher Dina Monaco, teaching assistant Felicia Ramsey, and school psychologist Mallory Coleman. The supervision district is funding two new half-time positions that are shared by all three elementary schools, special education teacher Nichol Stevens and music teacher Jennifer Bellizzi.

The only new staff at the elementary schools are para-educators, including Mara Lowry at Chester Elementary School, and Eve Grande, Gale Dilger, Bria Toolan, and Kelly Tracey at Essex Elementary School.

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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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Release of E-mails About Former High School Principal Eric Rice Leads to Lawsuit Against Regional School District 4

REGION 4— A newspaper article that included e-mails between school staff and administrators about former Valley Regional High School Principal Eric Rice has led to a lawsuit filed by Rice against  the school district, Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy, and former assistant superintendent Ian Neviaser.

Rice, who resigned as principal in October 2010 after barely two months in the job, filed a lawsuit late last year contending  a release of e-mails and other communications between Levy, Neviaser, and various district staff had violated the terms of an Oct. 18, 2010 “release and resignation agreement” between Rice and the school district. Comments about Rice from the e-mails were included in a June 26, 2011 article in the Hartford Courant about Rice’s “fast, furious fall”, according to the headline, from the principal position. The case is pending in Middlesex Superior Court before Judge Robert Holzberg.

Rice, who had worked previously as principal at a science and technology magnet school in Hartford, was hired as principal for Valley Regional High School in the summer of 2010 to replace Neviaser, who was hired for the assistant superintendent job after two years as principal at the high school. Neviaser left Region 4 at the end of June to assume the position of superintendent of schools for the Region 18 Lyme/Old Lyme school district.

Rice, a Chester resident at the time, had been on the job for less than three weeks when reports surfaced that he had been given a resign-or-be-fired ultimatum from Levy. He resigned from the principal position in mid-October 2010, receiving a $62,150 severance payment from the district and extended health insurance coverage. Levy and members of the Region 4 Board of Education had declined to comment on the reasons for Rice’s departure.

The lawsuit, filed for Rice by the Hamden firm of Gesmonde, Pietrosimore & Sgrinani, contends that by releasing the e-mails and other communications to the Courant, Levy and Neviaser had violated a strict no comment and disclosure provision in the agreement between Rice and the school district. The provision of the agreement barred either party from making “disparaging, negative, false or misleading” statements about any party to the agreement.

The lawsuit maintains the district had never been directly ordered by the state Freedom of Information commission to release the e-mails and other communications to the newspaper. It accuses the district and the two administrators of “breach  of contract”, breach of “a covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” “negligent misrepresentation,”, “defamation”, and “invasion of privacy.” It contends there was a release of information from Rice’s personnel file, and material “that could be considered evaluative”, even though Rice had never been formally evaluated by the school board during his short time on the job.

The lawsuit, which seeks more than $15,000 in damages and legal expenses, contends the release of the e-mails and subsequent newspaper article has prevented Rice from securing new employment as a principal, and caused Rice a loss of reputation and loss of earning capacity that had forced him to accept employment with lower wages and benefits.

Levy declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted Monday. The most recent activity in the case was a motion to strike filed by the district’s lawyers with the Hartford firm of Shipman & Goodwin.

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Valley Regional High School Graduates 149 Students in the Class of 2012

DEEP RIVER— Valley Regional High School awarded diplomas to 149 members of the Class of 2012 Thursday in a ceremony held in sunny and hot weather on the high school grounds.

A crowd of several hundred family and friends of the graduates filled the area along the hilltop on the southeast side of the school property to cheer the graduates from Regional School District 4 towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex. The weather was hot, approaching 90 degrees, and the school provided free cold water to the audience from a tent on the grounds.

Principal Kristina Martineau, completing her first full year as the school’s leader, welcomed the crowd. Martineau noted the Class of 2012 was special to her because they began their high school years in 2008, the year she arrived at VRHS as associate principal. “Your commitment to personal excellence, your perseverance, your resilience in the face of change and adversity, and your steadfast commitment to community sets you apart,” she said.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy told the graduates they should be proud of the recognition they have received in academics, sports and the arts, with an extra focus on the awards for the school’s spring musical production of “The Titanic.” The VRHS musical was recently named Outstanding Musical Production of 2012 in the Connecticut Musical Theatre Awards.

“It is highly unusual for every person who expresses an interest in the musical to actually be a part of the production, and yet that is exactly what we do at Valley,” Levy said, adding the VRHS production had competed and succeeded against much larger high schools that included schools that focused on the performing arts. Using another Titanic metaphor, Levy told the graduates “Your lifeboat in your family, your friends, your Alma Mater, your roots, and your home in Chester, Deep River, Essex, and the Region 4 community.”

Salutatorian Nathan VanBenschoten of Essex said VRHS is not defined by the building, which was renovated and upgraded in 2004-2005, but the people that make the school special. ” The faculty and students who walk Valley’s halls everyday create an incredible place to learn, to socialize, and to grow,” he said, adding “we will always be a part of Valley, just as Valley will always be a part of us.”

Valedictorian Jonah Fidel of Essex said perseverance is a quality long associated with Valley Regional High School. Fidel recalled events of the past four years, both local and national, that were experienced by the graduates, noting “what other class can say they have experienced six associate principals and principals, the most significant economic crisis since the Great Depression, and a hurricane that delayed school for a week when we were oh so anxious to return.” Fidel urged his classmates to stay true to their principals of “resilience,, perseverance, and determination.”Valley Regional High School will graduate 150 students in the Class of 2012

The list of graduating students is as follows:

Kevin Scott Alvord
Laura Elizabeth Anderson
Haley Marie Armstead
Clayton Edwards Arnold
Karli Sandra Bahner
Kevin Bango
Molly Elizabeth Bannister
Allegra Louise Bargnesi
Diana Barnett
Ian David Basilone
Carley Elizabeth Bedell
Benjamin Gerard Belisle
Taylor Paige Bibbiani
Emily Lynn Bogart
Leah Marie Boschetti
Alexander R. Bourez
Max Bowers
Ashleigh Sloane Bridges
Michaela B. Brough
Jocelyn Brea Burgess
Paul Joseph Calamari
Matthew Camilleri
Nicholas William Bartlett Campbell
Anna Marie White Carlson
Christopher Stephen Carney III
Katie Castelli
Jacob Paul Cayer
Victoria Noel Chiappa
Chelsea Ann Cook
Brigit Rose Crosbie
Gustavo Tomás Dam
Ragan Elizabeth Decker
Peter Hale Dixon
Timothy George Doak
Justus Charles Doane
Dylan Patrick Elliott
Shelby Elizabeth Eriksson
Jonah Daniel Fidel
John Zachary FitzGerald
Mary Walker Forst
Jamison Higgins Gahran
Colleen Grattan Gardner
Allison Lyn Gates
Mary Catherine Gazikas
Hailey Gilbert
Danielle Kathryn Greatsinger
Max Jack Griggs
Lindsay Marie Grote
Owen Marc Guarino
Emily Adel Hayward
Mackenzie Antonia Holdmeyer
Glenn Lawrence Holmes
Sydney Diana Hougrand
Seth Andrew Hyatt
Paul Robert Ireland
Seth Blair Johnson
Sophy Mabel Cunningham Johnston
Liza Louise Jones
Clara Elizabeth Kaufmann
Anne Evans Kingston
Sydnie Mary Kleiman
Melanie Brett Klinck
Charles Christopher Koltai
Megan Leigh Korcak
Kayleigh Ann Kuchyt
Elizabeth Anne Kusmierski
Katherine Elizabeth Labonte
Timothy Edward LaChance
Ian Joseph Lemley
Marissa Lane Lewis
Allison Taylor Lindner
David Virgil Lloyd
Carla López Guambaña
Martin R. Lucero
Cora Gayle Lynde
Chloë Noelle Lyons
Ian Thomas MacGregor
Mary Elizabeth MacNeil
Ethan Z. Makuck
Zachary Mark Malcarne
Scott Andrew Manierre
Jessica Lee Marino
Marion Aubrey Martin
Danny Javier Maurath Maldonado
Stephanie McCann
Maggie McCarthy
Michael McKay
Jacob McNally
Connor J. McWade
Ian Gabriel Meadows
Emma Meeks
Carly Melillo
Zachary R. Merola
Jennifer Mesite
Max D. Miezejeski
Jessica Morris
Farishta Nahebzada
Shane Elise Naylor
Christian R. Nielsen
Georgia Mary O’Neil
Ashley Rose Paholski
James Michael Paternostro
Jenna Marie Paternostro
Christopher Franklin Patton
Molly Perkins
Graham Brooks Potter
Allyson Kimball Preble
Elizabeth Joy Proteau
Devin Ishmael Pryor
Ryan William Quick
Jessica Lynne Ramage
William Ramcke
Jonathan M. Ranfone
Eva Lauren Ribchinsky
Charles Rodriguez
Nicholas Thomas Romano
Brooks Davis Rozelle
Greta Lynn Siegel Russell
Ian Russell
Jordan Saintil
Troy G. Samuelson
Meghan Christine Saunders
Patrick D. Schaefer
Evan T. Schondorf
Natalia Sciacca
Skylar Northrop Lewis Senning
Brian Campbell Shepherd
Stephanie Philena Slack
Kyle William Smith
Steven Joseph Sopneski
William Otto Spitzschuh
Courtney Z  Stallard
Emily Sarah Steindl
Dylan Thomas Stempel
Sandra Anne Stroeter
Michael Joseph Swerling
Mitchell Trowbridge
Nathanael Robert Marshall Tyler
Nathan James Van Benschoten
Abigail Visel
Alexander JamesVollono
Robert Bach Watts III
Brittany Alexandra West
Jessica Emily Wilcox
Melissa Dale Winchell
Rachel Lyn Winham
Hannah Rose Wolfe
Brandon Peter Woodcock
Morgan Sabra Woodcock
Nathan Zirlen

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Joanne Beekley Appointed as Assistant Superintendent of Schools

The Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 Boards of Education are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Joanne Beekley to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Beekley most recently served as the Principal of Essex Elementary School for the past eight years. She has been an integral part of the leadership team within the Region 4 Schools at the district level.  Beekley is an experienced administrator who has established positive relationships, while making excellent student centered decisions.

Beekley received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Central Connecticut State University, as well as her Master of Science degree in Language Arts, and her Sixth Year Certification in Educational Leadership. She completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Beekley began her career as an elementary classroom teacher. She went on to teach English Language Learners before becoming a Language Arts Consultant.  She has been in administration since 1995. The interview committee was very impressed with Beekley’s knowledge and understanding of curriculum and instruction, professional development, and her administrative background, in addition to her commitment to excellence for all students. Beekley has a strong commitment to the Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 Schools. She has built strong positive relationships within her school and the community at large. The administrative team has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Beekley in her role as principal, and look forward to working together with her as the Assistant Superintendent.

Beekley resides in Higganum with her husband. We look forward to her beginning as Assistant Superintendent of Schools on July 1st, 2012.

The Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 Boards of Education are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Joanne Beekley to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Beekley most recently served as the Principal of Essex Elementary School for the past eight years. She has been an integral part of the leadership team within the Region 4 Schools at the district level. Dr. Beekley is an experienced administrator who has established positive relationships, while making excellent student centered decisions.
Dr. Beekley received her Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Central Connecticut State University, as well as her Master of Science degree in Language Arts, and her Sixth Year Certification in Educational Leadership. Dr. Beekley completed her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Joanne Beekley began her career as an elementary classroom teacher. She went on to teach English Language Learners before becoming a Language Arts Consultant. Dr. Beekley has been in administration since 1995. The interview committee was very impressed with Dr. Beekley’s knowledge and understanding of curriculum and instruction, professional development, and her administrative background, in addition to her commitment to excellence for all students. Dr. Beekley has a strong commitment to the Chester, Deep River, Essex, and Region 4 Schools. Dr. Beekley has built strong positive relationships within her school and the community at large. The administrative team has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Dr. Beekley in her role as principal, and look forward to working together with her as the Assistant Superintendent.
Dr. Beekley resides in Higganum with her husband. We look forward to Dr. Beekley beginning as Assistant Superintendent of Schools on July 1st, 2012.

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Valley Regional’s Titanic Wins Outstanding Production of the Year and More

Region 4 Superintendent Ruth Levy, Valley Regional Music Production Director Ingrid Walsh and Valley Regional High School Principal Kristina Martineau are all smiles accepting the 2012 Connecticut High School Musical Theater award for Outstanding Production of the Year Award.

Deep River, CT – On Monday, June 4 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, Valley Regional Musical Production’s  TITANIC proved to be the big winner, receiving a total of six 2012 Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards.  Nominated in 15 of the 20 categories recognized, VRMP won for Outstanding Production of the Year, Outstanding Chorus, Outstanding Direction by Ingrid Walsh, Outstanding Musical Direction by Ryan Driscoll and Melissa Cardiello Lewis, Costume Achievement by Tina Stoddard and VRMP Parents, and Hair and Makeup Achievement by VRMP Parents.  Other Valley nominations were for Achievement in Arts Education, Lighting Achievement, Scenic  Achievement, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Leading Male: Kevin Alvord and Andrew Goehring, Outstanding Supporting Female: Tori Chiappa, Outstanding Supporting Male: Sam Kneeland, and  Outstanding Lobby Display.  The evening’s program featured student performances by Kevin Alvord, Andrew Goehring and Parker Wallis as well as the entire TITANIC cast.

This was the first year that Valley entered the state-wide competition, now in its fourth year with 20 Connecticut high school musicals contending for recognition.  A judges’ panel comprised of theater industry professionals attended each competing high school production during the school year to determine nominees.

“From the moment we arrived at the Palace to rehearse our evening performances, we were blown away by the talent of the competing schools and are humbled that our school of 600+ students, that accepts everyone with no cuts, was recognized,” commented VRMP Director Ingrid Walsh, “ I was in awe of the composure, maturity and respectfulness of our students,  it was an arduous day preparing for the awards ceremony, but the finish was beyond any reward we could imagine.”

Valley Regional Principal Kristina Martineau summed up the achievement by stating, “ To be recognized by such a prestigious organization is truly an honor and validates what we have known as a community.   Ingrid Walsh is a talented and gifted visionary who harnesses the passion that our students have for the performing arts and motivates them to commit to excellence throughout the production and in all that they do beyond the stage.  We are exceptionally proud of our students and grateful to our parents and community members who make their dreams a reality.”

 

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Valley Regional High School End of Year Activities

Valley Regional High School Principal, Mrs. Kristina Martineau, has scheduled the following end of year activities at the high school:

Graduation Exercises – June 21.  The 61th Annual Commencement Exercises will be held outdoors on the field hockey/lacrosse field on Thursday, June 21, 2012 beginning at 6:30 p.m.  This year’s graduating class consists of 151 seniors.  The three top-ranking seniors will be the featured speakers at the commencement exercises.

Last day of school – June 21.   School will close for the summer on Thursday, June 21, 2012.   This will be a single session day ending at 12:20 p.m.   In the summer, the school offices will be open during the weekdays from 8:00 until 3:00 p.m.

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VRHS Announces Top Ranking Students

Mrs. Kristina Martineau, principal of Valley Regional High School, is pleased to announce the three top ranking seniors in the graduating class of 2012.  They are:

Jonah Daniel Fidel , son of Seth Fidel and. Roseann Ventimiglia of Essex

Nathan James Van Benschoten, son of Susan and Wayne Van Benschoten of Ivoryton

Ashley Rose Paholski, daughter of Angela and John Paholski of Ivoryton

The three top seniors will be the featured speakers at this year’s commencement exercises on, Wednesday, June 21, 2012 at 6:30 p.m.

The Region #4 Board of Education and Valley Regional High School also honored the top ten percent ranking seniors who had achieved outstanding scholastic records.  A Senior Awards ceremony and reception was held on Wednesday at the high school.  The top ten percent senior students listed alphabetically are:

Karli Sandra Bahner, daughter of Leah and George Bahner of Deep River

Diana Barnett, daughter of Holly and Jeffrey of Chester

Anna Marie White Carlson, daughter of Paul Carlson and. Karen Shorter of Deep River

Chelsea Ann Cook, daughter of Roberta and Edward Cook of Essex

Jonah Daniel Fidel, son of Seth Fidel and Roseann Ventimiglia of Essex

Colleen  Grattan Gardner, daughter of Karol and James Gardner of Deep River

Glenn Lawrence Holmes, son of Cathy and Michael Holmes of Ivoryton

Carly Melillo, daughter of Elaine and Paul Melillo of Chester

Jennifer Mesite, daughter of Beth and David Mesite of Chester

Ashley Rose Paholski, daughter of Angela and John Paholski of Ivoryton

Jenna Marie Paternostro, daughter of Elisa and Pat Paternostro of Essex

Brooks Davis Rozelle, son of Susan and Chase Rozelle of Deep River

Steven Joseph Sopneski,  son of Gina and John Sopneski of Deep river

Dylan Thomas Stempel, son of Kelly and David Stempel of Ivoryton

Nathan James Van Benschoten, son of Susan and Wayne Van Benschoten of Ivoryton

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Region 4’s Neviaser Named New Superintendent for Lyme-Old Lyme D18

Ian Neviaser

The Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education has selected Ian Neviaser, pictured left, to be the new superintendent of schools. Neviaser comes to Lyme-Old Lyme from Region #4 (Essex, Chester, Deep River) where he has been the assistant superintendent since 2010.

Twenty-four candidates applied for the position of superintendent of schools. The search committee selected seven candidates for interviews based on desirable characteristics and attributes of a new superintendent that were identified in the Lyme-Old Lyme Community Profile Assessment Report that was developed through focus group and online survey research conducted in March.

Jim Witkins, Chairman of the Board of Education, commented, “We are fortunate to have Ian Neviaser as our next superintendent of schools. The Board’s search committee is delighted to secure a top-flight educational leader with demonstrated management skills to guide our District after Betty Osga’s departure in July.”

He continued, “The Lyme and Old Lyme communities have benefitted immensely from having world-class talent in the Superintendent’s Office, and Ian brings those professional and personal qualities that simply turned our heads in unison. We are delighted Ian has agreed to join us.”

Neviaser is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Southern Connecticut State University. He received his superintendent certification through the executive leadership program at the University of Connecticut. He began teaching in the social studies department at Career Magnet High School in New Haven in 1997. He moved to Riverside Education Academy in 1998, and then to Guilford High School in 2000.

Neviaser accepted an assistant principal position in Guilford in 2004 and was appointed acting principal in 2007. He served as principal of Valley Regional High School in Deep River in 2008 before becoming assistant superintendent of the district in 2010.

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VRHS Titanic Nominated for 14 Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards

TITANIC cast members from l-r: Andrew Goehring, Kevin Alvord, Parker Wallace and Paul Myers.

Deep River, CT – The nominees for the 2012 Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards have been announced and Valley Regional’s Titanic came up big with a total of 14 out of 20 category nominations,  the most received of the 20 high school productions entered in the statewide competition.

Specifically, Valley’s production of TITANIC, The Musical performed in March of this year is a contender for top award honors  for Achievement in the Arts, Outstanding Production of the Year, Scenic Achievement, Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Music Direction, Outstanding Leading Male: Kevin Alvord and Andrew Goehring, Outstanding Supporting Female: Tori Chiappa, Outstanding Supporting Male: Sam Kneeland, Outstanding Chorus, Hair and Makeup Achievement, Costume Achievement, Lighting Achievement and Outstanding Lobby Display.

The award winners will be announced at the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards Gala to be held on June 4 at the Palace Theater in Waterbury.

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Region 4 Hires William Duffy as New Principal at John Winthrop Middle School

REGION 4—  The Region 4 Board of Education has hired William Duffy, the current assistant principal at Smith Middle School in Glastonbury, as the new principal at John Winthrop Middle School.

The board approved the appointment at a special meeting last week. Duffy, who now becomes the third principal in the 40-year history of the grades 7-8 middle school in Deep River, replaces David Russell. An industrial arts teacher when the school opened in 1971, Russell has served as principal since 1995.

Duffy has held the position at the Glastonbury middle school for the past five years. He had previously taught language arts and math at the middle school level. Duffy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Central Connecticut State University, along with a Master of Science degree in educational technology and a sixth year certificate in educational leadership from CCSU.

Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said the board and the interview committee were impressed with Duffy’s knowledge and understanding of middle school philosophy, along with his “commitment to excellence and passion for educating middle school students.”

“The committee found Mr. Duffy to be child centered and collegial, and focused on continued improvement while building strong positive relationships within the school and community,” Levy said.

Duffy resides in Rocky Hill with his wife and three children. He is expected to begin working at the school in July. Duffy is the second new principal hired in Region 4 over the past two months. Jennifer Byars, a Deep River native and current town resident, was hired as the new principal at Deep River Elementary School after the retirement of 13-year Principal Jack Pietrick.

 

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David Russell Announces Retirement After 17 Years as Principal at John Winthrop Middle School

REGION 4— David Russell, the principal at John Winthrop Middle School for the past 17 years, has announced plans to retire from a 42-year career in public education at the end of June.

Russell, who notified Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy and the Region 4 Board of Education of his plans earlier this month, is only the second principal in the 42-year history of the school in Deep River, which was called John Winthrop Junior High School when it opened to seventh and eighth graders in September 1971. Only seventh graders had attended the nearly finished school during the 1970-1971 school year.

Russell, a Westbrook resident, was there that September after being hired as the school’s industrial arts teacher. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Russell had worked the previous two years as an industrial arts teacher in the Montgomery County, Md. school system. Russel said he had visited the shoreline area previously because his grandmother had a summer cottage on West Beach in Westbrook.

Russell taught industrial arts until 1985, when he was named as associate principal, a job that at the time included duties at John Winthrop and at nearby Valley Regional High School. Russell was named principal at John Winthrop upon the retirement of the late Timothy Doyle, the school’s first principal.

Russell said he has enjoyed his time at John Winthrop, watching former students become the parents, and grandparents, of students attending the school today. “Being part of Region 4 schools has been a very rewarding experience for me,” he said.

Russell said the “most unique experience” of his career was watching the $21 million renovation and expansion of John Winthrop that was completed in 2005. The school, which had followed a middle school education model since the late 1980s, was formally renamed as John Winthrop Middle School after completion of the renovation project.

Russell, who had also served as the appointed harbor master in Westbrook, said his retirement plans include sailing and travel, though he may also seek some temporary work in education, possibly as an acting or interim principal.

The closing date for submitting applications for the middle school principal position is Friday. The Region 4 Board of Education is expected to hire a new principal by June, with a salary range of $116,000 to $127,000.

Russell is the second Region 4 principal to announce a June retirement. Jack Pietrick, principal at Deep River Elementary School since 1999, is also retiring at the end of June. Jennifer Byars, a Deep River native and current town resident, has been hired as the new principal at Deep River Elementary School.

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Full-Day Kindergarten and DRES CMTs Discussion with Dr. Levy

On Tuesday March 13, at 6.30 p.m. there will be a discussion of proposed full-day kindergarten and DRES CMTs with Region IV Superintendent Dr. Levy & Assistant Superintendent Mr. Neviaser at DRES Library, 12 River St., Deep River.

Light refreshments will be served. The discussion will be followed by a regular DRES PTO Meeting at 7:00 p.m.

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Local Student Composer’s Work to be Premiered

Kim Nucci, of Deep River, CT, will have one of her orchestral compositions premiered by the Sage City Symphony.  Nucci, a student at Bennington College in Bennington, VT, has written a work entitled “Decline and Resolution,” which will be performed on a concert at Bennington College, on Sunday, March 18, at 4:00 p.m.

Nucci is a multi-media artist currently studying at Bennington College.  There she studies painting, photography and saxophone performance, as well as music composition.  Her teachers in music have included Allen Shawn, Nick Brooke, Bruce Williamson, Su Lian Tan, Daniel Ott, and Jason Rigby.  In both painting and music Nucci tends to work largely in textures dealing with atonal concepts of musical form and grouping.  In music this palette is comprised of melodic counterpoint and harmonic language derived from her experience playing jazz and free music.

“Decline and Resolution” is her first piece for orchestra as well as her first political work in music.  It is a continuation of a project in painting on the erosion of The American Dream and Western Culture at large.  While following the news intently, seeing war and financial scandals and their resulting riots and protests worldwide, Nucci became increasingly motivated to say something about the geopolitical climate.  “Decline and Resolution” is an expression of the current economic collapse and the fall of Western society as it is presently known.  This movement is characterized in the piece as the churning and spiraling and its ultimate “resolution” as the last hiccup of the machine. The orchestra, unable to carry out a grandiose cadential texture like those in works of the past is similar to that of the economic struggle in the EU and those countries no longer being able to provide the previous amenities their citizens had come to expect when faced with austerity measures imposed by the European community at large.

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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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Region 4 Community Dinner and Strategic Planning Meeting

On Wednesday January 18, Regional School District #4 will be hosting a community dinner and strategic planning input event at the John Winthrop Middle School, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (with complimentary dinner served until 8 p.m.).  All  are welcome to join the event and enjoy meatloaf and mashed potatoes (with vegetarian option available).

  • Share your ideas for goals for Chester, Deep River, Essex and Region 4 Schools
  • Support our 5 school effort to foster early childhood education in Deschapelle, Haiti – Donations Welcomed
  • Bake sale items for purchase
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Region 4 Returns $36,843 Surplus to Chester, Deep River and Essex

REGION 4— Regional School District 4 has returned a $36,843 surplus from the 2010-2011 education budget to the member towns of Chester, Deep River, and Essex.

Garth Sawyer, district finance director, said the towns received checks this week, splitting the amount based on the number of students from each town attending John Winthrop Middle School and Valley Regional High School. Essex, with the most students, received $15,673, Deep River received $11,034, and Chester received $10,136. The unexpended surplus is from the $16,780,520 education budget approved by voters of the three towns in a referendum last May.

The move comes as the Region 4 Board of Education budget begins work on a proposed budget for 2012-2013. Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy has presented a proposed Region 4 budget of $17.8 million, an increase of about $706,000 over current spending. The board will hold budget review workshops on Jan. 24 and continuing in February before voting on a proposed 2012-2013 education budget in early March. The public hearing on the Region 4 budget will be held on Monday April 2, with the annual budget referendum to be held in the three towns on May 8.

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