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Connecticut Selects Teacher of the Year

WEST HARTFORD — A music teacher at William H. Hall High School in West Hartford is Connecticut’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

John F. Mastroianni, a Southington resident and Hall High School director of bands, received the honor during a ceremony at his school on Tuesday, Oc. 8.  Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor made the announcement at an event that included Mastroianni’s family, local and state officials, and the school community.

Mastroianni was chosen from among four finalists, 15 semifinalists, and over 100 district-level Teachers of the Year.  A statewide council of former Teachers of the Year and representatives from educational organizations, businesses, and the community conducted the rigorous selection process, which includes on-site visits, candidate applications, interviews, and observations of teaching.

Richard C. Brown, vice president of the Connecticut Teacher of the Year Council, attended the on-site visits and stated, “John Mastroianni is an exceptional teacher.  After watching him with his students and interviewing parents, school staff, and students, the selection committee was in awe.  We knew he would be an outstanding representative for Connecticut’s teachers.”

Mastroianni and district Teachers of the Year will be formally honored at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford on Nov. 19.

Mastroianni is a widely accomplished and critically acclaimed saxophonist, composer, and arranger.  He has performed, toured, or recorded with dozens of the musical greats of our time, as well as several symphony orchestras and on Broadway.  He also performs with his own quartet and leads his own 16-piece jazz orchestra for which he composes and arranges music.  He has three recordings as a bandleader—Cookin’ On All Burners (Stash), The Time Being (Jazz Alliance), and Live at the Silvermine (Jazzheads)—that have all earned him critical acclaim.

Mastroianni has taught at New York University, Albertus Magnus College, the University of Bridgeport, the New York State Summer School for the Arts, Bridgeport Central High School, and New Canaan High School. Besides being director of bands at Hall High School, he is also an adjunct jazz faculty member at the University of Connecticut and founded a summer jazz workshop for young artists.  In March 2004, the Connecticut Music Educators Association chose Mr. Mastroianni as the Secondary School Teacher of the Year.  Most recently, he was a quarterfinalist for a 2014 Music Educator Grammy Award.

Mastroianni earned a B.S. in music education and a B.M. in jazz studies from the University of Bridgeport, and an M.A. in jazz performance/composition from New York University.  He studied saxophone and composition with several premiere and award-winning jazz musicians.

Connecticut Education Association (CEA) President Sheila Cohen said, “We congratulate Mr. Mastroianni who exemplifies the highest standards of professionalism and commitment to young people.  We also see this year’s award to a music educator as recognition of the important role that the arts play in a well-rounded public education.”




Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year is selected from among approximately 50,000 public school teachers in the state and represents the profession in forums and advisory committees affecting education policy and public awareness of the successes that take place daily in schools, as well as the challenges they face.


“This distinction is a true testament to John Mastroianni’s skill and talent as an educator,” said State Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford).  “It is also a testament to a school district which—even in the midst of budget tightening—has remained committed to its arts programming so that our students can continue to benefit from incredible educators like John.”


“As director of bands at Hall High School, John Mastroianni has truly distinguished himself.  He has stepped into a role that had been filled by great teachers and leaders for decades – and quickly proceeded to take Hall’s band programs to new heights,” said State Representative Andrew Fleischmann (D-18), House chairman of the Education Committee.  “He inspires his students, his colleagues, and people throughout our community with his love of teaching, music, and people.”


“John Mastroianni has done an outstanding job carrying on and extending the proud music tradition of Hall High School,” said State Representative Brian Becker (D-19).  “The internationally renowned jazz band has flourished under his direction.  John’s students are lucky to have him.”


As Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year, Mr. Mastroianni will travel to Washington, D.C., in the spring to meet with President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Duncan.  Mr. Mastroianni also now becomes Connecticut’s representative for National Teacher of the Year, whom the president will select in late March and honor in April 2014.


Mr. Mastroianni succeeds 2013 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Blaise Messinger, a fifth-grade teacher at Cromwell’s Woodside Intermediate School, who concludes his term as Teacher of the Year on December 31.



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Greater Hartford Resident Elected to Conservancy

HARTFORD — A West Hartford woman was recently elected to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Board.

Beth Critton first learned about the Appalachian Trail when she mailed resupply packages to her son, Bryan, a 1997 2000-miler. She began her own A.T. odyssey in 2004 and has hiked over 1800 miles of the A.T. since then.  A life member of the ATC, Critton joined the stewardship council in 2011, becoming council chair and a board member in July 2013.

Critton is a land use and environmental attorney at Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford. In 2011, she was recognized by the Connecticut Forest and Park Association as an outstanding advocate for outdoor recreation. Critton is past chair of the Connecticut Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, a life member of the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association, charter and current member of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society, serves on the board of the Connecticut Society of Women Environmental Professionals, and is trained as a plant conservation volunteer for the New England Wild Flower Society.

The board of directors is made up of 15 elected volunteers who are elected to serve two-year terms.

“The board of directors plays a vital role in shaping the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Appalachian Trail by approving policies that govern the Trail and ensuring that the organization has the resources it needs to complete its mission,” stated Steve Paradis, acting executive director of the ATC.

The board is responsible for communicating the mission and the purpose of the ATC. They establish and maintain relationships with the stewardship council, clubs, partners, members, and other stakeholders.  While enhancing the public standing of the ATC, they also ensure legal and ethical integrity and fiscal accountability.

Also elected to the board were new members Edward R. Guyot, Carrie Rodriguez-Tweeten, Samuel J. Sarofeen, Nathaniel Stoddard, and Greg Winchester.  Elizabeth Pierce Thompson of Ridgefield CT, Leonard Bernstein, Richard J. Daileader, Marcia Fairweather, Arthur Foley, Mary Higley, Terry Lierman, Sandra L. Marra, and Clark Wright Jr. are all returning board members.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information please visit

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Ladies Only Sports Competition Coming to Greater Hartford

WEST HARTFORD – One hundred and seventy women from across the country will converge at host Crossfit Relentless on Aug. 17 for the playfully named competition No Baby, Leave the Socks On.

First held in the summer of 2011 in CT, this competition now has attracted over 1,300 athletes, not only from the host gym, or “box,” but nationwide. This exact competition is now replicated at other boxes in states such as Texas, Indiana, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York… and many more.

The competition at Crossfit Relentless will start at 9 a.m. and be open to public spectators.

nobabycompetition-hartfordCFR officials say No Baby, Leave the Socks On is designed to change the perception of women’s fitness to help foster a more positive self-image – where athleticism and capability trump body weight – and fosters the idea that “strong is the new skinny.”

The event is designed to be a ton of fun, with car pulls, deadlift ladders and atlas stones. The one requirement for the competitors is that they must wear weightlifting socks, hence the name of the competition.

Ladies come dressed to impress with bright colors, matching outfits and socks of all kinds. While they have fun accessorizing, they come to throw down – displaying athleticism and strength.

CrossFit is taking the fitness world by storm and has already been named one of the newest, most effective ways to get fit, earning attention worldwide. A workout program that incorporates both weightlifting and cardiovascular exercises, CrossFit aims to bring together group workouts and personal goals to create a family-like atmosphere.

Merle McKenzie and Glenn Perra founded CrossFit Relentless Strength and Conditioning in 2009. They describe CrossFit Relentless as a school of human movement dedicated to helping individuals achieve an elite level of physical performance.

CrossFit training is done as a group training session where camaraderie and a sense of humor can go a long way. Athletes attend hour-long sessions three to six times a week during which every athlete is coached by a CrossFit-certified trainer to complete the workout of the day, or WOD.

For those interested in experiencing CrossFit, the Socks competition would be a great introduction, officials say. Many members, coaches and owners will be present.

No Baby, Leave the Socks On takes place Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at CrossFit Relentless, 635 New Park Ave., West Hartford, Conn. 06107

To learn more about the girls competition, visit the official site,

Photos Courtesy of

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Free Acupuncture Day For the Holidays

WINDSOR — Many Rivers Community Acupuncture, an affordable acupuncture clinic will host a Free Acupuncture Day on Nov. 30 in Windsor.

Free acupuncture treatments will be provided for all new patients between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Acupuncture is helpful around the holidays to reduce stress and boost the immune system.  A recent study showed that acupuncture works on the molecular level to significantly reduce levels of a protein linked to chronic stress.  In fact, experts say acupuncture is so relaxing that most people fall asleep during their treatment.

Acupuncture can also be effective for all kinds of pain, including back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, and heel pain.  In addition, acupuncture can relieve seasonal allergies, digestive problems, and gynecological disorders.

Many Rivers is part of the community acupuncture movement, which is working to make health care affordable and accessible in the United States.  The clinic is located in Windsor center.

Treatments are available on a sliding scale from $15 – $35, plus a one- time $10 paperwork fee for new patients.  Many Rivers will be collecting donations to support the Red Cross and the Hurricane Sandy relief effort at the Free Acupuncture Day.

For more information, call (860) 683-0011 or go to

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U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis Should Seek Answers from DECD, Others

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis’ meeting today with elected officials, political candidates, community activists and residents in the Greater Hartford region should tackle this burning question: Why is there $12 million for minority businesses sitting at the Department of Economic and Community Development in a time when these businesses are bruising from a deep economic recession and a long recovery?

In a region where Latino and black jobless rates dwarf the state’s recently reported jobless rate of 9 percent, DECD has yet to distribute the allocated money to small and minority business owners, who are likely job creators for many Hartford residents.  We hope that besides her roundtable discussion, press conference and other meetings around the state today, she makes a beeline to DECD.

Hartford has the highest jobless rate in the state. The overall unemployment rate for the city is reportedly 17 percent. The Latino jobless rate is 25 percent. The black jobless rate is 27 percent. These figures do not factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work after one or two years of unemployment or underemployment.

Moreover, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra added 14 people to the unemployment line this week, in an effort to balance the city budget.

Besides pontification from pundits and politicians, we need to see leaders taking actions to create conditions that promote economic growth, so that businesses can hire more city residents. Distributing the money to Hartford’s small businesses would allow at least two hires by each company and at the same time help build capacity to provide better services to city residents. It all seems elementary. Yet there is so much malaise in all sections of the city. And the biggest obstacle seems to be the very people who are purportedly community leaders.

Solis must question these community leaders and local officials about their seemingly inability to coordinate efforts to create conditions that help businesses grow so that they can provide jobs.

The $12 million can provide many jobs. News that that much money allocated specifically for minority businesses was just sitting at DECD met puzzled participants at a small business summit for urban business sponsored by the state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other entities. The irony was that the summit provided possible answers to this predicament. It was clear that summit organizers failed to inform local business owners of the summit within a one-mile radius of the Artist Collective on Albany Avenue, where the event was held. The  auditorium was packed with mostly business owners, who traveled from New Haven and Bridgeport. And the few Hartford business owners present heard the news from friends in other parts of the state—not in Hartford.

The one-day summit had so many key people present to help these businesses. It was also unbelievable that more effort was clearly not made to inform business owners about this economic-boosting opportunity right in thier backyard.

How unfortunate.


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West Hartford Principal to Join Hartford Schools

HARTFORD — A  West Hartford School official will join the Hartford Public Schools administrative team as chief operating officer to help “ensure student success.”

The Hartford Board of Education on Tuesday approved the appointment of veteran educator Donald J. Slater. Slater, 47, was prinicipal  of William H. Hall High School in West Hartford for 10 years. The veteran educator is expected to resign Sept. 28 and his position in Hartford will be effective Oct. 1.

Slater will replace Victor De La Paz, who was named chief financial officer for the Baltimore school system in June. As chief operating officer, Slater will supervise facilities, transportation, food services, security, school design and development, athletics, technology and student leadership.

“Dr. Slater is going to be a great addition to our team,” Superintendent Christina M. Kishimoto said. “I am thrilled to recommend him.”

Slater began his career in 1987 as a science teacher at A. I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford. Four years later, he was named assistant principal at E. C. Goodwin High School in New Britain. He moved to Hall High School 14 years ago in the role of assistant principal and in 2002 was promoted to principal.

In addition to his career in education,  Slater background includes 26 years of military experience, beginning in 1983, in the U.S. Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. His military service included a tour of duty in Iraq between 2003 and 2005.

“I want to express my gratitude to the superintendent and the board for their confidence in me,”  Slater said after the board vote. “I’m looking forward to the challenges and responsibilities of the position.”

A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Slater earned his Ph.D. in curriculum administration and special education from Boston College and his Master’s degree in school administration and leadership from Central Connecticut State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Jackson State University.



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Reports: Mom, Children Dead in Nigeria Plane Crash

WEST HARTFORD — Reports  that a young Nigerian-American and her family died in a plane  crash in Lagos, Nigeria has devastated a small community in West Hartford

The plane crash killed all 156 people on board, among them were Maimuna Anyene, her husband and her four children under five were on thier way to a wedding, according to NBC Connecticut.

Neighbors from the Park Place Circle vicinity in West Hartford gathered to celebrate the life of  “a beautiful family.”

The plane was flying from Abuja to Lagos on Sunday.

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Church To Celebrate Mother’s Day Offering Free Family Portraits

WEST HARTFORD —  In recognition of Mother’s Day, Calvary Fellowship will offer free family portraits on May 13.

“Moms are amazing, which is probably the understatement of the year,” said Bill LaMorey, lead pastor. “For us, Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to honor mothers in a way that is profoundly special to them. By giving them a family portrait we help moms accomplish two things. We give the family a great excuse to come together on this special day, and we give them a gift that will help capture the memory of the thing Mom’s value most – their families.”

Portraits will be taken by West Hartford photographer Robert Falcetti of Robert Falcetti Photography. Sittings are available before and after the morning service.  Reservations are not required. Sittings are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each family will receive both an 8-inch by 10-inch print and digital file portrait. Portraits will be available for pick-up the following Sunday, May 20.

Calvary Fellowship meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at Conard High School, 110 Beechwood Road, West Hartford. Calvary Fellowship features contemporary music and offers relevant biblical teaching and fun-filled Bible classes for children. Calvary Fellowship is casual in style but serious about faith. For more information and directions, visit or call 860-231-9957.

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Church to Offer Easter Sunday Lesson

WEST HARTFORD — Calvary Fellowship will launch a new eight-week study entitled “The Becoming One” Easter Sunday, April 8. Bill LaMorey, lead pastor, will teach on the names of God and their meanings and relevance today.

“When we think of God, we often think of someone or something powerful but perhaps impersonal,” said LaMorey. “However, God has a very personal name and that name, and the other names for God used throughout scripture, reveal something unique about him. In our new series “The Becoming One,” we are going to talk about these names and learn how each one teaches us important lessons about who God is and how he relates to us.”

Easter Sunday will also feature the second annual Calvary Fellowship Easter Egg Hunt. Children are invited to attend Sunday School, where they will decorate egg bags they will later use to collect eggs. The adult Sunday service will then be followed by the egg hunt.

Calvary Fellowship meets Sundays at 10 a.m. at Conard High School, 110 Beechwood Road, West Hartford. Calvary Fellowship features contemporary music and offers relevant biblical teaching and fun-filled Bible classes for children. Calvary Fellowship is casual in style but serious about faith.

To participate in the Easter egg hunt, registration is required. Registration takes place from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Easter Sunday service begins at 10 a.m.

For more information and directions, visit or call 860-231-9957.

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Gov. Malloy To Hold Ed Forum in West Hartford

HARTFORD — Gov.  Dannel P. Malloy on March 6 will hold his next Education Reform Tour in West Hartford.

The forum is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. and end 8  p.m. at Charter Oak School on 425 Oakwood Ave.

Malloy, joined by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, began his Education Reform Tour last Thursday in Hartford, where he gave a presentation on the need to fix what’s broken in our state’s public schools and took questions from the audience.

Additional locations and dates on his tour will continue to be added across the state until the legislature approves a bill addressing each of the six principles the Governor outlined in a letter to them in December.

To check the most up-to-date list of dates and locations on Governor Malloy’s Education Reform Tour, visit


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