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School Choice Begins in Connecticut


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  School Choice Week starts on Monday in Connecticut and across America.

From now until Jan.  31, there will be 153 school choice events across the state.

The events are part of National School Choice Week, which will feature 11,082 events across America – the largest celebration of educational opportunity in US history. In Hartford, several educators plan to discuss the future of North End schools on Jan. 31 at Liberty Christian Center at 9: 30 a.m.

The event is sponsored by Achieve Hartford!, African Caribbean American Parents of Children with Disabilities, Hartford Parent University, Daughters of Eve, and the Blue Hills Civic Association.

School Choice Week events in Connecticut include open houses, information sessions, policy roundtable discussions and more – planned by schools, organizations, homeschool groups and individuals.

“Connecticut families have choices when it comes to where to send their children to school, and National School Choice Week provides an opportunity for families to look into the options available to them, and, if they feel they want greater opportunities — to have their voices heard,” said  Andrew R. Campanella, president, National School Choice Week

Officials said the goal of the events is to inform parents about the K-12 education options available for their children, while raising awareness of the benefits providing families with a variety of different options for their children’s education.

Connecticut cities with the most events will also be in  New Haven,  Bridgeport,  and Waterbury.

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US Attorney: CT Faces ‘Alarming’ Number of Complaints


By Candice Dodd, Staff Writer

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut is facing “an alarming number” of complaints from parents about the discrimination of children in public and private schools.

Deidre M. Daly, the United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, said that the office receives a large volume of complaints from parents and caregivers across the state alleging that schools, after-school programs and summer camps because of the child’s disability, gender, gender identity, or limited ability to speak English, discriminated against their children.

Daly recently announced the formation of the Educational Opportunities Civil Rights Working Group to address the violations of children from public and private educational institutions.

“Civil rights violations in educational and camp settings undermine the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens – our children,” Daly said.

The U.S. Attorneys Office has received complaints about bullying, sexual harassment and school segregation in public and private schools.

Most recently, they reached a settlement with Quinnipiac University to resolve allegations that the university violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing a student who had been diagnosed with depression on a mandatory medical leave of absence without first considering options for the student’s continued enrollment.

Over the last several months, the office has settled a number of cases against schools, after-school programs and daycare centers for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974. These settlements have resulted in monetary agreements to parents; comprehensive training for providers and sweeping policy changes to entire educational programs and systems, state officials said.

Recognizing a greater need to address these issues and help prevent further civil rights violations in educational and camp settings, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with federal and state agencies and numerous advocacy groups to form the Educational Opportunities Civil Rights Working Group. Participants include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Development and the U.S. Department of Education.

Officials said that the Working Group is on its way to develop and implement a strategic plan of action to resolve civil rights violations through educational outreach programs as well as law enforcement actions.

“Through aggressive outreach and enforcement initiatives, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our working group partners strive to eliminate these violations to improve the health and welfare of all children and young adults,” Daly said.

To contact the Educational Opportunities Civil Rights Working Group,  call 203-821-3896.

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Glastonbury Hosts Eight-Grade Soccer Competition


By Karin Price Muller, Contributor

GLASTONBURY —  Soccer and science recently met head on, scoring a big goal for an eighth grader’s science project. And the win couldn’t have happened without the donations of a few local businesses.

Sam Mueller, 13, of Monmouth County, N.J., is a travel soccer player with a love of science. When his teacher tasked his class with coming up with topics for the Jersey Shore Science Fair in the spring of 2015, many students tackled acids and bases, or temperature, or colors. But Sam wanted to research something a little closer to his heart.
Soccer.
He created a project that would test how the spin of a kicked soccer ball would affect distance. Physics at its finest.
But there was a problem. Even with the most precise ball-kicker – even with a professional soccer player — the actual kicking of the ball would vary. For the project to work, Sam needed the kicks to be a constant.
So the research began. After weeks of looking, Sam found the Globus Eurogoal 1500: a training machine used by soccer pros all over the world. But at a cost of thousands of dollars, buying one for the project wasn’t an option. With the help of his mom, Sam contacted soccer teams all over New Jersey and surrounding states to see if anyone had a machine he could borrow, but they came up empty.
That’s when they asked Giovanni Cirani, managing partner of Globus Sport & Health Technologies of West Hartford – the company that makes the machine – if he had any suggestions.
Cirani said Sam could use his Eurogoal 1500 for the trials – the most important part of his research project.
“Without the Eurogoal, I wouldn’t have been able to make this project work,” Sam said.
But next, Sam needed a place to hold the trials. While the West Hartford area has plenty of outdoor fields to choose from, snow, or even wind, could mean failure for the trial.
Sam and his mother contacted several indoor facilities, but none had an opening that would work — until they contacted the Oakwood Sports Center in Glastonbury, which not only offered space for the trials, but also donated the time on its indoor turf field for free.
Sam traveled almost three hours on Dec. 31 to meet Criani at the Oakwood Sports Center.
Cirani, who was an aerospace engineer before working with Globus, said he couldn’t resist helping Sam with the project.
“Sam has great drive to work so hard to make this happen,” Cirani said during the trials. “It’s fun to see soccer and physics meet this way.”
And after nearly two hours of shots using backspin, topspin, and spin to the right and the left, and lots of time with measuring tapes, Sam has the data he needs for his project. If he does well at the science fair in the spring, he’ll move on to a regional one, and then nationals.

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RSCO’s Last Regional School Choice Fair on Feb. 12


HARTFORD — Parents will get a chance to check out available seats in magnet and charter schools at the last Hartford Regional Open Choice Program School Fair this February.

School officials said that the largest numbers of available seats tend to be in the entry-level grades for each school or program, particularly grade 6 and grade 9.

The fair will feature information about the wide array of programming options available to Hartford and suburban students entering grades 6 through grade 12.

Parents, grandparents, guardians and students will be able to speak with  staff from RSCO and its partners, the Capitol Region Education Council, Hartford Public Schools’ Host Magnet Program, the Hartford Region Open Choice Program, Goodwin College, the Connecticut Technical High School System, Bloomfield Public Schools and East Hartford Public Schools.

RSCO will offer free bus transportation to and from) the Public Safety Academy on the day of the fair, departing from three designated Hartford locations:

– Hartford Public Library, SAND/Ropkins Branch (1750 Main St.); departing at 10:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.

– Hartford Public Library, Dwight Branch (7 New Park Ave.); departing at 10:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m.

– State Employee Parking Lot, corner of Capitol Ave. and Oak St.; departing at 10:45 a.m. and 12:10 p.m.

Transportation will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Families will also have the option of submitting an online application for the 2015-16 RSCO lottery.  The 2015-16 lottery application period opened on Saturday, Nov.  15, 2014 and the on-time application period closes on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.

For more information on school fairs, information sessions, and open houses, please visit RSCO’s Web site at http://www.choiceeducation.org or call RSCO’s Parent Information Center at 860-713-6990 weekdays (excluding state holidays) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Conard High School

110 Beechwood Road

West Hartford, Connecticut 06107

 

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Hartford Schools Receive ESL Grant


Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

About 2,000 of Hartford’s young English learners and their families will receive new resources and assistance to “positively impact their literacy and academic outcomes,” city officials announced on Tuesday.

Thanks to a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation Fund and a $100,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Hartford Public Schools serve more ELs than any other Connecticut district, with 17 percent of its students identified as ELs in 2012-13 and 40 percent from homes where English is not the primary language. Officials said.

This effort addresses a need to prepare teachers and leaders in the earliest grades of school to provide English learners with effective instruction and support and to provide families with culturally sensitive and concrete information in their own language on how to promote their children’s learning.

The project will help to create a more coordinated system for young English learners and their families and create greater continuity in supporting these students as they transition from preschool to early elementary grades to increase their opportunities for school readiness and success

Officials said the program is aligned with the Connecticut Early Learning and Development Standards, Common Core English Language Arts, and Next Generation Science Standards.
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Ed Department Taps Wentzell to Lead


HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Education has a new leader: Dianna Wenzell.

Officials announced on Monday that Wentzell, who currently serves as the department’s chief academic officer,  will head the department while the State Board of Education searches for a replacement of outgoing commissioner Stefan Pryor.  Pryor will leave the state to head the Department of Commerce in Rhode Island. He was also the deputy mayor and director of economic and housing development in Newark.

Pryor resigned after heading the board of education for four years.

Wentzell has a doctoral degree in educational leadership from the University of Hartford, a master’s in education from the University of Massachusettes, and a bachelor’s in Russian Studies from Mount Holyoke College.

Before joining the state department, she was an assistant superintendent for Hartford Public Schools.

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National School Choice Week Set for January 2015


HARTFORD — National School Choice Week 2015 will officially begin on Jan. 23 with an official kickoff in Jacksonville, Florida.

Supporters of school choice have planned more than 10,000 events to “raise awareness about the importance of greater opporuntiies in K-12 education,” organizers said. There will be more than 100 events in Greater Hartford and New Haven area.

The events are timed to coincide with National School Choice Week 2015, which runs from Jan.  25 – 31.

Events, which are independently planned and independently funded, will include information sessions, roundtable discussion, movie screenings, rallies and other special events.

The goal of National School Choice Week is to shine a positive spotlight on all types of effective education options for children, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, homeschooling, private schools, and online academies, organizers said.

According to President of National School Choice Week Andrew Campanella, “the growth in enthusiasm for school choice can be attributed to simple supply and demand.”

“More American families than ever before are actively choosing the best educational environments for their children, which has galvanized millions of additional parents – those without options ­– to demand greater choices for their own children,” Campanella said. “National School Choice Week will feature both of those themes, providing a platform for people to celebrate school choice where it exists and demand it where it does not.”

National School Choice Week started as an annual celebration in 2011, with 150 events.

For more information, visit www.schoolchoiceweek.com/press

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Hartford Vigil Set for Slain NYC Police


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Mothers United Against Violence will hold a vigil at City Hall on Wednesday for slain New York Police Officers: Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

Forty-year-old Ramos and 32-year-old Liu were ambushed and shot at point-blank range on Saturday, while seated in a police cruiser in Brooklyn, New York.

The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, reportedly boasted about killing police officers before he headed over to Myrtle Avenue and approached the officers from behind. He fired four shots at the car and fled.

The city’s vigil will be held on Dec. 23 at noon at City Hall, 550 Main St., downtown Hartford.

Like other communities across the country, Hartford organizers said this is an opportunity to respond to a police ambush that shocked a nation.

According to  NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton. Liu had been married for two months. Ramos had a 13-year-old son.

Observers said that this police ambush was a retaliation against the court verdict of the killing of innocent black people, including the recent shooting and court verdict for Michael Brown. Brown was reportedly shot in the back.

President Barack Obama said there’s no justification for murder.

Obama, on vacation in Hawaii, called Mr. Bratton on Sunday to offer condolences and later issued a statement, saying: “I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.”

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Pew Study: More Americans Support Gun Rights


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — After the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.,  many across the nation called on Congress to pass gun control measures that would require background checks and restrict individuals from attaining assault weapons.

Two years later, a new survey says there is growing support for gun owners, reversing the sentiment immediately after 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered an elementary school and killed 20 students, six adults and his mother. Lanza reportedly committed suicide.

According to a Pew Research Center study that marks the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings,  there’s a shift in atttiudes about whether gun ownership does more to protect people or put them in harm’s way.

Currently,  52 percent of those surveyed says it is more imporant to protect the rights of American gun owners, while 46 percent say it is more imporant to control who owns a gun, the reports says.

“Support for gun rights has edged up from earlier this year, and marks a substantial shift in attitudes since shortly after the Newtown school shootings, which occurred two years ago this Sunday,” the report reads. “The balance of opinion favored gun control in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy in December 2012, and again a month later.”

The report also says that nearly six in ten Americans, or 57 percent, say gun ownership does more to proetc people from becoming victims of crime, while 38 percent say it does more to endanger personal saftey. In the aftermath of the Newtown tradegy, 49 percent said guns do more to proetect people. And 37 percent of those surveyed two years ago said guns place people at risk.

The Pew report comes on the heels of renewed effort to get Congress to regulate firearms. Two groups, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, released a report earlier this week that counted 95 school shootings since Newtown.

Gun reform advocates disagreed with the Pew Study findings, saying the wording of the questions about gun ownership is skewed.

Ron Pinciaro, president of the CT Voters for Gun Safety, said other surveys have favored what he said should be referred to as “gun violence prevention” policies.

“When they’re using the term ‘gun control,’ there’s kind of a bias attached to that. I would expect that that’s how the data would come out,” he said.

Scott Wilson, President of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, said the poll results accurately reflect the growing sentiment two years after the shootings in Newtown.

“I am not surprised to see the outcome of this poll. I do believe that after a shock period when a tragedy such as Sandy Hook occurs, people realize that law enforcement can’t be everywhere to protect people and it falls to people to protect themselves. The rational side of humanity eventually takes over,” Wilson said.

As of December 2014, there have been an estimated 126 school shootings since the shooting at Columbine in 1999.

 

 

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Flags Fly Half-Staff for Sandy Hook Victims


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — This Sunday will mark the two-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown.

That’s why Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has directed the United States and Connecticut flags to fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on  Dec. 14, to honor of the 20 children and six adults killed after 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered the school and opened fire.

Lanza committed suicide before state police arrived on the scene.

It wasn’t Connecticut’s first shooting massacre. But it was the first that shook almost every soul in Connecticut and beyond when they learned about the young victims and saw their faces in newspapers, on television and on social media.

The Newtown mass shooting was the deadliest mass shooting at a school in the U.S. And it was the most deadliest school shooting by an individual after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.

Many searched for a motive behind such killings. And for almost a year, the state probed the depths of the killer’s psyche for clues,  hoping to plumb the depths of  what they saw as an evil act. But they found little to soothe the wound that has yet to heal two years late.

A November 2013 report issued by the Connecticut State Attorney’s office concluded that Lanza acted alone. And there was no no evidence that explain why he killed those children, teachers and his mother.

See Report Here.

National and state leaders pledged to “never forget” this shooting, which has galvanized many in Newtown and across the nation. Together, they pushed for ways to mitigate the damage caused by the mass shooting, or to stave off another Sandy Hook shooting incident in Connecticut and across the country.

The victims’ families, other Newtown residents and supporters formed a group called The Sandy Hook Promise . They lobbied Congressional leaders who introduced legislation that included a banned on assault weapons and the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to expand background checks before gun purchases.  

Both measures failed in the Senate.

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