Archive | October, 2009

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Hartford Schools Grab National Spotlight

HARTFORD — The Hartford Board of Education’s efforts to reform its school system have caught national attention again. 

The board’s participation in Reform Governance in Action training was featured  in a report by the Wallace foundation and published as a supplement in Education Week earlier this month.  

On Thursday, Nov. 12, the district’s method of redesigning low-performing schools into high-achieving academies and learning centers with a focus on a career theme will be the subject of a major presentation at the annual Education Trust National Conference in Arlington, Va. Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski will lead the session, according to a press release yesterday.

Earlier this year, Hartford Public Schools were the focus of a special report on school reform that appeared on the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cited Hartford in a speech as one of six districts in the country that were doing the most to turn around low-performing schools. 

Reform Governance in Action is a two-year program run by the Houston-based Center for Reform of School Systems, in which a group of hand-picked school boards and superintendents develop the policy tools to run their districts effectively and close the achievement gap. 

Participation in the program is by invitation only and most of the costs are absorbed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. 

During their training, school boards and their superintendents meet every other month to develop a “theory of action” that determines the strategy that works best for them to improve learning. They then draft and approve policy changes that set the strategy in motion. 

The Education Week article noted that under Hartford’s theory of action, the district’s relationship with each school depends on the school’s performance. As the school meets targets, such as increasing its scores on standardized tests, their principals gain more autonomy over budget, personnel and curriculum. 

Ada Miranda, chair of the board of education, noted that the training has transformed the way the board does business. 

“We don’t want what has happened to be dropped,” she said. “So we are focused on sustainability.”

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Renowned Pianist Plays at Jorgenson

STORRS — Known for his technical perfection, rich coloration, and great lyrical depth, cellist Kangho Lee has been a sought-after soloist and chamber musician since his orchestral debut with the Seoul Philharmonic at age twelve. He has performed with leading orchestras including the Korean Symphony, the Suwon Philharmonic, the Euro-Asia Symphony, Yale Philharmonia, the Round Top Festival Orchestra, the Sofia National Academy Orchestra and the Halle Philharmonic.

This time he’s playing in Connecticut.

Kangho Lee, the one half of the Lee Duo,  will perform at Jorgensen on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 7:30 pm. A concert talk at 6:45 pm will precede the performance by these two talented and celebrated musicians.

The program will include Beethoven’s Twelve Variations on a Theme from Handel’s Judas Maccabaeus for Piano and Cello; Benjamin Britten’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 65; and Sonata in G minor for Violoncello and Piano, Op. 19 by Rachmaninoff.

As the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ cultural representative, Kangho Lee has given recitals in Paris, Milan, Rome and Lyon, as well as for the United Nations in Geneva. An active chamber musician, he has collaborated with world-renowned individual musicians and with the Cleveland, Vermeer and Orion string quartets, and is also a member of the Kumho Chamber Music Society, the Tonus Piano Trio, and the New England Piano Trio. A highly respected pedagogue and presentor of university master classes, Dr. Lee received his master of music degree from the Yale School of Music and his doctorate from the New England Conservatory.

Lee is currently Associate Professor of Music (cello) and Coordinator of Applied Music at the University of Connecticut, as well as Director of the UConn Cello Festival and Chamber Music Festival.

Pianist Minyoung Lee has performed throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia, both as a soloist and as a collaborative artist, and is a faculty member in UConn’s School of Music. She plays with an honest musical intensity, which is contained but not halfhearted, and plays with an uncommon, lovely delicacy and improvisatory fluidity.

Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts is located at 2132 Hillside Road on the UConn campus in Storrs. Regular tickets are $28 and $30, with some discounts available. For more information, call 860.486.4226, or order online at

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State Holds ‘Teacher of the Year’ Celebration

NEW BRITAIN — More than 1,000 friends, colleagues and family members will gather in New Britain tonight to celebrate teachers of the year from over 100 Connecticut communities at the annual Awards Ceremony sponsored by the State Board of Education.

The event will be  from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Central Connecticut State University’s Herbert Welte Hall.
Anthony Mullen, Connecticut’s 2009 Teacher of the Year who became the 2009 National Teacher of the Year, will speak about his work to prevent at risk students from dropping out of school. He will also assist members of the State Board of Education and State Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan to recognize district teachers of the year and the 2010 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year, Kristi M. Luetjen, a kindergarten teacher from Whiting Lane School in West Hartford.

The Connecticut Teacher of the Year Program is supported by ING and by the SmarterKids Foundation.

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Weekend Movie Review: ‘This Is It’ Sizzles on Screen

By Jonathan Smalls, Movie Critic

We can say what we want about Michael Jackson: we can criticize his personal life, believe the accusations, dismiss his as some sort of weirdo, and marvel at when he filed for bankrupty, but there is one thing, which no one will ever be able to do to him: no one can deny his talent. With a musical career spanning nearly fifty years, he has achieved a level of fame greater than any performer before, or since.

This Is It was supposed to be a farewell tour for a storied musician, the piece de resistance on a renowned legacy, which has touched the lives of the world. Unfortunately Michael died while rehearsing, and developing his tour, but rather than letting such a talent disappear like a candle in a dark room, director Kenny Ortega was able to share a view of the behind the scenes development in film. We are glad that he did.

Despite his fame, Michael was still only one man. He was never able to control his rise to fame, and subsequent fall from grace. He never determined how the media portrayed him, or what the public believed. Many of us never even heard him speak. His outlet to the world was his music, and This Is It offers a glimpse into the thought, and sentiment behind his performances.

The film starts by following Michael through rehearsals. He seems frail, his voice sounds thin. Ortega lets the film crescendo from this image of Michael to the reality of the man: a fun, powerful visionary with an intense desire to entertain the world like no one else. Although the film consists primarily of Jackson rehearsing his most popular songs, there is a story in it.

Michael has always been theatrical. From the beginning many of his songs incorporated themes, and stories, so stringing them together into a feature length film is no stretch of the imagination. This Is It is certainly not a lazy repeat of his albums. Michael used the live performance as an opportunity to reimagine many elements of his music to really make it bigger, better, and more poignant. “Human Nature” is haunting, “Smooth Criminal” is an expansive tale of the dirty city, and the “Way You Make Me Feel” literally simmers just the way he wants it to.

Michael is supported by the best of the best in their fields: crew, dancers, musicians, vocalists, designers. Each gets a brief moment to demonstrate what they contributed to the rehearsals, and the production is amazing. The dancers are animated, and precise. The musicians are true to the sound, and experience. Everyone does their part to create a moment truly worthy of the last days of the king of pop.

Several generations of music lovers grew up with Michael Jackson, moon walking, crotch grabbing, and trying to hit that high falsetto. Generations more will know his legacy. The film builds on our fond memories of his music all of the way back to the Jackson 5, and we as the audience see his vision, embrace his message, and feel his energy. Future generations have one advantage over us though. While Michael was alive we entertained the notion of his return to greatness, another chance to experience that excitement of hearing his latest release. After his death, at the end of the movie we painfully realized that there is no more. This is it.

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Police Arrest Three in Jasper Howard Murder

By Associated Press

STORRS, Conn. – Police on Tuesday charged a man with the murder in the stabbing death of a University of Connecticut football player outside a school-sanctioned dance, but his defense attorney says he was just trying to break up a fight.

Two others also were charged in the fight that led to the death of 20-year-old Jasper Howard, of Miami.

John William Lomax III, 21, of Bloomfield, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with murder, police said. His bond was set at $2 million.

Police would not discuss evidence or a motive during a news conference Tuesday. More than 40 investigators conducted more than 200 interviews and “have not stopped working,” UConn police chief Robert Hudd said.

Police charged Hakim Muhammad, 20, of Bloomfield, with conspiracy to commit assault and Jamal Todd, 21, of Hartford, with a felony charge of falsely reporting an incident and a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment. Police say he pulled the fire alarm that emptied the dance early Oct. 18, triggering the fight.

UConn Stabbing FootballJasper Howard Lomax, who is not a UConn student and lives 30 miles from campus, wasn’t present when the argument started and doesn’t know what it was about, but tried to break up the fight, said his attorney, Deron Freeman.

“He was just partying,” Freeman said. “Often people from out of town go to the UConn campus to party.”

Lomax, a Bloomfield High School graduate who works in information technology, goes by the nickname “Pooda.” He last logged into his MySpace page in March, when he listed his occupation as “taking care of my daughter.”

On his Facebook page, Lomax’s friends include Muhammad and 21-year-old Johnny Hood of Hartford, who was arrested last week and faces charges of breach of peace and interfering with police.

Freeman said he was first told that Lomax would be charged in connection with the fight, but not with murder.

“I’m surprised,” Freeman said. “I’m curious to find out what evidence they had to secure an arrest warrant for murder. … From all the evidence I’ve heard, he was not involved in the stabbing.”

UConn president Michael Hogan said in a message to students and staff: “Nothing can replace the void in our hearts left by his death. Yet, I know that many of you will feel reassured by today’s news.”

Howard, a starting cornerback whose nickname was Jazz, was stabbed outside a university-sanctioned dance, hours after helping his team to a homecoming game win over Louisville.

The entire UConn team attended his funeral Monday in Miami, where Howard was eulogized by coach Randy Edsall as “the ultimate son, he was the ultimate brother. He was the ultimate teammate. He was the ultimate friend. They didn’t come any better than Jazz.”

UConn football players said they were happy that an arrest was made, but that it was of little comfort.

“It is a little closure, but the reality is my teammate’s still not here with us,” said running back Jordan Todman.

Several players said Tuesday they had never heard of Lomax, and don’t know how Lomax and Howard crossed paths.

“I know that his mother is very excited that someone is being charged with this crime. That’s all I’ve been really thinking about, just how his family is doing,” said defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.

Greg Lloyd, a junior linebacker, said they are relieved that someone is being held accountable for Howard’s death.

“I wish only that it didn’t happen at all so at least I can have my teammate back,” he said. “It’s unreal grief for the family, unreal grief for his friends – it’s just a shame.”

An athletics department spokesman said Edsall did not plan to make any public statements on the arrests Tuesday.

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A Disturbed Rhianna Revealed on Sneak Peak of Album

HARTFORD — “You can see my heart beating, you can see it through my chest/I’m terrified, but I’m not leaving/Know that I must pass this test,”Rihanna sings. “So just pull the trigger.”

The Barbadian-born pop princess streamed her new single, Russian Roulette on her website today, and it’s a stark contrast to her first album, Sunshine.

Her new track is depressing to listen to, considering a well-publicized aftermath of a beat down by her former boyfriend, Chris Brown.

The track ends with the sound of a gunshot, which might explain her fascination with her gun tatoos.

There better be some pick me up songs on the album as well because so far it looks like fans are in for a morbid experience.
Listen here: Rhiann\'s Russian Roulette

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Rell Appoints Hartford Student to State Panel

HARTFORD — Gov.  M. Jodi Rell today appointed Victoria Sawyer of Hartford as a member of the State Advisory Council on Children and Families.

Sawyer is a student at Capitol Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford.  She also takes classes at Capital Community College.

The Council makes recommendations to the state’s Department of Children and Families Commissioner concerning programs, legislation or other matters which will improve services for children and youths. The Council also advises the DCF commissioner regarding the proposed state budget.

“Victoria wants to help improve the quality of life for Connecticut’s children,”  Rell said.  “Her background and life experiences will make her an asset to this panel, and I thank her for her willingness to serve the state of Connecticut.”

Sawyer will serve a term ending June 30, 2011 or until a successor has been appointed and has qualified, whichever is longer.

Those interested in serving on a state board or commission can visit and click on “Forms.”

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Dedication Ceremony Set for Keith Carr Corner

HARTFORD — The City of Hartford and the Hartford Enterprise Zone Business Association will hold a dedication ceremony for the late Keith L. Carr Sr.

The first half of the celebration begins at noon on Oct. 30 at the corner of Main St. and Albany Ave. with the unveiling of a street sign, followed by the dedication of a bus stop shelter located at the corner of Main St.and Tower Ave.

The celebration will conclude with a reception at the West Indian Social Club located at 3340 Main St. in Hartford.

Considered by many as one of Hartford’s “favorite sons,” Mr. Carr is remembered for his many years of public service and commitment to a variety of organizations, including: The Upper Albany Merchants Association, The Connecticut Migratory Children’s Program and Chairman of the West Indian Independence Celebration Committee.

His contributions were also recognized by the Government of Jamaica who bestowed on him the National Award of the Order of Merit and he was well-known for his community involvement and efforts to collaborate with various ethnic organizations and groups in the Greater Hartford area.

We encourage the public to come out and participate in this most memorable event.

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Community Colleges Set Enrollment Record

By Kelly Nolen, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — More than 55,000 students have enrolled in Connecticut Community Colleges this fall, setting another enrollment record for the seventh year in a row, according to state officials.

Connecticut Community Colleges, which  is the largest public higher education system in the state, has seen a 7.8 percent enrollment increase since the previous fall. A nearly 10 percent head count increase has been witnessed at eight of the 12 colleges, a continuing trend since 1998, according to a press release.

“The CCCs are filled to capacity with students seeking affordable high-quality education,” states Chancellor Marc S. Herzog. Although full-time enrollment has increased 104 percent since 1998, most of the enrollment continues to be part-time students who also work in order to support themselves as well as a household.”

In addition to the 62 percent of part-time students, there’s another 32,000 students enrolled in non-credit courses, as a result of the current job market because of  the economic downturn and the job losses.

“More people of all ages are looking to change careers or become more employable by learning new skills and technologies,” Herzog said.

The increase in CCC enrollment coincides with state funding reductions, which have cut back on college budgets by 10 percent. In order to accommodate the expanding enrollment, CCC has implemented salary and hiring freezes, reductions in purchasing and streamline operations. “The approximate 10 percent increase in students this year comes with a budget at least 10 percent below what is needed to serve those students,” Helzberg said.

With the July 14 unveiling of President Barack Obama’s “American Graduation Initiative: Stronger American Skills Through Community Colleges,” Community Colleges gained national attention as an important component to improving the American economy.

“Community Colleges will play a big role in getting America back on its feet again,” stated U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last March, “jobs requiring an associate degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs  requiring  no college experience…we will not fill those jobs, or keep those jobs on our shores, without the training offered by community colleges.”

The CCC hopes that its enrollment increase will help the American Gradation Initiative meet its goal of an additional 5 million community college graduates by 2020. Each year, approximately 5,000 CCC students graduate.

The American Graduation Initiative offers $12 billion of a ten year period to community colleges throughout the country may help lessen the financial needs of CCC that are not supported by either state or federal funding. “But is will not solve the budget shortfall,” Herzog said.

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DPUC Discusses Relief for Electric Heating Customers

HARTFORD — Connecticut residents might get a break in their electric heating bills.

That’s because the Department of Public Utility Control’s (DPUC) will hold a special meeting to come up with an initiative to assist state ratepayers in lowering their utility bills, according to a DPUC press release yesterday.

This “first time in history” meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. in the Heritage Village Meeting House Music Room in Southbury.

After the meeting, the  commission will release a decision outlining a new incentive that will provide residential customers with electric heating, a path to significantly lowering their monthly bills permanently.

For the tens of thousands of residential customers with electric heating, this announcement has the potential to lower their electric costs resulting from heating their homes by approximately one third, officials said.

The is proposal, officials said was developed by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund at the encouragement of the DPUC. Vice-Chairman John W. Betkoski is the lead commissioner on this docket.

DPUC Commissioners to attend:
DPUC Chairman Kevin M. DelGobbo
DPUC Vice-Chairman John W. Betkoski
DPUC Commissioner Anthony J. Palermino
DPUC Commissioner Amalia Vazquez Bzdyra

Directions: Take I-84 to Exit 15.  Heading east turn left at the bottom of the ramp, heading west turn right. Go straight to the second traffic light just beyond Southbury Plaza and turn left on Heritage Road.  Follow Heritage Road 0.9 miles and you will come to a sign marked Country Tavern.  Turn left on Hillhouse Road and immediately right on Heritage Way.  You will see a large parking lot on the right and a large white house on the left.  The white house is the Meeting House.

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