Archive | September, 2015

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Hartford Educator Receives Award for Service

HARTFORD —  A Hartford educator was honored by the  Department of Education for demonstrating “exceptional skill and dedication” on her job at the L.W. Batchelder Elementary School in Hartford.

Denise R. Seel, a Lisbon resident, was named the 2016 Paraeducator of the Year by  Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell. Wentzell was joined Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Hartford Public School officials on Monday to announce the news.

The Anne Marie Murphy Paraeducator of the Year Program recognizes outstanding paraeducator contributions to schools and communities. The program honors one paraeducator who has demonstrated exceptional skill and dedication in the performance of his/her job, thereby earning them the respect and admiration of students, teachers, administrators, coworkers, and parents.

Paraeducators assist certified teachers in the classroom and play a vital role in supporting students and creating a learning environment that engages the whole child.

“Educators are our most important resource—Connecticut is honored to count Denise Seel among them,” said Lt. Governor Wyman. “I want to congratulate Denise on receiving the Paraeducator of the Year award, but more importantly, thank her and the many others who are tireless in their commitment to our students and their futures.”

“We are so fortunate and so proud to have Denise Seel in our district.  She exemplifies the best that our paraeducators have to offer our students; bringing personal and professional commitment to this very important work,” said Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools Beth Schiavino-Narvaez.

The Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year Award was named in honor of Anne Marie Murphy, a special education paraprofessional, who was killed in Newtown in 2013.


Ms. Seel was chosen among three finalists, 10 semi-finalists, and 40 district Paraeducators of the Year.  The rigorous selection process, which includes candidate applications and interviews, was conducted by representatives of the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council comprised of former state Paraeducators of the Year and representatives from educational organizations and collective bargaining.


Connecticut’s Paraeducator of the Year is selected from approximately 14,000 public school paraeducators in the state and represents the profession in forums and advisory committees impacting education policy and public awareness of the successes that take place daily in schools, as well as the challenges they face.


Ms. Seel’s career as a paraeducator spans 21 years and began in 1993 at LEARN in southeastern Connecticut shortly before her son, Jamie, passed away. Jamie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy around the age of two and throughout the 17 years that he lived, she learned that her passion to help children, adults and families was going to be a lifelong commitment.  This led to a working career focused on the education of children with multiple disabilities, complex medical needs and the behaviorally challenged.


Ms. Seel obtained an associate’s degree from Three Rivers Community College and she believes that “all paraeducators who work in a school should be able to recognize every student’s potential.” While working as a paraeducator she pursued and obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Charter Oak State College as a way to provide excellence in education for all students.


Ms. Seel and her husband, Richard, have a son, Dr. Darren Seel, who lives with his wife, Megan, in West Charlton, N.Y. with their grandson, Samuel Seel. She will succeed 2015 Connecticut Paraeducator of the Year Geraldine Lavallee, who is a Behavior Coach at Squadron Line Elementary School in Simsbury. Ms. Lavallee will conclude her term as Paraeducator of the Year on December 31.


Ms. Seel will be honored at a ceremony on October 1, 2016 at the Four Points Sheraton in Meriden.

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Hartford Police Make Arrest for Prospect Street Homicide

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford Police arrested a  suspect in the August shooting on South Prospect Street.

The suspect, Anthony Christiana, 38, of Henry Street in Hartford.  He was charged with murder, criminal possession of a firearm, criminal use of a firearm and conspiracy to commit murder.

Police said that at approximately 11:57 p.m. the Hartford Police Department received several 911 reports of shots fired and a male victim shot at 52-K South Prospect Street. On arrival, a male victim was located suffering from multiple gunshot wounds to his upper torso. The victim was subsequently pronounced deceased on scene by the responding paramedics at 12:34 a.m on Sept. 1, 2015.

The victim is identified as William Prieto, 32, of 52 Prospect St. in Hartford.

The suspect was identified as  On Sept. 23 and he was  picked up and arrested for violation of probation (unrelated charges) on Tuesday Sept.  22, 2015.

Christiana is being held on a $1,000,000 bond. The investigation is on-going at this time.

Christiana is a convicted Felon with 9 previous Hartford arrests, police said.

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GOP Calls for Renewed Session to Discuss Budget Cuts

By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

General Electric, the biggest company on Connecticut’s grand list,  is making plans to move out of the state because it “does not support job creation, where it’s attractive to talent.”

That’s why some Republican legislators are calling for a special session to revisit the budget after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced a series of cuts that will hit nonprofit hospitals hard, according to some business observers. So far, a $190 million cut to hospitals is slated for the 2015-2016 budget, which began July 1.

These cuts, some say, scare off big businesses.

The Connecticut General Assembly’s Senate and House Republican leaders in a press release on Thursday shared concerns about the state’s business environment and General Electric’s potential move.

Among the cuts slated for the fiscal year is a $63.4 million reduction in Medicaid payments to hospitals. This would also trigger a loss of $128 million in matching federal dollars, state officials said.

Connecticut Hospital Association CEO Jennifer Jackson said hospitals provide many programs in their communities, which will have to be cut.

Hospital leaders said the cuts would also force them to lay off workers.

“People are going to lose their jobs at a time when we dramatically need job growth in the state of Connecticut,” Jackson said, calling the cuts “a crisis situation.”

Sen. Tony Hwang the “crisis situation”also serves to scare away big businesses like GE.

“Our state is in a crisis. Our financial house is falling apart and the very foundation is crumbling as more and more businesses and residents leave for states with a stable and livable tax structure. This situation will only get worse if we do nothing. A crisis demands immediate attention,” Hwang said.

All Republicans voted against the state budget passed earlier this year saying cuts to hospitals, which are job creators, scares away other companies.

GE spends more than $14 billion with other businesses in Connecticut to support their operations. Republican leaders said that those relationships impact over 65,000 supplier jobs across the state.

“Seeing GE leave would not only spell trouble for GE employees, perhaps even more damaging to the thousands of individuals who have jobs because of the business GE provides to other companies within our state,”said . The majorities’ decisions are driving companies and jobs out.”

Lawmakers also emphasized the need for changes in the state budget to benefit all businesses as GE is only one of many companies considering leaving the state.

“A special session to rethink this budget is needed to send a strong message to businesses, to communities, to families, that lawmakers are listening and we want to help create a better future for our state,” said House Republican Leader Themis Klarides (R-Derby).

 Photo courtesy of CTMIRROR.


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Feds tell States to Stop Processing Food Stamp Benefits

WASHINGTON –The state’s 423,000 food stamp recipients could soon be early victims of Washington’s budget crisis.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has instructed the Connecticut Department of Social Services and similar agencies in all of the states to not dispense any October benefits to food stamp recipients “until further notice.”

The USDA cites the threat of a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1 as the reason for holding up the benefits. Some $60 million in food aid could hang in the balance, one Connecticut official said.

“Considering the operational issues and constraints that exist in automated systems, and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility, we are directing States to hold their October issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice,” the USDA letter from Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe said.

The stopping of processing October’s benefits means recipients are likely to suffer a delay in benefits, even if Congress resolves the standoff over the federal budget in the next few days.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a champion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, (SNAP) the formal name for food stamps, said she spoke with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday and was told there is not enough money in a contingency fund to continue benefits past the end of the month.

“To hear of this impending disaster when we are preparing to hear from His Holiness Pope Francis, who has spoken so eloquently about hunger, is nothing short of a cruel joke,” DeLauro said. The Pope arrived in Washington D.C. on Tuesday.

The last time the government shut down, in 2013, SNAP benefits continued because there was enough money left in a stimulus bill fund to keep the program running. This time that is not the case.

Congress is running out of time to approve a budget for fiscal year 2016 or even approve a short term funding bill, called a continuing resolution. The bill is stymied by the insistence of conservative Republicans that Planned Parenthood be defunded in the legislation.

“What kind of morality moves them?” DeLauro asked.

GOP lawmakers were prompted to defund Planned Parenthood after a series of undercover videos were released, showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing — sometimes in a cavalier manner — arrangements to provide fetal tissues to medical laboratories.

“Republicans in Congress are proposing to deprive people of food – literally. And they’re doing it over bogus videos,” said Devon Puglia, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel Malloy. “That Congress would shut down the government over bogus videos and in the process, deprive families in need of food is unbelievably alarming and unbelievably reckless.”

David Dearborn, spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Social Services, said like many other states, Connecticut administers SNAP benefits through a federal account – not grants or a reimbursement program.

“If that federal account is actually frozen in October, about $60 million in food benefits would be withheld from Connecticut households and the food economy, ranging from supermarkets to farmers’ markets, throughout the state,” Dearborn said.

Lucy Nolan, executive director of End Hunger Connecticut!, a non-profit that helps Connecticut residents sign up for the food stamp program, said damage has been done already, even if there is no shutdown. That’s because it will take a few days for benefits distribution to resume and recipients, especially the elderly, are likely to drop off the program.

“If they go to shop and there’s nothing on their cards, they are going to think they’ve been cut off,” Nolan said.

She said she would try to warn recipients about the situation. “Meanwhile, I hope the food banks and food pantries are prepared,” Nolan said.

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CT Transit’s Fastrak to Expand

Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD —  CTfastrak will be expanded to serve the Connecticut River into East Hartford and Manchester, state officials said on Tuesday.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy recenlty announced  that the State Bond Commission will meet next week to vote on a $7 million allocation that will allow the Connecticut Department of Transportation  to purchase buses and other capital equipment necessary to expand CTfastrak east of the river.

The bus rapid transit system currently has ten stations along the 9.4 mile bus-only roadway, which extends between New Britain, Newington, West Hartford , and Hartford, partly along abandoned rail line and existing Amtrak rail line.  The planned, expanded service east of the river would usethe existing HOV lanes on I-84.

Officials said that extending this service east of the river into East Hartford and Manchester will open access to a better transportation system for residents.

“It’s good for jobs, it’s a boost for business, and it’s a step towards making Connecticut’s transportation system best-in-class,”  Malloy said.  “By growing this service east of the river, that means service extensions to Pratt & Whitney and Goodwin College, in addition to many of the other large businesses in those towns.”

Earlier this month, officials said that the current CTfastrak system between New Britain and Hartford reached a major milestone, having served one million passenger trips since paid fair service began on April 6.

Overall, the system is averaging 14,000 passenger trips on weekdays, with 9,000 on Saturdays and 5,000 on Sundays.

“Service across the Connecticut River is a natural expansion of the very popular CTfastrak system,” CTDOT Commissioner James P. Redeker said.

State officials plan to complete this expansion by late 2016.


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Plan Parenthood to Host Discussion

NEW HAVEN — Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by reaffirming its commitment to eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities within the Latino and Hispanic communities.

In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, PPSNE is partnering with New Haven León Sister City Project for a roundtable discussion entitled “Standing Up for Women’s Health & Women’s Lives” on Sept. 30 at 5:30 p.m. at 345 Whitney Ave., New Haven, CT.

“We believe all women and their families deserve the highest quality of care no matter who they are and where they live — no matter what. Our doors are open to everyone regardless of race, income, geography, citizenship status or gender identity,” said Kafi Rouse Director of Public Relations & Marketing with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “As the leading provider and advocate for sexual and reproductive health in Connecticut and Rhode Island, we know firsthand why it is important for the Latino community to have access to a comprehensive range of preventive health care services.”

The event will focus on strategies women are using to defend their health and their lives in New Haven and rural Nicaragua. This event is free and open to the public.

Political attempts to defund Planned Parenthood would threaten basic preventive health care services for more than 575,000 Latinos who rely on Planned Parenthood for care every year – including more than 12,000 in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Hispanics and Latinos face greater obstacles to obtaining, and benefiting from, sexual and reproductive health services than whites. As a result, they experience higher rates of reproductive cancers, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups of people in the U.S., for example:

  • Latinas are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group
  • Approximately 56 percent of pregnancies among Latinas are unintended
  • Latinos contract HIV at more than three times the rate of whites
  • Approximately 16 percent of Latinas have not visited a physician in the last two years, and one quarter do not have a regular health care provider

 For more information, email


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Hartford Police Arrest James Street Stabbing Suspect

Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Hartford Police arrested a local man for allegedly stabbing of a New Britain man on James Street early Thursday.

According to police, an unidentified man stabbed 55-year-old man on his arm after the two were in a fight at 69 James Street in Hartford.

Police arrived on the scene at 9:52 p.m.  and found an elderly man, who suffered a severe stab to his arm. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital. He died at 10:35 p.m.

Police officers also found a 67-year-old Hartford man who was bleeding from the head. He was transported to St. Francis, treated non-life-threatening injury, and released into police custody.

Police said the elderly 55-year-old man is the nephew of the 67-year-old man. The two live together at 69 James St. This entire incident occurred within their apartment, police said.

Allegedly, the two had been consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Both engaged in an argument that soon became physical. At some point, the suspect severely stabbed victim in the arm with a kitchen knife. The victim then was able to gain control of the knife and stab suspect. A witness then called police.

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White House to Honor Hartford Locals

By Ann-Marie Adams I The Hartford Guardian

WASHINGTON — On Monday, the White House will honor Hartford Police Officer Hiram Otero with a “Champions of Change” award for his civic engagement with city youth.

Otero is one of two officers who run Charter Oak Cultural Center’s “Good Vibrations” music program that  pairs Hartford youth with officers from the Hartford Police department in a 12-week music program in either Rap/Poetry or Guitar. Together, under the supervision of master musicians from the Hartford community, officers and students learn the fundamentals of their musical craft and create original compositions together that explore their shared and divergent experiences.

The program is entering its second year this fall, with multiple classes in both guitar and rap/poetry.

The Champion of Change award, officials said, recognizes the program’s achievement in building bridges between law enforcement and youth.

Otero will be joined by another Hartford local: Hartford middle-school student Kayke Lopes, who will be honored in a special ceremony at the White House. They will join 6 other pairs of officers and youth from across the nation.

The recognition highlights the innovative “Good Vibrations” program, its impact on Hartford and its potential to impact communities nationwide. This is a huge honor for the program, for Charter Oak, and for Hartford and the surrounding communities, officials said in a press release.


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Veteran Affairs to Host Dental Clinic, Medical Screenings

By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

Veterans will have access to free medical help on Saturday in Rocky Hill Veterans Home.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will host the Stand Down program on its campus in Rocky Hill.The event will be from 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Stand Down is a one-day resource and service fair where Connecticut Veterans have access to a full dental clinic, medical screenings to include cardiac and oncology, eye and hearing exams, and many other support services such as housing, employment, education, and legal assistance; all at no-cost to Veterans.  This year, there are more than 90 agencies and organizations participating in the event with close to 200 volunteers registered to assist.

Commissioner Connolly said, “Stand Down is the Department of Veterans’ Affairs signature event of the year for Veterans in Connecticut. I am so proud of the entire Department’s dedication, teamwork, and months of coordination and grateful for the many organizations that are providing their services and making Stand Down 2015 the best yet.”

Last year, more than 1,100 Veterans attended Stand Down with 70 agencies and companies providing information, donations, and services.

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White House to Host Pope Francis, Renew Talk

By Ann-Marie Adams I The Hartford Guardian
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama is expected to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on his visit to America next Tuesday.

In preparation for the Pope’s visit,  White House officials said in a phone call to reporters that they are looking to ensure that his visit “has lasting value” and will serve to elevate the aspirations of the Obama administration.



“This is a very unique visit.  It’s quite different from any other type of visit that we would receive from a leader of a foreign government in the sense that the Pope is the leader of an incredibly important institution that is deeply valued by many, many Americans, and he’s also a prominent, if not preeminent, moral and spiritual leader around the world on a whole host of issues,” said  Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. “So we see this as an opportunity to continue our engagement with Pope Francis and the Vatican, but also to receive the visit of a leader who is incredibly important to many Americans and many people around the world.”

The president is also expecting to renew his talks that he started last March in Italy , said Senior Director for European Affairs and National Security Council Charlie Kupchan.

On Tuesday, the Pope will arrive at  Andrews Airforce Base and will be greeted by the president, selected officials from the administration and local residents in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will have an arrival ceremony for the Pope on the South Lawn of the White House.


Also on the pope itinerary is the Sept.  23 Mass for 25,000 people on the east portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception overlooking the University Mall at The Catholic University of America. During the Mass, the Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the 18th century Franciscan missionary who founded missions and evangelized in California.


This will be the first canonization on U.S. soil.

Pope Francis will end his visit in America with a ceremony in Philadelphia. The ceremony will be hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.


The Pope has been a leading voice for peace and for dialogue between people of different faiths and nations.  He is  scheduled to speak at the United Nations next week.

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