Archive | December, 2019

CSCU Officially Launches ‘Free’ Community College Program


By Kathleen Megan

HARTFORD — Connecticut State Colleges and Universities president Mark Ojakian is getting the message out: first-time, full-time students can attend a community college at no cost next fall as long as they graduated from an in-state high school.

At its meeting Thursday, the Board of Regents for Higher Education approved a set of guidelines for the so-called “last dollar” scholarship program, which will make community college free to eligible students regardless of income and regardless of when they graduated from high school.

The program was approved by the legislature last spring and has been named the Pledge to Advance Connecticut, or PACT.

“The policy and guidelines we take up today, as required by law, reflect the letter and the spirit of the legislation and represents a powerful message to potential students in Connecticut that education is attainable and that we are investing in the future of our state,” Ojakian said Thursday before the board voted unanimously on the guidelines.

Other requirements for applicants are that they complete a federal application for financial aid and accept all awards and that they remain in good academic standing. Eligible students can graduate from a public or private high school or can be homeschooled.

The “last dollar” aspect of the program means that after all the other sources of federal, state and institutional financial aid grants are made to a student, a PACT award will be given to cover any remaining tuition or fee costs. The PACT funds can be used for tuition and various fees, whether a student activity fee or a transportation fee or supplemental course fees. Textbooks and supplies are not considered eligible expenditures.

After the board meeting, Ojakian held a news conference at East Hartford High School to officially launch the program.

“I think we have a responsibility to start to market this especially since the first awards are due in the fall of 2020,” Ojakian said. “As you know, other jurisdictions that have done free college have had far longer lead time to market this, so we need to start in earnest, which is why we are kicking it off today and really making a promise to our state and to our students that there will be free community college come fall.”

The PACT guidelines say that the cost of the program is expected to range from $7 million to $15 million — a wide range because it is uncertain exactly how many additional students will be attracted by the offer. CSCU is estimating an increase of about 5%, or 1,250 additional students. Exactly how it will be funded is also uncertain at this point. State statute requires the state to identity a funding source during the 2020 legislative session

The PACT guidelines say that “in the event that insufficient resources are made available to CSCU, the program is designed to allow for pro-rating of grants or awarding on a first-come-first-served basis” and notes that there is no requirement in the law that CSCU dedicate existing state appropriations or tuition revenue to the program.

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, explains budget details to the board at Thursday's meeting.
Mark Ojakian

PHOTO BY KATHLEEN MEGAN :: CT MIRROR

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, at a meeting earlier this year.

Ojakian said he thinks the conversations are happening now between the governor’s office and legislative leadership.

“I would anticipate that we would see funding in the governor’s budget in February, but that’s still be determined,” Ojakian said.

Rep. Gregg Haddad, D-Mansfield and co-chairman of the legislature’s higher education committee, said there is a commitment on the part of the state “to make sure one hundred percent of needs are met” and “only in extraordinary circumstances,” would it be necessary to to pro-rate the grants.

“All indications are that people inside the administration and the legislature think this is a worthy investment,” said Haddad, who was one of the key proponents of the legislation. “I feel like the success of this program has been dependent on the idea that the money is reliable. When we say we are offering free community college — that you mean what you say.”

“I think it gives hope to every student, no matter what their economic circumstance, that they can go to college,” he said. “It’s a benefit not just to them, but to our system.”

First published in CT Mirror.org

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NBC’s The Voice Winner Javier Colon Coming to Hartford’s Infinity Hall


HARTFORD — NBC’s The Voice season one winner Javier Colon will perform at Hartford Infinity Hall this Saturday.

One of the state’s most famous Afro Latinos, Colon stays true to his Connecticut roots. This Saturday, Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. at Infinity Hall in Hartford, Colon will have a sort of homecoming concert for Connecticut residents, he said in an interview with The Hartford Guardian.

Statford native Javier Colon

A Stratford native, Colon was a musician when he appeared on the first season of NBC’s hit show, “The Voice.” His coach was Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, who helped him win the competition.

Colon, 41, has also released several albums and continues to share his “acoustic soul” with the world.

He is an alumnus of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music.

DATE: Dec. 21, 8 p.m.

VENUE: Infinity Music Hall, 32 Front St. Hartford.

COST: $29-$54.

TICKETS: https://www.infinityhall.com; 866-666-6306.

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MDC to Hold Meeting Tonight On Rate Increase


GREATER HARTFORD — The Metropolitan District Commission is scheduled to meet Monday to proposed a water rate increase of almost 15 percent for metropolitan area.

The MDC meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday at the District Headquaters board room at 555 Main Street in Hartford.

The regional water and sewer authority’s proposed budget for 2020 includes raising the water rate from $3.50 per hundred cubic feet to $4.0, at 14.57 percent increase, MDC officials said.

Sewer rates will also increase by $1 per month, increasing from $6 to $7.

Some officials believe the rate will be a burden to most residents in the area and there is a need for greater oversight to ensure residents are not fleeced.

The suggested oversight committee would be through the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), a state agency.

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Gov. Lamont Directs Flag Lowered for Sandy Hook Victims


HARTFORD — Seven years ago, the world witnessed one of the deadliest mass shooting in the nation’s history.

A 20-year-old named Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty children and six adults, including his mother, in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. His weapon of choice were a Bushmaster XM15 and a Glock 20SF. Before driving to the school, Lanza killed his mother at their Newtown home. After the shooting, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, police said.

On Friday, Gov. Ned Lamont announced that he is directing U.S. and State of Connecticut flags to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, Dec. 14 in remembrance of the victims.

Nelba Marquez, Ana Márquez-Greene , and Jimmy Greene

Accordingly, since no flag should fly higher than the U.S. flag, all other flags – including state, municipal, corporate, or otherwise – should also be lowered during this same duration of time.

“We will never forget the twenty innocent, gentle children and six devoted educators whose lives were taken all too soon that terrible morning seven years ago,” Lamont said. “The tragedy that occurred that day is one of the worst in our history, but in its aftermath, we witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of humanity, hope, and kindness cascading into our state from over the entire world, spreading a message of love that we must proactively protect.”

One of the victims, six-year-old Ana Márquez-Greene, was the daughter of former Hartford residents: Nelba Marquez and Jimmy Greene.

Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz also shared condolences the families of the victims.

“Seven years ago, Connecticut was forever changed when 26 innocent people—six courageous educators and twenty loving children—were taken from their families and friends far too soon,” Bysiewicz said. “We will never forget the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and today we send the love and prayers of the state to the Newtown community as it continues to heal from this painful wound.”

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State Police Arrest Hartford Woman for Overdosing Man


HARTFORD — A Hartford woman was arrested by the Connecticut State Police after a two-year investigation found she allegedly provided “acute heroin and cocaine intoxication” to a man who died of overdose.

Teresa Ann Derison

Teresa Ann Deriso, 38, of 820 Wethersfield Ave. Hartford was arrested for first degree manslaughter, after police discovered that Troop K in Colchester responded to an unresponsive 49-year-old man, who died on the scene of apparent overdose on Oct. 4 at about 6:25 p.m.

The unidentified man had a hypodermic needle in his hand when police found him in an apartment on Plains Road in Windham.

The office of the Chief Medical Examiner later determined the cause of death was “acute heroin and cocain intoxication.”

Police said Derison injected the man with a syringe containing narcotics because he was unable to do so himself.

Derison is currently serving time in York Correction facility. She was arraigned in Danielson Superior Court on Dec. 10 for $250,000.

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Former Gov. Dannel Malloy to Join Historians and Others to Discuss Education in Connecticut


By Josh Leventhal, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will join historians, legal professionals and others to discuss the issue of education reform at Yale University Law School on April 22, 2020.

Malloy was invited by The Hartford Guardian to discuss his role as the education governor, address the challenges of segregation in the education system, and talk about closing the achievement gap. Malloy confirmed his acceptance again on Wednesday, saying he agreed because it was a good debate to have in the state, according to a staffer in his office at the University of Maine.

File Photo: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy/ AP

Many other education experts and professionals have been invited to speak on the subject of school segregation and the overall impact that it has on the achievement gap. Other topics will include why the gap still exists, and what can be done in order to close it.

“The discussion will certainly be an educational, informative, and entertaining debate,” said Ann-Marie Adams, editor and publisher of The Hartford Guardian.

In essence, the discussion will center on Adams theory about school segregation and the supplementary achievement gap that occurs in the state of Connecticut.

Dr. Adams is a leading expert in the field in American history. She is also a U.S. History Professor, an award wining journalist, and the founder of The Hartford Guardian. During the discussion, Dr. Adams will explain her theory in detail. She will also share the research that went into her book about the African American struggle for full citizenship including a quality education in CT, which in essence is the book’s innermost theme. It is also the very first published work that centers on the black Civil Rights Movement and black education in the state of Connecticut.

Dr. Adams graduated with distinction from Howard University after completing her dissertation about the African American experience and their fight for a quality education in Connecticut from the colonial period to the twentieth century. It is the first scholarly publication that covers the entire arc of the black presence in Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition, Dr. Adams has been covering the topic of education for more than 20 years at many prominent publications such as The Hartford Courant, the Norwich Bulletin, and the Times-Herald Record

There will be a short question and answer session after the debate, so participants are asked to bring questions. Please email editor@thehartfordguardian.com for sponsorship details.

The Hartford Guardian is published by the Connecticut Alliance for Better Communities, Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2004. Early bird tickets are $35 each. After Feb. 15, 2020, tickets will increase to $40/each. Please note that the cost of tickets and other donations are tax deductible.

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Hartford Offers Fee Waiver for Delinquent Taxes


HARTFORD — There’s a fee waiver for Hartford residents who owe taxes.

Beginning Dec. 15, 2019, all the collection fees will be waived. But all the owed taxes on personal property or motor vehicle must be paid to get this special waiver.

It’s a catch 22 situation, however. 

Hartford City Hall

You will have to pay the outstanding taxes and interest in full to get those fees waived.

The program will end Jan. 31, 2020. If residents fail to take advantage of this waiver, the city tax collector will impose a 15 percent collection fee on all bills.

“This Fee Relief Program will make it easier for residents to pay back taxes they owe,” said Mayor Luke Bronin.  “Last year we ran a Fee Relief Program for personal property taxes only, and this year we are expanding it to motor vehicle taxes as well.  We hope as many people take advantage as possible, so they can stay current with their taxes and the city receives the revenue we need to serve all of our residents.”

Residents can make payment online at www.hartford.gov<http://www.hartford.gov  by clicking on the “$” symbol or in the Tax Office at City Hall, 550 Main St., Room 106, Hartford, CT 06103.  

Residents can call (860) 757-9630 if they have questions.

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Former Achievement First Teacher Arrested


HARTFORD — Hartford Police on Thursday arrested the Hartford teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted an Achievement First student.

Patrick Dodds, 30, of Enfield was arrested and was being held on $50,000 bond in Hartford. Hartford Police charged Dodd with second second-degree sexual assault, according to police report.

Patrick Dodds

Police launched an investigation into a sexual relationship between Dodds and a 16-year-old student at Achievement First Academy after reports that the teacher had engaged in sexual relations in both the town of Bloomfield and the city of Hartford.

Police said that Dodds had a sexual encounter with the teen at least two times in two locations in Hartford. The affair began when the student was 15 years-old, according to The Hartford Courant.

Dodd is a former ninth-grade math teacher at Achievement First High School and was arrested on a fugitive from justice charges while he was in New Hampshire for Thanksgiving with family, police said. He turned himself in on fugitive charges.

According to police reports, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families contacted local police on Sept. 20 and a warrant was issued for Dodds’s arrest on Nov. 27.

Dodds no longer works for Achivement First, said a spokesman for the school.

“We care deeply about the safety and well-being of all students in our schools and these allegations are extremely upsetting,” Amanda Pinto, spokesman for Achievement First said in a statement. “Immediately after the police investigation began, we launched an independent internal investigation. At the end of that investigation we took appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

Dodds was also held Monday on $100,000 bond at the Grafton County Department of Correction in North Haverhill, according to Bloomfield Police Capt. Steven Hajdasz. Dodds waived his extradition rights and was brought to Connecticut Wednesday, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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Five Hartford Schools to Participate in UN Program


HARTFORD — More than 1,000 students from 35 high schools across Connecticut will gather on Friday to debate critical global issues such as human trafficking and the Opiod crisis at the University of Hartford.

The 67th annual Model United Nations program will be from Dec. 6 to Dec. 7 in the Lincoln Theater at the University’s campus, 200 Bloomfield Ave.

At the event, students will represent more than 60 countries to discuss topics such as prison reform and nuclear energy. The event is a part of the World Affairs Council of Connecticut’s annual Model United Nations (MUN) program. Hartford schools participating are: Catholic Charities of Hartford, Hartford Public High School, Sports and Medical Sciences Academy, University High School of Science and Engineering and Watkinson High School.

The World Affairs Council’s MUN program is run by students and is patterned off the United Nations General Assembly. Organizers said that the Connecticut National Guard will partner with the World Affairs Council for the first time to introduce a crisis in the Biological Warfare committee.

The MUN program will be a robust display of intellectual heft for many students.

“The greatest lesson that I’ve learned during my Model United Nations experience has been that passionate and driven individuals can and should come together to solve the world’s issues,” said Olivia Zhang, President of the Model United Nations. “I understand the power of cooperation among fierce believers of peace and will continue to push to inspire young people to get involved in the world around them.”

Megan C. Torrey, CEO of World Affairs Council of Connecticut, said the Model United Nations.

“Through Model United Nations, students develop the skills they need to thrive in our global economy and global workforce. These students are passionate, capable, and determined. They are able to tackle complex global issues. As Connecticut faces a workforce crisis, these are the students we want to remain in our state – the students who will become our future global leaders.” To learn more about the Model UN and the positive impact the program is having on our state’s students and communities, visit, www.ctwac.org.

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Hartford Winterfest Opens


HARTFORD — Winterfest Hartford returned to the Bushnell Park on Friday.

The winter festival is in its 10th year of featuring free tutoring in skating and skate rentals, photos with Santa and, of course, the carousel.

The fun began on Nov. 29 and will go through Jan. 20 for the entire family.

Outdoor ice skating is free of charge from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Skate rentals are also free. The historic Bushnell Park Carousel is open for $1 carousel rides on weekends.

Santa’s Workshop is open on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 22. You can also sign up for a free skating lesson.

For more information, and a complete calendar of events during Winterfest, go to winterfesthartford.com

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