Darien Board of Education Chairman David Dineen delivered his first State of the Town report to the Representative Town Meeting on Monday. “As of Friday, Dec. 4, the District had 16 active COVID-19 cases with a cumulative total of 881 persons quarantined,” Dineen said. “As school, town, country and state cases continue to rise, decisions on the school learning model will be reviewed on a regular basis,” in consultation with or with attention to town, state and federal officials and agencies, he said. “Presently, total COVID spending is $3,294,477, less grant and transfers of $2,477,939,” Dineen said.
The Norwalk Community College Foundation is pleased to announce the election of George A. Reilly of Darien, an attorney with the Rucci Law Group, as president. — an announcement from Norwalk Community College Foundation
Reilly is now also a member of Darien’s Planning & Zoning Commission and Blight Review Board. He has been involved in a number of public service organizations, especially involving education. He was a trustee of his high school alma mater, King School in Stamford, and served as president of its board for seven years. He was a member of Darien’s Board of Education for eleven years, and he has served on the NCC Foundation for eight years.
Schools should be ready to welcome students full-time (as previously planned) on Tuesday, Sept. 29, with more spacing created for lunch and other safety measures prepared for them, Superintendent Alan Addley wrote in an email to parents Friday afternoon. “In preparing for all students to return, schools have increased physical spacing practices for lunch,” Addley said. “While the plans vary for each school, students are distanced further apart and/or alternative mitigating strategies are in place. Principals have shared these details with you along with practices for remote learners and other information related to the full reopening.”
Someone — either a student, teacher or other staff member — at Middlesex Middle School recently tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email from schools Superintendent Alan Addley. School nurses have told that person and 11 others who are considered to have been in close contact with him or her (apparently at the school and possibly also in a school bus, since family members are mentioned separately) to quarantine for 14 days, Addley said in the Wednesday evening email. Family members “have also been instructed to self-quarantine and get tested,” Addley wrote in the email, sent out as a letter through the email account of Alicia Casucci, director of nursing for the schools (but stating that it was from Addley). The individual who tested positive was last at Middlesex Middle School on Thursday, Sept. 17.
Darien schools that have had to eliminate field trips from the new school year can still welcome seals, sea turtles, sharks and other marine animals into their classrooms through live online programs offered by the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. — an announcement from the Maritime Aquarium
Long a regional resource to educators for fulfilling STEM-based teaching standards, The Maritime Aquarium has shifted from primarily presenting in-person classes to now offering 25 online distance-learning lessons. They’re available to any school anywhere. “Actual field trips are sometimes considered a luxury but, in the time of distance learning, virtual field trips are more important than ever,” said Tom Naiman, the Aquarium’s director of Education. “They inspire students, give teachers time to prepare their own future lessons and engage parents of younger students in their children’s education.”
Teachers can select from a menu of age-appropriate programs, including: an interactive story time for preschoolers (which also can be offered as a series); observing the adaptations and lifestyles of various sharks for Grades K-2; exploring the causes and solutions of water pollution for Grades 3-5; and investigating coastal resilience for middle- and high-schoolers.
To help families and students during the transition into a new school year, the Darien YMCA has developed the “Y Hybrid Learning Lab” for elementary school students in town. The Learning Lab is a safe and structured environment at the Y that will allow students to attend virtual classes and have peer interaction under the supervision of YMCA staff and volunteers as the district follows a Hybrid Model in September. — an announcement from the Darien YMCA
The Y Learning Lab will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Hindley, Tokeneke and Royle Schools and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for Holmes and Ox Ridge, which coincides with their regular school hours. Students will be grouped with similar grades with a maximum of 16 students per group, as per state guidelines. Each group will be separated from other groups.
Darien schools will open Sept. 3 and 4, with students going to school two days a week and being taught online for other days, schools Superintendent Alan Addley told the Board of Education on Monday night. Then, Addley said, on Sept. 29, about three weeks later, the schools will be open “full-time,” with students going five days a week. Fridays will be half days throughout the school year, with students learning remotely, on-line.
With one school year over and a second, also with an ongoing pandemic to deal with, Darien schools Superintendent Alan Addley is asking parents for feedback on eLearning, saying it will help with plans for the upcoming school year. That year may have school buildings open in some way, possibly closed or possibly some combination of the two, maybe at the same time, maybe at different times. School district officials just don’t know, and the decision likely won’t be their’s anyway — Addley said the state is likely to issue a mandate to school districts this summer. But whatever the future holds, district officials are trying to prepare for it with plans, even if they’re only contingency plans. Addley briefly described the planning process, both in an email to parents last week and at an earlier Board of Education meeting.
RTM Sets Budget; Cuts Taxes a Bit More for a $16.33 Mill Rate; Finance Board, GOP Ed Board Members Sharply Criticized
July’s town tax bills will be a bit lower after the Representative Town Meeting on Monday cut the 2020-2021 budget enough to reduce town taxes from 16.47 per $1,000 of assessed value to $16.33, a reduction of 14 cents. The Board of Finance had proposed a budget with a tax rate of $16.36 (11 cents under the present rate), and the final tax rate is 3 cents less than that. The RTM, with the legal ability to to cut budgets but not to raise them, is the final authority on cutting the budget and setting the mill rate. The RTM voted overwhelmingly to cut various, relatively small items from the Board of Finance’s proposed budget, including financing to: repaint the tennis courts at Weed Beach that are nearest the entrance, remove money from Town Hall maintenance and refurbishing project accounts where money hadn’t been spent, kitchen equipment for the Weed Beach snack concession, and money for a ride-on leaf blower. All the cuts came from the Board of Selectmen’s side of town budget.
Joe Connolly has been a telecommuter for 20 years. You probably know him from his award-winning business reports on WCBS Newsradio 880 or his Small Business Breakfasts held annually in Stamford. But you might not realize that Connolly lives not in New York City, but in eastern Connecticut. He’s up and working weekdays by 4:30 a.m., driving first to pick up a print copy of the Wall Street Journal before heading to his office/broadcast studio near his home, where he seldom opens the window blinds. “I’m here to work,” he says, “not for the view.”
In his broadcast booth he has a big painting of the New York City skyline to keep him connected with his radio audience.
Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson on Friday criticized Darien High School Principal Ellen Dunn for recommending a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the sources of information students and parents could use in learning about racism in light of events surrounding the George Floyd killing. “Now, ironically, the Southern Poverty Law Center is itself a hate group,” Carlson said. “That has been documented extensively. Now their agenda is the school’s agenda. It’s what your kids are learning.”
With many high school students concerned about the recent police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and dramatic events sparked by it, Darien High School sent an email Thursday morning to parents with web links to information geared toward students on racism and police violence. SEE ALSO: DHS Principal’s Recommended Source for Reading About Racism Denounced on National Fox News Show (June 6)
DHS Principal Ellen Dunn sent the email. Among the resources it points to are several that her message emphasized, including links to:
— an interview with “a clinical psychologist at the University [of Pennsylvania] studying racial literacy and racial trauma”
— a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has detailed materials for educators and families on teaching about race, racism, and police violence
— three links to Web pages with information “for educators in how we can proactively help children think about and process these difficult ideas” from the National Association for School Psychologists, which was being used by the school district for guidance in addressing the topics with students.
“As events unfold around the country, the Darien Public School District joins other organizations and individuals in the call to action to address and end systemic racism. […]
“As a District, we are sharing resources with the community that will guide our work moving forward in the race conscious education of our students and support your discussions as families.” […]
“Engaging in difficult conversations is a critical step in fostering acceptance and embracing differences.
Superintendent Says Budget Cuts Would ‘Significantly Affect’ Education, Updates Parents on District News
Schools Superintendent Alan Addley, in a message to parents updating them on various developments in the district, said the budget cuts he’s been forced to recommend to the Board of Education would “significantly affect” the education of Darien students. Darienite.com has published the full message below and numbered the sections in Addley’s message to make it quicker for readers to find out more in the numbered topics below. Here are the other six topics covered in the long message:
—what the district will do in helping students better deal with concerns revolving around the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (7)
—how the district is going about planning for school reopenings and closings (6)
— how the district is regulating use of school campuses by summer school programs (4)
— regulations on other organizations may use school facilities (4)
—the coming end of grab-and-go meal distribution (2)
—summer school and extended school year plans (3)
—a short, general message with no details about graduation and moving-up ceremonies (1)
Regarding budget cuts (5), Addley said:
At the last BOE meeting, the Administration made recommendations to the Board of Education for consideration to close this gap. These included some very difficult choices that would significantly affect the quality of education.
Due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions in place for operating in-person summer programs, Darien Summer School will be moving to a virtual platform this year. — an announcement from Darien Public Schools
While we had hoped to be able to see our DSS participants and staff in person, after thoughtful consideration regarding all aspects of our unique programming, it was decided that this would be the most feasible and safest option for everyone. Our teachers are already hard at work developing fun, interactive, and flexible programming that will fit within families’ summer schedules. Many classes will involve exciting activity kits such as the activity boxes that will be delivered to students enrolled in “Out of this World — Science Exploration” while others will involve unique opportunities such as our Quiz Bowl campers’ chance to interact and compete with students from around the country without ever leaving their home. Please check the DSS website (www.dariensummerschool.com) for more information about virtual classes including new course times and prices.
The Democratic Town Committee announced Thursday that Michael Burke and Sara Parent have been nominated as candidates for Darien’s Board of Education. — an announcement from the Darien Democratic Town Committee
“Michael brings a wealth of experience and a steady hand, and Sara brings her experience as a highly involved parent and a former educator to the Board of Education,” DTC Chair David Bayne said. “At a time when the COVID-19 crisis is testing the very foundations of how education is being delivered to our children, Michael and Sara represent the kind of thoughtful and innovative leadership that is precisely what Darien needs in order to continue providing unsurpassed educational opportunities to all of our children,” Bayne said. “Together they represent the best that Darien has to offer and our town is particularly fortunate that they have chosen to run for the Board of Education during this unprecedented time.” Michael Burke is seeking his third term on the Board of Education and Sara Parent her first.
Here’s How DHS Will Have a Graduation Like No Other Before: Diplomas Handed Out on June 11 [UPDATED]
As everyone knows, Darien High School’s graduation this year won’t be a ceremony with crowds, due to the restrictions on gatherings, but just how it would be done has been finally announced with a packet (below) emailed to students and parents on Wednesday night. Here’s how:
[See update in the bulleted, gray-boxed paragraph, below.]
On Thursday, June 11, graduation will be in two parts: First, from 8 to 9 a.m., the “Wave Through” — a parade of sorts — will go through the high school campus, with seniors and their families in cars. The cars will first go to the Middlesex Middle School parking lot, at 7:45 a.m., then proceed to the high school in a long line. Then, at various times of day from 9:15 a.m. to 5 p.m., seniors and their families will go back to campus at scheduled times in another line of cars. At the end of the line, seniors in their caps and gowns will get out of their vehicles with their parents and be presented with their diplomas — from their parents.