Author Archives: Dan Woog

Marty Hauhuth Moves In Positive Directions

In the next month, several pillars of Westport life — men and women who for decades have made this place special — will retire: Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis. Staples principal John Dodig. Parks & Rec head Stuart McCarthy.

Add one more name to the list: Marty Hauhuth.

She may not be as well known — though Westporters of a certain age remember her as first selectman from 1985-89.

Marty Hauhuth

Marty Hauhuth

For the past 24 years, she’s served as the low-key — but highly effective — executive director of Positive Directions. That’s the non-profit providing mental health and addiction counseling, alcohol and substance abuse education and prevention, and support programs in Westport, Weston, Wilton and Fairfield.

Positive Directions serves anyone, of any age — regardless of ability to pay — with evaluations and referrals. It treats anxiety, depression, and addictive and destructive behaviors of all kinds.

One of Marty’s last projects was a survey of all Westport students grades 7-12, and their parents. It showed that — in large part due to her efforts —

  • Tobacco, alcohol and marijuana youth use has steadily declined since 2000
  • “Past 30-day use of alcohol” has decreased dramatically in grades 7-10
  • From 2011-14, Westport youth “early use of alcohol” has decreased substantially
  • Westport youth marijuana use has declined, and overall use is lower than in some neighboring towns.

Positive DirectionsMarty was a founding member of Positive Youth Development, a Westport coalition that arms parents and youngsters with information to make good choices — and counseling for those who struggle.

Positive Directions celebrates Marty’s contributions (and retirement) on Wednesday, June 3 (4:30-6:30 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church  Fellowship  Room).

Other honors include a tribute book (click “Comments” below and add stories and accolades, or mail to Positive Directions, 420 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880), and contributions in her name to the organization (click here).

Marty downplays her role in Positive Directions. But, she admits, “I look forward to the celebration. I hope to see a lot of friends there.”

The nicest gift she could get, she says, is “to come visit and support Positive Directions.”

Clarification: No Board Of Ed Vote Tonight

The Board of Education’s executive session tonight will not include a vote on the new principal of Staples High School. That vote would take place at the next public meeting, on Monday, June 1.

Westport Public  Schools

Staples Principal Finalist Meets The Public

Shelley Somers — unanimously picked by a search committee as the only finalist candidate for the principalship of Staples High School — met with parents and other Westporters this morning.

She sat with students during lunch, and will meet with administrators and staff members later today. The Board of Education — all 7 of whose members were at this morning’s forum — will meet in executive session at 5:30 p.m. today to discuss Somers’ candidacy.

Shelley Somers, this morning at Staples High School.

Shelley Somers, this morning at Staples High School.

This morning, after superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon noted Somers’ qualifications — English teacher, department chair, assistant principal and head of an arts, communications and technology school in 2 South Carolina districts; current principal at Central Middle School in Greenwich, where she was recently named Connecticut PTA Middle School Principal of the Year — she stepped up to the podium.

Somers began the session with 100 members of the public by acknowledging difficulties she had in the 1990s, when she owned a daycare center in East Granby, Connecticut. She miscounted the number of children attending an event, causing one child to remain in a vehicle.

“It’s still very difficult for me to talk about this,” Somers said. It has caused her “sadness and shame,” but also shaped her life today.

“I dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s,” she said. “This has taught me humility. I understand the importance of seeking help, gaining trust and moving on. I go to sleep with this at night, and wake up with it in the morning. I carry this with me in my heart. It has helped me very much, as an educator and a person.”

Somers noted that being principal is a “complex job.” She said that while in previous administrative positions she was hired to “fix things,” her role at Staples would be “to take a great school and figure out how to make it greater. You don’t do that by sitting in your office.”

Being a principal requires “a good ear,” she said — something she has learned to develop not only with students, but her own 4 daughters.

Board of Education members listen as a questioner addresses Staples principal candidate Shelley Somers.

Board of Education members listen as a questioner addresses Staples principal candidate Shelley Somers.

A questioner asked how she would adapt to Staples.

“I’m an educator,” Somers replied. “I don’t see myself as ‘a middle school principal.’ I have experience at all levels, as a teacher and an administrator. I’ve learned a lot about how to make good decisions.

“It was never my intent to stay in middle school — though I love it dearly,” she added.

At Central, she said, “I walked into a building with challenges. I spent a lot of time listening. I knew just being optimistic would not be enough.”

She cited her “open door policy. Parents knew I was there to help them and their children navigate the middle schools years. Parents learned I was a student advocate.”

The Board of Education may vote tonight on a new principal of Staples High School.

The Board of Education meets in executive sesssion tonight on a new principal of Staples High School.

Somers drew applause when — in response to a question about the Smarter Balance testing that was introduced this year — she said, “I don’t think junior year is the best place to put it.”

She reiterated her focus on students. “They’re the reason I got into education,” Somers said. “I am accessible to them. That’s number one with me.”

In reply to a question about a principal’s priorities, she said her top three are physical and emotional safety; availability and listening; and instructional leadership.

One questioner wondered about the “learning curve” needed for a new principal in a new school.

“Sure,” she agreed. “But I am prepared to make decisions.” She said she would talk to current principal John Dodig, and recognized the “strong administrative staff and student support teams” already in place.

Finally, someone asked Somers about the future. “I have younger kids,” the parent said. “I’ll be here for the next decade.”

“So will I,” she replied.

Fish & Chips & Nachos

Two long-established, well-loved — and decidedly not fancy — Westport restaurants made big national “best of” news lately.

Coastal Living named  Westfair Fish & Chips one of the 22 best “Seafood Dives” in the country.

The magazine raved:

Westfair covers all of the clam chowder bases: New England (white), Manhattan (red), and Rhode Island (clear). This tiny storefront, with just five tables and half a dozen stools at a window counter, hides in a strip mall and caters mostly to nearby residents. Fried clams and fried oysters, both lightly battered, are especially tender and juicy.

A tantalizing dish from Westport Fish & Chips.

A tantalizing dish from Westport Fish & Chips.

Meanwhile, the Delish website picked 1 “Epic Nacho Plate” from every state.

Connecticut’s entry? “Nachos with sausage” from Viva Zapata.

Viva Zapata's nachos with sausage.

Viva Zapata’s nachos with sausage.

Congratulations to 2 very popular spots. We can always count — if not count calories — on you.

(Hat tip: Mary Lynn Halland)

Collin Carroll’s Incredible Ironman Tale

At Staples High School, Collin Carroll led an active life. He captained the rugby team, and served as president of the EMS Explorers program.

Collin Carroll, as a Staples High School student.

Collin Carroll, as a Staples High School student.

He went on to the University of North Carolina, graduating a year early with a major in communications and a minor in environmental studies.

He earned certification as a personal trainer, and worked first in Denver, now New York. He’s fascinated with the human body: how it works, and how to make it better. This fall, he’ll enter Columbia University’s pre-med program.

That’s the short story: high-achieving Staples students climbs the ladder of opportunity and success.

Here’s the longer version.

In 2009, as a Staples junior, Collin was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Fortunately, the painful, debilitating disease was soon brought under control. For a couple of years, he felt good.

But in the spring of 2011 — as UNC finals started — Colin’s symptoms reappeared. His health deteriorated. He calls the 4-month period from April to August “very, very dark.”

By the 2nd week of classes in September, he’d lost so much blood he could not walk up a flight of stairs. A trip to the emergency room turned into a week in the hospital.

Fortunately — again — a drug regimen worked. Slowly, he started to feel better.

Amazingly, in the midst of his darkest days, Collin had signed up for an Ironman competition. “I wasn’t playing rugby, so I wanted a new challenge,” he explains, as if every sufferer of a severe bowel inflammation wants to swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles on a bike, then run a marathon — without a break.

He could not begin training until January. But within 7 months, he was in good enough shape to complete the particularly rugged Lake Placid Ironman.

Collin Carroll competes in the Lake Placid Ironman.

Collin Carroll competes in the Lake Placid Ironman.

Competing against experienced Ironman athletes — none of them probably suffering from ulcerative colitis — Colin finished in 13 hours, 15 minutes. He was 20th in his age group, and in the top half of all competitors.

“It made a huge difference in my life,” he says — again as if this is no big deal. Though he does add, “It was just as hard as everyone said.”

The low point came midway through the marathon, he says. “You’ve finished all the biking and swimming. You’ve already run 13 miles — and you’ve still got 13 more to go.”

But, he notes, crossing the finish line was “the best I’ve ever felt. It was much better than graduating from school.”

He pauses. “I feel bad for my future wife. Marriage might not be as great as finishing an Ironman.”

Collin Carroll -- proud (and successful) Ironman finisher.

Collin Carroll — proud (and successful) Ironman finisher.

He ran the next 2 Lake Placid Ironmans too, improving to 12:45 and 10:53 respectively. (Note: Those are hours and minutes. An Ironman is quite a way to spend half your day.)

Yet Collin will not compete in Lake Placid this year. Instead he’s doing the Ironman Maryland.

He chose that Eastern Shore event because it’s linked with the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Collin hopes to raise $5,000 for the organization, which works to find a cure for diseases like ulcerative colitis.

CCF

“I’m doing this for people who aren’t lucky enough to have what I have — who can’t run an Ironman because they can’t get out of bed,” Collin says.

“My time was so chilling and dark. I know what that feels like — and I know that could be me again someday. Right now, I’m just doing what I can.”

Ironman Maryland is in October. Collin’s already begun fundraising (click here to help).

But he’s also looking beyond the fall.

When the Ironman is over, Collin hopes to train people with Crohn’s and colitis, to run their own races.

The Entire Memorial Day Parade — In Less Than A Minute

Maybe you watched the entire Memorial Day parade this year. Or you marched in it, so you saw only the Y’s Men or Suzuki violinists in front of you.

Perhaps you slept in. Or you’re 3,000 miles from Westport.

Whatever happened this morning, here’s a chance to relive the entire parade — in 59 seconds.

Nick Pisarro — a Westport resident (off and on) since 1951 — created this fantastic time-lapse video.

It’s got everyone, and everything. You just have to look close — and keep your finger on the pause button.

We Love A Parade!

Perfect weather. Perfect people. A perfect way and day to honor all who serve. (Click or hover over photos to enlarge.)

Cub Scouts amuse themselves while waiting for the parade to begin. (Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

Cub Scouts amuse themselves while waiting for the parade to begin. (Photo/Elizabeth Williams)

The Bedford Middle School band has plenty of pep as the parade rounds the first corner. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The Bedford Middle School band has plenty of pep as the parade rounds the first corner. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Remembering MIAs, in front of National Hall. (Photo/Kim Lake)

Remembering MIAs and POWs, in front of National Hall. (Photo/Kim Lake)

It's not a parade without a fife and drum corps. (Photo/Kim Lake)

It’s not a parade without a fife and drum corps… (Photo/Kim Lake)

...meanwhile, Westport may be the only town with dozens of Suzuki violins in its Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

…meanwhile, Westport may be the only town with dozens of Suzuki violins in its Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

There's more than one way to enjoy Westport's Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Ed Hulina)

There’s more than one way to enjoy Westport’s Memorial Day parade. (Photo/Ed Hulina)

CLASP salutes homeless veterans. (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

CLASP salutes America’s veterans. (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

Go Mariners! (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

Go Mariners! (Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

You can't watch the parade without caffeine. (Photo/Ed Hulina)

You can’t watch the parade without caffeine. (Photo/Ed Hulina)

Generations of Americans have fought and died so that we all have free speech.

Generations of Americans have fought and died so that we all have free speech. (Photo/Bruce Haymes)

The Coleytown Middle School band. (Photo/Bruce Haymes)

The Coleytown Middle School band… (Photo/Bruce Haymes)

...and the Falcons. (Photo/Bruce Haymes)

…and the Falcons. (Photo/Bruce Haymes)

It's a yearly tradition: The Y's Men win the "Best Float" competition. They did it again this time, for their depiction of the Japanese surrender to Gen. MacArthur.

It’s a yearly tradition: The Y’s Men win the “Best Float” competition. They did it again this time, portraying Japan’s surrender to Gen. MacArthur. (Photo/Jeff Schon)

Grand marshal and World War II vet Bruce Allen. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Grand marshal and World War II vet Bruce Allen. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Sam and Sharon Carpenters' Myrtle Avenue home: the quintessential Memorial Day Myrtle Avenue view.

Sam and Sharon Carpenters’ Myrtle Avenue home: the quintessential Memorial Day view. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport's finest. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport’s finest. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport's other finest: our politicians. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport’s other finest: our politicians. (Photo/Dan Woog)

TEAM Westport marched in the parade -- and had fans along the way. (Photo/Dan Woog)

TEAM Westport marched in the parade — and had fans along the way. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Today was a day for family and friends. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Today was a day for family and friends… (Photo/Dan Woog)

...and for honoring all who served. (Photo/John Hartwell)

…and for honoring all who served. (Photo/John Hartwell)

Proud veterans Leonard Everett Fisher, Bob Satter and Tony Esposito. (Photo/Linda Smith)

Proud veterans Leonard Everett Fisher, Bob Satter and Tony Esposito. (Photo/Linda Smith)

Bill Vornkahl -- organizer of 45 Memorial Day parades -- and 3 Girl Scout Daisies recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Bill Vornkahl — organizer of 45 Memorial Day parades — and 3 Girl Scout Daisies recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (Photo/Dan Woog)

The honor guard salutes America's fallen servicemembers. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

The honor guard salutes America’s fallen servicemembers. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

"Taps" -- the echo. (Photo/Dan Woog)

“Taps” — the echo. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Monumental Memorial Day

(Photo/Robin Tauck)

(Photo/Robin Tauck)

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Memorial Day 2015: We Remember

Memorial Day

Celebrating Our Memorial Day Parade

The Memorial Day parade is one of Westport’s favorite town events.

Everyone has a favorite spot to watch from. Everyone has a favorite band, float or marcher to photograph.

But why share them only with a few hundred dear pals, casual acquaintances and random how’d-they-get-on-my-list Facebook “friends”?

Tomorrow, let all of Westport see “your” Memorial Day parade. Send a few (not all!) of your photos to “06880” (email: dwoog@optonline.net). Deadline: noon. Please include brief identification, if needed, and of course your own name.

I’ll post some (not all!) in the afternoon.

And be creative! We want special photos, for our special parade.

This sign on the parade route last year said it all.

This sign on the parade route last year said it all.