Category Archives: Children

Help Haleigh Donovan — Make Her Classroom Great!

Haleigh Donovan says she was fortunate to grow up in Westport. Among her many advantages: “tons of books,” in school and at home.

After graduating from Staples High in 2014, and with a major in communications and a minor in international studies 4 from the College of Charleston 4 years later, she headed to Thailand.

Her year teaching math and science to 1st graders was a “fantastic” experience. She is still in touch with students’ parents, via Facebook.

Haleigh Donovan, with her students in Thailand.

Haleigh returned to the US, and worked as a dining coordinator. She was furloughed during COVID, and pivoted to healthcare PR.

But that was not her passion. She remembered her excitement about teaching. Every Sunday, she was excited for the week ahead.

Last spring, she explored College of Charleston’s masters in elementary education program. Her parents — Dan and Nicole Donovan, both of whom also graduated from Staples — supported her fully.

This fall, she will teach 4th graders at Pinehurst Elementary School, in North Charleston.

Just 20 minutes from downtown Charleston, it’s a Title I school: low income, high need. Most students are Hispanic; many are not native English speakers.

Every student eats breakfast there. Before remote learning days, they’re sent home with food.

Haleigh is excited. And she wants to make sure her students have a solid classroom library.

The Donovan family is large. She began by asking her 5 siblings and many cousins – spread across the country — for contributions.

Haleigh Donovan (center) with her siblings, at her master’s degree graduation last month.

But they’re around her age. They don’t have many children’s books lying around.

So she’s asking “06880” readers for their picture and chapter books.

“I’m old-fashioned,” Haleigh says. “There’s nothing better than an actual book you can hold. I want to give these incredible kids access to those books.”

She is grateful for the opportunities she had growing up. She thinks back to her Staples senior internship at Coleytown Elementary School — where she also substitute taught this winter, when she was back in Westport.

There’s no reason, she says, her Pinehurst students should not have books too.

Haleigh invites anyone with books to contribute to her 4th grade classroom to email her: haleighdonovan@gmail.com.

She’ll be in Westport until mid-June. Then she’ll be back in Charleston, getting her classroom — and its library — ready for fall.

Union Square Play Comes To Suburbs

Kira Greenfield’s first son was born on April 3, 2020.

it was a “crazy time” in Manhattan. COVID was new, and terrifying. The world had screeched to a halt. No one would visit.

Scared and alone, Kira googled “virtual mom groups.” She found one with 10 other new mothers — all in similar, vulnerable positions.

Suddenly, Kira no longer felt like the only woman with a new baby. She connected with a wonderful, online village.

Last summer, Kira and her husband Mark moved to Westport. Earlier, they discovered the town, and called it their “secret place.” They figured they’d eventually move here. The pandemic speeded the process dramatically.

Kira’s parents moved here too. So did her brother. Several friends followed from New York. All have loved the town: its beauty, amenities and lifestyle.

Kira and Mark Greenfield, and their son.

Around the time Kira moved here, Jennie Monness — co-founder of Union Square Play — reached out. Her company — which runs classes, activities, groups and events for kids, parents and caregivers at 3 New York sites — was expanding.

Kira became Union Square Play’s community manager. Of course, one of those new communities is Westport.

In yurts set up outside Chabad on Newtown Turnpike, special programs will be offered to moms, dads, grandparents and other caregivers. “Mo’ Flow” (play) classes are planned for Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays; “Ramblin’ Dan” music classes run on Thursdays.

“They’re imaginative and open-ended,” Kira says. Each has a different theme and style of play. The idea is for youngsters to “think outside the box.”

Kira has incorporated one of her favorite parts of Westport — the water — into her new offerings. The summer series runs July 5 to August 12.

As she walked her hour-long loop from Compo Beach to Old Mill, then up Compo Hill, she felt “transported.” Along the way, she met other moms.

A prefect place for moms to bond. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

So starting next Monday (June 6), Kira has organized “mom walks.” They’ll start at 9:30 a.m., at the cannons. She’ll provide the coffee; then off everyone goes.

No registration or prior notice is needed. Kira will introduce anyone feeling shy or uncomfortable to others.

And although there are suggested days for mothers with different ages (Mondays, babies too young for school this fall; Tuesdays, moms with kids in the 2s this fall; Wednesdays, kids in the 3s; Thursdays, the 4s; Fridays, moms with kids entering kindergarten), it’s fine to show up on any day that’s convenient.

The “mom walks” will continue at least through June.

“We want to make the early years of parenting fun and communal,” Kira says.

A Union Square Play mom’s group gathering in New York.

Westport is not quite Union Square. But plenty of new moms and dads have arrived here recently, from there.

Now — in their new community — they have their own parenting community: Westport’s Union Square Play.

(The Westport classes will be available on the Union Square Play website tomorrow — June 1.)

Scarice Offers Reflections, Resources

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice writes:

I want to run, I want to hide. I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside. I want to reach out and touch the flame, where the streets have no name.

17-year-old me heard the words of an Irish poet, and interpreted them simply as a license to drive faster. The pulsating rhythms and escalating sounds just made my dad’s car go faster, or so it seemed.

In a quiet, saddened state, 51-year-old me heard these words last night and somehow found solace. That same energy began to rush through me. But with each pounding step on the pavement, running from something, or to something, I used that energy to push to find some sliver of transcendent hope.

As the son of a professional musician, it should come as no surprise that I’ve always had music to accompany me on my journey. Whether it is to celebrate, to inspire, to comfort, or to ignite, I’ve always had music to help me transcend.

I saw this today.  I found transcendent hope within the walls of our schools today.  I saw this in our schools, with your children, led by some of the very best.

Superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice, earlier this year at Long Lots Elementary School.

I pounded my feet on the floor of a preschool classroom with about a dozen raucous little friends to the music of Laurie Berkner. I kneeled on the carpet of a kindergarten classroom pondering the many ways my new friends can compose the number 9 with unifix cubes. I watched a herd of middle schoolers soak up Mother Nature’s best during their recess. In each school I visited, I found countless professionals who came with their very best today.

Our building principals worked to provide guidance to our faculty and support staff before the school day even began. Our partners with the Westport Police Department were ready and willing to provide reassurance with their visibility.  We even had our second successful coordinated emergency response in one week, as the Fire and Police Departments helped impeccably address a small electrical fire at Long Lots Elementary School.

In all of these examples, I saw nothing but professionalism and expertise. The type of professionalism and expertise that inspires me to transcend the moment.  The hurt is still there, but a sliver of transcendent hope emerged from those that serve your children and our community.

We are not perfect.  We are a system composed of imperfect people. But today, on the backs of our team, we took a baby step towards transcending.

If I’ve learned anything as a father, and as an educator, it is that our kids are watching us. Every move. They saw us in action today and I could not be more proud of our team.

Moving Forward

I wanted to provide a broad overview to the entire school community, but as we move forward, building principals will continue to communicate any necessary information related to events leading up to the last day of school.

There will be increased patrols across our campuses and we will have additional police presence on campus during elementary school field days. Fortunately, our team regularly practices drills and reviews our protocols at the building level, and we will continue to remain vigilant, doing our best to ensure the highest standards of safety. If you have specific questions related to your child’s school I encourage you to contact your building principal.

If you need assistance in speaking with your child about Tuesday’s tragedy, here are some resources that you might find helpful:

  • Click here for “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.”
  • Click here for “How to Talk to Kids About School Shootings.”

Barbara Rose’s Sea Squirts Celebration

Between the 1970s and 2000s, thousands of kids grew up in Westport.

Barbara Rose knew most of them.

As the owner of the Sea Squirts summer camp at Compo Beach, and the Shore Squirts daycare/nursery school she operated in her Greens Farms home, Barbara was a calming presence for generations of local children.

And their parents.

The camp and childcare are gone. But Barbara is still going strong. Next month, she turns 90 years old.

Young Barbara Rose

A New York City native, Barbara moved with her family to Hutchinson, Kansas during World War II. Her mother was Bolivian, part of a diplomatic family involved later with the United Nations. Her father helped train pilots for the war.

After the war, the family moved back east. They spent summers in Westport, eventually settling here permanently. Their first house was on Easton Road.

Barbara graduated from the Bolton School, a small private institution on the corner of Wilton Road and Kings Highway North — currently the site of medical offices — that was a predecessor of Greens Farms Academy.

Always an active athlete, in her 30s Barbara discovered skiing. She soon became an instructor, in Vermont.

That’s where she met her longtime best friend, Adrienne Shields — and future husband, fellow instructor Robert Rose.

They and the O’Donnell family of Westport bought a restaurant/bar nearby: The Sticky Wicket. Bob and Barbara had 3 children: Peter, Deering and Scott.

The couple divorced after 12 years. Barbara raised her children in Westport in the 1960s and ’70s. In the summer she took them to Compo Beach. That’s where she got the idea for a beach-themed camp for young kids.

Soon, she had a fleet of counselors, and a bursting roster of infants to 12-year-olds. When the weather was bad, campers headed to Barbara’s church, Trinity Episcopal in Southport.

Sea Squirts’ morning sessions grew into a full-day Lazy Days camp for 8-12-year-olds. The preschool followed soon thereafter.

Barbara played in the town softball league, and adult soccer, well into her 50s. She was also a founder of the Westport Soccer Association, in 1976. She is still an avid Aquafit member, at the Westport Weston Family Y.

As her children grew up, playing a variety of sports, she never missed a game. She often brought a preschooler or two along, in a VW bus or woodie wagon.

Barbara and her children, in her VW bus.

In her spare time, she and her family — which included 4 others through marriage, and now 8 grandchildren — headed to Watch Hill, Rhode Island. She was never far from the water.

Barbara’s children have planned a 90th birthday celebration for June 4 (4 to 7 p.m.) — appropriately, near the brick pavilion at Compo. Peter, Deering and Scott say: “Whether you were a camper, student, counselor or parent, we and she would love to see you!”

A beach sticker is not required. After all those years, the town has graciously allowed time-limited free parking for the party. Just tell the gate attendant you’re one of Barbara’s Sea Squirts!

Happy 90th birthday, Barbara Rose!

Roundup: Senior Records, Family Day, “The Scream” …

We all know how great Westport is.

This morning (Thursday) at 11:30 a.m., everyone in the tri-state area will find out too.

Well, everyone watching “New York Live,” anyway.

The WNBC Channel 4 show features our town. The long (for TV) segment includes scenes of Compo Beach, Longshore, downtown and much more, plus interviews with 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, La Plage executive chef Frederic Kieffer, and Savvy + Grace owner Annette Norton.

Of course, “New York Live” is not live. It’s clear from the not-quite-spring foliage that the segment was taped a couple of weeks ago. That’s show biz!

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The other day, “06880” reported that Westport artist Norma Minkowitz shattered 3 US records at the National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale.

Now she’s demolished a fourth.

On Tuesday, Norma ran the 1500 meters in 8:35 — a full 2 1/2 minutes faster than the prior record in her 85-89-year-old age group. It won the 80-84 division too! (Hat tip: Jeff Mitchell)

In 2016– age 79 — Norma Minkowitz led a pack of much younger runners.

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Lynsey Addario continues to provide graphic — and important — images of the war in Ukraine to the world.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times photojournalist — a 1991 Staples High School graduate — contribute a series of images to yesterday’s story, headlined “In Ukraine, Gruesome Injuries and Not Enough Doctors to Treat Them.”

Click here to understand the toll the fighting has taken. It is not easy to see. But it would be worse to look away.

The boots of a slain soldier named Ihor (right), next to tennis shoes belonging to another soldier, killed a day earlier. They were placed outside a hospital, for soldiers who might need them. (Photo/Lynsey Addario)

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It took 4 months. But author Heather McGhee finally delivered her Martin Luther King Day address last night.

The author of “The Sum of US: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” spoke at the Westport Library. The town’s 16th annual event — sponsored by the Westport/Weston Interfaith Council and Clergy, Westport Country Playhouse and TEAM Westport — had been postponed by COVID.

The program included songs from the Bridgeport Boys Choir, and a dance by the Regional Center for the Arts.

Heather McGhee, at the Westport Library. (Photo/David Vita)

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Lucia Wang is editor of Staples High School’s STEM Journal.

But her writing is earning notice far beyond Westport. The junior just earned an honorable mention in the New York Times’ global STEM writing contest.

Out of 3,564 entries, judges chose 8 winners, 16 runners-up and 33 honorable mentions. Click here for the full story.

Her essay was titled “Crumbling Paintings, Swelling Crystals and Menacing Monsoons: Climate Change’s Erasure of Humanity’s Oldest Art.”

But Lucia does not spend all her time studying climate change, and writing. She’s also a member of the Wreckers’ varsity tennis team. They finished 15-1 this year, and compete in the FCIAC semifinals at 4 this afternoon at Staples.

Congratulations, Lucia!

Lucia Wang

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On Monday (May 23, 7 p.m.), the Planning & Zoning Commission will review a lease between the town and the Westport Police Athletic League (PAL) for the PJ clubhouse at PJ Romano Field behind Saugatuck Elementary School, plus the lawns, driveway and walkways around it. Click here to see all application materials.

PAL has leased the building from the Board of Education for over 50 years. The lease expired last November. On March 21, the BOE relinquished control back to the town, effective July 1. The proposed lease is 20 years.

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Everyone, of all ages, is invited to MoCA Westport’s Family  Day (June 18, noon to 2 p.m.).

The theme is “inclusion and kindness.” Among the attractions: Piglet, the deaf and blind pink puppy who has inspired a global movement for acceptance, inclusion, empathy and kindness. Westport’s own Melissa Shapiro share his story and talk about her new children’s book, Piglet Comes Home.

Norwalk artist 5iveFingaz will create a mural of Piglet in real time. Visitors can view “Spark,” a showcase of K-12 Westport Public School student art curated by Staples High School students.

Other highlights include a sensory art activity led by MoCA Westport instructors, live music by local favorite Dustin Lowman, an ice cream truck, a meet and greet with dogs from Westport Animal Shelter Advocates, and homemade dog treat giveaways from Earth Animal.

Click here for tickets.

In other Piglet news, Melissa Shapiro’s new children’s picture book, “Piglet Comes Home: How a Deaf Blind Pink Puppy Found His Family,” will be published June 7.

It’s beautifully illustrated, and will be a favorite with parents, children’s librarians — and of course young readers — everywhere. Click here to order, and for more information.

Piglet, with his new book.

 

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The next Westport Country Playhouse Script in Hand play reading is “The Scream: A Musical Comedy Fantasy.” The June 13 (7 p.m) live performance will also be livestreamed, from June 16-19. Script in Hand readings offer intimate storytelling, as professional actors bring words to life without sets or costumes.

Click here for more information, and tickets.

“The Scream: A Musical Comedy Fantasy” is based on Edvard Much’s famous painting.

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Former Staples High baseball player George Goldstein is the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Pitcher of the Year. He’s only the second relief pitcher in history to win the honor, and just the second Middlebury College pitcher to do so.

With the season still continuing, Goldstein holds several Middlebury baseball records, including career saves and career appearances. He is second in best season and career ERA, and saves in a season.

George Goldstein pitches in the snow earlier this season. (Photo/David Goldstein)

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A hummingbird has flitted around Paul Delano’s house recently, collecting spider webs for its nest. He captured this great shot — perfect for “Westport … Naturally.”

(Photo/Paul Delano)

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And finally … in honor of the next Script in Hand play reading at the Westport Country Playhouse (story above):

                                                                  

Everyone Is A Champion On Special Day

Early fog could not obscure the smiles on the faces of hundreds of children — and adults — this morning at PJ Romano Field.

And it sure could not hide the joy of organizers. The “Day of Champions” returned after a 2-year COVID hiatus. And everyone was a winner.

Jumping through the Ninja course. (Photo/Amy Shapiro)

The event is a fundraiser for Experience Camps — the national network of summer camps and year-round programming for children grieving the death of a parent or sibling.

Founded by Sara Deren and headquartered in Westport, it’s a national non-profit. But today’s “Day of Champions” — bringing together a couple of dozen teams, competing in a “color war” with games, contests, dancing and more — had a distinctly local flavor, with hundreds of participants and volunteers.

The “En Fuego team” was on fire. (Photo/Amy Shapiro)

Each team committed to raising $1,000. But the total for the day — $150,000 — blew that goal out of the water.

Grief knows no socioeconomic bounds. Every child attends Experience Camps for free. Events like today’s make that possible.

The “Day of Champions” is a family (and friends) affair. (Photo/Amy Shapiro)

Another Ninja. (Photo/Amy Shapiro)

Another (hungry) team. (Photo/Amy Shapiro)

Volunteers included (from left) Jen Tooker, Candice Savin and Andrea Moore. Westport’s 3 selectwomen “womanned” the welcome table. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Mattress Recycling, Document Shredding, Experience Camping …

Did you know that more than 75% of a mattress can be recycled — even that old one in your basement?

So how to get rid of it? Sustainable Westport and Earthplace host their semi-annual mattress recycling drop-off event this Saturday (May 14). Bring your dry, unsoiled mattress and/or box spring to Earthplace from 8:30 to 11: a.m.

It will be recycled into all sorts of stuff, from carpet pads and insulation to air filters and steel products.

Can’t get your mattress to Earthplace? Boy Scout Troop 36 will take it for you. Spots are limited; click here to sign up. A donation of $20 is suggested.

And … if you miss this event and can’t wait for the fall collection, Park City Green in Bridgeport accepts mattresses and box springs year round, Call 203-212-3860.

Boy Scout Troop 36 picks up recyclable mattresses.

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And … once you’ve recycled your mattress, bring your secure documenets to the William Raveis parking lot (47 Riverside Avenue, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.).

You can watch them being shredded. And you don’t even have to remove any staples.

The suggested donation is $10 for a box or shopping bag, $20 for a large garbage bag. 100% of all funds go to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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The Day of Champions is set for this Sunday (May 15, 9 to 11:30 a.m., PJ Romano Field between Saugatuck and Kings Highway Elementary Schools).

The family-friendly fun and fierce competition may remind you of summer camp. That’s because it’s a fundraiser for Experience Camps — the place where children who have lost parents or siblings can smile again, with peers who understand and caring counselors.

Click here for more information — and to create, join or donate to a team.

Fun at Experience Camps’ 2019 Day of Champions.

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Tickets are going quickly for the Queer Cook-off. The Westport Pride fundraiser — pitting 3 teams, each with a noted chef, and celebrity teams — is set for Thursday, May 19 (6 p.m., Aitoro Appliance, Norwalk).

As they’re cooking in a “Chopped”-style competition, there’s plenty of food and drink for the “audience.” Food and beverage sponsors include Organic Krush, Copps Island Oysters, Dave & Charlie’s Hometown Deli, Garden Catering, Longford’s Ice Cream, The Kitchen and Tribus.

Ingredients for the chefs — Bill Taibe of Don Memo, Kawa Ni and The Whelk; Jes Bengtson of Terrain Café and Amis Tattoria, and Arik Bensimon of Monogram Design Center — come from Sport Hill Farm, Ayn’s Chili Oil and Pam’s Jams. Raffle prizes are donated by Nordstrom, Clay Story CT, Munson’s Chocolates, artist M.C. Hewlett, Monogram and various chefs.

As if that’s not enough to whet your appetite: I’m one of the judges.

Click here for tickets and more information.

 

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“Westport .. Naturally” has featured a few shots of the Parker Harding Plaza swan.

Most have been wide-angle shots. Here she is, primping for her close-up.

(Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … Susan Jacks, the Poppy Family singer best (and probably only) known for her 1969 hit “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” died last month in British Columbia. She was 73, and on the waiting list for a second kidney transplant. Click here for a full obituary.

Roundup: Michael Bolton, Lynyrd Sykynrd …

And the winner of “American Song Contest” on NBC is …

… not Michael Bolton.

Connecticut’s (and Westport’s) contestant finished 7th Monday night. After 8 weeks, the title went to AleXa of Oklahoma.

But our guy made the semifinals — the top 10 out of 55, in our national version of Eurovision. And our neighbor is still #1 in our hearts. Click here for the full story.  (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Screenshot from the “American Song Contest” website.

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The schedule for paving (and closing) Riverside Avenue from Charles Street to Railroad Place has changed again.

It’s now tomorrow and Friday (May 12 and 13), from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you’re dropping off or picking up at the New York-bound platform, take note!

Road paving here soon.

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There are agendas. And then there are agendas.

Here’s what the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee will discuss tomorrow, beginning at 8:30 a.m. (click here for the Zoom link).

I. Opening Remarks – Chair
A. Overall Meeting Goals
I. Approval of Minutes (4/2022 Meeting)
II. Strategic Priority Review
A. Parking Lots Reinvention
1. Downtown Lots Design Master Plan
a) June kickoff meeting with core steering team
b) Planning for public engagement and project timeline
2. Baldwin Lot – completion targeted for end of June
B. Pedestrian Access
1. Streetscape Improvements
a) Bench installs
b) Additional cans for high traffic locations
Strategic Priorities (cont)
Pedestrian Access (cont.)
2. Main Street Improvements
a) Status (bump out and re-pavement)
C. Sustainability
1. Solarization
a) Initial meetings with consultant
2. Alternative Transportation
a) Bird proposal
(1) background
D. Maintenance
1. Special Services District
a) Last Ordinance Draft
b) Cost development – RFQ

If you can’t make the 8:30 start, perhaps you can watch during dinner.

Main Street magic (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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The Staples High School boys lacrosse program is adding 4 honorees to their Hall of Fame.

Bill Rexford (Class of 1986), Ryan Kubie (’96), Paul McNulty (Staples ’64, head coach 2009-18) and the 16-0, undefeated regular season 2010 team will be honored at halftime of Saturday’s game against New Canaan. The contest begins at 3 p.m. The Wreckers are currently ranked #2 in the state.

Rexford and Kubie starred in the early days of Staples lacrosse. The ’10 team made history.

McNulty, meanwhile, was one of the keys to the growth of Staples lacrosse into the powerhouse it is today.

He took over a program that had had 3 coaches in 4 years. Within a year, he coached that ’10 squad to its undefeated record. The Wreckers reached 2 state championship games during his tenure.

McNulty returned to his alma mater — where he starred with Laddie Lawrence on the track team — after a hugely successful career coaching Wilton High lacrosse: 3 state championships, 2 state runners-up, and 20 All-Americans, among other achievements.

McNulty is a member of both the US Lacrosse and FCIAC Halls of Fame, and has earned numerous other honors. During his 50-plus-year career, he also coached football, soccer, tennis and track, starting at a segregated Black school in Jacksonville, Florida.

Fun fact: He was a student teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Florida with Coach Leonard Skinner, who was notorious for sending home boys with long hair. A few of them wanted to form a band, and did not want to get their hair cut.

So they quit school, formed that band, and named it after their coach: Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Paul McNulty

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The Cottage of Westport has named a new chef de cuisine: Danny Oddo.

He was previously executive sous chef at The Simone in New York City. He also worked for Marc Murphy’s restaurant group, which included Landmarc in Tribeca, and was part of the opening team at the Paloma in the Hotel Hendricks.

“Growing up in New Jersey, my love of cooking stemmed from visiting local farms and spending time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother,” Oddo says.

“I am inspired to have the opportunity to work with Chef Brian Lewis and his entire team to bring my experience and background to our guests, and to work with local farmers and purveyors to offer new flavors, textures and colors on our menu.”

Danny Oddo

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Its name is simple: Circle of Friends.

Its mission is clear: pairing local teens with special needs youngsters. They spend at least one weekend a month together, doing what friends do: bake cookies. Play games. Go bowling.

It’s a wonderful, low-key organization, loved by all who participate in it.

Their annual fundraiser and volunteer recognition is Sunday, May 22 (5:30 p.m., Beth Israel Synagogue, Norwalk). It’s always a warm, welcoming night. This year, special awards (courtesy of Senator Richard Blumenthal) will be presented to teens from Westport, Weston and surrounding towns. Despite the isolating effects of COVID, they’ve provided home visits and programs to their friends.

The evening promises good food, inspiring speeches, prizes and more. Click here for tickets and more information.

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Beechwood Arts’ final event of “UpsideDown at The Westport Library” is this Friday (May 13, 7 p.m.).

There’s a reception for 15 artists (with wine and refreshments). Their art will be projected on the 19-foot screen, and they’ll share stories of reinvention and inspiration over the past couple of years, when “the world turned upside down.”

Click here to register for the free event.

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The Westport Library middle school summer program includes math, literacy and STEAM activities. Each week the immersive experience covers a different topic, over 2 days.

Mondays center around a blend of inquiry, design, research, writing and the arts. The Tuesday class builds on the work from Monday, focusing on math, science and revision, testing and technology, with students creating a physical representation of their learning.

Students work together to solve challenging problems that are authentic, curriculum-based, and interdisciplinary. Click here for details.

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Rach’s Hope is a special organization, with a special mission: It helps families address the many challenges of a child’s critical illness.

Named for Rachel Doran — a 2018 the Staples High School National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Players costume designer, and founder of her own pajama company — the annual fundraiser is special too: a “PJ Gala.”

This year’s event raised nearly $40,000. Donations are still being accepted. Click here to learn more.

Enjoying the Rach’s Hope gala.

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In today’s “Westport … Naturally,” Canada goose parents teach their offspring to use the designated crosswalk.

(Photo/Les Dinkin)

Nice! Now if they could only teach it (and themselves) to not poop all over the beach …

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And finally … based on the Paul McNulty story above, you’d have to be brain dead not to know what today’s featured band is, right?

Cajal Academy Comes To Town

Santiago Ramón y Cajal is “the father of neuroscience.”

The Spanish scientist won a Nobel Prize for his investigation into the microscopic structure of the brain. He was also a talented artist, who drew detailed images of what he saw.

He’s a classic example of a “twice-exceptional” person, says Cheryl Viirand. She’s the founder and head of a school for bright, gifted and twice-exceptional children with high analytic reasoning and/or creative thinking skills, accompanied by an area of special education need. who don’t thrive in mainstream educational settings.

Viirand named it Cajal Academy. Tonight, the Fairfield non-profit school seeks Planning & Zoning Commission approval to move to Westport.

The site is 25 Sylvan Road South. The low-slung office building across from an indoor tennis facility is a perfect location for a school that emphasizes hands-on, experiential learning., Viirand says. It’s adaptable for small classes offering individual attention. Stony Brook runs behind it; it’s also close to both the Saugatuck River and downtown. 

Stony Brook runs next to the 25 Sylvan Road South building.

Viirand began her career as a corporate litigator. But she has 2 children in the “twice-exceptional” cohort. Neither one had their academic and therapeutic needs met in traditional schools.

Realizing there were others like her kids — and that they needed not only individualized, highly customized attention from a staff of professionals trained in the latest neuroscience, but also a feeling of kinship — she formed her own

Cajal Academy professionals (from left): Heather Edwards, occupational therapist and co-founder); Cheryl Viirand, head of School and co-founder); Dr. Steven Matthis, neuropsychologist, psychologist and director of programs.

“There have been incredible advances in neuroscience,” she says. “But they haven’t yet made it into clasrooms.”

Cajal Academy opened in January 2020, on Linwood Avenue in Fairfield. Two months later, COVID forced the innovative new school into virtual mode. It reopened physically this past September.

Viirand likes the recreational opportunities near the present site. But she can’t wait to take advantage of all that Westport offers. The expanded space will broaden the current age range (grades 6 to 11), to kindergarten through 12th.

“These kids make friends who are older and younger,” she notes.

Learning by doing …

She loves Westport’s “feeling of community, and the vibrant downtown. Our curriculum is project-based, with lots of environmental opportunities. A brook runs right behind it. We’re near the Library. And we’d like to partner with businesses close by, to enrich learning.”

Realtor Chris Maglione worked hard to find the right space. Hal Fischel, who owns the Sylvan Road building, is highly supportive of Cajal, Viirand says.

“This won’t feel like a school. There are skylights, and a sense of creativity in the way it will be set up. There’s room to grow organically.”

Westport town officials have been ” incredibly generous with their time,” Viirand adds. Her fingers are crossed for final approval.

When it comes, she’s ready to launch a summer program. Santiago Ramón y Cajal would be thrilled.

… and moving.

Roundup: Post Road Improvements, “Straight White Men” & A Drag Show …

“06880” is not a big fan of political photo ops. They’re — well, political photo ops.

But we’re happy to announce one set for Monday. The reason for it is a great one.

State Senators Will Haskell and Stephanie Thomas, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Department of Transportation senior advisor Carlo Leone will gather at 10 a.m. at the “Westport Plaza” (known to normal people as the Home Goods/Panera Bread shopping center near the Southport line) to celebrate $11.7 million in funding for Post Road safety and traffic improvements.

The work will add left-turn lanes at Bulkley Avenue and Roseville Road, and the Fresh Market light.

Work will begin this fall, and is expected to take a year.

Left-hand turning lanes are planned for the Post Road near here.

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The Westport Country Playhouse curtain rises May 24 on “Straight White Men.”

The cast of the comic satire — which ran on Broadway in 2018 — includes Richard Kline (Larry Dallas on “Three’s Company”). He’ll be directed by his Northwestern University classmate, WCP artistic director Mark Lamos.

Lamos calls it a “bold, exuberant, very funny comedy. Near the end it builds up to a surprising dramatic punch.”

The show takes place on Christmas Eve. Ed (played by Kline) has invited his 3 grown sons back home for pranks, Chinese takeout, and gossip. In between the male bonding rituals and conversations about money, work and love, they are forced to face their own identities.

Click here for tickets, and more information.

“Straight White Men” ensemble (from left): Devin Milord, Nick Westrate, Richard Kline, Bill Army. (Photo/Cynthia Astmann)

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Spots are going fast for Wakeman Town Farm’s summer camps. They include:

Little Farmers (4-6-year-olds): Children dabble in every farm experience from planting and harvesting fresh veggies to feeding the animals. Youngsters learn how to spot squash bugs, collect eggs from the coop, and where to look for monarch caterpillars.

Junior Farmer Camp (7-10 year-olds): Great for kids who want to get their hands dirty. They learn about sustainable farming by planning, planting and caring for a garden, feeding animals, and raising a successful garden using both modern and time-honored technologies.

Green Teen (6th-8th graders): The focus is on planting, watering and harvesting vegetables that will be donated to local food pantries. Representatives from receiving agencies visit the Farm, talking about food insecurity and how community volunteering changes lives. Students will also learn about rabbits, ducks, chicken, sheep, goats and alpacas. Environmental topics include composting, creating a pollinator garden, and the Zero Waste initiative.

Click here for more information, and to register.

Learning by doing, at Wakeman Town. (Photo/Inklings)

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Riverside Avenue between Charles Street (Tutti’s) and Railroad Place (Steam Coffee) will be closed to traffic Monday and Wednesday, for paving.

New York-bound passengers can be dropped off by driving through the eastbound (Ferry Lane) parking lot, and continuing under the railroad bridge. Passengers can also be dropped off in the Charles Street lot, and walk up the stairs to the platform.

This stretch of Riverside Avenue will be closed Monday and Wednesday.

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Deb Robicheau is the Westport Book Shop’s guest artist for May.

She’s showing sculptural mixed media boxes, created during the pandemic.  They incorporate comic book art from the 1930s through the ’80s. All works are available for purchase.

Robicheau — a visual artist, sculptor, painter, writer and screenwriter — has lived in Westport since 2010.

Deb Robicheau

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Westport Pride and MoCA Westport invite everyone to “All 4 Drag and Drag For All.”

The drag show (June 4; 5:30 p.m. cocktail hour, 6:30 p.m. performance, followed by a Q-and-A with the performers, at MoCA) is “an epic family-friendly experience.”

The headliner is 15-year-old Desmond Napoles, a New York City model, public speaker, fashion designer and voguer. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Desmond Napoles’ stage name is “Desmond is Amazing.”

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The weather was great when Charlie Stebbins led Thursday’s Aspetuck Land Trust nature walk at Smith Richardson Preserve.

Wendy Levy was there. She snapped this shot of a blooming crabapple tree, for our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … in honor of Wendy Levy’s photo above: