Category Archives: Education

Rolling Stone: Andrea Dutton Is Saving The World

Rolling Stone recently profiled “25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More.”

They’re the “inventors, entrepreneurs and disrupters who are changing (and maybe saving) the world one brilliant idea at a time.”

One is Westport’s own Andrea Dutton.

The 1991 Staples High School grad — now an assistant professor of geology at the University of Florida — is addressing “one of the most important scientific questions of our time, one upon which millions of lives, and trillions of dollars in real estate and other investments, depend: As our planet continues to heat up, how fast will sea levels rise in the coming decades?”

Andrea Dutton with a fossilized coral reef in the Florida Keys. (Photo/Joshua Bright for Redux)

Dutton studies West Antarctica, which contains enough ice to raise seas by 10 feet. “If West Antarctica is unstable,” she says, “that could be a very big problem for coastal cities in the future.”

Rolling Stone notes:

Dutton is not the only scientist interested in this question. But she has pursued it with a kind of urgency that belies her cool manner, traveling the world to seek out well-preserved fossilized coral outcroppings that help her learn the story rising water can tell about the sensitivity of the Earth’s climate. To Dutton, coral fossils can be read like tree rings, and dating how fast the corals grew on top of each other can reveal not just how high the water rose in the past, but how fast.

Her research involved “a startling amount of physics, from ice-sheet dynamics to glacial rebound of the North American continent.”

The magazine adds this portrait of the former Westport/current world changer:

Dutton is a single mom with 2 young kids. Her Facebook page is full of pictures of their soccer games and stories like the frog that accidentally got puréed in her garbage disposal. “I’m a scientist, and I love my work,” she says. “But I’m not just doing this because I love science. I’m doing this because I care about the future, and the kind of world we’re leaving to our kids.”

(For the full Rolling Stone story, click here. Hat tip: Sandee Cole)

“In Wonderful Westport…”

When technical difficulties prevented a video of 2nd graders singing Westport’s praises from being shown at last night’s swearing-in of town officials, most of the Town Hall audience probably breathed a sigh of relief.

There’s a thin line between cute and cringe-worthy. Very few of the board, commission and RTM members wanted to test it.

But 1st Selectman Jim Marpe had an ace up his sleeve: Suzanne Sherman Propp,  and her Greens Farms Elementary School music students.

The song — which she and the kids wrote, with Cheryl Buck — is catchy and clever. It covers tons of Westport people, places and history. The 2nd graders are not the Vienna Boys’ Choir (for one thing, there are girls), but they carry a tune better than I do.

And the video — produced by Josh Margolis — is first-rate. Newcomers, old-timers and (especially) ex-pats will love the fast-paced photos. (It’s also clever. When the kids sing about famous families and come to “Sherwood,” there’s a shot of the diner.)

So go ahead. Click below. Enjoy the show!

Yes, There’s A Marathon In Antarctica. No, Richard Garland Is Not Crazy For Running It.

We’ve all got travel goals.

I’d like to see all 50 states (I’m at 48). You might want to go on a safari, or walk along the Great Wall of China.

Richard Garland plans to hit all 7 continents. But that’s just the means to an end.

His goal is to run a marathon on all 7 continents.

I got tired just typing that sentence.

Until I talked to Richard, I didn’t even know there were marathons on all 7 continents. Antarctica, after all, is a continent.

Turns out, there is a marathon there.

Not only that, it’s happening right now.

And Richard Garland is there to run it.

But he’s not just running 26.2 miles, on ice and snow in sub-zero temperatures while dodging penguins and, I’m sure, man-swallowing crevasses.

He’s doing it to raise money for the Adam J. Lewis Preschool.

Some very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

And not just a few bucks. Richard’s goal is $100,000, for the fantastic Bridgeport institution that — with strong Westport support — honors the memory of a special 9/11 victim.

Richard has a special bond with the school that’s changing the lives of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in the West End. He knew Adam Lewis. Patty Lewis — Adam’s widow, and a driving force behind the school — is Richard’s wife’s best friend.

Travel — and giving back — are in Richard’s blood. A London native, he came to Westport to work. He thought he’d stay 2 years. Twenty-three years later, he’s still here.

Though he grew up playing sports, Richard hated running. “I thought it was for people with no lives,” he says.

But when he turned 50, he challenged himself to run the New York Marathon. He raised funds for the Westport-based Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — and got hooked.

Richard Garland, completing the New York Marathon.

Richard travels the world for work. He timed one trip to run a marathons in London. Others followed, in Kenya and Tokyo.

He ran the Boston Marathon too — in 2013. “I was slow enough not to be at the finish when the bombs went off,” he says.

Antarctica marks the 5th continent Richard will race on. On Sunday he flew to Punta Arenas, Chile. He boarded a Russian cargo plane, and arrives in Antarctica today.

The marathon is Friday. Unlike New York, Boston, London, Kenya, Tokyo — or anywhere else on earth — runners face an average windchill of -20 degrees Celsius, and strong winds. (And this is summer down there!)

It’s tough impossible to train for something like this. The best he could do, experts told Richard, was run on a treadmill in a walk-in freezer.

He did not. But he took the next-best advice, which is train on sand.

The Greens Farms resident ran at Burying Hill, Southport and Fairfield beaches. “It’s not very easy,” he reports. “I think I’ll run this marathon very slowly.”

You and I would relax after such an exhausting event. We’d check out the scientific stations and penguins, maybe see what Punta Arenas offers on the way home.

But you and I are not Richard Garland. He has a business meeting right after the marathon.

In London.

“I’ll pack my business suit, along with my Antarctic running clothes,” he says cheerfully.

The coldest continent marks Richard’s 5th for a marathon. He plans to run Easter Island — off the Chilean coast — next year. The last will be Sydney, in 2019.

Richard Garland in 5 marathons. Clockwise from upper left: New York, Tokyo, Kenya, London and Boston.

But 7 marathons on 7 continents is not Richard’s final goal. In fact, it’s just a warm-up.

In 2020, he’d like to run 7 marathons on 7 continents — in 7 days.

“Impossible!” you and I say. In addition to sheer exhaustion, just getting from one 26.2-mile race to the next is incomprehensible.

“No, it’s a thing,” Richard says, as if this is like walking down your driveway to pick up the mail. “There’s a private plane, with business class seats.”

But if he does that, he warns, there’s a price.

“It’s a million-dollar fundraiser for the Adam J. Lewis preschool.”

(Click here to contribute to Richard Garland’s current Adam J. Lewis marathon fundraiser.)

Give Students A Break!

As they sit down for holiday dinners on Thursday, Staples High School students have much to be thankful for. Loving families, good friends, caring teachers, a wonderful community — those things don’t change.

But this year, they’ll give thanks for something else: No homework.

Principal James D ‘Amico sent this email last week:

I want to take the opportunity to remind everyone that this upcoming Thanksgiving break is a homework-free break.

As a school community we want our school breaks to truly be a break from school to the greatest extent possible. We value school breaks as an opportunity for our students, staff, and families to rejuvenate, spend time with friends and family, and generally find the time for much-needed rest.

School breaks are also a good time for those who may have fallen behind on their work to catch up, without more new assignments piling up.

Through our Collaborative Team of representative teachers, administrators, students, and parents, we developed the following simple definition of homework-free breaks:

  • No homework should be assigned over these breaks
  • Long-term project due dates, as well as tests, may not be scheduled for the first 2 days of school following one of these breaks.​

The December, February and April breaks will also be homework-free.

Additionally, we encourage everyone to take a technology break over Thanksgiving, and disconnect our devices and engage with each other.

On behalf of everyone at Staples High School I wish you and your families a happy, healthy, and restful Thanksgiving next week.

Westport Scores For Bridgeport Tennis

Last March, “06880” featured an unlikely sports story.

Bridgeport’s Central High School had boys and girls tennis teams. Had is the right word — budget cuts eliminated funds for both sports.

Andrew McConnell swung into action.

Andrew McConnell

His story is as unlikely as his team’s. The longtime Westporter spent 2 decades on Wall Street. But a decade ago he switched careers. He’s now a 9th grade social studies teacher at Central — and the tennis coach.

Because tennis was life-changing for some of his players — it builds confidence, and teaches leadership and character — he set out to save Central tennis.

Stop & Shop donated Gatorade and bagels (home teams provide food for themselves and their opponents). The Connecticut Alliance for Tennis and Education pitched in with racquets.

One of the biggest costs is transportation. McDonnell — who is on the board of First Serve Bridgeport — got that after-school program to serve as a conduit for fundraising.

He had a bold idea: Buy a van. That would not only help with transportation fees (school buses are exorbitant to rent); it could also be used by First Serve throughout the year.

McConnell set up a GoFundMe page. The “06880” story brought an outpouring of donations, including a substantial gift from Westporters Mike and Becky Goss.

That helped purchase — and renovate — a van.

Then, First Serve Bridgeport endowed the team with its first college scholarship. Girls captain Phonsavanh Keophannga now attends Fairfield University.

But there’s more: FCIAC coaches honored the girls team with the league’s Sportsmanship Award.

And McConnell was named Boys Tennis Coach of the Year.

Voicing support for Central’s program was Staples state champion boys coach (and former FCIAC awardee) Kris Hrisovulos. He cited the Bridgeport school’s effort, sportsmanship and character.

McConnell returns the compliments. “My team and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the state — and more importantly, to allow our players a chance to excel on and off the court,” the Westport educator/coach/mentor says.

(Click here to learn more about First Serve Bridgeport.)

A collage of Central High School’s boys and girls tennis teams.

David Adipietro Helps California Rise

The day after devastating fires swept through Napa Valley, David Adipietro was upset.

The Staples High School junior had friends in Calistoga. Over the summer, he visited them. The house he stayed in had burned to the ground.

David’s classmates in Carla Eichler’s Advanced Design class were working on a travel poster project.

David Adipietro, at work in Carla Eichler’s Advanced Design class.

He scrapped his initial plan, which included photos he’d taken in northern California. By the end of the class period, he’d transformed his concept into a fundraising campaign.

Within days, he’d created a website. He posted his designs. The theme is simple: “Let’s Rise from the Ashes.”

His photos are available for sale on the site, as downloads. David is donating 90% of the proceeds to charities in California. The remaining 10% covers his costs.

A Yosemite poster available on David Adipietro’s website.

Eichler’s Advanced Design class is great. It appeals to clever, creative students.

And, apparently, to at least one very caring and compassionate teenager.

(Click here for David Adipietro’s “California, Let’s Rise” website.)

Jenny Hampe’s Journey

At Staples, Jenny Hampe was a disciple of Jim Wheeler. The popular art teacher advised her against art school though, warning, “It will ruin you.”

So after graduating in 1983, Jenny headed to New York University — for film.

Young Jenny Hampe.

In her senior year she moved to Kentucky, to study with Mike Skop — Wheeler’s own mentor.

“That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Jenny says. She dropped out of NYU, and — she thought — left Westport and the East Coast behind.

She was drawn to “very remote, windswept, lonely, cold, isolated northern places, for philosophical retreats.” Jenny says.

She lived on the northwest coast of Scotland, and an island off Maine. Every once in a while though, she returned home. When she did, Soup’s On — the friendly, funky Main Street restaurant — always welcomed her back with work.

During one of those interludes, she met a customer wearing a Norwegian sweater. He lived in Weston, but was a legit Scandinavian. They fell in love, went to Norway, got married at Norfield Church, and moved back to his home country.

He went to organic farming school. They found a farm on a fjord. Accessible only by boat, there was sun less than 6 months a year. The nearest village was over 5 miles away.

The fjord farm.

It was quite a place. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site. National Geographic called it one of the most beautiful spots on earth. “We were there in the wilderness,” Jenny says.

The 2 suburbanites with a small flock of sheep, some wild boars and chickens learned as they lived. Soon, Jenny had a child.

Their 2 1/2 years on the fjord farm ended when her husband got in a fistfight with their 75-year-old neighbor.

Jenny found an island for sale, elsewhere in Norway. With a loan from Westport Bank & Trust, they bought it. They lived there for 7 1/2 more years. She had 2 more babies.

There were Jersey cows, 75 sheep, pigs, turkeys, chickens and rabbits. Like the other farm, this one had minimal electricity and plumbing.

“It was another amazing chapter,” Jenny recalls.

Jenny Hampe loved her farm life.

She got divorced, and married another Norwegian. Soon, Jenny was living on her 3rd farm. It lacked road access, electricity and running water.

She was there for another 10 years. She had her 4th child there too.

Jenny Hampe with her “kids” — human and animal.

Then she had a midlife crisis. “It’s a complex story,” she says. “I was homesick for my homeland.”

Which is why Jenny now lives in … Brooklyn.

She’s an artist there, working in collage and textiles. (She learned that craft while sewing her own and her family’s clothes in Norway). She also makes memory jugs.

Jenny Hampe today.

And 4 days a week, she commutes to Westport. She’s got “an amazing job” here, as an estate gardener.

“It’s confusing to some people,” she admits. “I dress in wooden shoes and aprons, with dresses down to my ankles. But I’m a New Yorker.”

She looks back with gratitude on her life tending goats and making cheese. But, she realizes, “New York was always in my blood. And Westport is my home.”

Her 4 children — now in their teens and 20s — spent last summer with her. They all shared a 1-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

“They love New York too,” she says.

So what does she make of all this?

“My life is exciting,” she concludes. “I’m a Jenny of all trades.”

Ras Runs In Bridgeport

From time to time, Staples High School graduates run for public office. Some do it in Westport; others, wherever they’ve moved to.

Few of them want to serve in Bridgeport. Ras Omari does, and for a very good reason: That’s his hometown.

Omari McPherson, Staples High School Class of 2004.

Growing up there — when he went by the name Omari McPherson — he attended local schools. But he was selected by lottery for the Open Choice program. He got up early every morning, and was bused to Staples High.

He nurtured his love for recording, film and web development there. But after graduation in 2004, he majored in mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

He added a master’s in marketing and technology innovation. In 2010 Omari joined Verizon’s Network Leadership Development program as an engineering project manager.

In his spare time, he worked as a photographer and videographer.

Feeling stifled and unfulfilled by his career path, Omari left corporate America. In 2014 — with his wife Juliana and newborn son — he moved back to Bridgeport. His journey of self-discovery and entrepreneurship was underway.

Today Omari is the founder and director of Vizier Media, a digital marketing consultancy specializing in “thought development, creative direction and content engineering.” He’s a dedicated husband, and father of Shiloh and Kaya.

And now a candidate for Bridgeport City Council. His 131st district includes downtown, the South End and part of the West End.

Ras Omari

Since returning to the Park City, he told Lennie Grimaldi’s great “Only in Bridgeport” blog, he’s realized it holds many hidden gems, waiting to be uncovered.

He stayed away from the city’s famously notorious and messy politics. But — hoping for insights into local issues — Omari attended last month’s City Council candidates’ forum. He was “uninspired” by both the dialogue, and the quality of candidates on stage.

He asked himself why Bridgeport is — and has been — run the way it has, for so long. After digging deep into the budget and downtown development projects, Omari realized it was time to step up.

He launched his write-in campaign.

“I believe this city’s turnaround hinges on a new generation of leaders who are thoughtful, productive and can come up with tangible solutions to problems,” he told Grimaldi.

“Politics in Bridgeport don’t have to mean the same ol’ same ol’. The ‘Write-in Ras’ campaign is about putting the power back in the hands of the people, and side-stepping the machine.”

Ras Omari in downtown Bridgeport. (Photo/Gary Pivot)

He does not want to fight “pettiness.” He aims to “inform, include and inspire a new generation of artists, entrepreneurs, and bright young professionals to take an active role in the future of the city.”

Tomorrow, Staples’ former Open Choice student hopes to give Bridgeport voters an open choice too.

 

Photo Challenge #149

The #1 was a hint. But where was #1?

Turns out to be 1 Canal Street. Oddly, that’s in the middle of the road, at the light by the bridge leading to the Willows Medical Center (aka “Fort Apache”).

To the west, it’s Kings Highway North (it’s actually Kings Highway North the rest of the way to the Main Street light).

To the east and north — heading to Coffee An’ and Crossroads Hardware — it’s Canal Street.

#1 once belonged to Bridgeport Hydraulic (now Aquarion). Now it’s the Board of Education’s facilities office. Congratulations to Elaine Marino, David Sampson, Dan Herman and Seth Goltzer, all of whom somehow knew where the paint-chipped sign in last week’s photo challenge is located. (Click here for Amy Schneider’s photo, and all the guesses.)

This week’s challenge comes courtesy of Wendy Cusick. If you think you know where she took the photo, click “Comments” below.

After The Storm: Westport Schools Delayed By 3 Hours

In the aftermath of last night’s storm — which, on the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, brought nearly 5 inches of rain and near-50 mph winds to Westport — Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer says:

Due to many downed trees and wires, we are delaying school by 3 hours today.

Currently 25% of Westport is without power as well. Please be careful of any downed lines that you could encounter today in your travels to work. I expect all of the damage has not yet been reported to officials. We will continue to assess the situation as the morning light reveals storm damage. Please be safe, wherever you are.