Category Archives: Education

Tooker’s Margin: 69 Votes. Next Question: Who Is 3rd Selectman?

Results of yesterday’s election — filed with the Secretary of the State — show just how tight the selectman’s race was.

Jennifer Tooker and running mate Andrea Moore edged Jonathan Steinberg and Candice Savin 4,237 votes to 4,168. The winning Republican ticket had 50.03% of the vote, to the Democrats’ 49.21.

Libertarians TJ Elgin and Louis D’Onofrio garnered just 64 votes (0.76%).

Jen Tooker

But Elgin may become Westport’s 3rd selectman.

Steinberg — currently in his 6th term as a state representative — has declined the 3rd selectman’s position. By statute — and long Westport tradition — it goes to the candidate for 1st selectman who places second in the voting.

Steinberg chairs the legislature’s Public Health Committee, and serves on the Transportation, and Energy and Technology, Committees too.

He told Westport Journal this afternoon that he does not want to be a “third wheel” on the 3-person selectmen board.

Elgin believes that the 3rd selectman position should not go to Savin — Steinberg’s running mate — but rather to him.

The town charter says: “The defeated candidate for First Selectman having the highest number of votes shall be elected a Selectman.” Elgin contends that because Savin was not a candidate for first selectman, he should be next in line for the post.

Assistant town attorney Eileen Lavigne Flug says, however, that there is only one second place candidate for first selectman: Steinberg. If he declines the post, Flug said, Tooker and Moore must appoint a Democrat to replace him.

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Meanwhile, Democrats led in all other races. The results:

Board of Education (contested)

Party-endorsed Democrats Kevin Christie (5,097 votes) and Christina Torres (5,177) and Republicans Robert Harrington (3,850) and Dorie Hordon (3,913) will form a newcomers’ majority on the 7-person board. Write-in candidate Alma Sarelli received 130 votes, and was not elected.

Planning and Zoning Commission (contested)

Democratic incumbents (and Save Westport Now-endorsed Danielle Dobin (5.396), Michael Cammeyer (5,095) and Neil Cohn (4,923) return to office. Republican Jack Whittle (3,368) failed in his bid to recapture his old seat. Coalition for Westport candidate Ron Corwin (786) also lost.

Board of Finance (uncontested)

Democratic incumbents Brian Stern (5,207 votes) and Lee Caney (4,950) will be joined by Republican Michael Keller (4,100).

Board of Assessment Appeals (contested)

Democrats Lynette Pineda (4,547) and Heseyl Gayle (4,446) were elected. Republican Town Committee chair Joseph Sledge (3,470) lost.

Zoning Board of Appeals (uncontested)

Josh Newman and Amy Wistreich were elected.

Representative Town Meeting

Three districts had contested races.

In District 1, Liz Milwe (436), Matthew Mandell (360), Chris Tait (337) and Kristin Mott Purcell (277) won. Abby Tolan (253) and Rick Jaffe (228) lost.

In District 3, Jimmy Izzo (403), Mark Friedman, Don O’Day (35) and Arline Gertzoff (328) won. Ross Burkhardt (252) lost.

In District 9, Kristin Schneeman (427), Nancy Kail (401), Sal Liccione (347) an Lori Church 9343) won. Clark Thiemann (315) and Marla Cowden (300) lost.

Winners in the uncontested districts:

2: Joy Keenan, Harris Falk, Louis Mall, Christine Meiers Schatz.

4: Andrew Colabella, James Bairaktaris, Noah Hammond, Jeffrey Wieser.

5: Peter Gold, Dick Lowenstein, Karen Kramer, Claudia Shaum

6: Candace Banks, Beth Braunstein, Jessica Bram, Cathy Talmadge

7: Brandi Briggs, Jack Klinge, Ellen Lautenberg, Lauren Karpf.

8: Wendy Goldwyn Batteau, Lisa Newman, Stephen Shackelford, Rachel Steel Cohn.

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The Democratic Town Committee issued this statement earlier today: “The Westport Democratic Town Committee congratulates Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore on their election as Westport’s next first and second selectmen. Their success is Westport’s success. We look forward to working together to keep Westport the vibrant and welcoming place that we all cherish.”

Board Of Ed Candidate To His Party: We Must Change

I have not posted anything about the Board of Education campaign — nor did I intend to. The race was uncontested (until the emergence of a write-in candidate), and the Republican and Democratic nominees are largely in agreement on issues like learning loss and infrastructure.

But at the end of Thursday’s mostly uncontroversial League of Women Voters’ forum, one candidate addressed an issue that has percolated both locally and nationally: Critical Race Theory.

In doing so, Robert Harrington broke with the Republican Party that had endorsed him. 

Addressing the anti-CRT signs that have appeared around town — and an anonymous website — he said:

Thank you to the other candidates — and fingers crossed, I hope to be working with all three of you after November 2nd election.

Hopefully tonight has shown it is not about about “Republican vs. Democrat” or “Red versus Blue” when it comes to  a local school board election.

But that is the system that Westport chooses. Political parties nominate candidates.

So as a Republican candidate for the Board of Education in Westport, I have a strong and direct message to my local Republican Party.

To be clear: This is not about my running mate, Dorie Hordon. I look forward to working with her.

But my party’s response to “Wake Up Westport CRT: signs is not okay with me.

Their response to the an anonymous website has not shown leadership throughout the party.

This goes beyond those behind this website, and the lawn signs. They have full right of free speech. There is no issue with that. But it is about how we respond to that message. My party’s response is not okay.

I fear in my local Republican Party I am paying  the price for speaking out. I suspect tonight it won’t get any better.

In terms of the local campaign, I have 4 points to make to my party:

Joint Facebook Page/Account: The Republican Party has  deleted all the content, and has not allowed me to put up any new content — not even highlighting an upcoming meeting about our failing school bus schedules. If you go to HordonHarrngton4BOE, you will see there is zero content there.

Campaign email:  The same here. As a candidate I have not be able to email voters or residents — not even a personal statement.

Message from my party: I’ve been asked or told to stop campaigning, shut up, sit down and cancel meetings.

Questions from residents: A resident asked me online (before the entire contents of the site were deleted) a series of legitimate questions on my views on the future of Trump, my response to January 6, and the way I dealt with “The Big Lie.” I answered all these questions, and was happy to do so. However, the Republican campaign, without my knowledge or approval, deleted all my answers.

This is not democratic. It’s not transparent — for a party that often talks about transparency. It’s not a good look for Westport.

Worst of all: It’s not a good look for local Republican Party. They are acting like the national Republican Party

For the sake of Westport and the local Republican Party: We must change.

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I reached out to Republican Town Committee chair Joe Sledge for a response. He referred me to the “Westport Republicans” page on Facebook. and this post pinned at the top of the page:

At last night’s League of Women Voters debate, Robert Harrington commented on procedures that the Westport Republican Town Committee put in place with respect to campaign communications by candidates on campaign social media accounts.

Connecticut State law requires that campaign communications contain specific attribution language, and the WRTC has sought to assure that candidates comply with these rules. Understandably, Robert may not be fully familiar with these regulations. We commend Robert’s passion and willingness to express his perspective.

Roundup: Free Money, Pumpkins, College Transcripts …

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Does your organization want free money?

Tomorrow (October 30, 2021) is the deadline for Fairfield County non-profits to apply for a grant from the Westport Woman’s Club. They go to deserving groups working in education, health and safety, and the arts.

Applications are being accepted too for a one-time use of their clubhouse, for an event.

Typed proposals should be sent — postmarked by tomorrow — to: Westport Woman’s Club, Attn.: Community Service Grant, 44 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

For more information, call 203-227-4240 or click here.

The Westport Woman’s Club on Imperial Avenue is giving out grants — and offering the use of its clubhouse for an event.

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The 2nd remarkable season of the Remarkable Theater’s drive-in comes to an end with an exciting Halloween weekend.

Tonight (Friday, October 29, 6:30 p.m.), it’s Beetlejuice.

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 30, 6 p.m. — “come in costume; truck or treat!”), there’s a double feature: “Its the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest.”

Click here for tickets, and more information.

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Speaking of pumpkins: Liam Borner and Julia Matusiewicz turned this one into something — well, great:

Can you top that> Send a photo to dwoog@optonline.net.

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Craig Schmarr, the Westport Public Schools’ supervisor of building operations,  died yesterday morning at Bridgeport Hospital. He served the district for over 27 years, in a variety of capacities. A full obituary will appear later.

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The tent outside Savvy + Grace was packed last night. Owner Annette Norton hosted a special “shopping and cocktails” benefit for The Cancer Couch breast cancer foundation.

WICC;s “Melissa in the Morning” was among the dozens of guests. The event was held in memory of Laura Nelson, the beloved Westporter who died last month.

Annette Norton, at last night’s Savvy + Grace benefit for The Cancer Couch.

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COVID has dramatically altered the college landscape — and the application process.

Private counselor Amy Chatterjee believes that a transcript is the most important part of a student’s application. On November 8 (7 p.m., Zoom), the Westporter offers a 1-hour workshop for parents.

She’ll discus “what it actually is, how students can show a love of learning through their courses,” and more. Click here for more information, and to register for the free event.

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Autumn means more than changing leaves. Tree Board chair Monica Buesser’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows the sometimes overlooked beauty of this familiar scene:

(Photo/Monica Buesser)

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And finally … Robin McNamara died last week, at 74. He played Claude in the Broadway production of “Hair,” and had this very ’70s-ish pop hit. (Hat tip: Amy Schneider)

From Wall Street To Westport: Eric Chiang’s Arts Journey

When Eric Chiang moved to Westport in 1993, he lived across the street from the legendary illustrator Howard Munce.

Growing up in Taiwan, Chiang had loved art. But he didn’t know anyone who made a career of it. So he went to New York University, majored in computer science and math, earned a master’s, and got a “normal job” as a programmer and financial modeler at Goldman Sachs.

Watching Munce — then in his 80s — create sculptures outside, even in winter, intrigued Chiang. He watched with added interest as Leonard Everett Fisher — another iconic artist — came to visit Munce.

Chiang realized that Westport’s arts legacy lived on, in the spirit of real, working artists.

Around 1997, he carved out half an hour or so every night to create art. He had no formal training. He did not have an actual studio either — just a small easel in a corner of his living room.

But after nearly a decade, he’d accumulated plenty of works. He had ideas for many more.

Chiang wanted no regrets. He decided to leave Wall Street. His wife gave her blessing.

In 2007, Chiang became a full-time artist. His painted realistic objects, arranged surrealistically.

“The Year 2020, No. 2” — oil on canvas.

In the past few years he’s moved into less precise landscapes. His works are big, and tied to his love of nature.

For example, he says, he always wondered what would happen if the earth wrote a story about itself.

To keep his hands off the work — he wanted the art to be as primordial as possible — Chiang sprayed paint to represent rain, storms and the erosive process at work. To mimic gravity, he tilted the canvas.

The resulting “Land Scripts” series of more than a dozen paintings is 50 feet wide.

Eric Chiang with his “Land Scripts XIII.”

Chiang applied the same technique to “Water Scripts,” a series of 12-foot high waves and waterfalls.

“Water Scripts I” — oil on canvas.

Another work fills a large space at Coleytown Middle School. When Westport Permanent Arts Collections officials realized they had nothing suitable to hang near a staircase and skylight in the newly renovated school, they asked Chiang to help.

He presented 5 options. Students chose an intriguing work called “Are We Born Connected?,” which included guitars.

“Are We Born Connected?” (Eric Chiang, acrylic on canvas)

When that was selected for an exhibit at the Housatonic Museum of Art, the second choice — a 16-foot, 4-panel “History of Civilization” — took its place.

“A History of Civilizations,” at Coleytown Middle School.

Not all of the artist’s creations are enormous. His most recent work — “Westport: A Perspective From Early Days” — is one of 5 murals unveiled this month at the Main Street entrance to Bedford Square. His depicts the earliest days of our town.

Chiang explains:

This mural brings us into an imaginary world back in the early days of Westport, when the Paugussett Indians occupied the area with a farming and fishing culture. Then the European traders came to transact with the indigenous tribes, just to be followed by the English colonists, who built towns, church, and farms.

From there, someone in the painting invited us to peek into the future – Let’s go over the bridge and see a bigger town and a much greater nation in the making.

“Westport: A Perspective From Early Days”

Inspired by Howard Munce and Leonard Everett Fisher — and his own career change — Chiang is a firm believer in the importance of arts to Westport.

“It’s less about the exhibits and displays, than the spirit of the people,” he says. “And it’s not just visual artists. It’s musicians, dancers and writers. Their activities make the whole town artistic.”

In Taiwan, Chiang had no role models. In his first years as an artist here, he worked alone. But when the Westport Artists Collective began in 2014, he was an avid founding member.

He is eager to keep passing Westport arts’ “spirit and culture” on to future generations.

Meanwhile, visitors to Bedford Square — and hundreds of students at Coleytown — are enjoying Eric Chiang’s work.

A long way from Taiwan — and Goldman Sachs — he enjoys creating it too.

(To see more art at Eric Chiang’s website, click here. Hat tip: Kris Szabo.)

Schools’ COVID Update: Teachers’ Masks, Visitors And More

Six weeks into the school year — as the Westport schools see a continuing drop in COVID cases — superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice offers this update.

Starting tomorrow (Wednesday), the Westport Public Schools will allow teachers in grades 7 to 12 to teach unmasked, provided they are vaccinated, in the front of the room, and students are masked and seated.

The option will be considered for kindergarten through grade 5 after November 1, when there is more information on vaccines for children ages 5-11.

Lunch tents will remain in place for the rest of the month. They will be re-examined at the end of the month, pending a better understanding of K-6 vaccinations.

Scarice notes, “lunch coverage at the elementary levels is very challenging. We will move as quickly as we can to return to ‘normal’ lunch.”

A normal school cafeteria.

Westport schools will continue to require visitors to show proof of vaccination at least through December 31. Larger groups of visitors will be permitted to meet in person with building administration permission, provided there is an opportunity to distance (for example, larger rooms), and that visitors are masked with proof of vaccination.

Elementary parent conferences will be held in person for vaccinated parents, virtual for unvaccinated parents. Virtual accommodations for any parent can be made.

With a number of performances scheduled in the next 2 months, the district and Westport Weston Health District decided to monitor COVID transmission rates to guide mitigating measures. Measures to consider include the amount of capacity allowed, and spacing between attendees.

The district is open for building and space rental by community groups after hours. Universal masking is recommended; however, the district does not have however, the district does not have the capacity to enforce measures outside of school hours.

“06880” Podcast: Thomas Scarice On Critical Race Theory

Last April, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice was the first guest on my “06880” podcast. He spoke eloquently about his background, the Westport school system, and education in general.

This week he visited the Westport Library again. This time, we chatted about one specific topic: Critical Race Theory.

CRT has generated a lot of controversy, nationally and locally. The town’s chief education official discusses where it came from, what it is, and how it impacts the Westport schools.

Click below to watch.

Roundup: WWPT, Afghan Refugees, Dog Festival …

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They might have to rename the John Drury Awards “The WWPT Awards.”

For the squintillionth year in a row, Staples’ FM radio station cleaned up in the annual high school broadcast competition.

The station — 90.3 on your dial! — won 4 categories earlier this month:

  • Best Radio Drama — Original or Adaptation (“The Wizard of Oz,” with Staples Players)
  • Best Sportscast (Zach Brody)
  • Best Sports Talk Program (“Bold Predictions,” with Rory Tarsy, Max Udell and Caleb Tobias)
  • Best Sports Play-by-Play (FCIAC lacrosse championship, Staples vs. Darien, with Cam Manna and Max Dorsey).

Radio is alive and well. Congratulations to all, and of course to instructor Geno Heiter.

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Westporters have responded generous to a call to help Afghan refugees resettling in the area.

A final collection of needed items is set for this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, October 16 and 17, 12 to 3 p.m.).

Men’s and women’s coats; teen and children warm clothes; boots, scarves, warm hats and umbrellas; backpacks filled with school supplies, and household toiletries, towels and cleaning supplies can all be dropped off at  Greens Farms Congregational Church.

Backpacks and school supplies are among the items needed for Afghan refugees.

 

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The weather looks great for tomorrow’s oft-postponed Dog Festival.

The event is set for Sunday (October 17, Winslow Park, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and TAILS, it features demonstrations, fun competitions, police K-9 presentations, kids’ activities, vendors, food trucks, a special appearance by Piglet (the blind and deaf chihuahua) and more.

Tickets are $10 per person, $25 for a family of 4. Dogs go free. Proceeds benefit non-profit organizations.

Dog owners can register for the competitions online or at the festival.

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Interested in the kind of world today’s students will inherit? Do you have ideas how our schools can prepare them for it?

The Westport Public Schools invites all Westporters to an Education Summit next Wednesday (October 20, 6 to 8 p.m., Bedford Middle School auditorium).

Futurist Michael Weiss offers a keynote address, then lead an interactive discussion. It’s part of superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice’s Strategic Plan, aimed at taking our district into the next decade and beyond.

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Three residents of the Gillespie Center are moving on to permanent supportive housing.

Homes with Hope is proud of the success of these formerly homeless men. And they’re asking Westporters to help them succeed.

They’ve created a Signup Genius for donations of bedding, household items, furniture and gift cards. Click here to help.

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Fred Cantor is many things: an attorney, off-Broadway and documentary producer, longtime Westporter and avid “06880” reader.

he’s also the author of “Fred from Fresh Meadows,” a memoir of his many years as a New York Knicks fan.

Now the NBA team has repaid the honor.

A 15-second commercial spot featuring Fred, his brother’s older son and brother’s almost 3-year-old grandson premiered last night, during a Knicks preseason game.

It’s part of an MSG Network promotional campaign spotlighting diehard fans. Fred’s spot focuses on his book, and his 6 decades of fandom.

It was filmed earlier this month in the schoolyard behind his former elementary school in Queens.

Fred Cantor (right), being filmed with his nephew Sam and great-nephew Brody.

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It’s been a while since we ran an osprey update. The other day, Franco Fellah spotted this young bird in the trees over the Saugatuck River, opposite his office on Riverside Avenue. Ospreys epitomize “Westport … Naturally.”

(Photo/Franco Fellah)

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And finally … on this date in 1875, Brigham Young University was founded in Provo, Utah.

Roundup: Selectmen, Mark Twain, Winslow Park …

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Missed yesterday’s debate between the candidates for first and second selectmen?

No problem!

The event — sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library — is now online. Click below to view.

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Domestic violence is real, and part of Westport life.

Next Monday (October 18, 7 p.m.), the Westport Domestic Violence Task Force, Westport Human Services Department and Westport Library will present an important webinar.

“When Stop Doesn’t Work: What is the Impact on our Children?” features Ann Rodwell-Lawton, associate director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Center. She and Liz Modugno — an alcohol and addiction counselor at Westport’s Aspire Counseling — will discuss the generational impact of trauma and family violence on children. Click here to register.

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Westport native Bruce Michelson is now an English professor — and noted Mark Twain scholar — at the University of Illinois. He credits Burr Farms Elementary School 6th grade teacher June Jack with getting him interested in the famed author.

John Kelley — who sent along this interview with Michelson from the Mark Twain Circle of America newsletter — recalls a field trip to Twain’s Hartford home with that class. Michelson mentions the visit in the piece.

It took place more than 60 years ago. Who knows what youngster today will follow a career in the 2080s that started — perhaps today — in one of our elementary schools?

Bruce Michelson

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Frank Sisson writes:

At Winslow Park. another dog owner told me he had seen a dead dog on the road just outside a North Compo entrance — one of several openings in the stone wall along the road. Why are those openings not gated to prevent such a tragedy? Dogs will be dogs, and one unauthorized squirrel chase in the wrong direction could spell disaster.

If the town can’t swing it, maybe a group of regular Winslow Park dog owners could get together with a plan to chip in and make this happen.

There are gates — though open on this part of the Winslow Park stone wall. (Nell Waters Bernegger)

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Longtime Westporter June Fernie died recently. She was 94 years old.

A child of the Depression and World War II, she was the eldest daughter in a family of 7 children. She left her home in Guelph, Ontario, Canada at 17 for Toronto, where she worked as secretary at an advertising agency. Her life changed when John Fernie, a recently discharged RAF pilot and artist from Scotland, walked through the door looking for a job.

After a quick courtship they married and emigrated to the US in 1947, making their first home in a cold-water flat in Brooklyn.

A talented illustrator, John found work quickly at a prestigious Madison Avenue ad agency. Working together, the newlyweds earned success.

In 1950 they moved into their first real home in Westport. Their children Bruce, heather and Mitchell were born and raised there.

June and John enjoyed all that New York, Westport and London had to offer in the swinging ‘60s, socializing with creatives from the art and literary worlds as well as entertainers from movies and music.

June organized family skiing in Vermont every winter, and annual summer holidays in England and Europe. Supportive of John’s love of fast automobiles, she was an enthusiastic pit crew during frequent weekends at the racetrack.

In 1970 June and John moved their family to Vermont, before finally settling
in Kennebunkport, Maine in 1980.

June was a talented administrator who, in addition to managing her husband’s art business, worked for many years as an administrative assistant in Maine. Her years as a volunteer at the Kennebunkport Historical Society brought her a great deal of pleasure.

June is survived by her children Bruce (Katherine Walsh) of West Tisbury, Massachusetts and Heather Fernie McInnis (Craig) McInnis of Kennebunkport; daughter-in-law Barbara Borchardt of Cumberland, Maine; foster daughter Jill Deveraux of Oro Valley, Arizona; grandchildren
Alexander, Dana, Bowen, Avery, Mitchell and Trevor, and great-grandchildren Mae Fernie, Helena and Ollie.

June Fernie

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The Westport Library Book Sale earlier this month exceeded already high expectations. That’s due in part to over 200 volunteer who assisted with setup, the event itself and cleanup. Other volunteers work year long processing books, and helping at the Westport Book Shop.

Organizes give a special shoutout to organizations that supported the effort, including the Westport Young Woman’s League, Neighbors and Newcomers of Westport, Abilis, Westport Public Library staff, Staples Service League of Boys, Westport National Charity League, Builders Beyond Borders, and Staples High School National Honor Society.

All proceeds of the sale support the Westport Library, and the employment of adults with disabilities.

Staples Service League of Boys (SLOBs) at the Westport Library book sale.

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Three attorneys at Westport’s FLB Law — Stephen Fogerty, Eric Bernheim and Joshua Auxier — have been named to the 2021 Connecticut Super Lawyers list. Brian Tims has been named to the publication’s Rising Stars roster.

Super Lawyers lists are generated by peer ratings.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo pays homage to our beloved fall ritual: Dogs are allowed back on Compo Beach.

This guy acts like he owns the place, all year long.

(Photo/Collette Winn)

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And finally … happy 63rd birthday to Marie Osmond!

 

 

Bobbi Burns Teaches — And Learns

Bobbi Burns is a teacher. But every day, she says, she learns something from her students.

That’s impressive. They’re 3 to years old, at Stepping Stones — Westport’s public pre-school.

Even more impressive: Burns has been teaching for 50 years.

She began her educational career — and started learning from children — at a New Jersey school for youngsters with significant emotional and behavioral disorders.

Special education was in its infancy. But she enjoyed the challenges of problem-solving, the chance to make a difference — and the new knowledge she gained every day.

Yet as she worked with troubled 13-year-olds, she wondered: What if we could get to them when they’re 3?

Bobbi Burns, in her classroom.

She got her master’s degree, moved to Connecticut, and pivoted to early elementary education in Newtown. Their preschool was a model for the state.

Excited by the possibilities, Burns earned certification as a reading consultant, and in administration and supervision. She added a doctorate from George Washington University, where she supervised student teachers.

As she finished her coursework, she saw a flyer for a position at Tufts University. The school was world renowned for early childhood work. The deadline was that day. Hastily, she sent in her application. She got the job.

After 3 years, she was recruited by Bright Horizons Children’s Center. She developed curriculum, trained teachers, and talked to parents all over the country. It was rewarding work.

But after 7 years, Burns missed direct contact with youngsters. In 1995, Westport was looking for experienced teachers. She’s been here — including the last 17 at Stepping Stones — ever since.

She never expected to teach this long. But she’s not ready to stop. The biggest challenge, Burns says, is her knees. It’s tough getting on and off the floor.

Teaching keeps her young. She loves finding out how to reach every child in a different way. The collaboration with colleagues like psychologists, speech and occupational and physical therapists, social workers, fellow teachers — and parents — is invigorating. “We all help each other,” she says.

Stepping Stones preschool is housed at Coleytown Elementary,

And she believes more firmly than ever in the important of preschool.

“There’s so much attention now to social and emotional learning,” she notes. “But that’s always been true of early childhood education. We teach them how to make friends, take care of themselves and others, how to learn, how to be curious, how to be part of a community.”

Westport is a high-powered place. There are high expectations, and plenty of stresses. Burns gives the district high marks for recognizing those issues, embracing ideas like mindfulness, and prioritizing social and emotional growth.

Most preschool teachers never get to see the fruits of their work. Former students seldom go back to Stepping Stones. For Burns, the rewards are intrinsic. She knows she has had an impact, at a very significant time in a youngster’s life.

Occasionally, she’ll see a parent of a former student. She still remembers one who said gratefully, “You changed the trajectory of my child’s life!”

Teaching through COVID was tough, Burns admits. But she and her Stepping Stones colleagues powered through. Their students were safe. They grew, and learned.

And of course, Bobbi Burns learned right along with them.

Roundup: COVID, Sheryl Crow, Unsung Science …

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1st Selectman Jim Marpe says:

“The rise in case levels in Westport for the past 1 weeks placed the town into the ‘substantial transmission’ (‘red’) category this week. Westport Weston Health District (WWHD) Director of Health Mark Cooper stated, ‘High risk individuals should take extra precautions, particularly those who are unvaccinated, by avoiding large gatherings. Getting fully vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing continue to be strongly recommended for all.’

“The First Selectman’s Executive Orders #9 and #10 remain in effect. They require masks in indoor public places within Westport for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Indoor public spaces include retail establishments, restaurants, or other businesses, as well as galleries, museums, performance spaces, places of worship and government buildings. Businesses may still require proof of vaccination to enter, but a mask will also be required. Executive Order #10, which modifies Executive Order #9, refers specifically to gyms and workout studios, and provides certain exceptions to mask-wearing in those public places only.

“I am grateful that Westporters recognize the importance of wearing masks and getting vaccinated. It is for our physical and mental health and safety that we remain vigilant.

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If you know Dan Aron, you know how proud he is to be an Indiana University grad.

If you don’t know Dan Aron, you know his house. It’s the one on Soundview Drive with the huge IU flag.

On October 14 — during Homecoming — he’ll be one of 3 recipients of Indiana’s Distinguished Alumni Service award. It’s the highest honor the school gives to a graduate.

Dan earned a BS from IU’s Kelley School of Business in 1983. He was an equity sales trader, partner and head trader for 30 years with Salomon Brothers, John Levin & Co. and others. Along the way he mentored Kelley students, and served on many school advisory boards.

Dan and his wife Maureen raised daughters Alexa, Ashley and Anna in Westport. The couple underwrote the Investment Center in Hodge Hall, and the Kelley Diversity Merit Bicentennial Scholarship.

“I will never forget where I came from. I will always be a Hoosier,” Dan says. (Hat tip: JD Denny)

Dan Aron

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Speaking of Dan Aron: Among his philanthropic activities, he’s a big supporter of the Levitt Pavilion.

He was there there — near the stage — at last night’s great Sheryl Crow concert. Here’s his photo:

(Photo/Dan Aron)

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David Pogue has a new project.

Well, the Westport tech guru/media personality always does. But this is especially intriguing.

“Unsung Science” (@UnsungSci) debuts Friday. Each weekly episode offers the origin story of a cool science or tech achievement. They’re told by the characters themselves, from their first inspiration to the times they almost gave up.

Episodes include the NASA engineer whose team landed a delicate, unpiloted $3 billion rover on Mars without kicking up dust; the father of the cellphone; the committee that chooses which emoji to add to your phone each year; the computer scientist who blessed/cursed the world with CAPTCHA website login obstacles; the storm chaser who discovered that Tornado Alley is shifting east into more vulnerable states; the inventor of the Impossible Burger, and more.

Click here for more information.

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Stephen Gustafson loves dahlias. Others do too. He’s formed them into a close-knit Facebook group: the Westport Dahlia Society.

Now he — and anyone else who shares the dahlia passion — will meet at Wakeman Town Farm. The event is  October 18 (7 p.m.).

Gustafson will explain the overwintering process of tubers to save for next year. There’s a door prize of dahlia seeds.

Guests can bring their favorite flower cuttings. Novices looking to learn more about dahlias are welcome too. For more information, email westportdahliasociety@gmail.com.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

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“06880” does not run wedding announcements.

But this photo — by frequent Pic of the Day contributor Lauri Weiser — was too good to pass up.

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Her daughter, Sabrina Weiser-Min, married Matt Crorey last weekend at the Bryant Park Grill in New York City.

She has been friends with Micha Grand since Bedford Middle School. Micha and Matt were roommates in college. Then all 3 lived together in New York. He was the perfect choice to officiate.

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Frederick Louis Hyman, former president and CEO of The Cousteau Group and co-founder and president of The Cousteau Society, died October 7. He was 89.

After graduating from Staples High School in 1949, and then the University of Connecticut, he served as first lieutenant, combat command, in the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Hyman’s career started with Associated Artists Productions, a distributor to television of feature films and short subjects, best known for the Popeye, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. After acquisition by United Artists Associated, he became executive vice president. He then co-owned Scope Advertising, a New York agency.

He also founded Americom, a Westport manufacturer and marketer of unique custom phonograph records that combined print and sound for the publishing and education markets. He innovated a 4-inch flexible single record, the PocketDisc, with its own player.

His experience with educational television and publishing led Jacques-Yves Cousteau to him. Hyman joined Cousteau in 1971 as president and CEO of The Cousteau Group, the operator of all Cousteau related companies in the US and in France; television production; publications based on expeditions; the 20-volume Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau; research activities aboard Calypso, and the development of new technology.

A gift by Hyman and Cousteau was the basis for their 1973 creation of The Cousteau Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and improvement of marine life and the environment. Hyman served as president and later a board member. However, he later lost confidence in the management and no longer supported TCS.

Hyman was a founding member of the Aspetuck Valley Country Club in Weston. He played in 3 British Seniors golf championships, plus many tournaments in Bermuda.

He is survived by Janett, his wife of 67 years; children Richard (Margaret), Mark, Dean and Jane, and grandchildren Emily, Brent, Sarah, Ben and Olivia.

Frederick Hyman

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June Rose Whittaker is aptly named. She sends along this “Westport … Naturally” submission from her home: “the last rose of summer.”

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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And finally … if you missed Sheryl Crow last night, this will make you happy: