Category Archives: Staples HS

Roundup: Super Bowl Raffle, End Of The World, More

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Each year, hundreds of Westporters enjoy Westport Rotary’s Duck Race and Wine Tasting events. Their support enables the organization to support worthy causes here and abroad.

Both events are COVID-canceled. Yet charities need help more than ever. Fortunately, the Rotarians have a plan.

Their new fundraiser is The Great Rotary Raffle: Super Bowl Edition.

Tickets are $50 each. On February 5 — 2 days before the game — each ticket will be assigned a randomly selected pair of numbers.

Winners will be determined by the scores at the end of each quarter. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter winners each get a $500 Visa gift card. The winner of the final score snags a $1,000 card.

50% of all ticket sales go to those prizes. The other half goes directly to charities.

Click here to buy raffle tickets.

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At Staples, 2015 grad Rachel Treisman wrote for the school paper Inklings. In college, she became editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News.

Now Rachel writes for NPR.

Yesterday, she wrote an important, comprehensive piece. Headlined “The Vaccine Rollout Will Take Time. Here’s What The U.S. Can Do Now To Save Lives,” it covers governmental, private and personal responses to the pandemic. Click here for the story.

Rachel Treisman

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There are 72 films at Sundance 2021. According to IndieWire, 15 are “Must-See,” and can be streamed at home.

Among them: “How it Ends.” Written, directed and produced by 2002 Staples High School graduate Daryl Wein and his “partner in work and love” Zoe Lister-Jones, it is “a star-packed comedic rumination on nothing less than the end of the world.”

“Timely, no?” IndieWire adds.

The film stars Olivia Wilde, Fred Armisen, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris and Cailee Spaeny.

Daryl Wein

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Don O’Day’s work as chair of the Coleytown Middle School Reopening Committee ended this month. The new school looks beautiful.

As one of his last acts, he hired a new security guard.

(Meme courtesy of Don O’Day)

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And finally … Jimmie Rodgers, the pop/country singer known for “Honeycomb” and other 1950s hits — died Monday in California. He was 87.

Roundup: Theater, Sports, Bernie, More

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Good theater is hard to find right now.

But a pair of Staples High School graduates are collaborating on an intriguing work, available from the comfort of your home. And it was filmed right in Westport.

Class of 2016 graduate Adam Riegler is directing a virtual play. “Albert Names Edward” by Louis Nowra is a taped theatrical production about 2 men who meet unexpectedly. One has no memory; the other is at the peak of his philosophical musings. Albert teaches Edward about the world he has forgotten, and introduces him to new ways of thinking that Edward does not always accept.

The company of recent graduates of Dartmouth College includes Max Samuels (Staples Class of 2011). They rehearsed on Zoom before getting tested for COVID. They took all precautions as they to met to film the show here.

The budget was low. Riegler built a camera dolly out of medical equipment from his father’s office. But the quality is high.

Riegler is finishing the footage now, with an original score.

“Albert Names Edward” will be available on demand on January 29 and 30, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but should be reserved ahead of time (click here). 

Max Samuels (right) in “Albert Names Edward.”

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Last month, the Hackett family collected new and gently used sports equipment for a group called Leveling the Playing Field.

This was not just a bin-ful. Westporters donated enough cleats, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bats, skates, footballs and softball gloves to fill a truck. It’s all been delivered to youngsters who want to play, but could not afford to.

The Hacketts thank The Granola Bar, WestportMoms (and “06880”) for getting the word out — and to everyone who contributed.

Play ball!

hloe Hackett (organizer) and Max Levitt (founder of Leveling the Playjng Field), Chloe Hackett and Marley, the Hacketts’ rescue dog.

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Patricia Wettach — a 50-year resident of Westport — died peacefully at home on Wednesday. She was 97 years old.

The Pennsylvania native and World War II Navy WAVES veteran met her future husband, Bob, in the service. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, and they married in 1951.

In 1971 GE transferred Bob to New York from Cincinnati. Patricia lived in that house ever since.

Gracious and warm, she built strong, loving friendships everywhere. She welcomed everyone to her home, and fed them well. She enjoyed bridge, book and gourmet clubs, and was a longtime member of the Westport Woman’s Club, St. Luke New Horizon Society, Delta Gamma of Fairfield County Alumnae, and Food and Friends. Patricia also volunteered with Fairfield County Hospice, and was a liturgical minister at St. Luke Church.

She traveled internationally with friends and family, but her favorite destination was the Wettach cottage in Vermilion, Ohio, overlooking Lake Erie. She spent many hours on the front porch reading, talking and enjoying the view.

Patricia is survived by her children Mary Ann Roehm (Edward), Jane (Paul Baldasare Jr.) and Robert III (Gayle); 6 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; sister Mary Werbaneth; stepbrother Colman Studeny, and 6 nephews.

She was predeceased 27 years ago by her husband Bob, whom she missed intensely.

As she approached her 90s Patricia was joined by Inga Durante, an aide whose tender care allowed her to stay at home until she died. Patricia’s family is deeply indebted to Inga for her service.

In lieu of flowers, Patricia asked that donations be made to Visiting Nurse & Hospice of Fairfield County (22 Danbury Road, Wilton, CT 06897). Click here to leave online condolences.

Patricia Wettach

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Cohl Katz is a hair stylist and makeup artist to the stars.

Her clients literally span A (Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin) to Z (Zelda Williams) — with everyone from Jodie Foster, Tracy Morgan, Al Hanks and Bill Clinton thrown in.

But on Wednesday, Cohl — who counts many Westporters among her devoted fans — had one of her most demanding clients ever.

Look familiar?

And after that, Bernie headed off to Compo Beach …

(Posted by Todd Zegras to Facebook)

(Courtesy of Mary Lou Roels)

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And finally … today is January 23. In other words, 1/23. So …

 

Roundup: Inauguration, Staples Sports, Restaurant News, More

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Tuesday night’s COVID remembrance at the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool will be remembered for its somber, stunning 400 lights. Each represents 1,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus.

Staples High School 2009 graduate Andrew Lott — a former Staples Players lighting director — played a major role in the event. He also helped light last night’s Biden/Harris inauguration show, featuring musical performances, fireworks, and tributes to Americans affected by the pandemic.

Lott — a University of Michigan alumnus — has worked with the Spoleto and Williamstown Theatre Festivals, Public Theatre, Shakespeare in the Park and Lincoln Center.

He spent 2 years as lighting director for “CNN Tonight.” He now works nationally on a wide variety of events.

Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and their spouses admire 400 lights, at the Lincoln Center reflecting pool.

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Meanwhile, there were no protests — in Washington, state capitals or Westport — yesterday, as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as America’s new leaders.

But Westporters Rex Fowler and Dodie Pettit — aka Aztec Two-Step — headed to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge to celebrate.

A few people asked why Fowler was wearing a red hat.

“We are All Americans today,” Pettit explained. “We didn’t think about the color when we went out of the house. Maybe that’s the point!”

Rex Fowler, with flag. (Photo/Dodie Pettit)

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Last Sunday, author Layla F. Saad honored Martin Luther King Day with a  compelling discussion based on her book, “Me and White Supremacy.”

Two days later a panel of local leaders explored how to undertake Saad’s self-guided 28-day process of self-reflection.

It was an important talk. If you missed it — or want to see it again — click below.

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Winter sports practices have begun at Staples High School.

The usual date is around Thanksgiving. The pandemic delayed the start nearly 2 months; the first competition will now be in early February.

For the boys basketball team (shown below), along with girls basketball; boys and girls indoor track, ice hockey and skiing, and boys swimming and diving, it was one small step toward normalcy — though masks are required at all times, and spectators are not allowed.

Wrestling and competitive cheer are still prohibited.

(Photo/Dylan Goodman)

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I got a nice surprise this week with my takeout (fantastic lamb dan dan) from Kawa Ni.

The Japanese/pan-Asian restaurant has partnered with 2 others also owned by Bill Taibe — Don Memo and The Whelk — in a game. Every time you order from one, you get a letter (mine was “E”). When you have enough to spell out the name of one of those restaurants, you can post it to social media (with a tag) and win prizes (a family meal for 4, takeout up to $75, or a cocktail to go).

There are instant prizes too: guac and chips, fried oyster deviled eggs and crab rangoon.

It’s great food fun. And a lot better than a toy with a Happy Meal.

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Noted chef Matthew Redington died unexpectedly earlier this month in New York. He was 40 years old.

The Westport native learned his craft at Acqua restaurant on Main Street under Christian Bertrand, formerly of Lutèce. Matt graduated from New England Culinary Institute where at age 19 he was the youngest person offered a spot in the Advanced Placement Program.

Matt and went on to top chef positions at Jean-George Vongerichten’s Spice Market in New York, Clio in Boston and Tengda in Greenwich (a co-creation of his). At Paul Newman’s The Dressing Room next to the Westport Country Playhouse, he helped Michel Nischan create the groundbreaking farm-to-table menu.

Most recently Matt ran a consultancy, creating culinary themes, concepts and menus for new and re-launched restaurants in New York and Connecticut.

Matt also enjoyed yoga, snowboarding, and innovative art and graphics.

He is survived by his father Thomas of Colebrook; sister Jessica Redington-Jones of Taylors, South Carolina; 3 nieces, 7 aunts, 6 uncles and numerous cousins.

A memorial celebration of Matt’s life will be held at a later date. Donations may be made to the New England Culinary Institute Scholarship Fund, 7 School Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. To leave online condolences, click here.

Matthew Redington

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And finally … Happy 71st birthday to Billy Ocean!

 

Hindsight Is 2020; Student Art Is Timely

Hindsight is 2020.

That’s an old saying — made new and (perhaps) clever as we stumble into this new year 2021.

But it’s also the name of the soon-to-open MoCA Westport exhibition — the first to showcase high school student art.

“Enough” (Nate Kolek, Staples High School senior)

Beginning Saturday (January 23), and running through March 13, “Hindsight is 2020” features submissions created during (duh) 2020.

The nearly 200 entries from across Connecticut and New York — including painting, photography, digital art, drawing, sculpture, ceramics and more — offer a diverse portrait of what young people have experienced in these challenging times.

A number of Westport students are represented in the exhibit.

“Ronnie” (Miles Kennedy, Greens Farms Academy sophomore)

MoCA Westport’s Teen Council played an important role in the exhibit. One member — Staples High School student Tessa Moore — serves as a juror.

“We were so impressed by the quality and diversity of work we received from the high school artists,” says MoCA executive director Ruth Mannes.

“We know students have had a challenging year, and that art and creative expression have helped many students with coping and resilience.”

“Summer 2020” (Sabrina Paris, Staples High School sophomore)

Director of exhibits Liz Leggett adds, “It was very meaningful to have teachers so engaged in this process. We heard from several that entering this exhibition was a highlight of the year for many students.” Many teachers physically delivered works to MoCA.

The exhibit includes cash prizes for the top 3 pieces.

“Stalker of the Night” (Shivali Kanthan, Staples High School freshman)

“Hindsight is 2020” is open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays, 12 to 4 p.m. Click here for reservations, or visit on Free Fridays when no reservation is required.

The art can also be viewed on mocawestport.org in a digital gallery.

BONUS MoCA DISPLAY: the world’s largest abstract painting. It was created by the community during a MoCA Westport Family Day event in October. Westport artist Trace Burroughs helped the work set a new Guinness world record.

“Masked” (Ian Chow, Pierrepont Academy freshman)

Marc Selverstone: Presidential Scholar Looks Back, And Ahead

Our country is deeply divided. We’ll remain so for some time.

The Biden administration will move quickly to get things done. It only has a year to do so, before the mid-term elections move into high gear.

We’ll continue to reel from assaults on both truth and an array of institutions vital to the maintenance of a healthy democracy.

Those are not novel concepts. But they — and others, much more in depth and nuanced — have particular resonance, on this inauguration day.

They come from Marc Selverstone. The 1980 Staples High School graduate is an associate professor in presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s famed Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Marc Selverstone

With a doctorate in American history, he also chairs the center’s Presidential Recordings Program; teaches courses on foreign relations, and consults with filmmakers, authors and educators.

Over the last 4 years, Selverstone says, it’s been a challenge to figure out how to avoid using the word “unprecedented.”

Beyond trying to understand policy choices, he’s tried to understand President Trump’s appeal to “a durable segment of the population, and an extraordinary percentage of the Republican Party.”

“His most dramatic departures had less to do with policy than with his approach to norms and conventions, to personnel and institutions and, most consequentially, to truth and fact-based reality,” the scholar says.

Selverstone calls the Biden transition “one of the most professional in memory. That augurs well for a country reeling from intersecting health and economic crises, and against the backdrop of really seismic and fundamental challenges in our politics, in social and race relations, and with respect to the environment.

“Whether or not the Capitol insurrection functions as a modern-day Beer Hall Putsch remains to be seen,” he adds. “1923 is a far cry from 1933, let alone what came after. But reporting seems to indicate that the assault has galvanized groups of well-armed violent extremists who are fanatically loyal to the outgoing president and all he represents.”

Until January 6, the Confederate flag had never been paraded through the US Capitol.

Selverstone’s looks ahead are informed by his study of the past. The Recordings Program transcribes and analyzes White House tapes that 6 consecutive presidents of both parties — from Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 to Richard Nixon in 1973 — made in secret.

Most of the work focuses on the period between 1962 and ’73. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were the most active in taping aides, journalists, cabinet officials, legislators, family members and private individuals.

In 2005, Selverstone was part of a Brown University-led oral history research project, exploring the Kennedy/Johnson transition and its impact on Vietnam policy.

Intrigued, Selverstone began exploring Kennedy’s thoughts on withdrawal planning (“real and extensive”), and his Vietnam policy overall — cut short, of course, by his assassination.

President John F. Kennedy and the primary architect of his Vietnam policy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

That led to a book, due to his publisher March 1: “The Kennedy Withdrawal: Camelot and the American Commitment to Vietnam.”

Selverstone has become impressed with how much the president was souring on the war. He had always been wary of deep involvement, the professor says, though he went to Dallas still committed to fighting it.

The question of withdrawal deadlines — at least, their public announcements – is relevant today. “Calendars factored into the Bush , Obama and Trump policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan,” Selverstone says.

Such deadlines “don’t have a very good track record,” he notes. “They rarely served the political or military objectives they were designed to achieve.”

Meanwhile, Selverstone, the Miller Center and the US prepare for a new administration.

He’ll continue to work on the presidential tapes, then undertake new projects beyond the election of 1964 and Vietnam.

“With the Kennedy book in the rear view mirror,” he says, “I’ll join my colleagues in thinking about what this turbulent era of American public life means for us, as well as what it means in the stream of time.”

Westport Schools’ Full-Time Reopening Set

Elementary and middle school students will return full-time to their buildings on February 1. Staples High School will follow soon after.

That’s the word from Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice. He says:

This school year has been a physical, emotional and psychological test of our collective endurance. We close out the first half of the school year at the end of this month. In the midst of the uncertainty and episodic chaos, I hold a very optimistic perspective for the second half of the school year.

What’s Next
As I shared with the parent community on December 22, I recommended a cautious approach to our school reopening this year.

However, based on 4 months of experience in preventing virus transmission in our buildings, and the similar success of peer districts in our region who have fully reopened, along with the reopening of Coleytown Middle School, I began conversations intended to increase access to on-site schooling for the second half of the school year. These discussions included a full reopening of on-site schooling for all K-8 students, and increased access for on-site schooling at Staples….

We have remained on the course I illustrated for the school community on December 22. There is a great deal of work that has been done, and continues to be done, to safely welcome our students back for additional on-site schooling.  However, we remain on the timeline shared on December 22.

The “Why?”
Those who serve our students, namely our faculty and support staff, are the reason for our success. Our collective support of these professionals is critical to the success we have enjoyed for decades. Yet as a system, our primary mission is to serve and develop our students. In the course of this work, challenges emerge in an ordinary year.  In a pandemic the challenges grow exponentially.

As a community, we are faced with obvious public health obligations to ensure that we are responsibly doing our part as a school system to minimize virus transmission. However, we are also obligated to balance our public health responsibilities with the perhaps less obvious risks that have impacted our children as a result of the reduction of on-site schooling.

The academic, social/emotional, and psychological impact on our students is not captured each evening on the news in cases per 100,000, or in positive test rates.  Yet the impact is real, consequential, and warrants mitigation.

It is time to move to bring these two obligations a bit more into balance.

Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice (Photo courtesy of Zip06.com)

In October, the district partnered with the Tri State Consortium and conducted focus groups with almost 250 teachers, students and parents to identify critical problems for us to solve this year as a result of delivering a pandemic education.

Many of the problems that were identified can be addressed, in part, through greater access to additional on-site schooling.

The lack of connections with peers and adults, the academic struggles, and the ongoing challenge of engaging students can all be tempered with additional on-site schooling. This move will not eliminate these problems, nor will it eliminate the profound social/emotional and psychological issues that have emerged for some children, but it will ease the effects on the children we serve.

The benefits full on-site schooling are so important, particularly after long periods of remote and hybrid instruction this year and last year, that bringing our responsibilities to public health and our students into balance is warranted.

With less pandemic experience in the fall, I was less inclined to increase the levels of on-site schooling, particularly at the elementary level which provided an “everyday” model. A move to a “pandemic classroom” was not warranted given the uncertainty of the coming months in the fall.

That said, given our experience since then, and the experience of our peers in the region, along with the significant benefits of full on-site schooling, in my judgement it is time to begin this transition.

The Transition Process
Elementary Schools
The transition to full time on-site schooling will begin with a full asynchronous remote day for all elementary students on Wednesday January 27 in order to provide teachers the time needed to accommodate their classrooms for full enrollment.

A special 2-day transition schedule (January 28 and 29) will be shared next week by the elementary principals to their school communities which will illustrate how they will gradually welcome back their entire student body, with the first full K-5 day of on-site schooling scheduled for the first day of the second half of the school year, Monday February 1.

From that point forward, elementary students will engage in full school days, with changes made to arrival/dismissal, bus seating assignments, lunch, and recess.  The principals will communicate this information, and more, to their families in the coming days.

Given the need for our elementary faculty to deliver their instruction in a pandemic setting, and all of the professional challenges associated with this, like most districts in our region, Wednesdays will remain an on-site half day for students. Afternoons will be reserved for teachers to work with colleagues as they continue to solve instructional problems unlike any they have experienced in their careers as a result of COVID-19.

Greens Farms and 4 other elementary schools will reopen full-time on February 1.

Lunch will be served in homerooms and efforts will be made to “de-densify” the classrooms where appropriate when serving lunch by accessing other areas of the school building.

A parent survey is forthcoming which will gather information on any changes in distance learning requests from parents and transportation intentions (i.e bus or bring your child to school).

The distance learning option will remain for students and this program will be largely unchanged, providing consistency for this population of students.  More information about the distance learning option will be provided by the elementary principals in communication to their families.

Middle School
The middle schools will also transition to full time on-site schooling on the first day of the third quarter, February 1. The middle schools will transition the first phase during the month of February and the second phase on March 1.  Phase 1 will have all students return in person for full day instruction on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, while maintaining the existing Distance Learning half-day schedule on Wednesdays (February 3, 10 and 24 only).  Phase 2 will commence on March 1 with students attending school in person all 5 days, eliminating the Distance Learning Wednesday….

A parent survey is forthcoming which will gather information on any changes in distance learning requests from parents and transportation intentions (i.e bus or bring your child to school).  Distance learners at the middle school level will continue to have access to live streaming.

Coleytown (above) and Bedford Middle Schools will also reopen full-time on February 1.

High School
Like the elementary and middle school levels, the Staples team has also developed plans for an increase in on-site schooling for students. However, given our tragic loss last week of a senior and the impact on the school of working with students to process the events at the nation’s capital, for good reasons, the Staples plans are a week or so behind schedule.

In full candor, my expectation last week was that the Staples team would fasten their attention to the work of supporting students and staff as a result of a heartbreaking loss to the school community.

That said, it is expected that these plans will be reviewed and considered for implementation in the coming weeks. The perhaps less obvious effects of the pandemic (social/emotional, psychological) have hit our high school population particularly hard and we have an obligation to respond. I am confident that we will.

Staples High School will reopen full-time shortly after the other schools. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The Unintended Consequences
Along with perhaps lessening the negative academic, social/emotional and psychological effects of the pandemic on our students, there will be some unintended consequences.  With more students on site it is very likely that we will see increased numbers of students and staff recommended to quarantine in light of being considered a close contact to a positive case.

Additionally, it is also likely that in some instances, a full, temporary school closure might be warranted in response to a positive case that includes many close contacts. Staffing our schools has been a challenge, and that challenge has the potential to grow during full on-site schooling.

We expect an increase in the number of distance learners, as this has been the case with our regional peers. Districts in the region that have successfully transitioned to full on-site schooling have reported a 5%-10% increase in distance learners at the outset of implementing full on-site schooling.

Finally, our buses will likely see more students on board. Vigilance in mask wearing on our buses, and in all settings will be critical to our continued success.

Final Note
As I shared on December 22, given the performance of public schools across the state, and here in Westport, I am confident that our resilience will continue to maintain high levels of safety for staff and students. It is clear that with continued vigilance in mask wearing, schools can remain resilient while serving more on-site learners safely. Of course, for this school year all parents will be afforded the right to distance learning for their child.

Communication throughout the system will be essential to making appropriate changes as necessary. We will continue to monitor our performance and the effectiveness of our safety measures. In response, we reserve the right to make programmatic adjustments along the way.

You can expect building principals to follow up with families in the coming days as we prepare for this change in learning models.

Roundup: Vaccine, Scavenger Hunt, Art, More

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The COVID vaccine is now available in Connecticut for people 75 or older. They (or someone helping them) can sign up online (click here). After registration, they’ll get an email detailing next steps.

There may be an initial delay in scheduling, but access should grow quickly soon.

More than 100 healthcare providers statewide will offer the vaccine. More locations and a map of them will be available in coming weeks.

The scheduling link also contains a list of frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

People without internet access, or who need help, can call 877-918-2224 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Brendan Murphy’s works are drawing raves at his one-man show at the POP’TArt gallery downtown.

In return, the fast-rising contemporary artist asked curator Jennifer Haviland how he could support Westport. She chose an organization she loves: Wakeman Town Farm.

Murphy chose one of his 8-layer silver-based chrome heart sculptures, and offered it for auction. Measuring 24 x 24 x 8 inches, it’s valued at $18,000.

The heart is on display with Murphy’s show, “96% Stardust” at POP’Tart (1 Main Street).

Auction co-chair Nicole Gerber says, “Wakeman Town Farm has a rich history in Westport, and resides at the heart of our community. The Farm is committed to inspiring local residents through sustainable practices, education opportunities, and community service. In this crucial time in our history, The Farm is actively supporting local organizations focused on alleviating food insecurity in our area. We are honored to support a nonprofit that allows the people it serves to serve others as well.”

Bidding starts at $5,000, by email: BrendanHeartWakeman@gmail.com. For more information on the auction, click here. For more information about Brendan Murphy, click here.

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The Westport Parks and Recreation Department invites you to participate in a socially distanced “scavenger hunt”, hosted by the Goosechase App!

Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt?

Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department is organizing one, for families or teams.

Registrants first download the GooseChase app on their phones, search for the “Westport Winter Goose Chase,” then click here to receive a game password.

Winners get a gift basket of items from Westport businesses. For more information, click here.

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One River — the art and design school — is sponsoring a downtown show. The opening next Sunday (January 24, 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.).

David Waldman and BTS Realty donated their storefronts: 33 Elm Street, Brooks Corner and Sconset Square. Two hundred works — from children to adults — will be on view through February 7.

Also included: One River’s high school portfolio development class, with traditional and digital works.

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It’s official: Most high school winter sports can begin tryouts and practices this Tuesday (January 19). Basketball, ice hockey, swimming, gymnastics and indoor track got the go-ahead yesterday from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Games may begin February 8, except for track which cannot compete until March. The number of games is limited; there will be no state tournaments, though a “post-season experience” can be held (similar to fall sports).

In addition, athletes will be required to wear masks during competitions. Coaches and players will also have to wear masks and be socially distanced on the sidelines. Officials are required to wear masks at all times.

There will be no wrestling or competitive cheer, however. The state Department of Public Health categorized those as “high-risk activities.”

Football — a fall sport — had hoped to play a shortened late winter/early spring season. However, the CIAC canceled that option yesterday.

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And finally … happy 87th birthday to the brilliant mezzo-soprano, Marilyn Horne!

Roundup: Sunrise, Open Space, Super Bowl, More

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It’s not a quiet day in America.

Politicians debate the future of the president — and our democracy. More than 200,000 people will be diagnosed with COVID-19 today. Another 4,000 will die.

But in Westport, we woke up to this scene today.

(Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

There is beauty all around us. We are so fortunate to not look far to find it.

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The property between Clapboard Hill Road and Morningside Drive South is one of the last big pieces of private open space left in Westport.

A new house is under construction there. This week, excavation began in the middle of the field.

No building or subdivision plans have been filed, so this might be work to improve the water table, drain the wetlands or otherwise tend to the fill there.

“06880” will follow up when we find out for sure.

(Photo/Nicholas Eisenberger)

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Before he became CBS News chief homeland security and justice correspondent, a 3-time Emmy Award winner and the author of a book on police and the Black community, Jeff Pegues was an All-FCIAC running back on the Staples High School football team.

So he’s got some skin in the game when he interviews James Brown, host of  CBS’ “The NFL Today” and Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” on January 27 (7 p.m.).

The free virtual program — sponsored by the Westport Library — will preview the Super Bowl, with intriguing insights and analysis. Click here to register.

James Brown and Jeff Pegues.

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And finally … on this date in 1968, Johnny Cash performed his now-famous concert at Folsom Prisom.

Roundup: Winter Sports, Papal Prayer, Youth Survey, More


Staples High School’s winter sports season moved a step closer to a (long-delayed) reality yesterday.

The state Department of Public Health told the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference — the organizing body for high school sports — that low- and moderate-risk sports (basketball, ice And fnahockey, indoor track, swimming and gymnastics) can begin practicing a week from today (January 19).

The CIAC will meet Thursday to approve the plan. The first games could be played February 1, though that date may be pushed back.

Safety protocols include masks at all times, including competition, social distancing on the sidelines, and perhaps no spectators other than parents. There can be no multi-team indoor track meets.

High-risk sports (wrestling and cheer) will be allowed only small-group practices, with no competitions.

Still, for winter athletes and coaches — whose seasons were canceled abruptly last March, when COVID first struck — the fact that abbreviated seasons may begin soon was welcome news.


Janine Scotti writes:

I was almost home yesterday morning, my heart still heavy from the events of the last week, when I saw what appeared to be a bag’s worth of garbage strewn along Riverside Avenue.

I knew that if I had called Public Works, they could not arrive before some of the trash ended up in the Saugatuck River. With no other option, and inspired by the images of Congressman Andy Kim on his hands and knees cleaning the floor of the Capitol, I hurried home to grab gloves and a trash bag.

When I returned, a passerby walking a beautiful golden retriever said the garbage had probably fallen from a vehicle on its way to the dump.

As I loaded the mess into the bag I had brought, I realized it had been collected from the nearby church. Amid the papers were handfuls of small cut-out hearts.  As a collector of hearts of all shapes and sizes, I smile as I continued my work.

As I was getting ready to head home, I found one last item: a 3 x 3 laminated card. On the front was an image of Pope John XXIII. On the back, was this prayer:

I am certain it was no accident that the litter caught my attention yesterday, as a way for me to find this message and share it.

After this tragic week in our democracy, this unexpected find gave me the reassurance I was looking for. I hope that no matter what your political party or faith, it also brings you comfort and hope, today and in the future.


Bullying. Lack of non-car transportation. Lack of affordable activities. Vaping, drinking and drugs. Apathy. Gender issues.

Those are some of the things Westport youngsters deal with.

How important are they to kids, and adults? The Westport Youth Commission wants to know.

They’ve developed a needs survey, broken down into elementary, middle, high school and post-high school/college ages. Anyone can take it; you can identify yourself as a student, parent with kids in schools, adult without students in schools, or a professional working with Westport youth.

The goal is to understand what the community wants, to better cater to those needs. Click here for the survey.


A multiracial, intergenerational cat of more than 60 performers — including Westporters — celebrates Martin Luther King Day every year, at Bridgeport’s Klein Auditorium.

COVID changed those plans. This year’s event next Monday (January 18, 2 p.m.) is virtual

Connect-Us — the non-profit suburban and urban partnership that provides after-school opportunities for Bridgeport youth, which sponsors the celebration, notes:

“Dr. King had a dream that inspired the world to create more harmonious, developmental, and humane communities, cities, and countries.” Each year, the Connect-Us community creates performances and writes letters to Dr. King letting him know what their dreams are — or why they don’t have dreams.

This year’s show is called “Bridgeport Has a Dream: Building Bridges Across Fairfield County.” It will be streamed for free on Facebook and the Connect-Us website. It will also be available on those platforms after the event.


And finally … today is National Kiss a Ginger Day. Unfortunately the world’s most famous ginger — Baker — died in 2019.

Staples Students Pack Trunks. You’ll Be Amazed What’s In Them.

As last year staggered to an end, Staples High School English teacher Ann Neary had an idea.

She asked students in her AP Literature and AP World Literature classes to reflect on what they’d seen, felt and observed since the pandemic struck. The assignment: “Pack a trunk with the positive things you learned and/or came to appreciate in 2020, and want to travel with in 2021.” 

The answers were perceptive, poignant, and beautifully expressed. I asked Ann if it was okay to share them with “06880”; the students agreed.

Here are a few. As you read them, you’ll be inspired. You’ll tear up.

And you’ll know that the future is in great hands.

I started learning things I enjoy on my own time.

The importance of patience.

Lots of introspection.

Crocheting so many shirts.

Learning to live with and find joy in being by myself.

Seeing the beauty and value in the small things around me.

One Staples High School student’s trunk.

In high school we all go with the flow and let life carry us in the direction it does. But without sports and less social activities, quarantine forced me to control what I did on a daily basis, and be more proactive in living the life I want to live.

I grew to love rock climbing even more.

Really having to focus on self-discipline.

I learned to appreciate simplicity in life.

Once I came to terms that there are things out of your control that will affect you, and that all you can do is improve yourself through things you can control, life is a lot happier.

I became a better reader.

I took more opportunities to help my community.

The Staples lacrosse team was one of many student groups that embraced community service.

I became more confident, outgoing and assertive.

Dinners and 1,000 piece puzzle moments with my family that I really valued, and hope to see more of.

How much I value normal school, going daily, packed cafeterias, etc.

I developed deeper and more meaningful relationships with people.

I became more self-sufficient.

Noticing how everyone is working together, and trying their best to make things work.

I understood that my happiness isn’t dependent on other people, and life is what I make of it.

I started meditating.

Strengthened current friendships, and made new ones.

Hanging out with friends — as in this 2017 photo — became more precious and meaningful.

I developed a better and more diverse appreciation for music.

I realized how much I genuinely like being home. I also realized how much goes into keeping our house going, like doing laundry, cooking, grocery shopping and taking care of our dog.

Bought my truck, and furthered my interest in automotive work.

I realized how much fun and work can be had at any time. There’s always so much to do.

Writing poetry is therapeutic.

We can’t just take family for granted, at least for us who are lucky enough to have loving and kind parents and siblings.

How to handle disappointment, and deal with things that are less than ideal.

How to be a productive member of society, and advocate for change that doesn’t affect me personally.

Many Staples students were galvanized by summer protests about systemic racism.

To prioritize my mental health.

I realized how much I took for granted.

Patience, flexibility, motivation, gratitude, time management, getting out of my comfort zone.

How to be content with only my own company in quarantine. How to entertain myself without copious stimuli.

It’s okay to spend time learning about what you love and what you want to do, instead of always being around people and trying to please others.

Nothing went the way we planned this year, but for the most part things worked themselves out. They usually will.

Taking time to appreciate the outdoors and our yard, and little things like feeding the birds.

(Photo/Lexi Gay)

Mental health is a lot more important than always trying to prove myself to be perfect.

I’ve picked up new hobbies like aquarium keeping.

Be kind not only to people around you, but especially the people less fortunate than you.

Reading and watching the news; becoming more aware.

Hikes and walks at the beach.

Seeing what other families have gone through with COVID or other issues makes me feel so grateful that my family is healthy and safe.

Whenever I was stressed I would drive around Fairfield County and listen to music.

Learning to appreciate nature when I walk my dog.

In-person school becoming something I look forward to.

Many Staples students realized how much they missed their high school. (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

Time to pause and make sure I’m doing okay and improve myself, instead of just worrying about improving my grades.

There is such great value in complimenting others — especially in the few moments we get to see people in person.

I seriously read epic poetry of my own volition. It’s a unique way to tell stories.

It’s much more challenging to spend time with friends, so I try to live in the moment and enjoy it when I am able to do that.

Cook new foods.

Lack of school-related stress.

I have a new understanding of and respect for my family.

Never expect what is expected. Situations arise instantly. We are always responsible to face them.

I got perspective on the small but important things we may not think about when we have them freely, and in abundance.

My sister is usually at boarding school. I’m grateful she was in quarantine with me, because she makes everything more fun.

I’m proud of learning to value my feelings more. In the past I have been a bit of a people pleaser. This year I finally allowed myself more joy in doing what I wanted, while obviously making sure others were okay.

I love going on 6-mile walks with my friend at 6 in the morning.

Spending every single moment with my family for 4 months allowed me to create amazing memories.

The bond I created with my football team. Despite playing only a few games, we always stayed hungry and excited to play whenever we could.

2020 allowed me to surround myself with the people I love.