Tag Archives: Cajal Academy

Roundup: Best Music Community, Dog Fest, Cajal Academy …

How good a community for music is Westport?

One of the best.

That’s not “06880” talking. It’s the NAMM Foundation. They just named us one of their “Best Communities for Music Education.”

For the 10th year in a row.

Th honor comes for our public schools’ efforts to provide music access and education to all students. The application process included detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instructional time, facilities, music program support, and community programs.

Westport’s Music Department has benefited from partnerships with organizations like the Westport Library, Levitt Pavilion, PTA Cultural Arts, WestPAC and Westport Arts Advisory Committee.

Staples High School’s Candlelight Concert — involving hundreds of singers, and orchestra and band members — is one culmination of music programs at every school, and every level. (Photo/Danielle Dobin)


The Asian American Pacific Island community — and allies — celebrate AAPI Heritage Month today (Tuesday, May 10), with a cash bar at MoCA Westport (19 Newtown Turnpike, 5 to 7 p.m.).

Mecha-Uma will be there with a food truck too. All are welcome!


The Dog Festival returns to Winslow Park this Sunday (May 15, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) for its 6th run.

The event includes fun competitions (best tail wagger, best dressed, best kisser, best trick, best lap dog over 50 pounds, dog that most looks like its owner), demonstrations, Police K-9 presentations, an obstacle course, kids activities, information booths, food trucks and more.

Also on tap: over 60 pet-related vendors, caricaturists and giveaways.

Parking is available at the Westport Country Playhouse, and other nearby lots. The festival entrance fee is $10 per person, $30 for a family of 4. Proceeds benefit nonprofit organizations.

Dog owners can register for the competitions online or at the festival. To register for the competitions and for more information, click here.

The Dog Fest is sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, in association with TAILS.


Yesterday’s “06880” lead story noted that Cajal Academy — a new school based on the latest neuroscientific research, for gifted students with special education needs — was going before the Planning & Zoning Commission last night.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved the application for 25 Sylvan Road South.

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


Sunday’s pro-choice rally was sponsored by DefenDemocracy.

This Saturday (May 14, 11 am to 1 p.m.), Planned Parenthood plans an event. It too is set for the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen downtown bridge.

Click here for details.

A sign held during Sunday’s pro-choice rally. (Photo/Dan Woog)


Among the winners of the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County’s Daniel E. Offutt III Arts & Culture Empowerment Awards: William Felton, former chair of the Westport Arts Center who led a long effort to find, secure and improve its new home as MoCA Westport, on Newtown Turnpike.

Honored posthumously: Alexandra Korry. The Westporter was a trailblazing lawyer, educator and civil rights advocate, and the guiding spirit behind converting a 1935 Norwalk church into a space to enhance educational opportunities for underserved students, promote underrepresented local artists, and provide a welcoming space to enjoy art and music. The Norwalk Art Space opened last June, just a few months after she died.

An awards breakfast is set for the Shore & Country Club in Norwalk on June 15, (7:30 a.m.). Click here for tickets. 

Norwalk students flock to the Art Space.


Do “Cocktails & Clams” go together?

Sure! That’s the name of Earthplace and Harbor Watch’s fundraiser, set for Copps Island Oysters in Norwalk on June 11 (5 to 7 p.m.). There’s an unlimited raw bar, hors d’oeuvres from Harbor Harvest, and wine and beer from Black Bear — plus a silent auction, live music, and very cool views.

Click here for tickets.


Mother Nature surprises us in many ways. This little flower blooms unexpectedly, but beautifully. Spring has sprung, here in “Westport … Naturally.”

(Photo/JD Dworkow)


And finally … Spinal Tap was a fake band. But Ric Parnell was a real drummer.

He was perfect for the perfectly played satirical 1984 film, “This is Spinal Tap.” He had the looks, the chops, and he was in on the joke.

Including the fact that, somehow, Spinal Tap’s drummers kept dying in bizarre ways. He himself (as Mick Shrimpton) spontaneously combusted on stage. When the fake band went out on tour in the 1990s — life imitating art — Parnell was introduced as Mick’s twin brother Rick.

Ric Parnell died this month in Missouli, Montana, of organ failure. He was 70.

But Spinal Tap lives on. Play the video below loud — all the way to 11! (Click here for a full obituary.)

Cajal Academy Comes To Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning by doing …

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

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

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

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

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

… and moving.