Tag Archives: Dattco

Unsung Hero #255

Alert — and grateful — “06880” reader Randi Nazem writes:

At a time of so many late school bus pick-ups and drop-offs, and shortages and rotations of bus drivers (every day a different one on some buses), I want to shine a light on the driver of bus #39 at Coleytown Elementary School.

Mohammad is the most amazing driver we have had in the 5 years I’ve lived here. He was our driver last year and we thought he was stellar then. But this year, in just 3 short weeks, he has blown us all away with his timeliness, his compassion for the children and their safety, and the smile he brings to the bus stop every morning and afternoon.

Mohammad waves goodbye …

Bus 39 hit the driver jackpot, and we couldn’t be happier! He never leaves the stop without checking if all the regulars are on the bus. He drops off and won’t leave the youngest children alone if there is not a parent waiting.

He waits for us if we are running late, and most of all he has full control of a packed bus of children who are always seated and well behaved.

… and poses with some of his bus 39 children. 

Let’s give a shout out to the driver of Bus #39: a hard worker who comes who shows up every day for our children!

Your Blue Ribbon Drive/Bayberry Lane/Cross Highway crew recognizes you, and all the great things you have done to get our children to CES on time and safely.

You can’t put a price on that!

Congratulations and thank you, Mohammad. You are our Unsung Hero of the week. To nominate an Unsung Hero, email 06880blog@gmail.com.

(“06880” is entirely reader-supported. To contribute, please click here.)

More smiling faces. (All photos/Randi Nazem)

 

Roundup: Wynston Browne, Water Conservation, 9/11 Memorial …

Wynston Brown continues to inspire us all.

The non-speaking autistic teenager was once thought to be intellectually disabled. In July, “06880” described his astonishing progress, since he began using a special communication board a year ago.

Earlier this month he met customers at The Porch @ Christie’s. He showed them his spelling device, and answered questions.

Wynston Browne with his spelling board.

Wynston was there again Monday — the day before beginning his sophomore year at Staples High School. Owner Andrea Pecoriello hosted him.

His mother Lynda Kommel-Browne says: “Wynston had a nice conversation with 4 families, who were not familiar with non-speakers and spelling boards. Wynston beamed with pride and energy to show folks his communication skills. It was a great eye-opening experience for all.

Wynston Browne and his communication partner, Elisa Feinman, show his spelling board to customers at The Porch. His brother Harrison is standing (right).

“Wynston’s 16-year-old brother Harrison beamed with pride too, seeing customers take an interest in Wyn, and seeing Wyn respond to questions with high level answers.

“For example, he said, ‘In biology we are studying macro molecules …  carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Carbohydrates is your body’s main energy source.'”

He talked about “The Kite Runner” too — and asked some of his new friends questions like what they like to eat at The Porch.

Wynston’s world is opening up — and he is opening up ours. “06880” will continue to report on his progress, and on opportunities for Westporters to meet him.

Wynston Browne, with younger customers.

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Following up on yesterday’s water conservation measures, a reader writes:

“We use the ‘speed load’ setting. Our washing machine runs for 25 minutes, instead of an hour and 10 minutes on the regular setting. Our clothes get just as clean — we have never had an issue with that.”

Any other water-saving ideas? Click “Comments” below.

Select “quick wash,” which you probably never noticed before.

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Connecticut’s official 9/11 memorial is at Sherwood Island State Park for 2 reasons.

On that horrific day 21 years ago, people gathered on the shore saw smoke rise from the Twin Towers 50 miles away.

And the area was ready to be used as a staging area for rescue helicopters. Sadly, none were needed.

Two decades later, the simple memorial attracts a steady stream of visitors. It includes the names of state residents who died in the terrorist attacks.

Each year, there is a remembrance ceremony at the Sherwood Island Living Memorial. This year’s is set for Thursday, September 8 (5:30 p.m.). Family members of those killed will participate, and the names of the 161 victims with ties to Connecticut will be read aloud.

The ceremony will be livestreamed at ct-n.com. An on-demand video will be made available there shortly after its conclusion.

The 9/11 Living Memorial at Sherwood Island State Park. (Photos/Ellen Bowen)

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Tomorrow’s “Jazz at the Post” stars Rob Henke & the Cook County Stompers.

Greg Murphy, Tim Ferguson, Sipho Kunene and Greg Wall — the “Jazz Rabbi” — play 2 sets at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399 (7 and 8:30 p.m.; dinner at 6:30; $10 cover).

The Thursday night series has earned an avid following. The jazz is great; the acoustics are superb; the food is excellent, and the view is superb.

What’s not to like?

Reservations are strongly suggested: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Cook County Stompers

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If you haven’t been to an Artists Collective of Westport pop-up show: Pop in to the next one.

Held, as always, in the Westport Country Playhouse barn, it features works by homeless veterans. The art was created in classes run by the Collective, at Bridgeport’s Homes for the Brave shelter.

There’s a reception next Wednesday (September 7, 6 to 8 p.m.), and an artists’ talk Saturday, September 10 (4 p.m.). The works are on display to the public September 8 to 10, from 2 to 6 p.m. each day.

The Artists’ Collective does great work, very quietly. They don’t toot their own horns. So I’ll toot it for them.

See you at the show!

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I hate to keep throwing barbs at Hook’d.

But really, the Compo Beach concession is just mailing it in.

Earlier this summer, after sharp comments on “06880,” they finally began posting their hours on the door.

That’s gone now.

With the doors locked yesterday, this was the scene:

(Photo/Yvonne Senturia)

That’s still better than a few days ago. The doors were locked then. The sandwich board sign was out.

But the arrow was pointing the wrong way.

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School started yesterday. And — right on cue — there was this familiar sight at the Imperial Avenue parking lot:

(Photo/Amy Schneider)

Readers sometimes wonder what they’re doing there.

The answer makes sense: It’s a spot for drivers to gather between runs, without having to navigate the cramped, busy entrance and exit at the Dattco lot across from Playhouse Square.

Once in the morning there, and again in the afternoon, is plenty.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is X-rated.

Michael and Valerie Szeto write: “With Cole Porter’s permission. one might say, ‘Birds do it, bees do it, even Westport horseshoe crabs do it … let’s do it, let’s fall in love!'”

(Photo/Valerie Szeto)

This shot of mating horseshoe crabs was taken in the shallow water off Owenoke Park. Michael spotted it; Valerie snapped it.

The couple then left, giving this other couple some privacy.

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And finally … it wasn’t hard to figure out today’s song, was it?

(Birds and bees don’t do it, but we hope you will: Support “06880.” Please click here to contribute.)

[UPDATE] Scarice Adds Details On “Suspicious Person”

Following up on the Westport Police Department’s information about this morning’s “sheter in place” order at Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice says:

Earlier this morning a student who missed their bus walked to the Dattco bus yard and requested a ride to Bedford Middle School. Personnel at the bus yard mobilized to provide transportation for this student.

Some time thereafter, personnel at the Dattco bus yard contacted the school district’s transportation coordinator to inform the coordinator about their plan to transport the student, but unfortunately provided incomplete and inaccurate information regarding the student’s identity and school.  Our transportation coordinator immediately contacted the BMS and central office administration.

The administration then swiftly contacted our Westport Police Department School Security Officer (SSO) and School Resource Officer (SRO), and the Staples administration.  After investigating to determine the identity and location of the student through video surveillance, our SRO discovered that the student was dropped off at Bedford Middle School, but then left the bus and walked towards Staples High School.

As a precaution, our SSO and SRO then sought additional resources from the Westport Police Department.  Both schools were placed in a shelter-in-place.

Through collaboration with the school and district administration, the student was then correctly identified, interviewed, and it was determined that the shelter-in-place could be lifted.

The administration is committed to identifying the breakdown of the Dattco bus yard communication and protocols in this incident.

Again, I have complete confidence that at no time were our students and staff in danger. Additionally, it is clear that the positive and collaborative relationship we enjoy with the Westport Police Department, and the swift actions of our Bedford and Staples administration, along with our transportation coordinator and central office administration, all contributed to the timely resolution of this matter.

Scarice Update: Bus Delays, Equity Study

In his latest communication, superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice address 2 major issues. The first is buses.

Transportation has been a major challenge this year. Busing delays and late arrivals have impacted the student school day and led to confusion and anxiety among parents and students.

Across the state and nation, a crippling bus driver shortage has impacted school district transportation services leading to closures and cancellations in some towns. Our transportation provider, Dattco, had been able to staff our buses by reallocating office personnel with the appropriate licensure to serve as drivers.  However, the impact of the shortage has now hit Westport. To compound the challenges, there has been a marked increase in the volume of traffic on town roads.

Due to the shortage of drivers and increased traffic, routes are being consolidated while other routing options are being explored. The primary goal is to get all students to and from school on time. While consolidating routes could lead to delays, this temporary practice is necessary at this point in time.

Pretty soon, each kid will get his or her own personal bus.

Our newest drivers are becoming more familiar with our routes, which will enable routes to be completed more quickly. Schools will continue to communicate with parents at first notification that buses will be impacted by consolidation or a driver shortage.

Efforts are being made by Dattco to secure more drivers with incentives such as signing bonuses and expedited training for licensure.

Historically, all buses were expected to clear the school yard within 30 minutes of dismissal. Some schools were much quicker than this, and others took the full 30 or so minutes to clear. That standard, applied to our current start times, would estimate that our elementary schools should clear their buses for dismissal by 4:15 p.m. (Saugatuck 3:45). The district is working to ensure that fully staffed buses depart by 4:15.

Combined runs could likely depart later than 4:15. When that is the case, principals will work with our transportation coordinator to provide as much advance notice as possible, with a specific time of departure from the school so parents can plan accordingly.  This resolution will be temporary until additional drivers can be secured.

Given this critical driver shortage, please have a morning and afternoon contingency plan, as you would with an inclement weather delayed opening/early closure, in the event of a significant delay due to the lack of a driver or the consolidation of a route. Building principals will communicate this information to you as soon as they are made aware.

This is not a permanent solution to this problem, but rather a way to provide transportation in a crisis. We will continue to work with Dattco to develop strategies to secure more drivers.

Scarice also addressed the Westport Public Schools’ equity study.

Over the past few weeks there have been questions raised about the equity study the district began last year, the timeline of how the study will unfold, whether a public report will be shared, how this works fits into the overall district strategic plan, and the selection of NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.

In fairness, the district takes pride in high quality communication, yet the communication on this work could have been better and I am ultimately responsible for that. In addition to the comments I shared last week in the link above, I’d like to address these questions with some further context.

The district’s commitment to a culturally responsive education, with a focus on equity, inclusion and diversity, began a number of years ago and was captured in a statement in the 2017 district strategic plan.

Statewide, it’s important to note that on February 3, the state Department of Education formally adopted a position statement on culturally responsive education, followed by a joint statement this summer in collaboration with the CT Association of Boards of Education, CT Association of Public School Superintendents, CT Association of Schools, CT Educator Association and American Federation of Teachers .

Given the district and town’s commitment over the years, and the fact that this focus is currently a part of the educational landscape across the state and nation as illustrated above, the question is how to pursue this work.

In Westport, the initiation of an equity study last year began with a focus on ensuring equitable access to all programs and services for all students, establishing a strong sense of belonging in our schools for all students, and delivering a curriculum and instructional program that prepares all students for thoughtful citizenship and a very diverse global economy.

The district is still in the study phase as no new curriculum units or Board of Education (BOE) policies have been adopted as a result of the equity study.

Local district data has been reviewed as a part of the study. It is common for organizations to analyze their data for discrepancies and disproportionality. For example, local police departments analyze their traffic stop data for disproportionality. For schools, academic and behavioral data can be used for analytical purposes.

In our equity study, local academic and behavioral data has been reviewed, focus groups have been held with students and parents, and this information has been interpreted by a committee of educators and community members with an interest in the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. The district established a tab on our website last year with information for the community and it will be updated to include access to the data reviewed. Following that data and information informed subsequent steps in the process.

At this point in the process, the formal committee meetings have concluded and three areas of focus for action planning have been identified:  teaching/learning, professional development, and data systems. Further work in the equity study action plans will continue, but ultimately this work must fold into the overall district strategic plan, which will be available for public review and formally presented to the BOE for a vote. It is anticipated that the initial goals and objectives of the district strategic plan will be presented in December.

Prior to the BOE adoption of a strategic plan in December a final report of the equity study will be presented publicly to the BOE as an information item for public discussion.  It is expected that this will occur in November.

Last December, a formal Request for Qualifications was issued for the purposes of consultation on conducting an equity study. A number of applicants were reviewed by a committee of local educators. The deciding factors in selecting NYU Metropolitan Center by the committee were experience in consulting and research, the focus on a collaborative approach in co-creating action plans, the capacity to customize the study for our district, and the committee approach that precluded imposition by an outside group. The final action plans will be the work of WPS educators and community members, not handed to the district by an outside agency. Finally, the checks and balances of public education ensure that any formal action plans that will be folded in the district strategic plan will be voted on by the BOE in public session.

Pic Of The Day #1253

Sign of the times (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Roundup: Kneads Opens, School Begins, More

If you thought Saugatuck “kneads” something to replace Garelick & Herbs: You’re in luck.

“Kneads” — a bakery, cafe and mill — opened Saturday, across from Saugatuck Sweets. Chef Daniel Moreno offers breakfast, soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, tea — and of course breads (sourdough, baguette, fig cranberry walnut, brioche …).

He focuses on local products. There’s bacon and ham from Fleischer’s next door. Moreno has partnered too with chef Bill Taibe of The Whelk across the street, as well as the Westport Farmer’ market and Wakeman Town Farm.

If your mouth is watering though, you’ll have to wait. Kneads is closed Monday and Tuesday. It’s open Wednesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Click here for more info, from Stephanie Webster’s great CTbites.


Here’s something you haven’t seen in nearly 6 months.

But tomorrow — for the first time since mid-March — school buses will prowl the streets of Westport. It will almost feel good to get stuck behind one again.

The other day, this driver practiced turning from Thomas Road onto Imperial Avenue.

(Photo/Christie Stanger)


Trevor Freeland was a member of the first all-Black team to reach the top ranks of American youth swimming (chronicled in the 2007 movie “Pride”). As the first Black swimmer to compete in the ACC, he helped the University of Virginia win the 1st of 16 league titles.

One of the few Black executives to run a major Wall Street trading desk, he has committed his life to challenging and breaking down barriers. He attributes his success to the work ethic and life skills he learned in the pool.

This Saturday (September 12, 9:30 a.m., Camp Mahackeno outdoor amphitheater), he’ll talk about “Excellence is a Habit: How Do You Shatter Racial Barriers, Win Championships, and Build a Life of Success?”

A limited number of spots are open to Y members who are not non-Water Rat swimmers, and their families. To register, or for questions, email ejohnston@westporty.org,

Trevor Freeland


Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 8, 7:30 p.m.), the Democratic Women of Westport are sponsoring a virtual discussion with Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. He’ll discuss immigration issues.

To register and receive a link, email dww06880@gmail.com

State Attorney General William Tong.


Dick Festa — longtime owner of the Party Barn store, first on Main Street and then in Playhouse Square — died last week in Florida. He was 87.

Dick spent many years on the Westport YMCA’s board of directors. He was also an avid squash and badminton player there.

He is survived by 4 children, 4 grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and his sister.

There will be no calling hours, due to COVID-19. A memorial service will take place at a future date. For Dick’s full obituary, click here.


Alert “06880” reader Tommy Magro tells us that this year, Good Humor celebrates its 100th anniversary.

He spotted this classic scene yesterday, on Soundview Drive. He’s to 100 more years of Toasted Almonds (or whatever your favorite happens to be).

(Photo/Tommy Magro)


And finally … “06880,” Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie wish you a Happy Labor Day!

[UPDATE] Bus Strike Appears Off

Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer just sent this message to Westport families:

  • At midnight tonight the current contract extension of Dattco with its drivers expires, and the drivers have the option of striking without penalty tomorrow.
  • With urging from the District and Dattco, the federal mediator working with this labor issue reached out to the drivers’ union to ask the union leadership to encourage its members to come to work tomorrow.  We have been informed that this did occur and that the union leadership is not promoting a strike.
  • Negotiations are set to continue next Monday, May 1.
  • We will not know the status of the drivers who plan to work tomorrow until shortly after 6 a.m. when they begin to report for work.
  • All schools will be open, no matter how many drivers come to work.  Schools have sent out specific information to their respective families today and will be ready to receive students upon arrival starting 15 minutes earlier than usual.
  • CHANGE OF PLAN FOR BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS – the District will operate all before and after school programs tomorrow as normally scheduled.

Thank you to all of our families for your creativity and resourcefulness in making contingency plans for tomorrow.  I will remain optimistic that the message from the federal mediator has a positive impact on continuity of service, but we have all of our plans in place in the event that we do not have a significant percentage of the driver workforce show up for work tomorrow.

Since there are no negotiations now set for this evening, my next communication to you will be approximately 6:30 a.m. tomorrow morning to update you on the status of our transportation plan for the day.

Colleen Palmer
Superintendent of Schools

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Meanwhile, Post Road drivers were surprised to see more than the usual number of buses turning into Dattco’s parking lot opposite Playhouse Square this afternoon.

Stay tuned.

(Photo/Joyce Joiner)

Schools Superintendent: Bus Strike Possible Thursday

Westport Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer sent this message to all students and parents a few minutes ago:

I wish to advise you of the potential for a strike by the school bus drivers employed by our bus service company, Dattco.  If, in fact, collective bargaining between the bus company and the driver’s Union fails to reach resolution by midnight Wednesday, April 26, THERE WILL NOT BE REGULAR BUS SERVICE to transport your children to and from school beginning Thursday morning, April 27.  The only exception will be those special education students currently accessing specialized transportation, for whom the district will continue to provide transportation during the strike.

Should the strike take place, school will still be open on Thursday.  I ask you to arrange transportation to get your children to and from school, if at all possible. I urge you to consider forming car pools during this critical period.  While it may be tempting to have your students exit your car in proximity of the school campus, please continue to ensure the safe drop-off of your children by waiting in line to pull up to access the official drop-off area.  I also ask that any students who do not normally walk to or from school refrain from doing so during this time period.

In the event that you have no means to provide transportation for your student(s) during this period, the District will have very limited resources with a handful of drivers to pick up students individually. These ad hoc runs may not be able to get students to school on time, and may, in some instances run an hour or two after start time.  Individuals seeking support for transportation should contact their respective school administration as soon as possible on Wednesday.

The Westport Police Department has arranged to provide additional traffic officers to direct traffic at high volume locations to ease the strain of traffic on our local roads and at each of our school sites.

I urge you to make every effort to have your children arrive at school approximately 30 minutes prior to their normal school start times so that all of your children’s school activities may take place in accordance with their regular school schedules. To accommodate the increased automobile traffic that is anticipated with parent drop-offs you may use both the parent drop-off area and the bus loop at each school in the morning during this period.

Staff members will be in each of our schools to accommodate and handle the arrival of students who may arrive earlier than their usual arrival times.  Also, if our community does need to deal with a bus driver strike, we understand that some students may be upset if they arrive late to school with traffic delays, etc.  Please assure your student(s) that they will not be penalized in any way for arriving late during this time period.

If a strike does take place, all before and after school activities at the elementary schools will be canceled.

Specifics as to the arrangements surrounding drop-offs and pick-ups and other pertinent information will be emailed to you by your building principals on Wednesday, April 26.

Should we learn before 12:01 a.m. on Thursday that a strike has been averted, we will notify all families via email and will place a message on our SNO-LINE, (203) 341-1766.

Should there not be a settlement by 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, April 27, we will notify you through a telephone message, email, and text that you will need to make alternative arrangements to get your students to school and to pick them up at the end of the day, as described above.

Again, I urge you to do your best to form car pools in the event this potential strike actually occurs.  Individual principals will follow-up tomorrow with more specific plans regarding arrival and dismissal at each school.

In the event the strike occurs and extends more than one day, we will assess the viability of continuing to have our schools open based on the feedback from operations of Thursday, and the number of students for whom the lack of transportation resulted in them not attending school.  No matter what, the safety of your students is first and foremost.  If you cannot find a safe way to arrange for your student to attend school, please contact the school administration.  In those circumstances, your student’s absence from school will not count against him/her.

Our students will follow our lead in how we handle this possible challenge.  If we communicate that we have to be flexible and adaptable in our problem-solving, and our students know that they will be not held accountable for any disruption to their day caused by this situation, perhaps they will learn from this how to strategize for success instead of stress over obstacles.

(Photo/Robert Jacobs)

No School Bus Strike. Damn!

So the union representing Westport bus drivers has ratified a new contract. There won’t be a strike. Dattco buses will roll right along.

All week long, Westporters worried. A strike would have forced hundreds of students into their parents’ cars (joining the hundreds who are already driven every day).

The result, folks feared, would be even worse gridlock than usual on roads like Long Lots, North Avenue and Cross Highway.

But I thought a strike would actually help traffic.

Even all those additional cars would not make up for the status quo: Buses stop every 7 inches, picking up or dropping off young Alexander and Ashleigh at their very own, specially personalized bus stops, located at the foot of every driveway and lane in town.

C’mon, Dattco drivers: Are you guys sure you want to sign that contract?