Tag Archives: Mark Mathias

Stop & Chop — And Plop

This  morning’s “06880” referenced an earlier post, with a photo about the sudden removal of trees from the Stop & Shop parking lot.

As if on cue, Mark Mathias spotted this scene earlier today, in the same spot:

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

(Photo/Mark Mathias)

As promised, diseased and/or overgrown trees have been replaced by hardy new ones.

Enjoy the view — and the shade!

Board Of Ed Eyes Innovation Fund

Westport’s schools are among the best in the country.

One Board of Education member thinks he has a way to make them better.

Last week, Mark Mathias presented his colleagues with a new idea: an Innovation Fund. The aim is to give everyone — from the superintendent, Board of Ed, administrators and teachers to the town’s 5,500 students and residents — a chance to offer ideas for education. And then act on them.

Mathias’ Innovation Fund would cost $1 million per year. Funds would go to a project manager; a committee to evaluate applications, oversee projects and assess results, and of course to the projects themselves.

The Innovation Fund could also match grants from outside sources — Kickstarter, GoFundMe, DonorsChoose, or a foundation, company or individual.

The Fund, Mathias says, could offer increased opportunities for student outcomes and teacher development; help attract and  retain superior staff, and make Westport even more attractive for families.

The community would also see the potential of teachers and students unleashed to invent, design, build, engineer and create. Meanwhile, businesses could join with schools to leverage resources.

The Westport Maker Faire taps into creativty and energy, for people of all ages. Mark Mathias would like to see a similar push for innovation in our schools.

The Westport Maker Faire taps into creativity and energy, for people of all ages. Mark Mathias would like to see a similar push for innovation in our schools.

For example, Mathias sees teachers experimenting with different techniques of engaging students; the results could then be compared. Students could request equipment for a maker space, building materials for a community project, or equipment for a new sport. Administrators could come up with an idea to better manage maintenance, equipment or energy, while teachers and students might collaborate running an actual company.

“I have no idea what people will actually come up with,” Mathias says. “But I am constantly amazed at the level of energy and creativity of everyone in Westport — including our children.

“The point is, we need to tap into the enthusiasm and ideas of our entire community, yielding learning experiences far beyond the classroom that prepare students for life beyond Westport, while attracting and retaining the best staff and teachers and continuing to make Westport this preferred place to live.”

He acknowledges that funding the Innovation Fund may prove challenging. The Board of Ed will discuss and vote on the item at its next meeting (Monday, February 1, 7:30 p.m., Staples High School cafeteria).

 

Fancy Meeting You Here!

The tagline of “06880” is “Where Westport meets the world.”

One part of that world: South By Southwest.

David Pogue and Mark Mathias at SXSW

Westport Board of Education member/Maker Faire founder/tech enthusiast Mark Mathias and Westport resident/tech writer/video star/guru David Pogue met each other by chance earlier today, at the annual kick-ass tech/interactive conference in Austin.

No word on whether they discussed the next big thing in technology, or how SoNo Baking Company will compare to Java.

Nicole’s Harpcam

It’s not often a high school drama troupe tackles “Sweeney Todd.”

It’s even rarer for a high school orchestra to include a harp.

But the curtain goes up tonight at Staples on “Sweeney Todd.” And there in the Players’ pit is junior Nicole Mathias, playing that beautiful — but exceedingly difficult — instrument.

Nicole’s father Mark attached a webcam to her harp, for last night’s dress rehearsal. Click below to hear “Not While I’m Around” — and see a view of a show no one ever gets.

Plus Nicole’s great, proud smile at the end.

(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)

…And Stay Out!

Westport is famous for forming committees to address every issue.

But getting together to figure out how to be not nice — I’m sorry. That’s going a bit too far.

Hat tip to Mark Mathias, who spotted this sign the other day at Town Hall.

Hat tip to Mark Mathias, who spotted this sign the other day at Town Hall.

Cleanup Time!

It takes a government ban to produce a scene like this:

I-95 after snow - Nico Eisenberger

That’s a shot of I-95 without a car in sight. Nico Eisenberger went cross-country skiing at Sherwood Island, and enjoyed this view from the Beachside Avenue bridge.

A bit further east, Chip Stephens saw 25 or so trucks parked near the Athena Diner. From Texas.

Their drivers don’t have much to, other than laugh at us panic-stricken Easterners.

Tree crews -- Chip Stephens

Meanwhile, Mark Mathias cleared his driveway. We all know the Board of Ed member/Mini Maker Faire co-founder is an energetic guy, but this video will blow you away.

Just like the snow.

PS: Seems like every gas station on the Post Road is open. Every liquor store, too.

 

Mark Mathias: “Why We Live In Westport”

Mark Mathias is many things: An information technology specialist. Mini Maker Faire founder and c0-chair. Board of Ed member.

And excellent photographer.

Longshore, between the pool and the pavilion.

Longshore, between the pool and the pavilion.

Mark was so taken by Sunday’s perfect weather that he roamed around town, taking tons of very cool photos.

With the panoramic feature of his mobile phone.

Longshore's E.R. Strait Marina.

Longshore’s E.R. Strait Marina.

These are spectacular shots. Unfortunately, the “06880” format does not do them justice.

Fortunately, if you have an enlarge feature — hovering or double-clicking on your computer; swiping out on your phone; whatever — you can see Mark’s photos in all their glory.

The small Riverside Avenue park, across from Saugatuck Elementary School.

The small Riverside Avenue park, across from Saugatuck Elementary School.

You can also click on his Flickr.

A Compo Beach lifeguard.

A Compo Beach lifeguard.

Mark calls this series “Why We Live in Westport.” He might subtitle it: “A Realtor’s Gold Mine.”

It doesn't get more Westport than this.

It doesn’t get more Westport than this.

 

 

 

Fulfilling Families

In 2003, Mark and Kim Mathias celebrated their 1st year in Westport. They loved the town, but missed the racial diversity of Los Angeles.

ABC logoFriends Ivan and Sharon Fong listened with interest. Both were on the board of A Better Chance of Westport. They described ABC’s mission — “giving motivated, outstanding minority youth the opportunity to achieve their dreams through education” — and suggested the Mathiases be a host family.

It was a great idea. A decade later, the family remains passionately involved.

(Host families provide a home away from the North Avenue residence every Sunday, and 1 weekend a month. ABC scholars participate in regular family activities —  meals, movies, even chores.)

“We were very impressed by the courage these 13- and 14-year-old young men showed, leaving the comfort of their families to strive for a better education and opportunity in Westport,” Kim says.

“I was particularly intrigued by the culture shock I was sure these youth would feel, and how they handled it. ABC offers impressive support, but not everyone can handle the academic rigor, the congregate living, the rules, the fish bowl, the standing out in a high pressure community.”

The current ABC scholars (from left): Adrian, Christopher, Ruben, Rhyse, Khaliq, Luis and Thomas.

The current ABC scholars (from left): Adrian, Christopher, Ruben, Rhyse, Khaliq, Luis and Thomas.

Savion Agard was 13 he when arrived as a freshman in Westport. The Mathiases’ daughter Nicole was 6.

“We knew there would be adjustments, but Savion was to be treated as a member of the family — not a guest we entertained,” Kim recalls.

“In our family we say grace before meals. At the end of the prayer we give each other a light kiss. I was concerned about how Savion would feel.”

Nicole defused any discomfort when she blew him a kiss across the table. The ice was broken.

Savion proved a great fit for the family.

“He was easy-going — probably too easy-going when it came to his studies in the first year or so,” Kim reports.

Eventually, he found his way academically and socially.  An older ABC scholar introduced Savion to rugby, which gave him a great group of friends and plenty of confidence.

When Savion Agard graduated from Cornell, the Mathias family was there. From left: Kim, Nick, Savion, Nicole and Mark.

When Savion Agard graduated from Cornell University in 2011, the Mathias family was there. From left: Kim, Nick, Savion, Nicole and Mark.

“We watched Savion mature from a somewhat overwhelmed freshman trying to figure out how to manage his studies and all the ABC expectations placed on him, to a sophomore more comfortable with his ‘I’m not from here’ persona, to a junior who was comfortable at Staples, to a senior who had made friends and found a place for himself in the Class of 2007,” Kim says.

When a 2nd-grade friend saw a family photo and asked who Savion was, Nicole said, “That’s my big brother Savion.” The little girl wondered why he was a different color.

Instantly, Nicole replied, “You don’t have to be the same color to be a family.”

Kim was thrilled. “Neither Mark nor I had ever said those words to Nicole. She just knew it, because that was what we were living.”

A year after Savion became Nicole’s big brother, she became a big sister to her foster (now adopted) brother Nick. He and Savion developed a special relationship. It deepened after graduation.

When Savion returned to Westport to visit or work, he lived with Mathiases. The kids treated him as a rock star, racing to tackle him as he walked through the door. He calls every birthday and Christmas. Email and Facebook enable constant communication.

Some of the ABC alumni gathered for a reunion. Many visit Westport whenever they can.

ABC alumni gather for a reunion. Many visit Westport whenever they can.

After Savion went on Cornell — he’s now an IT headhunter in California — the Mathiases tried to adjust to not having a high school student in the house. (Helping him move to college, and visiting him regularly, proved to be great practice for when the Mathiases own kids are that age, Mark noted.)

In 2010, ABC asked if the Mathiases would again be a host family. They asked Savion what he thought. “Being part of your family was the highlight of my experience with ABC,” he said. The Mathiases were thrilled.

Their closeness with Savion made them concerned about replicating the experience — until they met Khaliq.

“We realized he would be a wonderful addition to our family too,” Kim says. “What a testament to ABC that they find such fine young men.”

Khaliq joins Nick, Kim, Nicole and Mark Mathias for an Easter family portrait.

Khaliq joins Nick, Kim, Nicole and Mark Mathias for an Easter family portrait.

Like Savion, Khaliq is strongly motivated.

“I attended one of the best middle schools in Georgia. I could probably go to one of the best high schools in Georgia too,” he told friends of the Mathiases.

“But when you realize that Georgia’s education system ranks 47th in the nation you think ‘big deal, my best-ranked school is  still in a school system that’s 47th in the US.  That’s when I thought maybe I should look elsewhere for my education.”

Kim says, “That’s impressive thinking at any age. It’s really impressive when you consider Khaliq was 13 years old.”

Khaliq’s academic transition to Westport was smooth. As a freshman he  dropped his free period, to add  Algebra 2.

By sophomore year Khaliq knew everyone, and everyone knew him. He was in a variety of clubs, played volleyball and  had an active social life.

This year, as a junior, Khaliq is a leader in student government and other school and extracurricular activities, while juggling what many would finding a crushing load of AP classes. Through it all, Kim says, “Khaliq maintains his balance, his cool, and his warm smile.”

When Savion Agard returned for last year's A Better Chance of Westport Dream Event, he visited the Mathiases -- and Khaliq.

When Savion Agard returned for last year’s A Better Chance of Westport Dream Event, he visited the Mathiases — and Khaliq.

The Mathiases’ journey with Khaliq continues to unfold. Nicole and Nick both call him their brother – sometimes still confounding classmates.

But there’s no confusion among the Mathiases, or anyone at ABC House. They know there are many ways to be a family.

(And many ways to be a host family — including substitutes, when the regular host family is away. ABC House is always on the lookout for more volunteers. For information, email radydian@optonline.net or nyates@post.harvard.edu.)

Mark Mathias: Part Of The 1%

Westport Board of Education member/Mini Maker Faire co-founder/all-around good guy Mark Mathias does not consider himself part of the 1%.

But LinkedIn does.

Mark Mathias

The site just welcomed its 200 millionth member. So, Mark notes, he shares his distinction with 2 million others.

“I have no idea why I would be in this 1% designation,” he says.

But he does know one thing: “I’m going to shovel 100% of the snow at my house this weekend.”

Mark Mathias Goes To Washington

A host of Westporters were in Washington yesterday for the presidential inauguration.

Electoral College voter Jim Ezzes was there. So was Wake Forest University student Sanders McNair, and technology writer David Pogue and his kids.

Board of Education member Mark Mathias was there with his family, too. Here’s his report:

Late last week, it occurred to us that Monday was not only Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but President Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Most importantly, it was a day off from work and school for the whole family. Time for a road trip!

We heard about buses that go to Washington for the day, so were secured seats on one of them for our family. You ride down very early the day of the inauguration, see it, then return home the same day.  Sweet.

The Mathias family (far right) with young Westporters, at the exit 18 park-and-ride before boarding the midnight bus to Washington.

The Mathias family (far right) with young Westporters, at the exit 18 park-and-ride before boarding the midnight bus to Washington.

The driving itself was uneventful, but the day in Washington was magic.

There were crowds everywhere, and everyone was in a good mood. Forgetting about politics for a minute, we were there to see yet another manifestation of how our country hands control from one term to another. Peacefully and safely. For hundreds of years.

While the subways were running, we walked everywhere.  On the day of the inauguration there are no taxis, and very few private vehicles on any streets. All of downtown DC is a pedestrian area.

Nick and Nicole Mathias, with inauguration tickets.  The Washington Monument is in the background.

Nick and Nicole Mathias, with inauguration tickets. The Washington Monument is in the background.

We got tickets courtesy of a Connecticut legislator, but the area in which we stood was so oversubscribed and crowded that being further away might have been better.

What was so wonderful was seeing so many people who were there to see the leader who had been peacefully elected to run our country. Clearly the bulk of attendees were Democrats, but there were members of all political parties who were there for the event, as well as to support our leaders.

As we talked and mingled with others, there was a definite happiness and warmth in the air. People had come from all over the country for this event. The weather held out as forecasts of cold weather, rain and even snow did not materialize. Instead we had quite cool weather, but sunny skies and good crowds kept us warm.

Even before we went, our son said he wanted to buy an Obama bobblehead.  Among all of the souvenir items, we found one for him.

The Mathias family at the inauguration. The US Capitol is behind them.

The Mathias family at the inauguration. The US Capitol is behind them.

What came to mind at the end of the day were two things.

First, the day was like a MasterCard commercial:

  • Cost of a bus ticket to the inauguration:  $150
  • Food and souvenirs:  $100
  • Hearing my son whisper/sing “America the Beautiful” along with James Taylor:  Priceless

Second, while the attendees were saying history was made on Monday, the history made for me was with my family and children who were able to experience the inauguration of the President of the United States.  Not only will they remember the event, but hopefully it will remind them of the strength and value of what this country is, and what they are a part of.