Tag Archives: Will Haskell

Roundup: Henry Wynne, Pops Concert, Teacher Of The Year …

=====================================================

Ever since he was a Staples High School track star, Henry Wynne has been called an “Olympic hopeful.”

Now that the Olympics are near — they’re supposed to begin next month in Tokyo — how hopeful is the Class of 2013 grad?

Very. And that’s despite a litany of issues that dogged him as a University of Virginia star, and beyond. Since 2016 Wynne has suffered a knee injury, pneumonia, and surgery on his small intestine.

But Brooks Running signed him to a pro contract. And now — with the Olympic trials underway now through June 27 in Eugene, Oregon — Wynne is giving it his best shot.

Yesterday, Runner’s World magazine profiles one of Westport’s top athletes ever. Click here for the full story.

Henry Wynne (Photo/Will Hoffman for Runner’s World)

=======================================================

Did you miss the Staples High School Pops Concert earlier this month? (No, you didn’t overlook it. Tickets were limited, due to COVID.)

Here’s a highlight reel, courtesy of Jim Honeycutt. Strike up the band!

=======================================================

Speaking of education: Sure, the Westport Public Schools select a Teacher of the Year. But there’s something special about earning that honor from a different source: the Staples High School football team.

This spring, the Wreckers — used to be cheered for — turned the tables. They gave shout-outs to their favorite educators in a homemade video. At the end, they announced the winner.

Who is this year’s football team Staples Teacher of the Year? Click below to see:

=======================================================

Another Staples tidbit: The Westport Garden Club has earned raves for their #FridayFlowers arrangements. Each week, there’s a different one somewhere in town.

This week’s was unveiled a day earlier. On Thursday evening, Class of 2021 graduates and their families saw this as they drove into Staples from North Avenue:

=======================================================

Two more sings that Westport is getting “back to business.”

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce held its first in-person gathering in 20 months yesterday, at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center. Over 60 people gathered in the garden, in beautiful weather. They shook hands, ate food catered by Calise’s Deli, and — as they did for years before the pandemic — exchanged business cards.

Sal Gilbertie spoke about the 100 years since his grandfather began as a flower grower, then turned to herbs. Today Gilbertie’s is a major micro green seller, in addition to their nursery’s plants and trees.

Sal Gilbertie addresses the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

But the Chamber wasn’t the only major Westport organization holding its first live-and-in-person meeting yesterday.

Sunrise Rotary also gathered together, for the first time in over a year. Attendance was solid. Handshakes and hugs were heartfelt.

And for those unable or not yet ready to attend, the event was livestreamed.

======================================================

Enrollment is open for MoCA Westport’s summer courses, for toddlers through adults. Among the choices:

  • Summer Sunset Painting Series (High school and adult)
  • The World of Digital Art Animation (High school and adult)
  • The Art of Cinematography (High xchool and adult)
  • Intro To Digital Photography (High school and adult)
  • Skateboard Design (Middle school through adult)
  • Summer Saturday Art Workshops for Kids (PreK to grade 3)
  • Learn How To Code (Middle school through Adult)
  • Robotics (Middle school through adult)
  • Expressive Art for Toddler

For more details and to register, click here.

=======================================================

Westport Country Playhouse has 4 new trustees. Three are from Westport: Jessica Caldwell, Will Haskell and Margie Jacobson.

Haskell — a state senator whose district includes Westport — has a long theatrical history. As a member of Staples High School’s Class of 2014, he was elected of Players, the drama troupe.  One of his first memories of live theater was seeing “Curious George” as a child, at the Playhouse’s old barn.

Caldwell graduated from Columbia University’s MFA film program. She produced independent feature films, while her feature film productions have premiered at Berlinale, SXSW and Tribeca. Her short film work has premiered at Sundance, Telluride, and Tribeca. Caldwell was also the writers’ room assistant and showrunners’ assistant on “Billions.” She is also a Moth storytelling contest GrandSlampion.

Jacobson is a nonprofit leader and attorney with legal experience spanning a variety of diverse settings. She is currently of counsel to a boutique law firm advocating for students’ rights from birth through post-secondary education, and co-founder of Woman’s Compass Forum. Jacobson previously served on the Playhouse board, from 2010 to 2016. She also serves on the boards of the ADL and the Remarkable Theater.

The WCP board of trustees is chaired by Westporter Ania Czekaj-Farber.

The Westport Library has 2 new trustees too.

Anna Alemani is CFO of Pierrepont School. Previously she had a 15-year career in finance. She holds an MBA from Columbia Business School and a BA in Business Administration from Bocconi University in Milan, where she focused her studies on management of museums and cultural institutions.

Dave Briggs spent his career in television, as a sports and news reporter/anchor. He has moved from South Dakota and Oklahoma to Boston, where he covered Red Sox World Series championships, Patriots Super Bowl titles and a Celtics NBA crown. He also hosted “Fox & Friends Weekend,” and (for NBC) NHL, NASCAR, NFL and Olympic tennis, before anchoring “Early Start” on CNN. He currently interviews important Connecticut residents for Moffly Media content.

=======================================================

We see a lot of old things at the transfer station.

Yesterday morning, it was a Model A Ford. Fortunately, it was running fine. The driver was there just to drop off some newer trash.

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

======================================================

The VFW is not just for men!

The other day, Y’s Women’s Trivia group met for their monthly luncheon. The VFW’s great chef, Joe Gallo, fed them well.

Other Y’s Women groups include Tuesday morning Compo Beach walkers, and one that meets in the evening to watch spectacular sunsets.

To learn more about the Y’s Women, email dynamicr@icloud.com.

Joe Gallo hosts the Y’s Women.

=====================================================

July 4 is the publication date for not one but two Carl Addison Swanson books. The Westporter’s latest works are written “Venezuela Vengeance” and “Brotherly Hate.”

He’s CEO of Bermuda’s CAS Publications, which publishes 14 other writers, and  is a contributing editor at HBO. Click here for details.

======================================================

Seen this morning at Compo Beach: either the remnant of a Friday celebration for Staples High School’s graduation, or “saving a spot” for today:

(Photo/Michael Calise)

======================================================

Lauri Weiser calls this “Westport … Naturally” photo “Lurking in the Grasses”:

(Photo/Lauri Weiser)

=======================================================

And finally … Juneteenth has been celebrated — in one form or another — for 155 years.

Today, for the first time, we honor it as a national holiday.

Amen.

This week, immediately after the bill was signed in the House of Representatives and sent to President Biden, the Congressional Black Caucus sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

It’s been called the “Black National Anthem.” But it’s a fitting anthem today for every American, of every color and background.

 

 

 

 

Pride And Joy In Westport

Over the years, Jesup Green has hosted anti-war and pro-war demonstrations. It’s seen rallies against nuclear arms, antisemitism and AAPI violence, and in support of Black Lives Matter.

Yesterday, Westport’s first LGBTQ Pride celebration took over the historic town lawn. For several years in the early 2000s, smaller events were held at the Unitarian Church.

This one drew 500 people. Spanning all ages, many faiths, and ranging from gay, lesbian, bi, trans and questioning to plenty of straight allies, they enjoyed the most beautiful day of the year so far. (Weather-wise, and in spirit.)

Kicking off a joyful day. (Photo/Kerry Long)

The crowd saw a rainbow flag fly over the green. They heard great music and inspiring speeches from out, proud teenagers. Politicians and clergy praised the progress made, and promised to keep working for social justice and civil rights. Kids had their faces painted.

Westport Pride organizer Brian McGunagle and his 2-year-old son Henry listen as 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — wearing a rainbow tie — reads a town proclamation. (Photo/Kerry Long)

It was a powerful, memorable community event. For some in the crowd, it could have been life-changing.

Another celebrant. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

It made all who were there immensely proud of their town. (Click here for the News12 report.)

Proud clergy (from left): Rev. Heather Sinclair, United Methodist; Rev. Alison Patton, Saugatuck Congregational; Rev. Dr. John Morehouse, Unitarian; Rev. John Betit, Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal;  Rev. Marcella Gillis, Christ & Holy Trinity. Jewish clergy who were officiating at Saturday services sent their best wishes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Showing the flag (Photo/Kerry Long)

State Senators Tony Hwang and Will Haskell. Haskell drew laughs when he said that his 3 gay brothers were disappointed the day he brought home a girl. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Staples Players were out in force — with their own prideful t-shirts. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Suzanne Sheridan helped organize Westport’s first Pride festival in 2002. She was part of the great entertainers, along with Stacie Lewis, Julie Loyd and many young singers. (Photo/Kerry Long)

(Photo/Kerry Long)

Former Staples High School principal John Dodig is flanked by his husband Rodger Leonard (left) and Staples Gay-Sexuality Alliance co-advisor Chris Fray. Kayla Iannetta, a biology teacher, is the other advisor, and helped organize the event. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Cornell University football player AJ Konstanty and his brother Colin, a Staples junior, posed, then performed “Your Song” on keyboards and vocals. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Marjorie Almansi, who helped organized the day, stands with her next-door neighbors. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Staples singers entertain the large crowd. (Photo/Kerry Long)

US Congressman Jim Himes discusses past struggles, current successes, and future goals. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Pride was a family event. (Photo/Lauri Weiser)

Weston High School junior Zac Mathias: fashion model — and role model. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Everyone — and everything — gets into the act. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Wave that flag! (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

Roundup: Farmers’ Market, 40 Under 40, Much Much More

================================================

Westporters know our Farmers’ Market is the best.

Now it’s official.

American Farmland Trust has recognized WFM as #1 in Connecticut. It’s also #10 in the Northeast — and #26 in the nation.

It’s been a tough year for an organization that prides itself of close interactions between farmers and shoppers. But, notes executive director Lori Cochran-Dougall, “For the first time in our history, we operated 12 months in a row to tackle to challenges presented by the pandemic. We set up a strict, COVID-safe, pre-ordering system that served as a model for others.

“It wasn’t easy, but we felt a duty to our farmers, knew that farmers’ markets would be more critical than ever, and we met the challenge.”

======================================================

Connecticut Magazine’s has just named their annual “40 Under 40” (40 people under 40 years old, doing great things). Three — a full 7.5% of the list — are Westporters.

Congratulations to State Senator Will Haskell (age 24; Staples High School Class of 2014), fashion designer Christian Siriano (35), and sports financier Jordan Kessler (30, Staples ’09).

Click here for writeups on our 3 (and of course the 37 others). (Hat tip: Michael Catarevas)

State Senator Will Haskell

======================================================

The other day, Westport comic/Star 99.9 host Courtney Davis joined 4 top New York City comedians, in a virtual fundraiser. The group raised nearly $2,500 for empowerHER, the non-profit that supports and connects girls and young women who have lost their mothers.

Courtney Davis

=====================================================

The Westport Country Playhouse is still closed. Until it reopens, all we’ve had are memories of our favorite shows.

Starting tomorrow though, there’s more.

The theater launches “From Concept to Curtain,” a virtual documentary series of 30-minute films. They offer free, behind-the-scenes looks at the creative process of putting together a Playhouse production.

The first episode is “In the Heights: Beyond el Barrio” (Thursday, February 4, 12 noon, at the Playhouse’s website and YouTube channel.

Host Marcos Santana — director and choreographer of the Playhouse’s 2019 production of “In the Heights” — performed on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning show.

The set, costume and lighting designers, and the music director, discuss their inspirations, challenges, what they would have done differently, and favorite moments from the show.

More videos will be announced soon.

“In the Heights,” at the Westport Country Playhouse.

======================================================

High school students interested in learning more about the art portfolio submission process for college are invited to a workshop this Sunday (February 7, 12 to 3 p.m.) at MoCA Westport.

The session includes lectures, slide presentations, Q-and-A and individual portfolio reviews (up to 5 samples). The cost is $75. Click here to register. For more information, email liz@mocawestport.org.

=====================================================

The Y’s Women and 597 Westport Avenue Apartments (just over the Norwalk line) have teamed up to contribute food to Mercy Learning Center.

Jane Ferreira — president and CEO of the Center, the wonderful literacy and life skills training center for women in Bridgeport — returns the favor, as Y’s Women’s virtual guest speaker this Monday (February 8, 11:30 a.m.). She’ll talk about MLC’s educational and support services — and how they change the lives of not only their clients and families, but also volunteers and supporters.

Anyone can log on to www.YsWomen.org to view past speakers. And any woman in Fairfield County can join for just $45 a year. Email president Barb Stephen (dynamicr@icloud.com) to learn more.

======================================================

The Unitarian Church has 2 important — and timely — programs this weekend.

On Saturday (February 6, 10 a.m.), they’re sponsoring a virtual program on how to recognize domestic violence in today’s pandemic world,  and what to do about it. The program is open to the public, via Zoom meeting ID 875 7140 7113 (passcode 739121). Questions? Contact events@uuwestport.org or click here.

Meanwhile, the women of the church are launching a series of programs about the history of Black lives in America, and its effects on our country today. “Revealing History: How We Got Here, Why It Matters” begins Sunday (February 7, 10:40 a.m.) with a multi-media event called “Racial Injustice: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.”

The program includes a speaker from the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson; a musical work with voiceover from Desmond Tutu, and other notable artists and artwork. Click here for the Zoom link (the program begins after the regular Sunday service).

Questions? Email events@uuwestport.org.

======================================================

And finally … today in 1959, “the music died.” That’s Don McLean’s “American Pie” reference to the Iowa plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

Roundup: Goodwill, Chadwick Boseman, Native Plant Sale, More


Like most state senators running for re-election, Will Haskell has a corps of helpful volunteers.

They knock on doors. They make calls.

On Friday though, they turned from campaigning to community service.

Over 40 people — of all ages — headed to Westport’s Goodwill. The organization often gets more book donations than they can use. Haskell’s crew plowed through 16 bins, finding over 8,000 appropriate for elementary school children in Bridgeport.

I’ll resist the urge to make a pun like “Good, Will!” (Hat tip: Jeff Wieser)

Sorting through books at Goodwill.


The death of Chadwick Boseman on Friday at age 43 saddened his many fans. It also brought renewed attention to his starring role as Thurgood Marshall — America’s first Black Supreme Court justice.

The 2017 movie “Marshall” was written by Westporter Michael Koskoff — a noted civil rights attorney — and his son Jacob, a Staples High School graduate who is now a screenwriter.

The film takes place in 1941, when a young Marshall defended a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial. Marshall was partnered with Sam Friedman, a young Jewish lawyer in Bridgeport who had never tried a case. Click here for the amazing back story. (Hat tip: Mary Gai)

Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of “Marshall” with Mike Koskoff’s wife Roz and grandson Eli. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Hicks)


Aspetuck Land Trust is staying true to its roots. The non-profit announces its first-ever fall native plant sale. All are grown at Planter’s Choice in Newtown.

The goal is to encourage biodiversity, as all offerings — from perennials to trees — attract pollinators and wildlife.

All come with plans, kits and instructions for all locations, levels of sun and soil conditions. Four landscape partners are also available to help (click here for details).

They can be picked up at Earthplace, or delivered to your home. 50% of each purchase is tax-deductible.

Online orders are open while supplies last, or until September 17. The spring sale sold out quickly. Click here for all offerings.


Westport artist Michael Chait offers an outdoor exhibit today, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard outside 11 Riverside Avenue.

He’ll show his “fun and kooky experimental videos” on vintage television sets. He pays homage to television’s beginning, and explores where it may be going.

He calls it “Video Paradisio,” and it plays on a continuous 10-minute loop. The public is invited.


And finally … it’s Sunday morning!

 

 

Chamber Of Commerce: Support Local Stores — And Order Takeout!

In normal times, the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce supports local businesses in a variety of ways: networking opportunities, marketing help, community-building events.

These are not normal times.

As COVID-19 attacks the country, some of the first casualties are small businesses.

When the first line of defense is social distancing — with isolation close on its heels — the last things on people’s minds are shopping for anything beyond necessities, or dining out.

When “wash your hands!” is the new mantra, no one is in the mood to handle merchandise in a store, or be served a meal in close proximity to others.

But small businesses need customers to survive. Even a small drop in patronage can spell the difference between paying the rent, paying employees, and going under.

Savvy + Grace on Main Street, one of many locally owned stores throughout town. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The Chamber is marshaling its resources to help.

They encourage Westporters to continue to shop locally. In addition, they recommend buying gift cards, to use later.  You can do this not just for stores, but nail salons, yoga studios — you name it.

“This small act, if done by many, will help infuse capital to help them hold over until next month,” the Chamber says.

For residents hesitant about eating out, Chamber executive director Matthew Mandell suggests takeout orders. Most restaurants offer that option; some deliver. And there’s always Uber Eats.

Oh, yeah: Mandell reminds everyone that the Great Westport Soup Contest continues all month. There are some things the coronavirus just can’t conquer.

State Senator Will Haskell (left) and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell pick up takeout at Arezzo. Of course, the meal includes soup.

The Chamber also says: “If you have ideas on how to help our businesses, let us know. It takes a community to support a community.”

It’s easy. Click here for their website contact form. Email info@westportwestonchamber.com. Or call 203-227-9234.

PS: It’s not only small stores that are affected by COVID-19. Patagonia announced yesterday that it is closing all 37 stores — and its online operations — indefinitely.

PPS: The US Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury from the coronavirus. It must be requested by governors. It is unclear how far along in the process Connecticut’s request is. For more information, click here or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Zero Waste Roundtable Set For Wakeman Town Farm

Reducing the amount of daily waste is a priority for many Westporters. But although we want to do the right thing, we don’t always know how.

Wakeman Town Farm does.

This Monday (January 13, 7 to 8:15 p.m.), the Cross Highway sustainability center hosts an environmental awareness event. The multi-generational roundtable will offer information on how Westport schools combat waste, how we can incorporate initiatives into our own homes, and what we can do to help government effect greater changes.

State Senator Will Haskell will moderate the discussion. Participants include Stacy Jagerson Fowle and Ashley Moran, elementary school teachers who have helped lead the district’s push toward composting and zero waste; Bedford Middle School 7th grader Samantha Henske, a student leader in the fight for climate justice, and RTM member Andrew Colabella, who helped implement Westport’s plastics ban.

Monday’s event is free, but registration is required. Click here to register.

Greens Farms Elementary School offers 3 choices for waste. To find out what your family can do, head to Wakeman Town Farm on Monday night.

Will Haskell: 1 Of “30 Under 30”

It’s been quite a run for Will Haskell.

In May of 2018, he graduated from Georgetown University.

Six months later he was elected to the Connecticut State Senate.

Now — just a year later — he’s landed on Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” list.

Will Haskell

That’s the annual celebration of rising leaders, in 20 areas ranging from arts, food and sports to “big money” and immigration.

Haskell — just 5 1/2 years out of Staples High School — was selected in the “Law & Policy” category.

Judges included Carrie Goldberg, Jon Huntsman, Laurence Tribe and Michael Tubbs.

Forbes received over 15,000 nominations for the 9th annual list.

It’s a great honor for Haskell.

And he’s only 23 years old. He’s got 6 more chances to repeat.

 

Honoring Rachel Doran

In August 2018, Rachel Doran — a rising senior at Cornell University, former National Merit Commended Scholar, talented Staples Players costume designer, and founder of “Rachel’s Rags,” a company that makes intricate cotton and fleece pajama tops and bottoms — died.

She was diagnosed a month earlier with Stevens Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis, a rare reaction to common medications. She then developed Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome — another rare syndrome.

Rachel was mourned by many. Her presence continues to be felt by those who knew and loved her.

Among them is State Senator Will Haskell — a classmate of Rachel’s at Staples High School. Recently, he petitioned the state to name a road after her.

A sign recently went up on the Sherwood Island Connector. Now her name will be known by many.

(Hat tip: Elaine Daignault)

[UPDATE] The Next Big Thing In Education: Regionalization?

NOTE: The story below has been edited to reflect that Senator Looney’s bill refers to municipalities with fewer than 40,000 residents — not “40,000 students.”

Westport’s education leaders are experienced at multi-tasking.

That’s good. They’ll need those skills in the coming months.

Besides figuring out next steps for Coleytown Middle School, and grappling with next year’s budget, there’s a new issue coming down the pike: a bill in the Connecticut State Senate to regionalize school systems.

The proposal — SB 454, introduced by Senate President pro tempore Martin Looney, a Democrat representing New Haven, North Haven and Hamden — would combine state school districts with fewer than 40,000 students residents into regional ones.

Looney says the bill would “create a more efficient educational system.” In addition to schools, regionalization would include boards of education and central office staffs.

A different bill — filed by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, a Democrat from Norwalk — would require only those districts with fewer than 2,000 students to regionalize. Governor Ned Lamont supports that proposal.

Westport has approximately 5,692 students. Weston has around 2,399. Neither would be affected by Duff’s legislation.

“I have a ton of respect for Senator Looney,” says State Senator Will Haskell. “I understand where he’s coming from. There’s unbelievable inequality in Connecticut education.”

The 1st-term legislator adds, “I was so lucky to go to Staples High School. I had the highest quality teachers, smartboards in every classroom, the amazing Staples Players program after school.

“Fifteen minutes away, they don’t have all that. Students fall behind. Equal opportunity is important.”

Staples High School — well funded by Westport taxpayers, and supported by a strong school district — offers opportunities that many other schools and districts do not.

But, he says, Looney’s bill is “the wrong approach to that problem.” If that legislation passes, Haskell foresees “mammoth districts, increased bureaucracy, and students traveling far from home for school.”

The state senator prefers to focus on ideas like reforming the cost-sharing formula for state aid, “to make sure students with the highest needs are getting state dollars.

“We need to find greater efficiencies to save tax dollars and improve the quality of education. But we have to do it with the participation and consent of the towns.”

Looney’s proposal has sparked quite a debate. Haskell has heard from hundreds of constituents. He will bring the concerns — of parents, teachers and students — to the Democratic caucus.

“We’re a big tent party,” Haskell says. “I work well with Senator Looney. But we disagree on this. There are other ways to reform education that don’t involve creating massive school districts.”

Westport Votes Blue; 2 Democrats Win

Westport backed all 4 Democratic candidates in yesterday’s state Senate and House races. That helped deliver 2 of those districts to the Democratic Party.

Will Haskell

In a race that drew statewide — even national — attention, 22-year-old Staples High School graduate Will Haskell thrashed longtime incumbent Toni Boucher, for the State Senate 26th district seat.

Haskell’s 64-36% winning margin — against a politician who was in office as long as he’d been alive — was helped by a strong base of active volunteers. The recent Georgetown University graduate galvanized many young voters, and women.

Staples grad Jonathan Steinberg returns to Hartford, representing House district 136. He beat back a challenge from Republican Greg Kraut, a newcomer to politics and a 2-year Westporter. The unofficial margin was 61-39%.

In races that involved small portions of Westport, Republican incumbents Tony Hwang (State Senate district 28) and Gail Lavielle (State House district 143) retained their seats. However, both lost Westport to their Democratic challengers, Michelle Lapine McCabe and Stephanie Thomas, respectively.