Saturday, April 30, 2011

Public Tells Common Council to Restore $2.4 million to Board of Education Budget

Last night's Common Council Public Hearing on the Budget was a standing-room-only affair, with members of the public overwhelmingly telling Council members to "see the whole child" and to restore the $2.4 million in budget cuts proposed by Mayor Giuliano's budget.

Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and even non-Middletown residents who work in Middletown spoke for almost three hours. Some spoke specifically on behalf of individual programs, such as middle-school sports or the Youth Program, while others championed the results from this past year's CMTs scores as evidence the district has momentum in the right direction: "To cut programs and staff now, after all our hard work and the progress we've made, that would just destroy our ability to move forward," one teacher commented.

One of the MHS biology teachers spoke about how the past two years of "zero budget increases" for the school district have affected his ability to buy books for his program: "We used to buy new books every five years, but now I've had to mooch funds from other places just to cover the consolidation we did from three levels of classes to two levels. I had two different books, one published in 1999 and the other in 2001: one wasn't available anymore at all and so I was stuck with how to pay for the right book for everyone. In my AP course, I have to choose between de-certifying the course because I don't have the right book or spending funds I don't have to get new books....what am I supposed to choose?"

A small portion of the people who spoke expressed distrust or disapproval of the way the Board of Education or the Superintendent are seen to handle the budget process. Some did specifically accuse the Superintendent of fraud or wasteful spending, but others encouraged the city to look for energy savings by turning off lights or using rainwater collection as a means to trim the budget.

At the end of the meeting, Councilman Thomas Serra, the Majority Leader, announced that the Majority would caucus on the budget on May 5, 6, and 9, and then he would call the Minority Leader, Phil Pessina, on May 10 to share the budget proposal. The anticipated budget adoption date is May 12. Serra listed the following as his priorities:
  • No increase in taxes
  • Proper city services provided
  • Looking for money to move around from one place to another in the budget
  • Trimming any excess out of the budget
  • Potentially approaching the State of CT for more revenue
Serra went on to say, "You have to understand that we give a bulk sum of money to the Board of Education, and then they are responsible for what happens to it." Minority Leader Phil Pessina said the Minority would also caucus and look for ways to move money around in the budget: "I'm putting out the challenge to the Superintendent and I'm asking for an audit to find opportunities to save in a responsible manner."

Author's Note:

I spoke at the public hearing and urged the Common Council to think about the school budget process as something more than just saving individual teaching jobs. Consider this example: pretend we had to cut the Police budget, but we saved all the police jobs. There wasn't enough money to buy cruisers or full utility belts, but we could afford red wagons and squirt guns. How safe would you feel? How well could the police do their job to protect the citizens of Middletown?

In the same way, at some point, just saving teaching jobs without providing the underlying program structure becomes an exercise in complete frustration for everyone involved. It might be great that we have smaller class sizes, but if there's no glue sticks, workbooks or adequate textbooks, we still have a serious problem.

The other issue to consider is that we are spending considerable time and money to help high school kids "catch-up" to being in high school. If our resources were concentrated at the elementary level, and if we made sure kids had the basics (like being able to read at grade level) they needed to succeed in junior high and high school, we wouldn't have to work so hard to meet CMT standards at higher levels.

Finally, we can not seriously expect to maintain a zero-increase education budget if we also expect teachers to be able to get raises, and if we know that health care costs increase, and if we demand small class sizes. The ONLY way to achieve this is to cut some teaching positions so that others can get raises (but class sizes go up), or cut programs and materials (quality of the student experience decreases). We just can't have it both ways at the same time under the present formula for funding education. Perhaps one day we could think of another way to construct the system, but that doesn't help us right at this moment with the decisions we face.

The complete BOE budget presentation is available here. If you have questions about where the money is spent, browse through the budget book and see for yourself. In summary, the proposed $71,952,813 budget breaks down like this:

  • Salaries: 58.34% ($41,974,170)
  • Employee Benefits: 16.98% ($12,214,193)
  • Purchased Services: 12.12% ($8,719,200)
  • Supplies: 5.68% (4,089,479)
  • Property: 1.75% (1,259,177)
  • Dues and Fees: 0.08% ($59,518)
  • Capital: 0.27% ($195,000)
  • Tuition: 4.75% ($3,442,076)

Music Festival

The 2nd Annual Buttonwood Tree
Music Festival @ Halfinger Farm

We'll have bands, kids' entertainment, raffles, food, fun and lots of beautiful flowers!! 12-6pm in Higganum

On May 14th, Jen and John Halfinger are partnering with The Buttonwood Tree to hold the 2nd Annual Music Festival at Halfinger Farms in Higganum. This year we will make a special Presentation to the Middletown Commission on the Arts for 20 years of supporting the arts through North End Arts Rising at The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center.

This fun event will take place from noon to 6 pm at the Farm and will feature:

Special Presentation to the Middletown Commission on the Arts at 3 pm

  • For the Children: Kids concert by Dave Fry, , face painting, animals and play areas

  • B Flat Tin Hat playing live blues and jazz –

  • Gail & Steve Wade playing contemporary folk –

  • The Electric Trains band fills the hillside with fun songs of trains and transportation –

  • Washboard Slim and the Bluelights -

  • Raffles for gifts from DVDs to weekend passes for Falcon Ridge Folk Festival

  • Delicious Food from area restaurants: Iguanas Ranas, Typhoon, Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe, Kettle Corn and Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream

  • Three state-of-the-art greenhouses filled with luscious flowering plants

  • A look inside the operations of a flower farm including tours and equipment demonstrations

  • Artists displays of glassware, jewelry, handmade violins, moss-covered mirrors and more

  • Free CDs, books and other door prizes!

For more info,


Musician's Websites:

www.theelectrictrains. com/

Indy on Foss Hill

You may know that when Spielberg wanted to film university scenes in Connecticut for the last Indiana Jones film, he came to Wesleyan first.  They turned him down and he ended up in New Haven at Yale.

So, it was a tad ironic that the Wesleyan Student Association and the Film Board decided to show Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc as the first-ever outdoor film showing on Foss Hill Friday night.  The film was shown on a 2000 square foot inflatable screen, also used at the TriBeCa Film Festival and drew hundreds of students (and a few neighbors) who cheered Indy's adventures lustily.  The evening grew cool quickly with a few spritzing sprinkles, and the students huddled under blankets to enjoy the outdoor flick.

The show opened with a few selected shorts, some archival video footage of a Grateful Dead appearance on Foss Hill in the sixties, and a preview of this year's Senior Thesis Films, the showings of which are coming up next weekend.

Wesleyan 2011 Film Thesis Trailer from Andrew Gladstone on Vimeo.

North End Pride Day Saturday

North End PRIDE Day Saturday from 9 am -12 pm

Come out with your family, friends and neighbors to do some North End Spring cleaning. NEAT will provide garbage bags, plastic gloves, drinking water and some tools. Please bring rakes and brooms if you have them. We will be meeting in the Erin St. garden at 9 am. We hope to clean up the three parks in the North End, do spring cleaning in the garden, clean up Portland Street and do some general spring cleaning all over the neighborhood. Feel free to meet at the garden and be assigned to a crew, or just start a project on your street.

We have plenty of projects planned, but we need your help.

For more information you can contact Bobbye at

Middletown Celebrates Middleton-Royal Wedding

From the Wadsworth Mansion

(Deborah Moore and Shelly Wehrly)

Friday morning over thirty people gathered at the Wadsworth Mansion to watch the  Royal Wedding ceremony between Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton.  Ten of the guests were Wadsworth Mansion brides anxiously awaiting their own wedding day.  The doors opened at 5:30 a.m. and enthusiastic guests arrived wearing festive hats and fascinators. Those that weren’t adorned were given bejeweled [albeit plastic] tiaras. The Wedding ceremony was live-streamed on to flat screen televisions and guests sat at tables decorated with blue linens and red, white, and blue flowers. Everyone was most anxious to see Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, one of the details kept secret until she appeared outside the Goring Hotel.  Guests stood to the national anthem of Great Britain and as the newlyweds rode to Buckingham Palace in a horse drawn carriage Executive Director Deborah Moore raised her champagne mimosa to toast not the royal newlyweds, but the Wadsworth Mansion brides.  She wished them a fairytale wedding and hoped they would live happily ever after.   Breakfast was served s and each person had their own ‘wedding cupcake’ designed by Kim Terrell from Kim’s Cottage Confections. 
The Wadsworth Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Houses and is owned by the City of Middletown.  It has hosted over six hundred weddings since its restoration in 1999. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

TV on the Stage + a Personal Note

I am of the generation that "grew up" with television, among the millions transfixed by images as disparate as the Kennedy/Nixon Debates, The Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show", the Vietnam War, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Watergate Hearings, the "First Man to Walk on the Moon", the Super Bowl, and so on.

Curious as I was about the world, I (and most of my friends) took the television for granted.  As far as I could tell, it had always stood in the corner of the living room (oddly enough, our large 1940s vintage radio was in the dining room) and, with the exception of the occasional power outage, always when you turned it on.

"The Farnsworth Invention", a play by Aaron Sorkin ("West Wing", "The American President") is currently onstage at Oddfellows Playhouse (through May 6.)  Witty, scientific, poignant, brash, and sporting an excellent "set" (created by David Schulz), the cast of 11 members of the OP's Teen Repertory Company (directed by Marcy Arlin) make this piece come alive.  The story, narrated by both Philo T. Farnsworth and David Sarnoff, is about the birth of television with the former being a self-trained scientist who grew up on a farm in Idaho who created the first workable idea for the distribution and capturing of images and the latter the founder of RCA and NBC and fervent believer in the power of the media as a tool for education and the betterment of society.  The playwright creates a scenario that clearly states Sarnoff won the battle of the "patent" and went on to become an even bigger player in media.  We are led to believe (by the playwright) that Farnsworth "disappeared into the bottle" but he had quite a productive life as a scientist and visionary (click here to read more.)

I would recommend you go see "The Farnsworth Invention" for any number of reasons, not the least of which it is a compelling production.  As one has learned to expect from Sorkin, the repartee is intelligent and profane while the story draws you in.  Kudos to the cast and technical staff for making an evening of magic.

Performances are this Saturday (4/30) at 7:30 p.m. and next Friday and Saturday at the same time.  Not recommended for children under 13, call 860-347-6143 for reservations. 

In other Oddfellows news, Producing Artistic Director Jeffery Allen is leaving Middletown for Bloomington, Indiana, to create new opportunities in the arts for people of all ages. During his 6+ years in Middletown, he worked tirelessly to raise the already high bar for creativity and community involvement that Oddfellows Playhouse is known for.  And, he succeeded mainly because he did not look at the work he was doing as "children's theater" but as "theater", as the opportunity to educate young people in the power of creativity and interaction, in community and sharing, and in how to "lose" and also "find" your self through the creative process.  And, just as important, to have fun!

On a personal level, working with Jeff, Jerry Winters, Carolyn Kirsch, Rob Resnikoff (whose daughter, incidentally, is assistant director of "The Farnsworth Invention"), Jackie Coleman and the rest of the cast of "Hamlet" is one of the highlights of my life (and not just my life onstage.)  Oddfellows Playhouse will survive and thrive as will Middletown but Jeff Allen's vision and desire will be sorely missed.

Prescription Drug Take Back

Community Message has been issued by the Middletown Police Department.

Prescription Drug Take Back

April 30th from 10 am to 2 pm

Middletown Police Department

The Middletown Police Department is TAKING BACK UNWANTED PRESCRIPTION DRUGS APRIL 30th AT the Middletown Police Department

Middletown, Connecticut – On April 30, 2011 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Middletown Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public another opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Bring your medications for disposal to the Middletown Police Department at 222 Main Street. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

Last September, Americans turned in 242,000 pounds—121 tons—of prescription drugs at nearly 4,100 sites operated by the DEA and more than 3,000 state and local law enforcement partners.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

Four days after last fall’s event, Congress passed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010, which amends the Controlled Substances Act to allow an “ultimate user” of controlled substance medications to dispose of them by delivering them to entities authorized by the Attorney General to accept them. The Act also allows the Attorney General to authorize long term care facilities to dispose of their residents’ controlled substances in certain instances. DEA has begun drafting regulations to implement the Act, a process that can take as long as 24 months. Until new regulations are in place, local law enforcement agencies like Middletown Police and the DEA will continue to hold prescription drug take-back events every few months.

Lieutenant Heather Desmond
Support Services
Middletown Police Department

For full details, go to

Contact Information:
Heather Desmond
Support Services

North End PRIDE Day

Come out and show your neighborhood Pride in our annual North End PRIDE Day April 30th. Saturday morning from 9-12 residents, friends and local organizations will be participating in cleanup and beautification projects all over the North End of Middletown. We will clean the parks, wake up the gardens, and do some general sprucing up. We would love to have you join us.

Groups will be meeting in the Wharfside Commons parking lot and the Erin Street Community Garden. We hope to have enough folks that we can send a crew to Roosevelt Park and Donovan Park. Feel free to start a project on your street!

NEAT will provide garbage bags, plastic gloves and some tools. Please bring rakes and brooms if you have them. We have plenty of projects planned, but we need your help.

We hope to see you on PRIDE day.

For more information, please contact Bobbye at

The Middletuners At The State Capitol

From the office of the House Democrats
Middletown State Reps Matt Lesser & Joe Serra with the Middletuners—Middletown's senior chorus—at the State Capitol in Hartford. The Middletuners performed a medley of songs for state lawmakers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Statewide Land Conservation Conference This Saturday

The 2011 CT Land Conservation Conference will be held Saturday, April 30th at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.

2011 Conference Highlights

•24 workshops covering a range of topics directly affecting citizens and environments across Connecticut.

•Keynote Presentation by Andy Kendall, President of the Trustees of Reservations. Drawing from his experiences at The Trustees of Reservations (considered America’s first land trust) over the last 11 years, Andy will highlight key opportunities to advance land conservation in the region and across the country. The philosophy and approach to the Trustees efforts is something that land trusts across the state will recognize as core to their efforts to engage communities, foster collaboration and increase relevance of the work they do to save Connecticut’s special places.

•Conference attendees are eligible for a free ticket to the Connecticut Forest & Park Association Outdoor Gear Expo taking place on Saturday at Wesleyan from 3-7 P.M. (number of tickets are limited).

•Networking opportunities, displays and much more!

This year's conference will be designed around a general theme of collaboration and partnerships, so many workshops will address that topic. Other categories likely to be covered at the conference include (but are not limited to):

• Advocacy
• Stewardship (monitoring, land management, baseline reports)
• Organizational Capacity Development
• Fundraising
• Outreach, Education and Communications
• Leadership (board and staff)
• Land Conservation Transactions

Directions and Parking

The conference will be held in the Exley Science Center. Parking will be available at the Vine Street parking lot (Lot V on map; shuttle service will run from this lot) as well as on the streets around campus. Please be in touch if you require special accomodations. The Science Center and Lot V may be found on map below (or explore via interactive map).

Map of Campus

Directions to Wesleyan

Upcoming Local Family Rambles

Spring is here! Discover the fun of one of our upcoming WalkCT Family Rambles. Let's get outside for our mental and physical health and share some quality family time with the children in our lives. Join us for one of our end-of-the-month family rambles, or celebrate Mother's Day with a special outing. For more details, outing guidelines, and other upcoming WalkCT Family Rambles, visit

See you on the path to health & happiness,


Lori Paradis Brant

Education Director

CFPA Logo Family Rambles

April WalkCT Family Rambles
Frog Friday
Field Forest, Durham
Friday, April 29, 2011
2:00 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. OR 4:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.

kids catching frogs

Join us for the magic of spring! Observe the amazing transformations that occur in vernal pools. Our ears will guide us in the direction of frogs "peeping" loudly looking for a mate. We will keep our eyes open to search for frog and salamander eggs, tadpoles, salamanders, insect larvae, and other hidden gems of nature. We will walk approximately 0.3 miles on a dirt trail to the vernal pool. Folks interested in the beauty of spring and who can walk the trail are welcome to attend. Sponsored by Everyone Outside.

Advanced registration is REQUIRED. Email with date/time of Frog Friday, # of people attending, and ages of children (if any). Directions will be sent via email upon registration.

Flat Stanley's CT Outdoor Adventure #2

Giuffrida Park, Meriden

Saturday, April 30, 2011
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon

Help find Flat Stanley! Flat Stanley has gone missing on the Connecticut portion of the New England Trail (NET) and we need your help to find him. Join us for a fun adventure as we embark on a scavenger hunt and search for clues to find the hidden CT Flat Stanley letterbox. Find Flat Stanley as we hike the NET and have your picture taken with him to be entered into a random drawing for a CT Walk Book. Fun for all ages. Bring your own stamp and journal if you have one or borrow one of ours. Wear comfortable, waterproof shoes; bring your camera (optional). Inclement weather postpones to Sunday, May 1, same time.

Join any of CFPA's Flat Stanley's CT Outdoor Adventures through August. Visit for info.

Mother's Day WalkCT Family Rambles

Celebrate Mother's Day

Wadsworth Mansion, Middletown

Saturday, May 7, 2011

10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Bring your mother or your daughter (or someone like a mother or daughter to you) and explore the beautiful woods and grounds of Wadsworth Mansion. We will walk 1 to 2 miles on trails and look for signs of spring, visit the vernal pool, and perhaps even find a letterbox with a hand carved stamp. It is a great time of year to be in the woods. Bring a lunch and join us for a picnic on the mansion grounds after the walk. Celebrate mothers, daughters, and the outdoors together. Pre-registrations are welcome, but not required, by contacting

Moms & Mama Birds

Air Line State Park Trail, Hebron

Sunday, May 8, 2011

1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

"Con-quer-eeee!!!!" "Drink-your-teeeeee!!!!!" Is this how baby birds sing "Happy Mother's Day"? Find out as we search for nesting families, and signs of beaver, turtles, reptiles, and amphibians during a leisurely 1- to 1.5-mile walk through the Raymond Brook Marsh on the Air Line State Park Trail in Hebron. Bring your Mom, Grandma, Dad, and Grandpa, too! Remember binoculars and bird field guides if you have them, or share ours. Also bring your whispers and quiet feet.

Because mama mosquitoes have also found the marsh to be a great place for their children, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, comfortable shoes and socks, and insect repellant (please read directions on repellant) are recommended. Heavy rain cancels. Pre-registration appreciated, but not required, by contacting CFPA at (860) 346-2372 or

Wheelchairs, strollers, and babies in secured backpacks are welcome. Click here for directions.

Dragonfly rests

Tourism Touted At Oddfellows

Local and State officials came together at Oddfellows theater to praise Governor Malloy's restoration of $15M in state funding for tourism advertising, and the Regional Tourism District. The press conference was attended by several reporters and a dozen supporters of the arts.

Matt Pugliese, Managing Director of Oddfellows Playhouse, was joined by Chris Donovan, Speaker of the House, Matthew Lesser, State Representative, Larry McHugh, President of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and Deborah Moore, Executive Director of Wadsworth Mansion.

Pugliese said that Oddfellows draws kids from 27 different school districts for theater training, rehearsals, and performances, with families spending significant time in Middletown. He said that Oddfellows leverages each $1 in state grant funding into $15 in private donations. Oddfellows provides part-time work to over 50 artists living in Middlesex and Hartford Counties.

Donovan said that tourism and the arts generates $14 billion in income to the state, and $1.7 million in state and local taxes. McHugh, focusing on the region from Cromwell to the shoreline, said, "Tourism is an economic generator for our region."

During the question period, Robert Resnikoff expressed his reluctance to viewing the arts solely as a jobs-creation, economic driver. He said the work of Oddfellows and other arts organizations should be supported for their intrinsic value, "When people come here to watch a performance, they turn a town into a community."


Middletown’s 21st celebration of Arbor Day begins this year at 1 pm at the Wadsworth/Kerste deBoer Arboretum on Long Lane, and progresses from there to the Sullivan Pavilion at Connecticut Valley Hospital. A total of nine trees will be planted, with donations by the Middletown Urban Forestry Commission, the Department of Public Works, and friends and families of eight local citizens.

Among the eight trees being planted in the Arboretum are several hybrid American-Chinese Chestnuts, close relatives of the majestic Chestnuts that once lined urban streets and constituted as much as one-fourth of the forest trees growing east of the Mississippi River. Also on the agenda are two flowering cherry trees and a native Sugar maple. At CVH, a dogwood will be planted in recognition of CVH’s long dedication to the environment.

(Pictured at right, Tony Marino, Chair of the Urban Forestry Commission, addresses a crowd at the 2010 Arbor Day ceremony.)

Not on the agenda, but coming soon, is the planting of five White spruce trees at local elementary schools. These small trees, which will grow into very large ones, are a donation by the Downtown Business District of trees that graced Main Street in planters this past winter. Ken Jackson of the Middletown Board of Education is coordinating with the Middletown Vo-Ag to plant the trees at Bielefield, Macdonough, Moody, Snow and Wesley Schools.

An additional civic tree planting occurred last week, when students, parents, faculty and staff of Macdonough School planted a beautiful Japanese Stewartia tree to honor teacher Angela Spaman.

The Middletown Urban Forestry Commission encourages residents to plant trees for the health and beauty of the City. Trees to honor or memorialize local residents can be planted on City property with approval from the Commission and the Department of Public Works; staff from each organization, which includes the City Forester and the Tree Warden, will coordinate efforts to ensure that appropriate trees are selected, and that they are properly planted in the best locations. The price of the tree depends on the species and size of the tree selected. The Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate has a similar memorial tree planting plan.

Wesleyan Hosts Career Fair For High Schools

A career fair for high schools in Central Connecticut drew 1200 students to Wesleyan's Hockey arena today. The fair, organized by The Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, is in its 6th year. Nearly 150 different companies and organizations were represented.

Council Majority Leader Tom Serra serves as chair of the Business/Education Partnership Advisory Council, responsible for organizing the fair. Serra said that most of the students were sophomores and juniors; the fair provided them an opportunity to learn what kinds of training and certificates they would need for specific careers.

Television without Commercials

The second mainstage performance of Oddfellows Playhouse’s Teen Rep Company is The Farnsworth Invention. It is directed by Marcy Arlin, Founder and Artistic Director of the OBIE Award winning Immigrants’ Theatre in New York City. Arlin is also a Fulbright Senior Specialist and member of the Lincoln Center Theatre.

Written by Aaron Sorkin, whose credits include The Social Network, The West Wing and A Few Good Men, The Farnsworth Invention enjoyed a successful run on Broadway. It is the story of two men and their race for the rights to one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, the television.

“I am impressed by the high bar that is set for the kids,” said Arlin. “The texts are difficult; there is tricky staging, and deep, intelligent and meaningful themes. That is rare and should be encouraged and developed.”

Opening night is set for tonight, Thurs. Apr. 28 with additional performance on Apr. 29th and 30th and May 6th and 7th. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available at (860) 347-6143 or at

Oddfellows programming is made possible through the generous support of the CT Department of Education, the CT Commission on Culture & Tourism, Pratt & Whitney, The Stare Fund, The Franklin Conklin Foundation, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, the J. Walton Bissell Foundation, the Irving Kohn Foundation and the Daphne Seybolt Culpeper Memorial Fund. Media support is provided my Comcast.

Tyshawn Soars

This is a very busy week for percussionist/composer/pianist/trombonist and Wesleyan Graduate Student Tyshawn Sorey.  Not a new issue for the young man from Newark, New Jersey, as he is often flying around the country or the world as a member of different musical ensembles.  He's been travel doen to New York City for an evening gig and be back in Middletown for class the next day. I've seen him play drums in a jazz band one night and trombone in a klezmer ensemble the next.  His own music channels modern Classical music, especially the Minimalism of Morton Feldman.  He can "drive" a "creative music" ensemble such as Fieldwork (featuring the brilliant pianist Vijay Iyer and saxophonist/conceptualist/Wesleyan graduate Steve Lehman.

Equally as impressive is that Tyshawn Sorey is unassuming, quiet, and approachable.

As I stated above, this is a very busy time for the 30-year old musician/student. Tonight (April 28) at 9 p.m., he and an impressive ensemble of friends and fellow students present "Selected Works (2009-11)" in Memorial Chapel on the Wesleyan campus.  Prepare to be surprised, challenged and impressed.

Tomorrow night, heads to New Haven and Firehouse 12 (45 Crown Street) to perform with Iraqi-American Amir ElSaffar's Two Rivers ensemble.  Sorey replaces scheduled percussionist Nasheet Waits in the sextet.  For more information, call 203-785-0468 or go to

On Sunday (May 1), Sorey is back in town taking part in "The Peacock and The Turtle Dove: Exploring Yiddish and Anglo-American Song Traditions" to be held at 2 p.m. in the Green Street Arts Center. Go to to read more about the event created by Amanda Scherbenske and Tim Eriksen.  Call 860-685-7871 to make reservations.

Royal Wedding Party at Wadsworth Mansion

From the Wadsworth Mansion

On Friday, April 29, 2011 the Event Planners at the Wadsworth Mansion have invited Wadsworth Mansion brides to join them as they watch the Royal Wedding ceremony between Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton.  The doors of the regal Wadsworth Mansion will open at 5:30 a.m. for serious wedding watchers. The Wedding will be live streamed into the East Ballroom on a large flat screen television.  At the conclusion of the wedding ceremony guests will be treated to champagne, mimosas, and continental breakfast before heading off to work.  Each guest will leave with a ‘wedding cupcake’ that they may enjoy later in the day, and some brides will win gift certificates donated by Wadsworth Mansion vendors.

Executive Director, Deborah Moore, thought it would be fun to have a party to celebrate the Royal Wedding. She remembers the excitement of Princess Di’s wedding.  “We are sentimental about all weddings, but royal weddings are more like fairy tales.”    Kristy Hughes, Event Coordinator, says “Brides and planners are always captivated by weddings without budgets.”  Both are betting the party will lure like-minded brides out early Friday morning for some fun.

The Wadsworth Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Houses and is owned by the City of Middletown.  It has hosted over six hundred weddings since its restoration in 1999. 

For more information call Deborah Moore at 860 347 1064 or visit

Outdoor Gear Expo At Fayerweather

From the Connecticut Forest and Park Association

This Saturday the Connecticut Forest and Park Association will provide a unique opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts of all types.

Cyclists can learn to tune up their bikes, runners can explore barefoot running, fly fishermen can improve their casting, hikers learn to fit footwear, and campers can get schooled in “Tents 101”, all at The 1st Annual Connecticut Outdoor Gear Expo, held in (and outside of) Fayerweather Beckham Hall on the Wesleyan University campus.

For anyone interested in hiking, camping, biking, fishing and other outdoor sports, this is the place to not only find the latest gear, but also learn how to use and care for it.  From the trusty old compass to the latest GPS systems, mountain-biking to geo-caching, running to skateboarding, the event will provide fun and education for the entire family.

CFPA and its Wesleyan Chapter, WesCFPA, will co-host the event with displays and clinics from retail sponsors REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, Fleet Feet, North Cove Outfitters and Trailblazer. 

A silent auction will include over 50 items from donors such as the Connecticut Science Center, Goodspeed Opera House, and Hartford Symphony Orchestra - plus jewelry, books, and more outdoor gear than you can shake a (walking) stick at.

A more complete list of auction items and a schedule of clinics (which reporters are welcome to participate in) can be found at


The 1st Annual Connecticut Outdoor Gear Expo 
Saturday, April 30  3pm-7pm
Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
(Fayerweather Beckham Hall is located on Wyllys Avenue.  Visitor parking is available just across the street.)

Eric Hammerling:
CFPA (860) 346-2372

About the Connecticut Forest & Park Association
The Connecticut Forest & Park Association protects forests, parks, walking trails and open spaces for future generations by connecting people to the land. CFPA directly involves individuals and families, educators, community leaders and volunteers to enhance and defend Connecticut's rich natural heritage. CFPA is a private, non-profit organization that relies on members and supporters to carry out its mission.

South Fire Thanks Voters

The members of South Fire District Fire Fighters Local 3918 would like to take this opportunity to thank all who came and supported our first ever Easter Flower Sale.  With your generous support, we will be able to continue to donate to all the local organizations and programs that we are honored to be involved with.  Again, the members of South Fire District Fire Fighters Local 3918 thank you!!!
The Members of South Fire District Fire Fighters
Local 3918 IAFF, AFL-CIO, CLC

Because We Can't Have Just One

The Design Review and Preservation Board approved two applications for drive-through pharmacy designs last night. The first was for a completely new CVS, to replace the old CVS (to be torn down), which is across the street from the new Walgreens, on East Main Street. The second was for a façade change on the old Walgreens, which is across the street from the new CVS, on Washington Street.
The Walgreens façade change includes the addition of a drive-through window. Walgreens had previously received full approval from city agencies for a 2-lane drive-through, their current plans call for this to be only one lane. The board suggested that as part of the renovations to the exterior, the owners consider adding some trees and planter boxes.

The CVS project drew more scrutiny. At the last DRPB meeting, board members requested a reduction in the number of parking spaces, and the addition of landscaping. The engineer hired by CVS redesigned the site to include about 30,000 square feet of shrubs and trees, and reduced the number of parking spaces from 75 to 70 (the current combination of CVS and defunct Blockbuster video store has 105 spaces).

Jeff Bianco asked the applicant to justify creating more than the required number of parking spaces, which is 53. Attorney Ralph Wilson, representing the land-owner, said that CVS would simply not tolerate fewer than 70. Other members of the board were reluctant to oppose the 70 spaces, or to require that some of those spaces be made of a material more aesthetically pleasing than asphalt, and the plan for 70 spaces was approved.

Jonah Center Program for Tuesday, May 3rd

Good Weeds, Bad Weeds, & Lawns

The Jonah Center for Earth and Art invites the public to meet scientist and author Nancy Gift, assistant professor and acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University. Professor Gift will teach us how to look with greater appreciation on the uninvited plants—weeds—in our yards: who they are, how to control them safely, and why it’s a good idea to love some of them just the way they are.

The program will be held on Tuesday, May 3, 7-8:30 p.m., at First Church of Christ, Congregational, 190 Court Street, in Middletown. Information about the plants in our yards is not only fascinating, but it also helps us avoid the use of lawn chemicals that are harmful to the environment and to human health.

Professor Gift’s new book, Good Weed Bad Weed, is a quick and easy, authoritative weed identification resource, featuring 44 of North America’s most common uninvited guests—the good, the bad, and the not-so-bad weeds, along with some tasty weed recipes (purslane salad, anyone?). Copies of her book and art prints of weed photography will be available for purchase.

For more information about the program or the Jonah Center, contact John Hall at 860-398-3771 or visit

"How Do We Make The Riverfront Part Of Downtown?"

Director of Planning Bill Warner asked the Planning and Zoning Commissioners to think about riverfront development plans at their meeting last night. This was the second of a series of workshops held by the Commission to discuss Riverfront development.

The Harbor Improvement Commission was scheduled to present, but they did not show up. Instead, Warner asked the question in the title, and showed a presentation on the riverfront land near downtown Middletown.

Warner stated the obvious, that Harbor Park was not pleasantly accessed via the tunnel near City Hall. He said that there had been 4 ideas for connecting downtown to the river:
•Construction of a pedestrian plaza over Route 9, with a series of ramps and elevators descending to Harbor Park.
•Putting Route 9 into a tunnel, which Warner said was rejected by the DOT on economic grounds ($750M to construct, and $25M per year to keep dry).
•Moving Route 9 across the river, via a bridge north of Middletown and then back across the river at The Narrows (this would actually straighten the highway, which currently bends considerably to the west).
•Calming traffic on Route 9 so that while going through Middletown it is more of a boulevard.
Warner encouraged the commissioners to look towards the area south of Harbor Park, known in City Hall as "South Cove". He suggested that they consider new zoning, which would encourage a mix of commercial and residential development, and said it was possible to insist that the commercial development be "water-oriented", so that it would complement, rather than compete, with Main Street.

Warner also said that any development should explicitly acknowledge the existing landscape and historical buildings, "Successful projects take advantage of [both] the natural areas and the built."

DRPB Denies Billboard-Style Sign

Citing aesthetic considerations, the Design and Review Board unanimously denied an application by Geno Martorelli, owner of The Galleria on Middle Street, to install a large, LED display on his property facing I91.

The DRPB heard from Michiel Wackers, Deputy Director of the Planning Department, that the State Department of Transportation rules explicitly state that signs must be approved by municipalities, that such an illuminated sign was not allowed in the Middle Street zone, and that the zoning code explicitly bans signs with changing illumination.

Members of the Board requested Wackers to begin research on updating Middletown's signage regulations to include language on LED signs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Peacock and the Turtle Dove

Exploring Yiddish and Anglo-American Song Traditions

Amanda L. Scherbenske and Tim Eriksen, Wesleyan University Department of Music, Doctoral Program

Sunday | May 1 | 2 pm
Suggested Donation: $5

Noted musicians Amanda L. Scherbenske and Tim Eriksen come together to collaboratively perform Yiddish and Anglo-American song traditions. They newly imagine and explore the archival materials of famed scholars and collectors Ruth Rubin (Yiddish song) and Anne and Frank Warner (Anglo-American song and stories). Scherbenske and Eriksen will be joined by distinguished composer-multi-instrumentalist Tyshawn Sorey. RSVP on Facebook or call Green Street at 860-685-7871.

Join us for this series of intriguing conversations with Wesleyan faculty, staff and alumni. Salons are accompanied by coffee and delicious baked goods from O’Rourke’s Diner. Your suggested donation of $5 ensures the continuation of these fabulous events! This series is co-sponsored by the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Wesleyan.

Just a Reminder Kiwanis Pasta Fundraiser Thursday

Just a reminder for Thursday:

The Kiwanis Club of Middletown invites you to its Annual


Featuring the Annual

Raffle and Silent Auction

Thursday, April 28, 2011

First Church (side entrance) • 190 Court Street • Middletown

LUNCH 11:30am – 1:30pm

DINNER 5:00pm – 7:00pm

Tickets available in advance & at the door $10

PLUS! 5 or more dinners DELIVERED! • Call 833-6724

Bring Friends and Family • Good Food • Take Out Support Your Community • Have a Terrific Time

Supporting Local Charities and Projects for 60 Years read the list all here

Superintendent Explains Lack of Notice For Potential Layoffs

While he has noted repeatedly that a cut in the school budget, particularly at the level suggested by Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, will require teacher layoffs, Superintendent Michael Frechette said that no teacher had received notice of potential layoff as required by state law.

State school law (chapter 166, section 10-151) states that non-tenured teachers may be laid off at any time for a number of reasons, including "elimination of the position to which the teacher was appointed."  Otherwise, the contract of the teacher is continued into the next school year unless notified otherwise by April 1.

Several Connecticut communities have sent layoff notices to teachers in anticipation of municipal budget cuts.  But in response to a question by Council member Deborah Kleckowski, Frechette called such notices "scare tactics," and that it was his intent to achieve a budget that would not anticipate layoffs, while admitting that the prospects of budget cuts make layoffs likely.

Chairman Ted Raczka explained further after the meeting that the Board of Education and the administration had no intent of layoffs if they can have a school budget passed without the proposed $2.4 million cut.

"We don't want the layoffs, but if we don't get the budget, those teaching positions will be eliminated and we will be forced to let those teachers go," Raczka said.  He also noted that Frechette's warning of layoffs was not a "scare tactic" but a reality.

"If we don't have the budget, we can't pay those teachers," Raczka said.  He explained that the Board was not required to notify of layoffs by April 1 because it was their intent to move forward without layoffs if they could convince the Common Council and taxpayers that cuts should not be made.

Superintendent Frechette also said, after the meeting, that if the full $2.4 million was restored to the budget that summer school programs, which have currently been eliminated, would be restored.

Church Pot Roast Dinner on Saturday

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

South Fire District Approves Budget

The residents of the South Fire District have approved the budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

There were 615 "Yes" votes and 469 "No" votes.

Superintendent Defends Budget Before City Council

At tonight's City Council Budget Meeting, several departments presented their 2011-2021 budgets to the City Council. All departments were directed by the Mayor to prepare level funded budgets from last year except where legislated increases were mandated. For example, the Probate Budget went up 1/2 of 1% (or $239.00) because Middletown's share of these costs increased. Probate Judge Joseph Marino seemed surprised when Councilman Thomas Serra pointed out that his budget had actually been cut by the Mayor. Marino then laughed and said his budget was mandated by state statute so he really hadn't paid attention to what the Mayor did.

Town Clerk Sandra Russo-Driska told the Council that her department is working on a project to make land documents available on-line for $1 a page, and that the current revenue from this project is $150 per month. Once fully operational, the expected revenue will be $500-$700 a month. Russo-Driska also told the Council that her goal is to move toward a paperless system.

Tom Hartley, Director of Parking, told the Council that since January, 116,000 transactions have been recorded between the new parking lot next to City Hall and the Arcade lot. Even though the parking fee was dropped from $1 per hour to $.75 per hour, there has been a 300% increase in revenue. New IPS meters are scheduled to be installed on Main Street starting at the end of May, and these meters will be able to accept cash or credit card, and they will also be able to record usage data. Hartley commented: "We're finally getting our lots up to industry standards," and he told the Council that this will be good for both customers and merchants on Main Street. The increased parking revenues will be used to pay off the bonds used to fund the new parking lot construction and the new meters. Hartley was grilled about several increases in his budget (postage and cell phones for parking attendants, for example) but he replied that he has a new billing process and that the phones are part of the new technology that came with an automated parking system and new parking meters.

Justin Carbonella, Director of Youth Services, promoted a new website,, that seeks to link Middletown's youth to a Developmental Assets program. This program ultimately focuses on building community by teaching "characteristics and behaviors that reflect positive internal growth and development of young people." Also on Carbonella's agenda for next year is a focus on Bullying and on teaching youth about using social networks responsibly. Although he too is at the same funding level from last year, Carbonella pointed out a few changes to his budget. Specifically, he was asked to include a line-item for the sell-back of 30% of unused sick time. This represents a $2300 cut that he had to account for in other places.

The remainder of the evening's meeting was dedicated to Superintendent Michael Frechette's presentation of the 2011-2012 School Budget. There is a $2.4 million dollar difference between the Mayor's budget and the Board of Education's budget. While Governor Malloy has promised to fund the state's educational cost sharing at last year's level (meaning the state will replace the federal stimulus funds that came last year but ran out this year), the BOE budget is a 3.45% increase over last year's budget. The majority of this increase comes from contractual increases such as salaries, and Superintendent Frechette told the Council that he made a 0% budget increase work the last two years, but that it wouldn't work for a third year: "Middletown is the only district out of 18 districts listed as needing improvement to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress on the CMTs (Connecticut Mastery Test) this past year....I would like to think that our instructional quality would continue even if the budget is cut, but it will mean higher class sizes, a greater work/stress load on our teachers, and a lot less opportunities for our students." Frechette read a "draft" list of budget cuts to the Council, and roughly 20 teaching positions, summer school at all schools, middle school athletics and several other support staff positions (included special education and duty aides) are tentatively targeted for elimination should the Council not fully fund the BOE budget as requested.

Councilman Pessina commented, "I'm really disappointed that you would even consider reducing staff," and Superintendent Frechette replied, "I know all the reasons not to, but 88% of our budget is labor-related. How or where else can I make these kinds of cuts?" Pessina continued: "It's just mind-boggling to me...we need to reach deep and save these positions but at the same time, we need to answer to the taxpayers and be responsible with their money." Frechette responded: "The Board of Education has done its part for the last two years by having a zero-increase budget, but we can't do it another year."

There were several questions regarding budget specifics like why there is such an increase in the diesel fuel budget (fuel for this year was pre-paid from last year's budget, so there was no fuel budget for 2010-11); what's the difference between a travel allowance and travel reimbursement (one requires specific receipt documentation and one doesn't); and will any of the Superintendent's "wish list items" happen if funding is restored (no, any additional funding will go first to restoring teaching positions).

While the conversational tone between the Council and the Superintendent was generally polite, there were bits of strain and frustration that peeked through lines of questioning over how the BOE decides to spend left-over funds at the end of the year and what money does or doesn't get returned to the City. Superintendent Frechette told the Council in his opening remarks that he returned $50, 776 to the city last year, but Councilman Pessina challenged this: "How come the Finance Department has no record of this return?" Frechette replied, "I can't speak for the Finance Department."

Several Council members tried to get the Superintendent to say specifically how the quality of education would be impacted if the school budget isn't fully funded, and Councilman Serra tried to get the Superintendent to say what specific amount of money (less than the $2.4 million asked for) he could function with. Dr. Frechette would only reply, "I'm not going to undercut the budget we've asked for....any additional funds I receive will go first to re-instating teachers."

In the end, Councilman Streeto asked the Superintendent for a copy of his "nightmare list" as soon as possible as the Council wants to see the specifics of what will be cut to accomplish a $2.4 million budget reduction in a $69 million+ budget. Superintendent Frechette told the Council he'll propose this list to the Board of Ed at its May 10 meeting, and then he could share whatever the BOE decides it will do to make the cuts. The Council will decide on its budget on May 15, and council members asked for every possible moment to be able to consider what they can fund or not. Board of Education Chairman Ted Raczka had a chance to address the Council: "Unless the funding for this budget is fulfilled, the momentum this district has gained will be lost....The bedrock of economic stability in this community is the school system, and you're fooling yourself if you don't believe a good school system is the key to maintaining a healthy economy here....please join us in making a commitment to preserving our community."

There is a public hearing on the budget THIS THURSDAY (4/28) in Council Chambers at City Hall at 7pm. The most recent BOE Spotlight on Education was on the proposed 2011-2012 budget, and this video is available by clicking the link on the District website. Also available on the same page is the Budget Book in pdf format. The BOE Budget Committee will meet at 4pm on Monday, May 9, at the District Office on Huntington Ave. The next BOE meeting is on Tuesday, May 10 at 7pm.