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Ridgefield police to investigate High School hazing


A police investigation has been launched into alleged hazing incidents last week involving Ridgefield High School students.

Principal Stacey Gross said the alleged hazing involved a small number of athletes and non-athletes last Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The incidents did not occur on school grounds. The incidents occurred during Ridgefield's Spirit Week, a series of themed days held at the high school to boost and express school pride.

Gross read a letter Thursday to students over the intercom, stating she had learned that "a number of incidents of hazing, bullying and intimidation have taken place in association with some of  the  athletic teams involving athletes and non-athletes." The letter was also sent home to parents.

 

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4th Congressional District candidates meet for debates


The first two debates between 4th Congressional District Representative Jim Himes and Republican challenger Dan Debicella have been held.  The first was a telephone town hall sponsored by the AARP.  The next was held in Wilton Sunday. 

 

Debicella, who ran for the position in 2010, says safety and transportation are key issues.  He wants to invest in smart maintenance to make sure roads and rails are safe.  He says that will go a long way in making sure commuters stay safe.

 

Himes says he's worked hard on Metro North issues.  He and others in the Connecticut delegation pushed for new leadership at the railroad, who has met the demand to install "positive train control" devices on all trains.  Himes says those devices will sense if there is an impending derailment or crash coming up regardless of the conductor's attentiveness.

 

They also addressed Social Security.  Himes says in about 30 years Social Security will begin to pay out more than it brings in, if nothing is done.  He says some equitable and fair reforms will need to be made, but not privatization proposals made by the Republican party.

 

Debicella says he would not vote to raise the retirement age to support Social Security solvency.  He advocated for a plan to have Social Security increases attached to prices not wage, which he says will lower benefits to wealthier people who don't need it.

 

Another of the topics covered was economic recovery.  Himes says there is a long way yet to go, but there has been progress.  He cited 10 million private sector jobs added, an economy growing at about 3-percent and a declining deficit.

 

But Debicella says Connecticut is 50th out of 50 in terms of job creation and people can't save for retirement unless the economy robust.  He proposes closing loopholes for special interest groups and lowering tax rates for the middle class and small businesses, paid for with the loophole closures.

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Annual college and vocational fair being held at Danbury Mall


High School students and their parents are being called on to attend Danbury High School's annual College and Vocational Fair tonight at the Mall.  More than 230 two-year and four-year schools, vocational, trade and technical schools, the military and the college board are participating in the event. 

 

Chairwoman Valerie DeRubertis says college fairs can be very informative but they can also be overwhelming, but the guidance counselors will be there as well to provide information and direction.  DeRubertis says it's easy to get caught up in the crowds and confusion, criss-crossing the room, stopping at any booth that seems popular.

 

Students are urged to write up a short list of questions to ask admission representatives, including what the two or three most popular majors are.  That  can give a good idea of the main interests of the majority of the students.  Students who are undecided should ask about what services and support are available to help them explore various majors. 

 

Freshmen and sophomores are urged to ask admission representatives what they should do to strengthen their transcripts and activities.  Juniors who attend are urged to start making a list of colleges they are interested in to learn more about heading into senior year.  Seniors can make another contact with a school they're interested in or find a school they weren't aware of before the fair. 

 

She says students with access to computers might want to to print up a few sheets of self-stick address labels with contact information, high school, year of graduation, intended major(s), and any extracurricular activities of interest.  At the fair, that can then be placed on information cards to save time in filling out the same information over and over at each college’s table.

 

The College and Vocational Fair is from 5 to 8:30pm at the Danbury Fair Mall.

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Residents urged to test wells for arsenic, uranium


The state Department of Public Health is urging residents with private wells to get them tested for arsenic and uranium.  Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, leading to liver and kidney cancer.  Epidemiologist Brian Toal says Uranium is a heavy metal that's toxic to the kidneys.  He says if people drink high enough levels for a long enough time, there could be decreased kidney functions.

 

Toal says the state had gotten reports from a town like Weston, where over 10-percent of the wells had elevated levels of arsenic.  Other towns around Connecticut had very high rates of uranium.

 

Toal says arsenic and uranium are easily treatable at a reasonable price.  A list of the recommended labs can be found on the state DPH website.

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Playground equipment being replaced in Danbury


Danbury is in the process of replacing eight or nine playscapes with repairs being made to additional ones. 

 

During the City Council meeting last week, resident Kevin Haddad questioned when the playgrounds at the schools would be completed.  The jungle gyms at King Street School, Morris Street School and South Street School are being replaced.  The playgrounds were closed just before the start of the new school year. 

 

A study of parks in Danbury as well as school playgrounds was started this spring. During the study, a company came in to assess all of the playareas for risks.  That company provided the City with a roadmap of how to move forward.  The plan was about which ones can be repaired, what sections to eliminate and where to buy new equipment.

 

City officials say they were waiting on some parts to come in and that they are in the home stretch.

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Ridgefield schools investigating reports of hazing among athletes


Ridgefield School officials are investigating what it says are possible incidents of "hazing, bullying and intimidation" among sports teams at the High School.  NBC reports that Principal Stacey Gross sent a letter home to parents yesterday with their concerns over events that happened Wednesday, though she did not elaborate in the letter. 

 

She did say that she was disappointed that in spite of efforts of everyone, some students chose to place themselves and others in jeopardy of injury and exposed their fellow students to ridicule and humiliation.  The letter said those involved, both athletes and non-athletes in association with the teams, will receive serious consequences.

 

Ridgefield Superintendent Dr Deborah Lowe said given how ad advisory program is in place and appropriate behavior is discussed with athletic teams, she is surprised and disappointed.

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2 Conn. men admit to bribery scheme involving former FBI agent


Two Connecticut men have pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges for a scheme to get confidential internal law enforcement documents from a former FBI Special Agent.  The New York U-S Attorney's office reports that 35-year old Rizve "Caesar" Ahmed of Danbury and 51-year old Johannes Thaler of New Fairfield admitted to participating in the scheme with Robert Lustyik, who worked on the counterintelligence squad. 

 

Thaler and Lustyik, who were friends, solicited bribes from Ahmed in exchange for the confidential information.  Ahmed is a native of Bangladesh who was acquainted with Thaler.  Ahmed wanted a "Suspicious Activity Report" about a Bangladeshi political figure who opposed Ahmed's views in order to harm the person and other associated with th victim.  The Danbury man also wanted help in having criminal charges against a different Bangladeshi political figure dismissed. 

 

Text messages were sent about a “contract” that would require Ahmed to pay a $40,000 “retainer” and $30,000 “monthly.” 

 

Thaler and Lustyik also exchanged text messages about how to pressure Ahmed to pay them additional money in exchange for confidential information.  For example, in text messages, Lustyik told Thaler, “we need to push [Ahmed] for this meeting and get that 40 gs quick . . . . I will talk us into getting the cash . . . . I will work my magic . . . . We r sooooooo close.”  Thaler responded, “I know.  It’s all right there in front of us.  Pretty soon we’ll be having lunch in our oceanfront restaurant . . . .”

 

Additionally, in late January 2012, Lustyik learned that Ahmed was considering using a different source to obtain confidential information.  As a result, Lustyik sent a text message to Thaler stating, “I want to kill [Ahmed] . . . . I hung my ass out the window n we got nothing? . . . . Tell [Ahmed], I’ve got [the victim’s] number and I’m pissed. . . . I will put a wire on n get [Ahmed and his associates] to admit they want [a Bangladeshi political figure] offed n we sell it to the victim].”  Lustyik further stated, “So bottom line.  I need ten gs asap.  We gotta squeeze C.”

 

Sentencing hearings for Thaler and Ahmed are scheduled for January 23rd.  Lustyik is scheduled for trial on November 17th.

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Metro North credit card pilot program launched on Danbury branch


Metro North is introducing on-board credit card payment capability on the Danbury branch.  This is a limited pilot program to test new Ticket Issuing Machines.  The credit card payments on board will begin Monday the 27th.  Conductors will be able to print out customer receipts from the upgraded machines.  But Metro North is reminding customers that purchasing a ticket on board the train is always more expensive than purchasing tickets from machines located at the stations.

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Danbury Fire Department honors civilians, firefighters for contributions


A number of Danbury area residents and firefighters have been honored for going above and beyond the call of duty.  An awards ceremony was held earlier this week to recognize the contributions to public safety.  Danbury Fire Department Spokesman Steven Rogers says they truly appreciate the work done by community members and firefighters each day.

 

Six civilian recipients and 22 career firefighters were recognized.

 

One of the Civilian Awards of Merit was presented to a young boy, Josh Ennis, who saved his friends life.  The boys were playing video games when another boy leaned over a candle, igniting his shirt.  Josh told his friend to remove the shirt, got water and doused the flames.  The boy sustained minor burns , but fire officials say Josh's quick actions helped save him from further harm.

 

Another of the Civilian Awards of Merit was presented to a garbage man who spotted a car in the brook by Wooster School.  Jim Main is a Bethel volunteer fireman who called 911 and alerted authorities to the car in the water, not visible from the road.  Main got the elderly man to the bank of the water and stayed with him until an ambulance arrived. 

 

Department Certificates of Merit were presented to 13 members of the fire department for their work on Christmas Eve.  A group was dispatched to a reported accident on the highway near Exit 2, caused by melted snow re-freezing.  They found several more accidents on both sides of the road, so the highway was closed from the New York border through exit 4.  Several patients were treated for minor injuries and 15 vehicles had to be towed from the area.

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Bethel Police hold open house events to show need for new station


The Bethel Police Department is holding a series of open houses so residents can see the current police station.  This comes on the heels of an informational meeting about plans for a larger station nearby. 

 

Plans for the new police station call for an 18,000 square foot building, which is more than double the size of the current facility at 49 Plumtrees Road.  The architect firm that designed the Danbury Police Department has been tapped for the Bethel project. 

 

The proposed project cost is $13.7 million.  Bethel officials proposed the new police station in 2004, but then the project sat dormant until 2013.

 

Officers will be on hand, when they are not on duty, to leads tours of the facility and answer questions.  The first of the open house events is today from 10am to 2pm.

 

The other dates and times are :

 

Thursday October 23rd 5pm-7pm

 

Thursday November 6th 5pm-7pm

 

Saturday November 15th 10am-2pm

 

Thursday November 20th, 5pm-7pm

 

Saturday November 29th, 10am-2pm

 

Wednesday December 3rd, 6pm-8pm

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Police rescue man from car submerged in Candlewood Lake


Danbury police rescue a man from his submerged car in Candlewood Lake.  Police were called shortly before 11pm Thursday night by witnesses who said a car went out of control and crashed through the fence near the intersection of Hayestown Road and East Hayestown Road. 

 

Witnesses pointed out where the vehicle was in Candlewood Lake, about 50 feet off shore.  The car was submerged up to its roof. 

 

Officers could see a hand sticking out of the driver side window.  They dove into the water and made contact with 59-year old Matthew Branche of Carmel.  He was in the driver's seat with water up to his neck.  Branche told police he wasn't able to get himself out of the car.  Officers were able to open the door and brought Branche to shore. 

 

The man was transported to the hospital for evaluation.

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Western Connecticut State University receives $3 million donation


Western Connecticut State university has received its largest donation to date.  $3 million from the Macricostas Family Fund has been contributed by Brookfield businessman Constantine “Deno” Macricostas.  University spokesman Paul Steinmetz says the gift will support the university's travel-abroad program and additional scholarships.  The gift will also support a lecture series intended to bring renowned speakers to the university for the benefit of students and the community.

 

The Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents for Higher Education acknowledged the gift and approved renaming Western's largest school to The Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences. 

 

West Conn President Dr James Schmotter says Macricostas represents the classic American immigrant success story and provides an inspiration to the university community.

 

Macricostas emigrated to the U.S. from Greece in search of a better life. While attending college he earned extra money as a fry cook at a local diner on weekends. He saved enough money to start his own company in 1969, Photronics, Inc., which manufactures photomasks, a component in the creation of silicon computer chips. The company remains headquartered in Brookfield with additional operations in Idaho, Texas, Taiwan, Korea and Europe.

 

Macricostas explained why he and his family decided to support WCSU with this gift.  “We live in a competitive and challenging world that requires growing our knowledge and increasing exposure from each generation. Our family takes pride in helping to support the great work of Western Connecticut State University in preparing students for active participation in our global society.”

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Healing Hearts Center to benefit from Ridgefield Playhouse film screening


A film is being screened tonight in Ridgefield with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Danbury-based “Healing Hearts Center For Grief and Loss”.  "A fish story" is based on a true story about the Canadian family of actor/writer/producer Sam Roberts and the death of his father.  Roberts says it's also a story about letting go.

 

The film then focuses on how the family deals with grief.  It starts with his father's ongoing promise to build a fishing cabin for his kids.  Roberts says the film then detours to his father being in limbo because of the family's turmoil.  He says making ‘a fish story’ was his catharsis. 

 

"It has also become a story for everyone who has lost a love one.  In some magical and beautiful way, this film lifts you up, it gives you hope, and it inspires you to heal.”

 

The screening, part of the Ridgefield Playhouse Film Society "Family Film Series", will be followed by a Question & Answer session with the Bedford, New York resident.  Patrick Collins, a Katonah resident who also appears in the film, will be part of the panel.  The film starts at 7:30pm.

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Walk of Honor to be held Sunday in Danbury


The 7th annual Walk of Honor is being held this weekend in Danbury.  In addition to the walk, this year's Warrior Award recipient will be presented with the recognition.  Organizer Mary Teicholz says the event will begin at noon on Sunday and will also include the dedication of additional bricks to the Veterans Walkway of Honor, followed by the one-mile walk.

 

This year's Warrior Award recipient is John "Buzz" Hogan, a Vietnam veteran who is a two-time Purple Heart recipient.  He's been diagnosed with cancer because of Agent Orange exposure while in combat theater in Vietnam.  Hogan also started a scholarship fund recently for Bethel High School seniors that are the children or grandchildren of combat veterans.

 

For his service in the Marine Corps, Hogan was presented with the Combat Action Ribbon and a Distinguished Service Medal among other honors.  She called his story is one of bravery, heroism and community. 

 

Teicholz says this year is paying tribute to those who not only gave their lives at war, but also those who have given of their lives after they’ve retuned home.

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New Fairfield man sentenced for $6 million embezzlement scheme


A New Fairfield man has been sentenced for a nearly $6 million embezzlement scheme.  New York prosecutors say 59-year old Gregg Pierleoni pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and will serve six years in prison, pay more than $4.8 million in restitution to his employer, $1 million to their insurance company and $1.4 million to the IRS. 

 

Court documents say the New Fairfield man was Chief Financial Officer of a Westchester -based moving company and moved nearly $6 million from their account into other company accounts and that of a related entity.  Authorities say he then wrote checks from those accounts to pay for personal expenses. 

 

Pierleoni allegedly used the money for collectible coins, artwork, jewelery , hotels, airline tickets, clothing, food and main services.

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New Milford woman charged in Danbury with prostitution


A New Milford woman has been arrested on prostitution charges.  Danbury Police received a number of complaints in the area of Stevens and Montgomery Streets about women waiving down passing vehicles.  Surveillance was set up by police, who observed 24-year old Sarah Martinez of New Milford speaking with a driver briefly before getting into the vehicle Wednesday afternoon. 

 

Police followed the car to a condo complex on South Street where the pair was seen getting into the back seat of the car. 

 

Martinez was charged with prostitution.  The driver, 69-year old Frederick Ortner of Dover Plains New York was charged with patronizing a prostitute.  She was held on bond.  He was released on a written promise to appear in court.

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With foxes scarce, hunting clubs target coyotes


BRIDGEWATER, Conn. (AP) — American fox-hunting is a sport so steeped in tradition that riders still wear ties and blazers and cry out "Tally ho!" at the sight of prey. But it is adapting to one dramatic change: Coyotes have displaced foxes in the wild and become the hunters' new quarry.

 

The bigger, stronger animals pose challenges to the existence of some of the clubs carrying on the hunts introduced from England in the 1600s.

 

The coyotes that have overtaken much of the country in recent decades run so much farther that they enter areas where hounds and riders on horseback cannot follow. It is a strain particularly on the few remaining fox-hunting clubs in the densely populated area surrounding New York City, where encroaching development is leaving hunters with less room to roam.

 

"Those territories are mapped out or delegated. What the coyote has done is made it more difficult because the fox didn't run into other areas," said Dennis Foster, executive director of the Virginia-based Masters of Foxhounds Association, which oversees some 155 clubs in 37 U.S. states and Canada.

 

It has been three years since the last fox sighting for Fairfield County Hounds, a hunting club in Bridgewater, 75 miles north of New York, that is the last fox-hunting club in Connecticut.

 

The coyotes receive mixed reviews as substitute targets. Club members say the coyotes have not changed the essence of the experience — the braying of the hounds, the vistas seen from horseback — but they are less sly and playful. The coyotes also run so fast and through such rugged terrain they are effectively impossible to catch.

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"When you do find one, the chase is so fast you've really got to hang on," said Mary Huribal, a 51-year-old former show rider and nurse from Easton.

 

A hunt began with the blast of a horn last week on a Bridgewater field as 18 American foxhounds were released from the back of a truck, fed treats and directed toward the woods. As the hounds followed a scent up and over Wolf Pit Mountain, the riders, who are not armed, gave chase by circling around on a more manageable path for the horses. The hunts are faster with coyotes and within three hours the riders had returned in time for lunch — without catching their prey.

 

Coyotes moved into Connecticut around the middle of the last century and have outcompeted foxes for territory, according to Paul Rego, a state wildlife biologist. There are still some foxes in the area, he said, but state officials receive a large number of complaints about coyotes attacking pets and livestock.

 

The hunts require vast expanses of undeveloped land — meaning property owners must give hunters permission to pass through. The Bridgewater club, which was founded 90 years ago, relocated from nearby Newtown in the 1980s as rural property changed hands and some new owners refused to allow access. Several other clubs in the Northeast have closed over the last couple decades due to development.

 

John Lemay, who was the master of foxhounds at Litchfield County Hounds in Bethlehem, said coyotes were plentiful by 2002 when the club had to close as farmland was sold.

 

"Somebody comes in from Bridgeport or New York and they say, 'No, don't go over it.' So you have to stop," he said. "'It's progress.' That's what they say."

 

With territory becoming scarcer, some clubs have embraced drag hunting — in which there is no animal to be chased and a scent is laid down along a particular path, ensuring the hounds will not stray.

 

To purists like Bill Stuart, the leader of Fairfield County Hounds, that can hardly be considered hunting.

 

"Once the hounds find a coyote, and they start producing a lot of music, that's exciting," Stuart said. "That's what I'm out there for."

 

The sport has come under attack from animal rights activists in the U.S. and Britain, which in 2005 outlawed traditional fox hunting in which dogs kill prey. But Stuart says the club is not out to kill animals and, even if they wanted to, the hunters can't catch them. Some club members say it has faced less opposition since they began chasing coyotes, which are considered more of a nuisance.

 

Stuart, a farmer, said he owns 50 acres and leases another 1,000 and natural barriers including Lake Lillinonah generally keep coyotes from straying from the club's hunting area. A club member, Paul Brainard of Bloomfield, said that members also have bought adjoining property when it's come up for sale to keep it from being developed.

 

At Golden's Bridge Hounds, a hunting club in North Salem, New York, treasurer Elizabeth Almeyda said the arrival of coyotes has added to concerns about the effects of development. Already, the club deploys assistants with radios in cars to help guide the hounds if they get too close to roads.

 

"We are very concerned about development," she said.

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Mariano Rivera comes to Danbury to benefit Champion All Star Cheerleading


A big name in baseball came to Danbury to support some special needs athletes.  Former Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera visited the PAL Center in Danbury for an event on Thursday benefiting Champion All Star Gym's special needs teams. 

 

More than 100 people turned out for the benefit event.  The proceeds from tickets, silent auctions and raffles are being used for uniforms and a scholarship fund.  Champion owner Michele Mastrianni made a moving speech to open the night, thanking people for attending and explaining about the facility.  She says they want to make sure that anyone who came through the door could participate, regardless of special needs or finances.

 

The evening started with an exhibition performance by Champion’s special needs team.  The program was started six years ago with one girl with Down Syndrome.  There are now 9 members of the team.  They compete locally, regionally and nationally. 

 

Tuition is paid for by the gym and there are no competition fees.  The coaches and student helpers are all volunteers.  Special needs coach Joeli Mastrianni says the girls are able to finish their routine and walk away with the same sense of pride and accomplishment.  She was overwhelmed by the support from the community Thursday night and the great attendance.

 

While Rivera garnered a big applause, there was a nearly equal applause for the Country All Stars team and their supporters.  The special needs team and the adult Radio All Stars performed tumbling and stunts.

 

Following the performances, some ticket holders had the chance to meet the former New York Yankees closer and take photos with him.  Rivera then joined the entire crowd for a question and answer session. 

 

 

He fielded questions about his career with the Yankees, tips for being a great athlete and how hard it was to be away from his children for long stretches of time.  He also talked about leaving Panama and the differences between playing baseball there and playing here.  One of the most intriguing questions was about athletes who announce their retirement, but then play again.  He answered that with a resounding “no”.  Rivera says there is no baseball left in him.  He was asked about coaching.  He says he hadn't really thought about it.  Rivera says he is enjoying time with his children, but might like to coach in the minor leagues.

 

When asked about what he thought of his career with the Yankees, Rivera was very humble and asked the crowd what they thought instead.  He also described the different feelings of old Yankee Stadium and the new stadium.

 

One of the featured athletes is a 16-year old named Judy Adams.  She decided to help her mom Kim, who founded the non-profit Gifts From the Heart for Downs, raise money for the wishes.  She started a campaign called “Dimes for Downs”.  To date, she has collected 304,350 dimes to grant wishes to children and adults who have Down Syndrome.  The wishes have ranged from an iPad to strollers.  Judy, with the backing of her follow athletes at Champion All Star held an event this summer at Kenosia Park called “Dump Your Dimes for Downs”.  The day included games, cheering performances and a banker to convert all cash to dimes.  All activities were paid for with dimes.

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Danbury High School students want safe driving pledges from community


Danbury High School students in various leadership clubs are once again actively working to raise awareness of the dangers of reckless and distracted driving.  It's part of the Celebrate My Drive campaign. 

 

Last year Danbury High School was one of the first place winners, receiving the most safe driving pledges.  They were rewarded with a $100,000 grant.  DHS Principal Gary Bocaccio says while they can't win that top prize two years in a row, the school could still win a $25,000 grant.

 

Students will be out in the community through October 24th asking people to pledge to drive safely. 

 

You can take the safe driving pledge at votedanbury.com.

 

The students used a large chunk of the 2013 grant funding for an electronic sign outside of the school. 

 

A committee of students, teachers, parents and administrators decided to order 36 Chrome books for the library, which will enable classes to sign them out. 10 tables with benches were installed in the courtyard for the students to use at lunchtime.  About $10,000 is being donated to a program allowing teachers to apply for funding.  

 

Some seed money was put away for this year because they hope to win another grant through the contest.  The Peer Leadership Group and DECA were reimbursed about $3,000 for what they spent on the contest last year.

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Heart of Women Award to be presented to SCOTTY Fund founder


A woman who turned personal tragedy into hope for others is being recognized today by the Women's Business Council.  The Heart of Women Award is being presented to Linda Anderson, who founded and is the President of The SCOTTY Fund.  Council Director JoAnn Cueva says the SCOTTY Fund was established in 1996 in memory of Scott Anderson, Linda and husband Mark’s three year old son, who lost his life to pancreatic cancer.  

 

Cueva says Linda is an amazing woman who set out to give back to others who helped her.  This year’s recipient was selected from a diverse group of 24 nominees.

 

Since the Fund's creation, it's raised over $830,000 to help ease the financial burden associated with a critical illness and to help families cope with the day-to-day necessities of everyday life, ranging from grocery shopping to child care.

 

Past Award recipients include Jane Martellino, Founder & President of Yes! Grace Rocks, LouAnn Bloomer, Founder/CEO & President of TBICO, Marie Hatcher, Founder of Matthew’s Hearts of Hope and Wilda Hayes, former President & CEO of Ann’s Place.  Honorary Awards were presented to Pat Llodra and Janet Robinson of Newtown in 2013.

 

 

Enjoy your retirement, Captain.  Re2pect. 

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