SAFETY STORIES:

One room Amish school in Lancaster County, PA tragedy, and increased security in Connecticut as a result...which did not protect Sandy Hook Elementary;  demolition, return to the earth here.  Virginia Tech link...and a similarity we noticed;  from across the pond, story of Omaha mall event. Remember Bernadine Dorne and Bill Ayers, the "Weathermen?"  A blast from the past, as it were...opening the door for Charter School debate once again?  In CT 2012-2013, yup!  Bushmaster used ten years ago by "D.C. Sniper."  Quick on the draw, new taskforce springs into action...Weston salutes"Mass" gun deaths since 1949.  Records open 2013.  As the Sandy Hook Elementary School is demolished in October of 2013, we are reminded that this is the Amish way, too.  With all the interest in gun control, the latest sorrow comes via knife.

Thorny issues at schools: 
Safety for elementary, high, colleges, graduate education and in society at large, in the 21st century:  New "standards" lingo...Common Core of knowledge?




THE PELTO EFFECT

Pryor Won’t Stay For Second Term
by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid | Aug 18, 2014 12:23pm

 If Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wins re-election, controversial Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will not be part of the package, the administration announced Monday.

According to a press release, Pryor does not plan to serve for a second term and is “actively seeking new professional opportunities.”

“Commissioner Pryor has worked hard and well on behalf of Connecticut students,” Malloy said in a statement. “In the three years he’s led the department, we’ve taken tremendous steps forward to improve education, with a particular focus on the districts that have long needed the most help. We needed someone who could act as a change agent, and Stefan fulfilled that role admirably.”

Malloy appointed Pryor after taking office in 2011. His background as the co-founder of the New Haven public charter school, the Amistad Academy, made him a controversial choice with the state teacher unions.

Since then, Pryor has become a lightning rod for critics of Malloy’s education reform package, which some regard as hostile to public school teachers.

As recently, as June, a coalition of state unions adopted a resolution that would require an Education Commissioner to have the same professional experience of a school superintendent. The symbolic requirement was a direct shot at Pryor, who does not have a doctorate in education or classroom teaching experience. The unions ultimately endorsed Malloy.

Sen. John McKinney, who lost the Republican primary to Tom Foley last week, called for Pryor’s resignation back in February after hearing from teacher unions about the messy rollout of the new teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards. The Malloy administration has since delayed the rollout of the of both the teacher evaluation system and the Common Core State Standards, but many rank-and-file teachers remain skeptical of how the education reforms will be implemented.

Pryor has also been the frequent target of Jonathan Pelto, a former Democratic lawmaker and liberal blogger, who is attempting to petition his way onto the ballot as a candidate for governor...





Landmark Education Trial Pushed Back To January
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Jul 23, 2014 5:30am

A landmark education funding trial was supposed to start on Sept. 9, but according to the parties involved it will be moved to January 2015 — months after the November election.  Story in full here.





No Child Left Behind...for long...

Ken Dixon: Anything can happen in session's waning days
CT POST
Published 05:25 p.m., Friday, April 27, 2012

Continuing our stroll through the foibles and machinations of what is called -- with a straight face -- the "legislative process," there's 10 days left before the 151 House members and 36 senators ride home in their pumpkin carriages like so many Cinderellas, weaving along Interstates 91 and 84.

The anxious expressions of lobbyists are getting slightly more furrowed as the bills they want to kill quietly breathe in some dark corners of the Senate or House calendar; or the bills they're advocating get referred to yet another committee where they might prove that the Earth is indeed flat, as they drop off into oblivion through acts of, what I termed last week, legis-cide.

Democrats and Republicans from the same towns who have barely spoken since February now find themselves allied to somehow reviving the corpses of legislation, in political Heimlich maneuvers.

Freshman lawmakers, who thought it was such a big deal to see themselves on CTN, the taxpayer-funded propaganda arm of the Legislature, last year, are now wondering whether it has been worth their measly $30,000 salaries, the long drives to Hartford, the vacuous 2 a.m. floor debates.

They are also calculating whether -- for all the hours they put in -- their "part-time" legislative jobs would benefit from the increase in the minimum wage that is hanging fire in the Senate, as certain other lawmakers decide how it may affect their holdings in fast-food chains.

Don't worry, your salary is reviewed by the Commission on Compensation for Elected State Officials and Judges, so the minimum wage doesn't have anything to do with it.

The Legislature is as likely to vote pay hikes in an election year as the State Commission on Capitol Preservation and Restoration has in finding the $400,000 needed to put the bronze statue of "The Genius of Connecticut" that looks so great in the Capitol rotunda, up on top of the dome where its predecessor, melted down for the munitions effort of World War II, stood until the Hurricane of 1938.

Speaking of "The Genius," the biggest question mark in the waning days of the session is Senate Bill 24, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's go-for-broke education-reform bill. "We have shown flexibility," Malloy told reporters with a straight face on Friday.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from the suburbs -- with good public schools and higher percentages of involved parents -- and troubled cities, where the achievement gap dwells and festers, are divided over the proposed evaluations and tenure reforms.

Under the dome, in the vaulted, if not vaunted, chambers of the House and Senate, business will be moving fast and furious until midnight May 9. Or, if minority Republicans can manage it, time will progress at its traditional speed, but the legislative process will glaciate.

This is the morphing time, when a bill about one subject, say, coastal management, becomes something else entirely. One such bill is now a "vehicle," with the ability to change into something else again if lawmakers such as Rep. Dick Roy, D-Milford, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, need a shell toward the end of the session.

It can be called on the House floor and Roy could offer a "strike-all" amendment and turn it into anything vaguely related to the environment, from the tides, to the movement of sand, the flight of seagulls, or the fate of the oysters off Westport's Saugatuck Shores.

A related Senate bill, which would force towns and cities to essentially pay landowners along the coast for the value of their properties if they lose houses to two major storms in consecutive years and find building plans rejected by local zoning panels, is still alive. But with its threat as yet another "unfunded mandate," it has as much chance at becoming law as you, miffed taxpayer, have in winning the Mega Millions drawing.

A bill that would allow local officials to cut down on the number of polling places for political primaries to save money had a section that would allow anonymous people to complain and have the votes held at the usual sites. This was jettisoned in a bill that passed the Senate on Friday and was rewritten to require candidates to sign such complaints in letters to the secretary of the state, who would keep their identities secret.

Too bad. I would have loved a bill allowing people to cut out letters from magazines, like bad ransom notes, and send them in, thus anonymously costing cities tens of thousands of dollars on primary days like last week's, when a whopping 14.4 percent of Republicans cast votes.

The Stamford-Greenwich contingent is worried about the bill requiring smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors to be put in all homes, including those under construction where people are living. It's the result of the multi-fatal fire in the Shippan section of Stamford last Christmas, where three kids and two grandparents tragically, horribly died.

Veteran Rep. Livvy Floren, R-Greenwich, said the other day that the rewritten bill on the House calendar is a good example of bipartisan legislative cooperation. Under the bill that recently passed committee and awaits action in the House, it would have required detectors outside each bedroom.

"You don't exactly need that in a ranch-style house," Floren said in an interview.

And while the original bill had fines associated with not using detectors, the current piece is "enabling" legislation, because fire departments aren't going to go around inspecting private homes for smoke detectors.

It's the time of the session for deals and dealing, for eagle-eyed committee chairmen and staffers to watch for threatening amendments. May 10 will coincide with the arrival of the real spring in the Capitol.




You can't make this up (the typo above)! 
Superintendents rudely got up and left the room if they didn't have questions.  Yesterday (r), Higher Education Board meeting (remember that scandal?) - bad sign when Chairperson says she doesn't know Robert's Rules...and the new professional at the helm of this "brand new organization" which of course is interested in TRANSPARENCY, nervously noted that he had a list of things he should do but had been told he didn't have to reach all the goals at once.  Sure.  Next year is an election year...for state government.  Did you know that he holds a D.Ed from Penn State and spent the longest period of his working carrier there?

High school graduation rates increase
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST
Updated 12:12 am, Thursday, August 15, 2013

HARTFORD -- Connecticut students aren't scoring as well as they used to, but statewide, more of them are graduating on time.

So say new figures from the state that show a greater percentage of the Class of 2012 collected a diploma in four years than did the Class of 2011.

The 84.8 percent graduation rate -- 2.1 percentage points higher than the year before -- was trumpeted Wednesday by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the annual Back to School meeting for Connecticut's public school superintendents.

The increase is the third in a row, according to state officials, and was helped along by local graduation rate increases in Ansonia, Bridgeport, Derby, Fairfield, Monroe, Seymour and Shelton.

In Bridgeport, for example, 66.3 percent of the Class of 2012 graduated, compared to 60.5 percent among the Class of 2011.

"There is no doubt that the goal of improving our public schools is one that will be won over the long term," Malloy told school chiefs meeting at the state Capitol. He called three consecutive years of increases in the graduation rate a great thing.

"This is proof that when we invest in our children and our teachers, we can and will achieve success," Malloy said.

School leaders needed something to celebrate a day after statewide Connecticut Mastery Test results showed students down in all grade levels and subject areas. The 10th-grade Connecticut Academic Performance Test, meanwhile, showed modestly higher scores.

Statewide, there were 43,883 students in the Class of 2012. Of those, 37,170 graduated on time and another 2,370 were said to be still enrolled.

The graduation rate increase was reflected in almost all subgroups, including students from low-income homes, English language learners and minority students. The graduation rate for Hispanic students increased 4.4 percentage points, while the rate for black students increased 1.8 points. The 2011-12 rates also show that 3.3 percent more English language learners and 2 percent more special education students graduated in 2011-12 than in 2010-11.

Even so, there exists a significant gap between the graduation rate of students who are white and non-poor and others.

The graduation rate of white students in 2012 was 91.3, compared to 73 percent for black students and 68.6 percent for Hispanic students. The graduation rate for students receiving free lunch is 66.6 percent. For others, 93.1 percent.

"Success in college and career begins with a high school diploma," said Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor. "We must continue this positive trend."

Pryor said funding has increased to support districts working to keep students in school and on track to graduate, but no analysis was provided Wednesday on why the rate is increasing.

"Part of the reason may be the strong emphasis that Gov. Malloy and the General Assembly have placed on the importance of education -- and specifically, on the goal of preparing students for college and career," Pryor said. "That's a focus that our school districts increasingly share -- and are, themselves, building toward."

In Bridgeport, the increase to 66 percent was bolstered by a 5-point jump in Central's graduation rate to 78.4 percent and an 11-point jump at Harding High, from 45.1 to 66.1 percent. Combined, that offset a 13-point drop at Bassick High to 47.9 percent for 2012.

In Stamford, where the graduation rate fell by a fraction of a percent from 85.3 to 85.2, two out of three high schools experienced declines from 2011 to 2012. The Academy of Information Technology and Engineering, a magnet school that includes students from outside Stamford, increased its overall graduation rate to 98.2 percent in 2012. Stamford High's graduation rate fell to 84.2 percent, and Westhill High's graduation rate fell to 83 percent in 2012, with a drop in Hispanic graduates as a contributing factor.



NO CHILD OR UNION LEFT BEHIND, MR. SECRETARY?  Who elses' contracts voided after teachers'?
"Let the sun shine in" was not just a song from "Hair" but the purpose of a government agency once independent.

State intervention: Coming to a school near you? (See green list)
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
June 15, 2012

Connecticut's education commissioner will announce as early as next week which low-performing schools the state will likely intervene in during the 2012-2013 school year.  As many as nine superintendents have offered up their schools for state intervention.

"We are considering how severe the problem is at the given school when making these decisions," Stefan Pryor said Friday during an interview.

A Freedom of Information request to review the letters of interest from the superintendents went unanswered. Instead, during an interview Friday, Pryor listed the nine districts whose superintendents are seeking to join the commissioner's network for the coming school year or the following year. Pryor declined to list specific schools.  Another 122 schools are eligible for state intervention because specific groups of students, such as black or Hispanic, are significantly underperforming on standardized tests or their graduation rates are low. No charter schools were included in the list of eligible schools provided by the State Department of Education, but Pryor said he is willing to consider them.

"We need to increase the level of intervention at a couple of our schools," New London Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said.

The New London school district may have to lay off as many as 68 members, including many teachers, of its 427-person staff in the next school year.  Becoming a member of the so-called Commissioner's Network "will make resources available to us," Fischer said. "We want to expand the school day, but to do that, you need money to pay teachers more."

Legislators have allocated $7.5 million to the state education department these interventions next year.  Pryor has the authority to intervene in up to 25 schools for the 2012-13 school year, but said he intends to intervene in only a "limited number." The remainder of the interventions will take place during the following two school years, he said. He plans to ask the legislature for more money to do that.  While superintendents and school boards in the state's 30 lowest-performing districts have overwhelmingly supported state oversight, union leaders have been apprehensive.

When designated a Network School, a teacher union's ability to bargain can be significantly restricted if the commissioner and local board-appointed members of a "turn-around committee" cannot agree on a plan. Instead, for the first time, a new state law provides for a single arbitrator to "give the highest priority to the educational interests" when settling a dispute of what to include in a school's turnaround plan.

Pryor said that in the first round of state interventions, in "most cases, it will be unlikely" that an agreement will not be reached. By law, Pryor can reject a proposed turn-around plan and send it to the arbitrator.

"That may be required in one case. We are considering that possibility," he said.

Fischer said he doesn't suspect that will be necessary in New London.

"The union works with us very cooperatively... But we haven't reached out yet" about a New London school becoming a Commissioner's Network School, he said.

Regardless of which schools the commissioner taps, every district is required to create a plan for their worst-off schools. This is required of schools because the state has won a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law.  If the commissioner approves the individual school's plans, local district officials will be able to direct their portion of $17 million in federal funding to their new initiative. There is also $39.5 million in additional state funding for the worst-off districts and their lowest-performing schools.

"It is so important that we are deploying multiple strategies," Pryor said.

Nine School Districts Ask To Start Turnaround Plans Early
The Hartford Courant
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, vdelatorre@courant.com
7:46 PM EDT, June 15, 2012

Nine Connecticut school systems have expressed interest in joining the $7.5 million Commissioner's Network, tentatively offering to implement turnaround plans for their lowest-performing schools in the coming months, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said Friday.

The districts in contact with the state are Hartford, Bridgeport, Danbury, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich and Waterbury, said Pryor, who declined to name any specific schools under consideration.

The application process is ongoing, and Pryor said the state will extend a preliminary round of invitations in the next two weeks. By mid-July, he said, a few districts will be asked to work on turnaround plans that must be approved by the state and implemented in time for the first day of school.

State education department spokesman Jim Polites said discussions with the nine school districts include the possibility that some of them would begin the aggressive reform work in 2013-14 instead of next school year.

Pryor estimated that only "a small number" would be chosen for the first group of 2012-13 network schools and anticipated that some of the initial volunteers would withdraw on their own.

"It's admittedly challenging... The ramp-up is so rapid. It's very understandable that most districts, whether they've expressed interest or not at this point," will want a year to plan, Pryor said.

Connecticut's new education reform package calls for state intervention in about 25 struggling schools that will be picked for the Commissioner's Network over the next three years. No more than two schools can be chosen from one district in a single year, according to the bill, and the selected schools must commit to at least three years of intensive "turnaround" strategies.

In Hartford, for example, school officials are pushing for the Jumoke Academy charter organization to essentially run the Milner Core Knowledge Academy, a prekindergarten to grade 8 school that remains mired in poor test scores after a 2008 district redesign. Most students do not meet basic proficiency in reading.

Hartford administrators have scrambled to develop a turnaround plan with Jumoke that they hope the state will accept for 2012-13.

Pryor noted Friday that the $7.5 million budgeted for the network next fiscal year includes money for schools that would implement their reform strategies in 2013-14 and are engaged in "planning activities."

Additional state money is available through a $39.5 million conditional funding program for Connecticut's so-called Alliance Districts. The 30 lowest-performing school systems, from Ansonia to Meriden to Windsor Locks, are eligible if they rank their schools in tiers and submit detailed reform proposals for lifting achievement in 2012-13, such as extended school days and early literacy programs, Pryor said.

The final deadline for those applications is Aug. 15.




The cost of lobbying education reform: millions
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
June 8, 2012


More than $3 million was spent lobbying both sides of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's education reform package during the 2012 legislative session.

And at least one good government organization is concerned that not every lobbying group is required by law to report the sources of the money.

Active groups this year included teachers' unions fighting the governor's education package and national and state education reform groups, which supported the governor's proposals. The legislature approved a modified package that, among other changes, transformed how teachers get tenure.

Figures filed with the Office of State Ethics include only the amount -- $2.9 million -- spent through April. But next week, the groups are required to file records of what they spent in May. The final day of the legislative session was May 9, and that figure is sure to go up.

According to records, television and radio advertisements, the rallies at the Capitol and 22 lobbyists cost the unions $1.4 million. Most of that was spent by the state's largest teachers organization, the Connecticut Education Association.

In previous years, a media blitz and the cost to bus hundreds of teachers to the state Capitol to protest may have been all that was needed to defeat an ambitious governor's bill.

But this year education advocacy groups overwhelmingly lined up behind Malloy's plan with their bank accounts as a counterweight to the union's political muscle. The advocacy groups' filings show that collectively, they spent about $57,000 more than the unions' total.

A review of spending reports by the Mirror shows this is the first time that union spending was matched by education advocacy groups since the state began requiring reporting four years ago, in the wake of the Gov. John Rowland ethics scandal.

"We are providing an equal balance to the equation," said Michelle Rhee, one of the biggest names in the national education reform movement and founder of Students First.

"If you look at what the unions did in Connecticut, they spent millions of dollars attacking the governor... They definitely invest a lot to try and make their voices heard. What's important is that they are not the only voice heard," she said.

Students First spent $670,000 during this legislative session backing the governor's reforms. ConnCAN and ConnAd -- groups that share an address and directors -- spent another $650,000 supporting Malloy's initiatives. Two business-backed groups -- the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and Connecticut Business and Industry Association -- spent more than $100,000.

"The Connecticut Education Association made it very clear they were prepared to spend millions to defend the existing system. It becomes very dangerous if we only have the teachers' unions having a say," said Patrick Riccards, the leader of both ConnCAN and ConnAd.

"It was helpful to have the backing of multiple engaged groups," Stefan Pryor, the governor's education commissioner, said after a state board meeting this week where several of the administration's reforms began being implemented. "I believe our bill benefited from multiple stakeholders."

Union leaders, however, wish many of these groups would just butt out.

"These other voices aren't Connecticut voters," said Mary Loftus Levine, the leader of the state's largest teachers' union. "You don't know who these people are and where their funding is coming from... Democracy is at risk."

Criticism surrounding the motives of these groups, and uncertainty over who bankrolled them, became a theme for union leaders. A television advertisement that the CEA spent thousands of dollars airing says Malloy's plans are nothing more than, "unproven ideas backed by special interests."

Where does the money come from?

State law requires any group that spends money during a campaign to promote a candidate disclose where the money is coming from.

"The state has a compelling interest to know who's speaking for these candidates. It tells you if someone is in the pocket of a certain interest," said Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, co-chairwoman of the legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee. "That said, if it's not electioneering, then it is protected, unregulated speech."

Translation: Groups that spend $1.4 million airing commercials and lobbying legislators for education reform do not have to disclose who is bankrolling their operation.

Of the state's 1,000 registered groups that lobby in the state, only 27 are required to disclose their funding sources, according to the Office of State Ethics. Groups are required by state law to identify contributions over $1,000 if a group spends more than 20 percent of their time lobbying lawmakers.

So, details of where groups like ConnAd and StudentsFirst received their money to advertise in Connecticut were largely left up to conjecture and an outlier news report.

An aide to New York City Mayor Bloomberg told a Reuters reporter last month that the mayor helped finance Students First's reform efforts in Connecticut. His office did not respond to requests for comment from the Mirror.

Rhee, who has been in general reluctant in other states to disclose where her group's funding comes from, said the source of the donations are unimportant.

"We are a membership organization. We don't get active in states unless our members are driving that... The vast majority of our donors are our members," she said. "We are an organic and grass-roots organization. And that's whose driving the actions."

ConnAd, which spent $500,000 on advertising in Connecticut this last legislative session, is not required to disclose its funding because it reported that it does not primarily lobby.

This new reality -- that groups are spending huge sums of money and not revealing the sources of the funding -- is concerning to Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause's director for state operations and a Connecticut native.

"I would think there's a compelling government interest to find about who's spending this $1 million," said Flynn. "When you see a lot of new groups showing up and spending a lot of money, you should want to know where it's coming from."

This legislative session -- which Malloy dedicated to education reform -- saw not only an influx of new spending but also an increase of a handful of new advocacy groups, all which backed his initiatives.

None were on the list State Ethics provided that requires funding disclosure. Their tax records won't help either, because many of these organizations are nonprofit social advocacy groups -- also known as a 501(c)4 -- and are not required to disclose the sources of their money publicly.

Next door in New York this week, the New York Times reported for the first time that one of the state's largest lobbying groups gets its funding from gambling companies. This same group spent millions on campaign-style advertising in 2011 for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is pushing for casinos to open in New York.

Flynn said disclosure is the solution to avoid conflicts nationwide.

"It's an emerging problem. No one knows who they are or where they get their money from," she said of these 501(c)4 groups.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania requires disclosure when funding hits a certain threshold. That state required Rhee to disclose who was spearheading her group's efforts there. New York has a new law that began June 1 that requires disclosure when a group receives more than $5,000 and if it represents more than 3 percent of the group's overall budget.

But these states are the exception, not the rule, said Flynn, noting Congress has been reluctant to require this.

Riccards, the executive director of ConnAd, said having outsiders funding these reform efforts might not be such a bad thing.

"It would be foolish not to look outside for help," he said, insistent that his group "does not receive a dime from charter schools." His groups do advocate for charter school expansion as well as other reform initiatives like limiting collective bargaining.

"No one has had more of a say then have the teachers' unions... We need a change. The more voices we have in Connecticut, the better."

And it seems as those these new voices are here to stay. Rhee said Students First is not going anywhere.

"Reforms don't happen overnight. This is a long haul," she said.

A recent poll of 500 likely voters that her group commissioned reports that voters don't think the new law went far enough. She plans to lobby the lingering issues during the next several years.

Asked if her organization plans to campaign for certain legislative seats in Connecticut in the coming election, Rhee said she considering it.

"It's very interesting to us. But we haven't made any decisions yet," she said.


10 School Districts Chosen To Shape Teacher Evaluation System
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Natalie Missakian
Jun 5, 2012 5:30am


Calling it another step to “fix what’s broken in our public schools,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Monday announced which school districts will test out a much-debated plan to grade teacher performance that will soon be mandatory for every teacher in the state.

A total of 10 applicants – both individual school districts and consortia of districts –were chosen to pilot the new teacher and principal evaluation system under the state’s recently passed education reform package.
Districts in the pilot are: Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge; Branford; Bridgeport; Capitol Region Education Council (CREC); Columbia, Eastford, Franklin and Sterling; Litchfield and Region 6; Norwalk; Waterford; Windham; and Windsor.

What happens in those districts in the coming school year will be closely watched, since their successes and failures will help shape a new statewide evaluation plan starting in the fall of 2013.

Those ratings will eventually be used to determine if teachers get tenure under the new state law. Teachers judged “inefficient” will get additional support but can be fired if they fail to improve.

“The fact is that many of our state’s schools and most of our teachers are doing a tremendous job,” Malloy said in statement announcing the pilot. “But without a fair and reliable evaluation system, teachers and administrators are left with no clear indicators of where they are succeeding and where they should improve.”

The announcement comes as a state panel continues under a looming deadline to hammer out the new evaluation guidelines, which the State Board of Education must approve by July 1.

The Performance Evaluation Advisory Council was still debating the biggest sticking point until last Thursday, when the group finally reached consensus on how much weight standardized test scores should carry in the teacher ratings.

The framework approved by the panel in January called for 45 percent of a teacher’s grade to be based on evidence of student achievement. But a battle erupted last month over how much of that would be based on test scores.

The panel agreed test scores would make up half – or 22.5 percent of the student achievement portion – but the dispute centered on what could be included in the remaining 22.5 percent.  The panel specified that 22.5 percent should be based on “other indicators” of student achievement, such as portfolios of students’ work.

Committee members representing school boards and administrators suggested schools should be able to choose to include additional tests as one of the “other indicators.” Leaders of the state’s two teacher unions strongly objected, saying that’s not what the panel approved.

“Why did we say 22.5 percent would be state tests?” panel member Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, asked during a meeting Thursday. “If we meant for state tests to be in both (groups) then we would have just said 45 percent would be student tests and other indicators.”

The compromise reached last week – proposed by state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor – allows a maximum of one additional standardized test and a minimum of one indicator that is not a test in the disputed 22.5 percent. The mix would be determined by mutual consent between the teacher and evaluator.

Some members of the panel – including Loftus Levine and Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents Executive Director Joseph Cirasuolo – disagreed with the consensus for different reasons but said they would not block it.

“We don’t agree but we can live with it,” Cirasuolo said.

Loftus Levine worried the compromise would result in evaluations that rely too much on tests. She said it is “a lot more work” to use other indicators such as behavior, attendance and portfolios of students’ work than to look at a test score but it gives a truer picture of a teacher’s abilities.

“I don’t think we should take the easy way out here,” she said.

Cirasuolo wanted to give the pilot districts more leeway to come up with their own formulas.

“I think you need to just let folks go out and set those learning objectives teacher by teacher, school by school, district by district and let’s see what happens,” he said. “If we don’t like what happens, we can always adjust.”

In addition to student performance measures, the evaluation framework calls for 40 percent of a teacher’s grade to come from classroom observations, and the rest from student, parent and peer feedback.

Pryor said he was looking for a diversity of approaches in the pilot districts but the state also needs to give direction about the panel’s preferences. He said a key purpose of the pilot is find out what works best so it can be included when the model is rolled out statewide.

The University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education has been tapped to study the pilot and report to state lawmakers by October 2013.

Uncertainty over how the new evaluations will play out didn’t stop dozens of districts from applying to take part in the test run.

The State Department of Education received 36 applications for the pilot, and not just from struggling urban districts. Several of the state’s high-performing suburban districts applied, as did some rural districts and a charter school. In a letter inviting superintendents to volunteer, Pryor said the goal was for the pilot to “represent the state’s diverse regions and school systems.”

Districts were chosen based on size, geographical location, designation as rural, suburban or urban, levels of academic performance and socioeconomic and ethnic diversity.

Cirasuolo said districts were enticed by the opportunity for intense state-funded training and the chance to try out the new system before it becomes mandatory.

“You have a chance to have a shakedown cruise,” he said. “You get a chance to try it out before it has any real consequences.”

Districts that applied but were not chosen included Portland, Cromwell, New Hartford, Suffield, Plainville, Berlin, Odyssey Charter School , Watertown, Torrington, Monroe,  Westbrook, Cheshire, Naugatuck, Hebron, Sterill, Region 8, Sprague, Colchester, Andover, Deep River, Chester, Region 4, Essex and Norwich.


Guess what?  We weren't the only people thinking about this...
Teacher evaluation panel moves its work behind closed doors

CT MIRROR
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Keith M. Phaneuf
May 22, 2012

After a contentious public meeting last week on developing a new teacher and principal evaluation system, the state Department of Education has closed its meetings on the topic to the public and the media.

Instead, a series of private "working group" meetings is scheduled to take place in the weeks before the panel's June 30 deadline to create a model process on evaluation under the new education reform law. The next public meeting is not until June 21, nine days before the panel is required to finish their work. The state Board of Education is expected to sign off on the evaluations shortly after that.

Asked if these "working group" meetings will be open to the public, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor last week referred all questions to a State Department of Education spokesman, who declined to give notification of these meetings nor copies of its minutes.

At its first public meeting in three months, members of the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council last week butted heads on how much weight students' standardized test results should have when their teachers are evaluated.

The council had planned to reconvene Monday to begin to hash out a list of issues raised during the meeting, including the standardized tests issue and how many times teachers should be observed during the school year.

The education department cancelled Monday's meeting, however, and scheduled 10 private "working group" meetings instead, including one this morning on principal evaluations. The other groups set to meet in closed sessions this week include Implementation, Teacher Evaluation, Pupil Services and Observation.

An education department spokesman failed to respond to numerous requests for time, date and location of upcoming meetings. The Mirror received a copy of those meeting dates from a panel member.

The section of the Connecticut General Statutes commonly referred to as the Freedom of Information Act defines a meeting as "any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency."

And though a meeting can include "any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency" both the Freedom of Information Commission and state courts say the presence of a quorum isn't essential for a meeting to have occurred.

In an August 1989 decision involving the East Hartford Emergency Medical Services Commission, the state Appellate Court upheld the FOI Commission's finding that a subcommittee of the commission met illegally even though it involved less than a quorum of the full board.

"The plain language of General Statutes...[is that it] does not require a quorum as a necessary precondition to any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency," the appellate court wrote in its decision. "The legislature did not define a meeting as any hearing or proceeding of a quorum of a public agency."

A subcommittee can be engaged in a public proceeding under the law if multiple members gather "to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power."

This is not the first round of closed "working group" meetings the Department of Education has conducted in recent months. At the full public meeting last week, each working group leader gave presentations on decisions that already had been made.

The Mirror's requests for notification of these meetings and minutes have gone unanswered. Neither did the education department inform the Secretary of the State's Office of these meetings, as is required by the state Freedom of Information law.

Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the legislature's Education Committee, said that while he can appreciate the need for this group to meet privately, he also understands it is bound by the state's FOI laws.

"There are times when it's hard to develop new models and reach agreement with everyone in the world looking on," the West Hartford Democrat said.

"If the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council has found that it needs smaller groups to meet privately, and if that does not comply with the Freedom of Information law, then they need to find a way to bring themselves in conformance... They need to follow the law or come to us and seek an exception."



Lawsuit: State Still Owes About $235,000 to Education Reform Consultants
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Mar 27, 2013 5:30am

Three education consulting firms sued the state this week claiming the Department of Education failed to pay them in full for their work helping the Malloy administration with its reform efforts in 2012.

Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” says it has only been paid half of the $200,000 it was promised by the state, according to the complaint.

Leeds Global Partners is a division of Leeds Equity Partners. According to Leeds Global’s website, it “is an education services and advisory firm.”

Jonathan Gyurko, one of Leeds Global’s co-founders, worked as director of charter schools in the New York City Department of Education and was intimately involved in negotiations between the Malloy administration and the two teacher unions last year. The company’s relationship with the state was controversial. In 2012, the Connecticut Post reported that the company received its contract without going through the bidding process. A whistleblower complaint was filed last April questioning its contract with the state.

It’s unclear if the lawsuit filed this week is referencing the same no-bid contract that went through the State Education Resource Center, which claims to be a nonprofit set up to support local and regional school boards. State auditors released a report in February in which they said SERC is a state entity operating in a gray area without “state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.”

The State Education Resource Center was not named as a defendant in any of the three lawsuits.

One of the other two firms suing the state is Education First Consulting, the Washington-based company that helped design the new teacher evaluation system. Education First claims the state owes it about $94,000.

“The State of Connecticut never questioned the quality or value of the services provided by Education First that benefited the State of Connecticut, students, educators, and schools,” the lawsuit states.

The Education Department has not rendered any payments to the group since April 2012.

New Leaders Inc., a New York nonprofit in charge of developing the principal evaluation for the Education Department, claims it is owed more than $41,500 out of the $50,000 in services provided.

“New Leaders relied on the repeated assurances by the Department of Education, including Project Team Manager Emily Bryne, that it would be paid the full value of its work, and thus New Leaders continued to provide services to the state of Connecticut through the Department of Education through June 2012 on the basis of these assurances,” the complaint states.

The three plaintiffs received permission from the state Claims Commissioner to file a lawsuit earlier this month.

The Attorney General’s office will provide legal representation for the state Department of Education.

“As is our responsibility, we represented the State Department of Education before the Claims Commissioner and stipulated to suit in state court,” Susan Kinsman, a spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen, said. “As a result, the vendors filed complaints in Superior Court, and we are working towards a resolution between the state and vendors. Because these are pending matters, we have no further comment at this time.”

All three consulting firms are represented by James Sullivan of Howard, Kohn, Sprague, and Fitzgerald in Hartford.


Questions Remain About No-Bid Consulting Contracts
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Michael Lee-Murphy | May 3, 2012 11:36am

Since becoming Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education this past fall, Stefan Pryor has brought in high paid consultants with ties to the charter school community to help craft Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s sweeping education reform package.

Last week allegations surfaced that these contracts were hidden from normal bidding procedures by the use of the State Education Resource Center, a quasi-public agency that is primarily funded by the Department of Education.

A whistleblower complaint filed last Friday by Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group alleges that the contracts were performed through SERC for the purposes of circumventing the state’s contracting laws.

Pryor initially told the Connecticut Post that operating the contracts through SERC was legal because the state agency was a nonprofit and therefore didn’t have to follow state bidding procedures. Swan’s complaint, however, claims that they are not registered as a 501(c)(3), and haven’t filed the requisite reports with the Attorney General’s office. A search for SERC on the site GuideStar.org returned no results, and the center is not registered as a charity with the Department of Consumer Protection.

Jim Polites, a Department of Education’s spokesperson, said that SERC qualifies as a nonprofit because it operates under Rensselaer Hartford Graduate Center Inc., a job training facility in Hartford. The SERC website lists Rensselaer as its “fiscal agent.”

The complaint questions the status of SERC as a nonprofit and refers to a previous legislative attempt in 2011 to “establish” SERC as a 501(c)(3)—the provision never became law.

Swan’s complaint, which the Malloy administration has dismissed as “reckless” calls for the contracts to be terminated and the contractors banned from working in Connecticut for five years.

“What it is starting to look like is that this administration is trying to use SERC in a similar manner to how the Rowland administration used [the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority],” Swan said.

The Malloy administration had no comment beyond what it told the Connecticut Post last Friday when the governor’s chief legal counsel said Swan’s allegation against the governor was “reckless” and “devoid of any evidence.”

LEEDS EQUITY

According to emails obtained by Swan under the Freedom of Information Act, the biggest of the contracts—$195,000—was for a consultant, Jonathan Gyurko, senior vice president of Leeds Equity, an investment group that specializes in the “knowledge industry,” according to its website.

Leeds Equity was paid $195,000 for just under four months of work, specifically to “assist in the development of a legislative strategy and package.” The Leeds contract also shows that the firm “Will assist in the analysis of collective bargaining agreements, within and outside of Connecticut, and produce recommendations on how innovative collective bargaining arrangements” can help the commissioner turn around failing schools. Jan. 5 thru March 31.

The emails show that money for the contract was initially budgeted through the Council of Chief State School Operators, a national association of education commissioners, of which Pryor is a member. But on January 19, William Cox of DSA Capital, emailed representatives of Leeds Equity to tell them that the contract would instead go through SERC, though the emails didn’t explain why.

Asked about the decision to change funding sources Polites offered the following Wednesday in an emailed statement:

“In Connecticut, to assist Commissioner Pryor’s transition following his appointment, CCSSO has provided expert assistance to the state Department of Education (SDE) on topics such as organizational design and the departmental transition. CCSSO was open to engaging others regarding additional subjects. However, SERC was specifically created by the General Assembly to assist the department in the provision of programs and activities that promote educational equity and excellence. The State Education Resource Center (SERC) is ideally situated to work with SDE on ongoing priorities.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Cox did not respond to phone calls seeking comment, and the DSA Capital website showed a screen saying that the site is “under construction.”

Last year, Cox was paid $60,000 by the state of New Jersey to assemble a team of consultants to assist in reform efforts there. Its contract with Connecticut was not part of Swan’s Freedom of Information complaint.

Peter Lyons, Leeds Equity’s Chief Financial Officer, said in an email that the Department of Education had requested that all press inquiries be directed to it.

Sharon Palmer, president of AFT Connecticut, said that she thought it was haste in education reform efforts that led to the contracts being signed.

“He wanted to get some consultants in right away,” she said, “so he rammed in some no-bid contracts to get off and running quickly.”

Pryor, one of Malloy’s last appointments wasn’t hired until September 2011, just months before the start of the so-called ‘Education Session’.

“We certainly would not like to have that practice continue, particularly as it goes to [the education reform bill],” Palmer said.

Asked if she expects anything to come of the whistleblower complaint, she said “I hope so,” but stopped short of agreeing with the call for the contractors to be banned from doing business in the state for five years.

A spokesperson for SERC declined to comment for this article and referred all questions to the Department of Education.


Education reform hinges on contracts
Stamford ADVOCATE
Linda Conner Lambeck
Updated 11:24 p.m., Friday, April 27, 2012

HARTFORD -- The state's ability to alter contracts with teachers' unions is a key stumbling block between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Democratic legislative leaders as they try to fashion a compromise education reform package to narrow the nation's largest achievement gap.

Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said Friday he is not convinced the General Assembly can legislate changes in negotiated contracts that may be part of the effort to turn around the state's worst-performing schools.

"That is a threshold question we need answered: whether you can force open a contract," said Williams, speaking with reporters at the state Capitol.

Williams said lawmakers are asking for legal clarification on the issue.

Part of Malloy's massive education reform proposal would allow the state to intervene in the state's 25 lowest-performing schools. It also gives the state commissioner of education broad new powers to have a say in how those schools are staffed and run.

The governor's 163-page bill would not only target failing schools, but also change the way teachers are trained and evaluated. It has run into stiff opposition, as teachers around the state have rallied against Malloy's plan. The outcry led to changes in the reform package. The package that cleared the legislature's education committee calls for a study on tenure reform and takes control out of the commissioners' hands.

"I very much want to get to a bill I can support," Malloy said Friday. "The education committee bill was not that. I would have vetoed that."

So far, talks between Malloy's staff and legislative leaders reportedly are focusing on eliminating the commissioner's authority when reconstituting a low-achieving school, eliminating the proposed requirement that districts chip in for the cost of charter schools and starting a pilot program in 10 districts on changes to teacher evaluations.

Malloy said the state has to be able to demonstrate it can turn around low-performing schools by instituting reform models that may require changes in staff and staff working conditions. The state, through the commissioner, also needs the ability to intervene in the absence of those models, he said. Malloy added he does not object to a continued role for unions in the process and insisted his tenure changes do not have to wait.

He said he agrees with a publication released in January by the Connecticut Education Association that called for the evaluation process to be approved statutorily.

Williams said last year, when the governor sought concessions from state employee unions to seal a state budget deficit, the legislature couldn't force the reopening of contracts. The same holds true for unexpired teacher contracts, he said.

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, appearing with Williams on Friday, said many of the changes made in New Haven schools, which many consider a model for the state's improvement efforts, came about at contract renewal time and were negotiated, not forced on teachers.

"In almost every other jurisdiction we have been able to find, the kind of changes sought in the governor's bill were sought with the cooperation and assent of the union in the form of a memorandum of understanding, not in any sort of forcible way," said Williams.

Williams said he thinks the chances are still good that the governor and legislature can come to an agreement on a reform package.

"We all share the same goal. We are searching for a solution that is going to make a difference, not something that is part of the latest education policy fashion or trend," he said. "We want to embrace reform that works."

But with less than two weeks remaining in the session, the governor has been reaching out individually to legislative delegations with the most to lose if an education reform package he is willing to sign is not approved by the General Assembly.

Thursday, he met behind closed doors with the Bridgeport delegation.

Sen. Edwin Gomes, D-Bridgeport, was in on the discussion, but said he had nothing to say about the talks.

Rep. Auden Grogins, D-Bridgeport, a member of the education committee that voted to change Malloy's bill, said the governor was able to answer many questions during the session, but many issues are still unresolved.

"There is still work to do," she said.

Grogins said she left the meeting hopeful that the reform that ultimately occurs will benefit Bridgeport schools. She declined to comment on the specifics.




WE GOOGLED "LEEDS GLOBAL" AND GOT THIS PICTURE...
Education Reform in Connecticut's cities learns from approach developed in perchance... Abu Dhabi?

Education chief defends consultant's role
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Published 07:19 p.m., Friday, April 20, 2012

HARTFORD -- State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor on Friday defended the presence of a $195,000 consultant in the pending discussions over education reform.  Pryor said that the consultant, despite concerns from a legislative leader and unionized teachers, does not have a union-busting or school-privatization agenda.

During an interview in the Capitol, the first-year commissioner said the consultant, Jonathan Gyurko of the New York-based Leeds Global Partners, was funded by the nonprofit State Education Resource Center. SERC receives part of its $15 million annual budget from the state Department of Education and, according to state statutes, promotes "educational equity and excellence."

An effort last year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to turn it into a tax-exempt organization failed in the General Assembly. Malloy and Pryor say that since SERC is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, it does not have to abide by state purchasing and contracting rules that require requests for bids.

Pryor said the $195,000 that was given to Leeds came from money the Education Department allocated to SERC. Later Friday his agency could not say how much funding it provides SERC annually.  The contract was written to run from January through March, but Pryor said that Leeds' involvement has continued.

"That's in discussion," Pryor said, when asked how the consultants are being paid now. He said he's not sure whether SERC will continue to be a funding source.

Another $60,000 contract was with a firm called Education First Consulting of Seattle.

"The department has been preparing a set of policies and proposals for a legislative session as well as a reorganization of the department itself," Pryor said. "These are time-sensitive activities that require support and capacity in order to carry them out."

Teacher unions and Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said this week that they are concerned that Leeds has an agenda to bypass teacher contracts and public bidding procedures while possibly promoting school privatization.

"I don't see the connection at all," Pryor said, adding that Gyurko's work history includes several years as an aide to the national president of the American Federation of Teachers. Gyurko referred questions to Pryor's office.

"He has a long career of promoting pro-union policies, promoting public education and I don't see how that connection can possibly be made," said Pryor.

"This is about reorganizing government, not privatization," Pryor said. "I think the term `privatization' is being misapplied. The governor's plan is not about privatization. It's about reforming the public education system through a variety of mechanisms and policy proposals."

Meanwhile, Friday, legislative Republicans said they were helping make progress on a compromise over Malloy's proposals that previously had been taken out of legislation awaiting action on the Senate calendar.  The Education Committee eliminated Malloy's proposed changes to teacher tenure and evaluations. The governor says he won't sign a bill that doesn't include those issues.

"We applaud Gov. Malloy for accepting our input and including our ideas to ensure key reforms are included in the final legislation," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield.



Pressure mounts on Malloy to ease tenure reforms
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Published 01:22 p.m., Sunday, March 18, 2012

As Gov. Dannel P. Malloy holds campaign-style meetings that have turned into shouting matches with unionized school teachers, legislative leaders are working behind closed doors to reach compromises on his controversial teacher evaluation and tenure reform plans.

Malloy's proposed changes have been the focus of vigorous and emotional public exchanges in a series of recent town hall meetings including Thursday night in Bethel High School.

But when Janice Jordan, associate superintendent of the town's schools, stood to tell Malloy of Bethel's specially tailored evaluation program, the auditorium quieted and the governor seemed to soften, revealing some room for deal making.

"How can we, first of all, preserve their dignity and their feelings? Because right now, I don't like the contentious feelings," asked Jordan.

The Bethel evaluation system includes classroom visits, student achievement and test scores in percentages that differ slightly from Malloy's pending legislation.

"I don't think people are hearing you," Jordan told Malloy. "I don't think they understand the bill that well and those who have really studied it, I think they're not even willing to give you a chance to talk about it. And what I'm saying is that you please do something and somehow convey to the state of Connecticut and to its teachers that you really expect them to believe that there is room for differentiated teacher evaluation."

Malloy, who started the 90-minute meeting by pointing out that Bethel's school district was a high-achieving system, had been the target of several critical outbursts, including "liar" from the hundreds of teachers from as far away as Danbury who packed the auditorium. After listening to some of her evaluation criteria, Malloy asked Jordan for help.

"I would love for you to share with me, when you have time, what your process is," Malloy said. "If you actually asked all the teachers in a school building to rate every teacher in the school building, you'd probably have a 90 percent correspondence about who the best teachers were, who the middle teachers were and who the teachers who need work to be better are. And I think what you've done is find a way, presumably, to find that out."

`UNDER CONSTRUCTION'

The vocal criticism from teachers in Bethel and earlier in the week in New Haven, were part of the continuing backlash from Malloy's Feb. 8 budget address, in which he said that for teachers to earn tenure, "the only thing you have to do is show up for four years."

The powerful Education Committee's deadline for action is March 28, so communication about possible compromises has been intense among Malloy's staff, state education officials, union leaders and lawmakers.

"They're reviewing the bill and negotiating between the committee leaders and the stakeholders," said state Rep. Auden Grogins, D-Bridgeport, a member of the Education Committee, on Friday.

State Sen. Michael McLachlan, R-Danbury, who attended the meeting in Bethel, predicted the governor's bill will have to change if it is to survive scrutiny in the Senate and House.

"Frankly, I don't see the bill, as we're reading it now, passing," McLachlan said. "I think any good politician is going to listen to ideas that they're not familiar with. This is one of those typical pieces of legislation that's under construction, so to speak."

McLachlan said the response has been so vehement from teachers that he wouldn't be surprised if tenure reform is dropped from the bill.

SEEKING COMMON GROUND

Sharon M. Palmer, president of the state's chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said she doesn't fault Malloy for presenting the Legislature with an ambitious bill. Indeed, Malloy says in his stump summations that his proposals on tenure and evaluation reforms are similar to proposals sought by the teacher unions themselves in recent years.

"This is not union pushback," Palmer said in a Friday interview. "It's rank-and-file push back. We need ambitious goals, but it might be too much to do well. However, there is a lot we agree on."

Palmer said she's been trying to communicate to the Malloy administration that there is currently no statewide system of evaluation. "It's like a table of contents for a book not written yet and he keeps saying there is a system," Palmer said. "He needs to beef that up."

Palmer said union officials and the governor are not that far away on tenure revisions. "Once there is a good evaluation system in place, you don't have to worry about tenure," she said, adding that a stumbling block is the governor's attempt to shorten the arbitration process by reducing the number of arbitrators from three to one.

"We like to have binding arbitration," Palmer said. "People don't realize how easy it is to get rid of a teacher if you want to."

Under current law, after four years a district superintendent no longer has the discretion to terminate teachers' contracts, and instead the matter goes through a lengthy dismissal process of up to 120 days. All sides agree that is too long.

Critics of tenure complain that far too often bad teachers are able to hang onto their jobs. In late February, Hearst Connecticut Newspapers reported that of the more than 53,000 public school educators in Connecticut, about 40 with tenure were fired in the past two years. Teachers and their advocates say those numbers are misleading, that bad teachers are weeded out early in their careers and often counseled out after they receive tenure.

Malloy's plan calls for teachers to have tenure renewed every five years through a new evaluation process involving student and school performance, teachers' observations and peer and parent feedback.

Sen. Antonietta Boucher, R-Wilton, ranking member of the Education Committee, who was also at the Bethel meeting, said there's still time to revise a bill that can pass the committee, then move on to the Senate and House.

"The public is behind this," Boucher said. "The question is: Is the governor going to stick to his guns given that he has really stuck out there making very bold and popular statements? How far is he willing to water it down? This is a very populist tune," she said.

"It's interesting," Boucher said. "Everyone is running around, getting the lay of the land. Teachers think it's going to ruin their profession. They don't lose their certification no matter how they perform. They don't change collective bargaining. There's been lots of miscommunication."



Michelle Rhee Praises Malloy's Education Package
Teachers Union Leader Questions Her 'Divisive Politics'
The Hartford Courant
By KATHLEEN MEGAN, kmegan@courant.com
1:34 PM EDT, March 14, 2012

Michelle Rhee, a former Washington D.C. schools chancellor and radical education reform advocate, said today at noon in a phone interview that she has come to Connecticut to support Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's education reform package and to push for further reform.

Rhee, who plans to attend an education rally at the state Capitol today at 3 p.m., said Malloy's proposal is "very strong on tenure reform and ensuring that once the new evaluation system is in place, that the granting of tenure will be based on effectiveness."

She said that the governor's reform proposal, which she called "a good first step," would ensure that the most effective teachers get tenure the fastest, while it would take longer for less proficient teachers to do so.

Rhee said Malloy's proposal could be strengthened with "some clear guidelines" about what happens to "minimally effective teachers" and about how long they are allowed to take part in professional development programs before they are terminated if they have not improved enough.

She said that Malloy's plan for reform is the most aggressive she has seen in states run by Democratic governors. She said that in general Republican governors have been more aggressive on the topic.

Rhee said that her organization, StudentsFirst, which she said has 15,000 members in Connecticut, will open an office in Connecticut, probably in Hartford. The organization also is launching a statewide media campaign urging support for Malloy's reform package.

A press release from StudentsFirst said the advertising campaign is a "six-figure television buy" that includes broadcast and cable ads in the state's major markets.

The press release said that StudentsFirst also plans to push for reforms that include notifying parents when their kids are in an ineffective classroom and giving them the chance to change that assignment. The organization also will support creating a stronger "parent trigger" law — which would give parents the power to shut down or reconstitute a failing school — and providing vouchers for poor students in chronically low-performing schools.

In an e-mailed statement, Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said: "Collaboration has been a hallmark of reform efforts in Connecticut. In contrast, Michelle Rhee is recognized for divisive politics as evidenced by her short-lived tenure in Washington, D.C."

Levine added in her email: "Why should CT citizens want to import outsiders like Rhee, when there are so many solid ideas for education reform right here in our own state? Why did the Florida legislature recently work in a bipartisan effort to reject Rhee's proposals? These are the kinds of questions everyone who cares about public education should consider as we work to ensure high-quality schools for all students who need to compete in a global economy."


Finch pleased with Vallas' education plan
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST
Updated 11:35 p.m., Wednesday, March 7, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- Interim School Superintendent Paul Vallas' five-year plan to transform the district was hailed Wednesday as bold and long-overdue by Mayor Bill Finch and others.

The plan, which calls for additional city and state resources, was fleshed out Wednesday during a six-hour retreat at Sacred Heart University. Under Vallas' plan, schools would get more control over resources but will also have stricter oversight. The plan is expected to be approved by the school board later this month.

Finch, who sat in for part of the presentation, said he believes if the plan is followed, private and public resources will follow, regardless of who is on the school board.

The existing board, appointed by the state, will give way to an elected board under a state Supreme Court decision issued last week. The court rejected the board replacement, which had the backing of the mayor.

"I think there is a chance for greater city dollars (and) private dollars if we know what we are getting for it," said Finch.

He is convinced Vallas' plan will raise test scores.

Vallas' plan would call for a steep and steady increase in city funding of the school district over the next five years, starting with about $3.6 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Finch also supports plans to create a Good Schools Bridgeport Foundation, an independent group that would include city and school board representation. The foundation would be used to fund reform efforts in specific schools.

Paul Timpanelli, president of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said the long-term plan to address budget issues will give the district the stability necessary to attract private dollars to the district.

He called the plan terrific. "It's comprehensive, aggressive. I've seen a lot of the details and I'm very pleased," he said. "I don't know what's not to like."

He said he is pleased that many of the new initiatives are covered using existing resources. The plan would cut the district's central office staff by one-third and redeploy those resources to the schools. It also seeks to reduce special education costs by educating the students within the district instead of at private schools. That part of the plan drew concern from both Jacqueline Kelleher and Hernan Illingworth, members of the existing school board.

Kelleher said she doesn't want students moved to inappropriate placements just to save money. Illingworth worried the plan would bring lawsuits.

Vallas said no one is going to be forced back to the district, but he questioned the effectiveness of the outside programs being used to educate city students.

Kelleher said she supports plans that would better prepare students before they get to high school and give them more choices once they get there, noting that is something the board has wanted since August.

Illingworth said overall, the plan has potential.

"The high school plan, I love. I think students will receive it well," he said. "I think it is a great plan for kids."

Gary Peluchette, president of the Bridgeport Education Association and a Winthrop School teacher, said he is reserving comment until he has had time to digest the plan. He did hear that the plan calls for the expansion of the district's small gifted and talented program. That, he said he liked.


Vallas calls for creating new high schools, private foundation
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST
Updated 11:35 p.m., Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Interim Superintendent Paul Vallas' plan to put Bridgeport's schools on solid financial footing also seeks ways to boost the district's graduation rate and calls for the creation of a foundation that will attract private money.

The multi-year plan was fleshed out during a six-hour Board of Education retreat Wednesday at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.

Vallas, regarded as a prominent public education reformer, was hired by the state-appointed school district in January. His task was to not only balance the budget but to help the district, which produces some of the worst test scores in the state, do a better job educating its 20,000 students. His effort continues even though the state Supreme Court ruled last week that the district must return to an elected board. It is unclear when that election will occur, and indications are Vallas and the state-appointed board will remain in place for now.

His sweeping plan, the details of which only started to emerge this week, calls for creating eight high schools on five campuses that have a special emphasis. In addition to Central, Bassick and Harding, there would be a "first responders" high school that focuses on police, fire and military sciences, a Central Magnet school which would be three science-related high schools built on a single campus, and a restart high school for students who need to make up credits. High performing students would be encouraged to take college courses while still in high school. Other students would be offered job training apprenticeships in area businesses and trades. The three new science high schools would be autonomous and might be run by outside agencies under the district's direction, Vallas said.

He is also calling for the creation of a "Good Schools Bridgeport Foundation" that would raise money to help start new schools and school improvement programs. Vallas said the mayor and school board would have a say in the creation of the foundation, but that it would be run independently. Vallas said he did something similar when he led the Recovery District in New Orleans.

"The foundation would have its own fund-raising capacity and would be a pipeline for resources the district couldn't otherwise access. My great fear is there are great resources we are not taking advantage of. I don't want to see those resources go by the wayside," said Vallas.

Board Chairman Robert Trefry promised a more extensive discussion on the foundation, but said conceptually it made sense.

If it raises money for the district, board member David Norton said he didn't see a downside.

Before the plan was introduced, Vallas' chief administrative officer, Sandra Kase, assessed the schools, looking at instruction, curriculum, how schools use test data and how they support at-risk students. Kase and her education team interviewed principals, walked into classrooms and observed what was going on in the halls.

Kase said she found that many schools were warm, welcoming and doing a good job. But in other schools, she said students were not being challenged, teachers were not following the district curriculum and they were relying too heavily on textbooks.

One of her strongest criticisms was that too much instructional time was wasted. Too many students, when a task was completed, didn't know what they should do next, she said. Teachers should plan for that, Kase said.

"If students are not engaged, the likelihood of them engaging in disruptive behaviors increases," she said.

Most of what Kase saw can be fixed with the staff the district has now, she said.

Vallas said what school personnel need is more focus, training and good leadership.

"We feel really optimistic based on what we've seen that ... all of these schools can improve," he said.

On the funding side, Vallas said his plan brings order and discipline to the budget. He said it is not based on wishful thinking, but on what he anticipates the state and city will give the school district. Funding for its operating budget would increase from $215.8 million to $226 million next year. If it does, Vallas said there would be no layoffs through June 2013 but positions would be eliminated through attrition. There are many instances, he said, where people in the district have duplicate responsibilities.

The plan would cut central office staff by one-third and reduce the number of school aides -- there are more than 400 in the district. To compensate, he would increase the number of college interns the district uses.

Schools would also get a small discretionary allocation next year, and more autonomy as the budget grows and test scores improve.

"In the beginning, we will hold their hands," said Kase.


An oops moment for reform
Bridgeport lawmakers wouldn't back legislative 'fix'
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 12:36 a.m., Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On Saturday afternoon, five of the Bridgeport legislative delegation's eight members gathered in a second-floor meeting room at the Burroughs Community Center in Black Rock. They were there to talk with some 40 city teachers about tenure, educational reform and one other matter:

The takeover of the city school board by the state.

A day earlier, the legislators had received legal briefings at the Capitol about the ramifications of a measure to overturn the state Supreme Court's decision that the takeover had been legally flawed. Now, with Mayor Bill Finch eager to push through a legislative remedy to the ruling and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy willing to back him, the legislators had a decision to make.  Three members of the delegation already backed the high court's ruling. Now, the group was listening to the teachers.

"We felt as teachers we need a locally elected board," said Gary Peluchette, president of the 1,500-member Bridgeport Education Association, who had scheduled the meeting and brought some 40 teachers to the session. "I'm glad they saw what we were trying to tell them. It was a very good meeting. There was no rancor in the room. There was a genuine conversation going on."

So after 90 minutes of give and take had ended, the five state lawmakers lingered. And they knew what they wanted to do. Or in this case, not do. They agreed they lacked a consensus, and thus wouldn't try to push through emergency legislation that might legitimize last summer's state takeover of the school board.

"Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to take into consideration the options," said Rep. Andres Ayala Jr., who leads the city's delegation. "We could not develop a consensus. Some did not want to touch the court's decision."

Without the Bridgeport delegation squarely behind a legislative fix, the leadership lost its appetite to push the measure. By early Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan had pulled the plug on quick legislative action, even as a bill validating the school board takeover was among a list of 19 proposals at that moment getting public hearings.  Finch said in a statement, "We will continue working with the governor and his staff, legislators and any others who think as we do: that Bridgeport children deserve better and the new school board is critically important to our children. We will continue to press on."

The mayor was the protagonist in last summer's takeover, arguing that the school system was mired in failure and that a dramatic change in leadership was the only solution. He is urging changes to the City Charter that would give mayors more authority over the schools.  Malloy, informed by a reporter of the rejected legislation during a visit to Norwalk Community College Monday afternoon, said the next step is for the city to decide what it wants to do.

"We had a stake in it because it was laid at our feet," the governor said. "Listen, there will be a political process and the process will reconstitute the board. And a reconstituted board will decide what way they want to go. Who knows? We could very easily find ourselves back in this very same position, before you know it."

Would the governor urge Bridgeport officials to keep interim School Superintendent Paul Vallas on board?

"Do I think Mr. Vallas is a high performing individual? The answer is yes," Malloy said. "But that's their decision to make."

Vallas, who has a one-year contract, has said his work would continue, regardless of the outcome of the takeover litigation.

Andrew J. McDonald, Malloy's chief legal counsel, said Monday night that legal ramifications could linger and possibly cascade for the 21,000-student district, the state's second largest. "The future is going to be very uncertain for Bridgeport's school system," McDonald said in a phone interview. "The only certainty is its ominous consequences."

But two key members of the Bridgeport delegation saw it differently.

"I was always against what they (state officials) did in the first place, when they claimed the board was dysfunctional," said Sen. Edwin A. Gomes who, like the other seven members of the city's legislative delegation, is a Democrat.

Rep. Charles D. Clemons said Monday he supports Donovan's decision to avoid pursuing a legislative effort to rewrite the law.

"Talking with other legislators, their sentiments were somewhat similar to mine," Clemons said in a midafternoon interview. "It's disenfranchising a community's judgment. I think the right thing to do is to give people the opportunity to vote for the person they want. It apparently affected other lawmakers as well."

The third opponent to the legislative tactic is Rep. John F. Hennessy, who attended the meeting at the Burroughs Center.

Ayala said Finch's effort last week to push hard for legislation was the mayor's prerogative.

"The mayor has to meet with whomever he wants to meet, but the delegation was not in the loop," Ayala said. "Might it have been better if we had? If the delegation had the information at the outset, maybe things would have been different, but nobody had any information until Friday morning. It's almost at the 11th hour and we're being brought in to right a wrong and we couldn't get to any kind of conclusion."

Norman Pattis, an attorney who represents deposed board members Maria Pereira and Bobby Simmons, said he was gratified to hear the Legislature wouldn't try to retroactively address the rejection of the Bridgeport school board takeover.  Pattis is one of several lawyers on both sides of the case who are expected to file motions with the state Supreme Court to seek clarification of its 6-1 ruling last week. They have 10 days from the Feb. 28 decision to do so.

The court ruled that the state replacement of the city school board was flawed because it ignored a key provision requiring training before the board could disband. The court sent the matter back to Superior Court with instructions that a date be set for a special election to replace the four members of the locally elected board whose terms had expired. There are an additional five members of the elected board whose terms have not expired.

Until a special election is held and its results certified, the state-appointed board will continue to be in charge, the high court ruled


Pryor: Don't Delay Education Reform
'The Children Of Our State Have Waited Long Enough'
The Hartford Courant
By KATHLEEN MEGAN, kmegan@courant.com
1:25 PM EST, February 22, 2012

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor Wednesday deflected calls for delaying some of the governor's proposed education reforms, saying the time for reform is now.

A day earlier, at Tuesday's impassioned hearing before the legislature's Education Committee, teachers union representatives and others argued that some reforms should be put off until the state's recently approved teacher evaluation system is fully operational.

But Pryor said any delay would be "at our peril. ... The children of our state have waited long enough," in some cases trapped in schools that have "stagnated."

"This is our moment…" Pryor said. "The stars are aligned to pursue meaningful education reform."

'Unmotivated Teachers'

Scores of people testified to the Education Committee Tuesday about teachers and proposed education reforms, but it was a 17-year-old Norwalk High School student who riveted lawmakers' attention with his account of unmotivated teachers he has had.

"On one hand I can count all the teachers that have really motivated me for success," said Edwin Rosales. "Considering that I have had over 50 teachers in my high school and middle school career, I consider that, for a lack of better terms, sad."

Asked by one legislator why there are so many unmotivated students, Rosales said it's because they are taught by unmotivated teachers.

Rosales talked about an excellent teacher he'd had who would check with students one-by-one to make sure they had mastered the material. But, when he asked another teacher for extra help, Rosales said he was told: "If I don't get it at this point, that's it my problem."

Teachers were the focus of the first day of the two-day public hearing on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed education reform package, which would make sweeping changes — including an overhaul of teacher tenure and certification. The hearing, which began at 1:15 p.m., lasted late into the night.

The two-day hearing resumed Wednesday at around noon.

Union leaders told lawmakers Tuesday they favored education reform but questioned tying the new teacher evaluation system, which is still being developed, to certification and tenure and said they worried that the proposal would weaken a teacher's right to due process in dismissal proceedings.

"We shouldn't be so eager and willing to experiment with basing certification on a system that is not yet designed, .. and that hasn't been tested and refined," said Phil Apruzzese, president of the Connecticut Education Association. "We believe this bill puts the cart before the horse."

Apruzzese said the state runs the risk of losing good teachers if the evaluation system becomes a "gotcha" practice and if reforms establish a "culture of fear, rather than collaboration in our schools."

Tenure Comment Criticized

Malloy, who was the first to testify at the hearing Tuesday, noted that the new teacher evaluation system was created in a joint effort by teacher union leaders, school administrators and state officials and that the framework, while still needing more work, already has been approved by the state Board of Education.

Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, a co-chairman of the Education Committee, told Malloy that many people have reacted positively to his vision for education reform but said teachers he has heard from object to the way the governor characterized tenure in his State of the State speech two weeks ago: "the only thing you have to do is show up for four years."

Fleischmann said teachers said that description "didn't accurately reflect their experience."

"I have no doubt that the teachers you spoke to had a different experience…" Malloy replied. "On the other hand teachers are gaining tenure with a lot less work than the teachers you spoke to. That's reality. ... We all know there are teachers in the classroom who don't belong there."

Bruce Douglas, executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council, commended the proposed changes aimed at improving teacher effectiveness. But, he cautioned against focusing predominantly on teacher evaluation.

"I contend that our teachers are over-managed and under-led." Douglas said the "efficacy of our teacher force is directly correlated with the quality of our school leaders."

George Gianakakos, who teachers science to seventh- and eighth-graders at the Barnum School in Bridgeport, supported the bill, saying it would reward teachers for "excellent teaching" and provide them with "pertinent, effective, professional development."

David Telep, an East Haddam teacher, submitted testimony urging the committee to delay action on the bill. "Success or failure rests on an effective teacher evaluation system," Telep wrote. "We need more time to get this right."

Toward the end of the hearing, Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, stepped outside and said she had hoped that the views expressed at the hearing would be more collaborative. Union leaders and most of the teachers who spoke voiced strong criticism of the bill.

Digging Into The Fine Print

A week ago, the leaders of the state's teachers unions sounded somewhat positive about Malloy's reform plans.

Following the governor's State of the State speech on Feb. 8, Sharon Palmer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, had said: "We need to see what he's talking about. We may not be that far apart."

Mary Loftus Levine, president of the Connecticut Education Association, had said, "I think we have a lot in common, but the devil is in the details."

By Tuesday, though, Palmer and Levine had had a chance to read the fine print of Malloy's 163-page bill.

Palmer said her union agrees with "smoothing out" or "shortening" the process of terminating a teacher — but she questioned whether the process, as proposed, would provide a teacher with a fair enough chance to appeal.

She acknowledged that changes are needed in the teacher evaluation system and that tenure "needs to be worked on or even eliminated or called something else." But Palmer criticized Malloy's proposal to tie teacher certification to positive job evaluations, rather than the current system based mostly on achieving academic requirements.

"Your certification is your license to teach in the entire state. … You could very well have a bad experience in one district and be perfectly fine to teach in another district," Palmer said.

Late Tuesday, Pryor clarified that under the proposed certification system, it would "not be possible for tenured teachers as a result of their district evaluations to become unlicensed. … Even if a tenured teacher were to slip in his or her practices as judged by evaluators," he or she would continue to be certified."

Reform 'Disrespects' Teachers

In a four-page letter to Connecticut teachers, the CEA said Malloy's reform "disrespects the high standards that teachers meet to maintain their professional status" and would "lower standards in a long list of ways."

"Generally, he proposes allowing greater numbers of inexperienced individuals to teach our children, and he makes it easier for out-of-state teachers to migrate to Connecticut," said the letter, signed by Levine and Apruzzese.

The CEA's letter also said that the reform "crushes the teacher certification system" and would provide "an apparent incentive for Boards of Education to set lower salaries for teachers."

In response to the CEA's letter, Roy Occhiogrosso, senior adviser to Malloy, said the governor knew all along his proposal would spark a passionate debate, but as he made clear in his State of the State speech, he's not going to engage in any sort of public dialogue that is disrespectful to anyone.

After Tuesday's hearing, Palmer said: "It's the opportunity for people to talk, but it's far from over. We have a long way to go."


A kinder interpretation of S.B. 24
Malloy's teacher performance plan gets mixed grades
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST
Published 10:25 p.m., Tuesday, February 21, 2012

HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy took aim at teachers who "don't belong" in the classroom, saying his education reform plan would provide a fairer way to judge the performance of educators.

Appearing before the General Assembly's Education Committee on Tuesday, Malloy said his intent is not to slight good teachers, but to fix what's broken in public schools. "I believe we now have the foundation for fair and productive teacher evaluations that will give us the tools to tackle this problem," Malloy said.

Malloy has a 163-page plan to reform public education, which is subject to a two-day public hearing at the state Capitol. The part that would overhaul how teachers are trained, evaluated and dismissed if they don't perform was subject to an afternoon-long public hearing that drew a speaking list of 103 people, many of them teachers.

Some teachers who spoke likened the proposed changes to building an airplane while flying it.

"We run the risk of losing good teachers, of evaluation becoming a `gotcha' practice, and of establishing a culture of fear, rather than collaboration," warned Phil Apruzzese, president of the Connecticut Education Association and a fifth-grade teacher in Wethersfield.

When questioned about whether there is anything in the governor's plan the union liked, Apruzzese said the part that talked about early childhood and preschool education.

George Giankakos, a middle school science teacher in Bridgeport, called Malloy's plan bold, radical and needed.

"Bridgeport is an incredibly difficult district to teach in but ... standards need to be established and held," Giankakos said.

Norwalk High School junior Edwin Rosales said it is sad that he seems more motivated to learn than some teachers are to teach. He admitted, however, that motivation is also lacking in many of his classmates. Some will fall asleep in class and teachers won't nudge them awake.

"I can count all the teachers that have really motivated me on one hand," he said, adding he has probably had more than 50 teachers in his school career.

Mary Loftus Levine, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said the governor's bill raises more questions than it answers.

"It appears to be built on the theory that if you just focus on unproven experimental ideas, take away collective bargaining, and create an untested system of certification, evaluation, and tenure -- our problems will be solved," Levine said.

Although the union supports the creation of a streamlined dismissal process for teachers, Levine said what is proposed would tie a teacher's certification and license to teach to one principal's subjective evaluation -- a system not even fully developed.

"This means if you are terminated in one district, your certification to teach anywhere in the state of Connecticut is taken away," said Sharon Palmer, president of the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, the state's other teachers' union.

Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, in his testimony, said that would not be the case. He said teachers dismissed from one district would not lose their ability to get a job in another district. He also said the new evaluation system will safeguard against teachers in cash-strapped districts from being dismissed merely because they have a higher salary than other teachers, since evaluations would be based on multiple outcomes.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch testified, saying the governor's bill is critical to treating all children in the state equally, even though he said he starts from the premise that the city will get shortchanged, no matter what.

Besides increasing preschool opportunities, funding and intervention in failing schools, Finch said he wants more school choice.

"We need to give parents a real say so," he said, noting his two youngest sons go to the city's Read School.

Finch was asked to comment on a part of the bill that changes the process for state takeover of failing school districts. The current process and how it was used to replace the Bridgeport school board is being challenged before the state Supreme Court. Finch said the court is ruling on a technicality.

"I hope that both Legislature and the supreme court maintain the current stable governing structure that exists in the city of Bridgeport," he said.

Wednesday, the committee will hear testimony on proposals to increase funding for charter schools and to offer additional targeted resources to failing schools. That hearing starts at noon in the Legislative Office Building attached to the state Capitol.

No, No, No! We call it Political Rhetoric – Not Misleading the Public.
What?  Wait!  blog
Jon Pelto
February 21, 2012

Like one of those remote-controlled drones, Governor Malloy’s “education reform” proposal is flying toward its intended destination.  The public hearings on Malloy’s package have begun and they will soon be followed by legislative votes in the House and the Senate.  With the 2012 Legislative Session ending in about 70 days, the Governor’s Office is probably choreographing the signing ceremony already.

To date, the Governor has made it clear that political rhetoric must, when necessary, trump the truth.

In his “historic” call for “education reform”, an end to teacher tenure and a disproportionate transfer of public dollars to charter schools the Governor failed to point out that (1) Connecticut already has one of the longest probationary periods for teachers in the country – four years – which gives school administrators more opportunity to judge a teacher’s capability than do those in most other states and that (2) in 2010 the Legislature adopted major revisions to the teacher evaluation process that already gives Malloy’s Department of Education the power to revamp how teachers are evaluated and require school administrators to actually conduct appropriate evaluations.  They only have to properly implement that new evaluation process.

Finally, the only missing piece is to limit the time-frame and costs associated with the teacher dismissal process – a step that both teacher unions have already endorsed.

But in this case, the truth stands in the way of getting the best headlines and an opportunity to garner “national media coverage” which, of course, is the ultimate goal for those who can’t seem to get out of campaign mode.


Following up on his earlier speech, Connecticut learned last week that Governor Malloy would be speaking at a March 14th “education reform” rally at the State Capitol to push his agenda forward.

What also became clear was that the hosts of the rally were either connected to, or being used by, anti-teacher, anti-union forces from outside of Connecticut.

A consultant for the host group is a well-known conservative columnist who just last month was busy training the Minnesota Tea Party on how to force “education reform” in their state.

Next came the news that Malloy would actually be sharing the stage with Michelle Rhee, the nationally renowned anti-teacher, anti-union reformer.

It was only then that Malloy’s office announced that he wasn’t going to be able to make the rally after all.  See CTNewsjunkie’s story:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_backs_out_of_appearance_with_parent_group/

Although using political rhetoric to strengthen one’s political position is nothing new in American politics, as Malloy’s “education reform” package moves forward it is becoming increasingly clear that something isn’t right.

One piece of the puzzle is the role that Achievement First, the charter school management company, that will receive millions of new taxpayer funds under Malloy’s plan is playing.

At the same time, Connecticut’s resource starved urban district schools are slated to get virtually none of the funds they need to tackle the extraordinary problems that they face and most of Connecticut’s other public schools will get nothing more than crumbs – if anything at all.

To review, Achievement First, the organization that Stefan Pryor helped create and served as a Director for until he quit last year to become Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, is scheduled to grow from 20 school to 35 schools over the next few years at which point it claims that it will be larger than 95% of all school districts in the country.

Under Malloy’s “education reform” plan Achievement First will get in excess of $6 million dollars – $2,600 more per student – while Hartford will get $178 dollars more per student and Bridgeport will get $156 more per student.

All in all, Connecticut’ 6,000 charter schools students will get that extra $2,600 each while the 222,000 students in Connecticut’s thirty poorest and lowest performing school districts will get an average of $150 each.

Put another way, Pryor’s former company with its 2,600 or so students will get more money than the total amount given to 123 towns serving 279,000 Connecticut students.

All pretense of shared sacrifice is gone.

And Malloy and his cadre of advisors and supporters continue to have the audacity to claim that their goal is to “change the education system as we know it”.

As the legislation moves forward, the Malloy Administration’s strategy has become abundantly clear; hide the details, gloss over the facts and force a quick vote before legislators realize just how bad a deal this is for Connecticut, its children and the vast majority of those who devote their professional lives to helping children learn.

Be sure to stop by Wait, What? tomorrow.

I’ll be posting one of the more incredible stories to date.  The file in the Governor’s Office on this one probably reads something like “We don’t want the Media at this one so let’s tell them the event is something that it’s not.”




Education Task Force Will Be Tardy & Some Say Off Target
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Nov 27, 2012 5:30am


A task force created to make recommendations about how the state should revamp the largest share of state education aide to cities and towns is already a month late with its report.

The clock is ticking, but members of the task force said Monday that they need until at least January to come up with a predictable, and equitable formula.

“Every way we turn there’s going to be winners or losers,” Meriden Schools Superintendent Mark Benigni said Monday during a meeting at the Legislative Office Building.

“We should all be looking at that list,” Benigni said of the factors used to calculate the formula and the consequences to local education funding. As a superintendent of a public school system, Benigni wants to know how much his municipality will receive under the formula before he offers an opinion.

The problem is the formula subcommittee hasn’t finished its work.

The number of students receiving free or reduced lunches, Title I funds, poverty, income, and property wealth could all be used as factors in calculating the ECS formula. Finding the right mix of factors still is under discussion after more than a year of meetings.

Ray Rossomondo, a researcher and policy development specialist for the Connecticut Education Association and a member of the task force, said he feels the panel is taking the current budget constraints into consideration. However, he believes the panel’s final recommendation should be free of that type of thinking.

He reminded the task force that education funding is one of the few areas of state funding that’s “bound by the constitution.”

He said maybe the task force should consider dedicating revenue streams for education to ensure predictability and sustainability, two of the four goals cited by the task force at the very beginning.

“I’m not convinced that was really part of our charge,” Sen. Andrea Stillman, co-chairwoman of the task force, told Rossomondo.

She said she understands the desire to give some certainty to local school boards about what they will receive for state funding, “but there are some circumstances beyond our control.”

“I think efforts to set aside certain funding streams in a locked box — I oppose it,” Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget director and task force co-chairman, said. “But I understand why people want to do it and I am happy to have that discussion.”

Stillman said the goal is to make the formula more “reflective of each town’s wealth and need.”

One of the proposals being discussed includes using income, instead of property wealth, as a factor. Still other proposals would include the District Performance Index, which is a measure of students’ weighted performance on the statewide mastery tests.

Regardless of where the formula stands at the moment, James Finley, CEO and executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said “the fiscal challenges facing the state seem to be driving where this task force is going.”

Finley said it shouldn’t matter how much money the state has, the formula needs to work and be equitable for all students in the state, no matter where they live.

“They want a formula that wants a pre-determined dollar amount, instead of let’s get the formula right,” Finley said.

He said the state has a unique constitutional responsibility to fund education.

“We’re not talking about that the way we should be,” Finley, who attended the task force meeting Monday, said.

The formula subcommittee will meet with the co-chairs of the task force behind closed-doors to discuss what factors to include in the formula. It’s likely the formula will be presented to the task force at its next meeting sometime after Christmas.

In the meantime, the task force was able to agree on increasing per-pupil funding for interdistrict magnet and regional agricultural schools.

It also agreed that the state should continue to fund a portion of local special education costs to relieve the financial pressure on local school districts.

According to the draft report, this year 63,651 Connecticut students were identified as eligible for special education services. About 300 of the state agency-placed students are placed in facilities outside the state at a cost of $29 million annually.

Barnes said it may be worth it to look at hiring someone to reduce those costs. If the state can save money, he said the creation of the position will pay for itself.

He said he’s not worried about waiting for the report to be done in January. He said it still gives him time to include the recommendations in Malloy’s two-year budget proposal, which will be delivered in January.

Currently, the state is facing a $2.13 billion deficit over the next two years.


The most important week so far in Connecticut’s “Year of Education Reform”
What?  Wait! blog
Jon Pelto
February 20, 2012

This week, the Connecticut Legislature will be holding hearings on Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” proposals.

Connecticut is engaged in the wrong debate, at the wrong time and in the wrong way.  Requiring that college students have higher grade point averages in order to become teachers, eliminating teacher tenure and linking a teacher’s evaluation and their job status to statistical changes in Connecticut’s standardized tests is not Education Reform – nor are the expanding efforts to “privatize” our Constitutionally mandated public education system.

What it is – is moving the chairs around on the deck of the Titanic while blaming and demonizing teachers and the teaching profession.

It is counter-productive and it is wrong.

The elements of reform are not difficult to understand or even to design, develop and implement.  The answer is actually relatively simple.

As a state and a nation we must engage in the international effort to fully integrat the Common Core standards that provide the knowledge and skills that are needed to  succeed in this competitive, modern society in which live.

This process is very different from chasing the outdated notion that education is merely that mandated scope and sequence of educational elements that have been approved by each state.

The Core Curriculum, differentiated learning and giving teachers the training, tools and time to succeed in achieving responsible and realistic bench marks in general education classrooms is already having meaningful and positive impacts.

The general education classrooms of today include unparalleled challenges that include IEP students, students with behavior issues, ELL students and children who aren’t getting the parental assistance they need, either because they are taking their English dependent homework home to households where English is not the primary language or because their parents are unable, untrained or in some cases even unwilling to provide appropriate help and support.

If America is to survive it will need to make teaching a more attractive profession.

Many of the proposed “education reforms” will have exactly the opposite effect.

The Governor has made his position clear – teaching is no more than showing up for 4 years in order to garner tenure.

The burden for stopping this madness now rests exclusively on the shoulders of Connecticut’s state senators and state representatives.

This week we will know whether they are willing to stand up and fulfill their responsibilities or will continue to allow themselves and their constituents to be run over.



Wait, You are Against Binding Arbitration? Really?
What?  Wait! Blog
January 12, 2012

Binding Arbitration:  The process by which the parties to a dispute submit their differences to the judgment of an impartial person or group appointed by mutual consent or statutory provision.

Some “education reformers” are calling for an end to the teacher seniority system or want to “reform tenure as we know it,” but actively opposing binding arbitration?

That’s a new one for me.

Here in Connecticut it’s been a while since we’ve heard legitimate advocacy groups call for an end to binding arbitration.

Binding arbitration has been universally recognized as an appropriate and successful way to resolve contract disputes without strikes or lockouts.  It’s a system that ensures that, even if there is a contract dispute, government services, including schools, will continue to function.

More than 36 years ago, Connecticut adopted a system of binding arbitration for municipal employees.  Binding arbitration was then expanded in 1979 to cover all teachers and in 1986, with a Democratic Governor and the Republicans in control of both chambers of the General Assembly, binding arbitration was extended to cover state employees.

As a freshman state legislator I remember watching as the great Otto Neumann of the 62nd House District, a respected, common-sense Republican, rose to address the House Chamber as to why Republicans and Democrats had come together to institute a fair arbitration system that would ensure that the public received the services it was entitled to even in the face of contract disagreements between the state and its unions.

Negotiation, mediation and if absolutely necessary, arbitration would put an end to public employee strikes.  Children would return to classes at the beginning of the school year no matter what.  Just look around at some other states to see the sad alternative.

While some have talked about “tinkering” with the actual arbitration process, it has been widely recognized as a huge success.

The Connecticut Legislature’s bi-partisan Program Review & Investigations Committee conducted a major study about the impact of binding arbitration and released their report in 2006.

The investigation found that binding arbitration was used in about 10 percent of teacher contracts and only 4 percent of the time in municipal employee contracts.

Over the years, when it came to salary increases, the last best offers for towns and unions were about 1% apart.  In the time period studies these differences actually ranged from 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent.

As for arbitration awards for teacher contracts, arbitrators came down on the side of the boards of education and teachers at about the same rate.  Teacher unions were a bit more successful when it came to salary increases while towns were more successful when it came it came to the important contract language.

The final report concluded that “Overall, the committee found no evidence that arbitration has driven up costs.  For the period analyzed, higher general wage increases were not found in arbitration awards in comparison to negotiated contracts.”

With that as the background I was really surprised to find that when the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN) calls for an end to the seniority system which they say requires districts to lay off teachers based solely on seniority without regard to any factors of job performance” they go on to demand that binding arbitration be reformed “to ensure that future collective bargaining agreements better account for the interests of children.”

Unfortunately, there appears to be no reference as to what ConnCAN means when it comes to “reforming binding arbitration.”

However we can get a better sense of what is meant when we look to ConnCAN’s sister organization RI-CAN.  As their website explains, RI-CAN is part of “50CAN: The 50 State Campaign for Achievement Now, which aims to bring ConnCAN-style campaigns and ConnCAN-style success to states across the country.”

Readers may recall that in 2005 a group of Achievement First’s Directors set up ConnCAN and the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc., ConnCAN serves as the “education” arm of the operation while the second company spent the next five years paying over half a million dollars to lobby Connecticut’s executive and legislative branches of government.  It wasn’t until last year that ConnCAN started paying the bill for the lobbyists, which, by that time had reached $95,000 a-year.

Meanwhile, one of the Achievement First/ConnCAN directors formed yet another group called 50CAN which “was created to bring this proven model [ConnCAN] to new states, starting with Rhode Island, Minnesota, New York and Maryland and reaching half the country by 2015.  One will note that 50CAN’s organizing plan tracks nicely with Achievement First’s strategic plan.

So two years ago, RI-CAN was formed in Rhode Island to do what ConnCAN has been doing in Connecticut.

RI-CAN’s Executive Director Maryellen Butke, who is the equivalent to Patrick Riccards, ConnCAN’s new Executive Director here in Connecticut, is far clearer about how the CAN organization sees binding arbitration.

Despite the fact that binding arbitration has been recognized as a great success, RI-CAN’s Butke recently said that “Binding arbitration would be a disaster for students, localities”

In a commentary piece in the Providence Journal last June she stakes out RI-CAN’s position saying “Rhode Island has made great leaps forward in the past few years in the effort to transform our schools. Binding arbitration would be a costly step backwards that would reverse much of the progress we have made. Our message to the General Assembly is simple: Do what’s best for kids and reject binding arbitration.”

In addition, a group of anti-union activists created the Rhode Island Coalition against Binding Arbitration last summer with RI-CAN as its first member organization.

In Connecticut ConnCAN may call it “reforming” binding arbitration; in Rhode Island they call it a disaster and are lobbying against it.

It makes me wonder what some of ConnCAN’s Advisory Board Members would say.

Are they opposed to binding arbitration.  Do they know they are on the advisory board to a group that does?

If you see any of the following individuals ask them whether they too, as advisers to ConnCAN, oppose binding arbitration:

Lorraine M. Aronson (Former Vice President and CFO, University of Connecticut and Former Connecticut Deputy Commissioner of Education)

Timothy Bannon (Former Chief of Staff for Governor Dannel Malloy)

William J. Cibes (Former Chancellor, Connecticut State University System and Former Secretary, Office of Policy and Management)

William Ginsberg (President and CEO, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven)

Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D., M.Ed. (Deputy Commissioner, Department of Children and Families)

Dr. Richard C. Levin (President, Yale University)

Dr. Julia M. McNamara (President, Albertus Magnus College)

Anthony P. Rescigno (President, Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce)

Dr. Theodore Sergi (Former Connecticut State Commissioner of Education)

Allan B. Taylor (Chairman, Connecticut State Board of Education)



An Advanced (Placement) debate -- A closed gate, or an open door?
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
December 12, 2011

At many high schools, Jensun Yonjan, who speaks limited English, would have been diverted away from taking college-level Advanced Placement courses.  But luckily for Jensun he goes to Conard High School in West Hartford, where officials have adopted an "every student takes an AP course" mantra.

"I am trying my best," Jensun said during a break from class. "I like being challenged."

Jensun first met Steve Bassi, his AP Government teacher, in his English-language learning classes when he moved from Nepal to West Hartford two years ago. Bassi says Jensun is pulling off a low B in the class.

"He's struggling in both of his [AP] courses," Bassi said. "He's working so hard for that B in my class. I'm proud of him."

Bassi's faith in these nontraditional AP students has become somewhat of a culture in West Hartford. It even caught the eye of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who visited last week during his inaugural tour of high-achieving schools and programs across the state.

"This ethos permeating throughout the building is an enormous accomplishment," Pryor told a room of about 20 teachers and other state officials.

With almost half of Conard graduates leaving with some college credit from an AP course they completed, and 60 percent of students having taken at least one AP course in the 2009-10 school year, the most recent year with data available, they are far outpacing other schools throughout the state and country.  Statewide, 27 percent of students have taken at least one AP course and just 20 percent leave high school with college credit, reports the State Department of Education. Nationwide, 17 percent of high school graduates earn AP college credit.

West Hartford: where every student is 'AP material'

It's the first day of school for the incoming freshman class at Conard, and Principal Peter Cummings has a message for them.

"You will take an AP course by the time you graduate," he replayed his spiel for the new education chief. "Our core belief is that every student here can achieve at a high level."

But participation numbers available from the state board of education show that other districts have struggled to follow that model.

"In other districts some students don't even have a chance to take an AP course. They tell them, 'You're not AP material.' There's no such thing in West Hartford," said Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, and co-chairwoman of the legislature's Higher Education Committee.

AP participation is increasing both state- and nationwide, which has caused some consternation from those concerned that the caliber of the course is being compromised by opening enrollment.  A national survey of 1,024 Advanced Placement teachers in 2009 said more gatekeeping is needed to keep the quality of the course from diminishing.

"Teachers told us that, even though they believe that the program's quality is holding up in the face of tremendous expansion, they also see troubling signs in their classrooms," the report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education advocacy think tank, said. Most of the respondents said they believed that high schools are expanding their programs in an effort to improve their rankings.

West Hartford's efforts -- which has the average graduate leaving with two college courses under his or her belt at its two public high schools -- are routinely listed as one of the best in Newsweek magazine's annual rankings.  But several West Hartford teachers told Pryor they disagree with the strategy of judging before a student takes a class how they will do.  For students like Jensun, his teacher said his exclusion from AP courses would have likely been sealed at another school. Instead, he's on track to take a computer science and at least one other AP course next semester.

"Every kid can succeed if we give them the chance," Bassi tells the education commissioner.

Jensun is glad they took that chance on him.

"I won't have to take so many courses when I go to college," the future computer engineer said.

And even when these students earn a 2 on the final exam -- which is not a high enough score to earn college credit -- they still celebrate.

"It's like getting a five," Cindy Vranich, an AP English literature teacher, said of the highest score possible.

Because some students are behind, she said, "We've had to change how we teach." But that doesn't mean the rigor is lost. Only 13 percent of the AP test takers at her school don't score high enough to earn credit, according to State Department of Education data.

Connecticut has had modest growth overall in students taking AP courses -- 7 percent in the past five years. And it doesn't seem to be hindering performance, as Connecticut has one of the fastest increases in the number of students earning college credit in the nation and is behind only Maryland, New York and Virginia with the percent of graduates leaving high school with some credit, according to the College Board's most recent annual report.

But much work remains. Despite black and Hispanic students having the fastest increases in participation in AP courses, their performance lags far behind their white peers, following suit with the achievement gap that is plaguing the state's education system as a whole. For example, while 12 percent of Connecticut 2010 graduating class was black, only 2.4 percent earned college credit in an AP course -- one of the worst rates in the nation. The results are similar for Hispanic students.

Struggling to expand

Simsbury High School officials made the decision years ago that they needed to increase participation in their advanced placement courses.

"It was only for an elite level of students," said Principal Neil Sullivan. "I was sure more could succeed in these courses. ... I think we were just in opening that door to more students."

Test scores show Simsbury officials were right, with almost half of their students taking an AP course and 42 percent leaving with some college credit.  But not all districts are as fortunate in being able to expand as Simsbury, one of the wealthier districts in the state.

"It's not an inexpensive venture," said Lydia Tedone, Simsbury's school board chairwoman and president of the state's school boards association. She estimates it costs her district an added $40,000 a year for each additional course they offer for supplies, training and a teacher.

"It's a costly budget item, and some districts may be forgoing it because of this, or because they want other programs like a full-day kindergarten."

In low-income districts, Project Opening Doors is helping with about half the start-up and first year expenses. They have helped Waterbury, Hartford and New Haven schools open numerous math, science and English AP courses.

"It may be that the district didn't have the resources or the qualified staff to teach these courses. We're trying to change that," said Cam Vantour, who runs the nonprofit agency funded by Exxon Mobil Corp., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Connecticut Business and Industry Association and Northeast Utilities. "Districts recognize they need to do more."

The end-of-course exams alone cost $87, and in many districts like West Hartford they ask parents to pick up that cost. The College Board does waive some of the cost for students from low-income families, but the price still falls at $57 per exam.

Plans for future expansion?

Pryor, who has been on the job for just a few months, told state board members last week he is planning in the next couple of months to release a sweeping education reform legislative package to coincide with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's intention to make the coming General Assembly session focused on education.

Pryor's stop at Conard was part of a tour he says is helping him figure out what to include. He was mum on his plans for advanced placement, but did say there are "several best practices" taking place at the school he wants to see spill over into other schools across the state.


 

Link to blog re: relative conspiracy on charter schools.

Pension, Pension, who wants a Pension – Steven Adamowski this is your lucky day.
What?  Wait!  blog Jon Pelto
Mar 09, 2012

Are you sitting down?  No really… I think you should sit down for this one.

Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” Bill really is the perfect symbol of the times in which we live.

Blame the people on the front line while taking care of those at the top...read more here, including lfinding inks to other items.


Connecticut 2012: Money for Corporations, Not for Students
What?  Wait! blog, Jon Pelto
February 23, 2012

Some call it “incentives”, some call it “legal bribes” and others call it Corporate Welfare.  Whatever you call it, Connecticut is doing more and more and more of it.  First there was Malloy’s “First Five” program that gave $21 million to Cigna, $20 million to NBC Sports, $18.7 million to ESPN and $6 million to TicketNetwork.  Then came funding for forgivable $20 million loan to  UBS and $300 million for Jackson Laboratories.  Malloy also got the funds he wanted for another round of big grants to big companies while revamping and expanding a variety of smaller grant and low interest loan programs.

Each and every one of these grants is designed to woo companies to Connecticut or convince them to stay here.  Meanwhile, on top of last year’s record cuts to higher education, Governor Malloy has proposed an additional $6 million cut to Connecticut’s Student Financial Aid Programs.

Connecticut Student Financial Aid:

Fact #1:     College graduates stay where they go to school.

Fact #2:     Connecticut needs an extraordinarily educated workforce in order to compete in today’s complex economy.

Fact #3:     Keeping Connecticut’s best college students here in Connecticut is the most effective economic development tool Connecticut could have.

Fact #4:     Good students who can’t afford to pay the cost of a college education will, if necessary, leave the state to find schools that will provided them with the financial support they need.  Many of those students will find work in those states and will not return to strengthen the quality of our workforce.

Faced with those fundamental facts and recognizing the tremendous loss that occurs when students leave (referred to as the brain drain), State Senator Kevin Sullivan and I re-wrote Connecticut’s Student Financial Aid system in 1987 and 1988 to ensure that Connecticut was maximizing its efforts to retain Connecticut’s greatest asset – our people.  We recognized the particular challenge facing Connecticut students who didn’t have enough money to go to college so we focused the entire student financial aid grant program on those Connecticut students who needed help with their tuition costs.

We ended years of competition between the public and independent colleges by tying the separate student financial aid formulas together.  In that way we created an incentive for all schools to work together to support funding for higher education.

We increased the amount of aid a student could receive, required schools to maintain or increase their own spending for needs-based aid for Connecticut students, required schools to use at least 10% of the grant they receive to increase aid to minority students, permitted schools to use the grant for work-study and added a provision ensuring that some of the money go to those students who were engaged in community service.

The impact of these changes was immediate and significant.  Now, twenty years later, when it is even more imperative that we retain Connecticut’s best students, Governor Dannel Malloy continues to hack away at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities and Connecticut’s student financial aid programs.  After last year’s record cuts, the Governor is now calling for an additional $6.7 million cut in state scholarships for Connecticut students who have financial need and want to attend a Connecticut college.

In addition his plan totally prohibits poorer Connecticut students from getting scholarships to attend Yale, Wesleyan, Trinity, Connecticut College, Quinnipiac or Fairfield because his new bill would prevent Connecticut students – those with financial need – from getting a grant if that college has an endowment of $200 million or more. Last year Malloy cut this student aid grant program from $23 million to $18 million despite the fact that student financial need has been going up to record levels.

Of the $18 million, about $5 million goes to those Connecticut students who are attending the six schools being targeted.  These are not the wealthy students trying to decide which expensive school they want to go to.  This financial aid grant provides about $4,000 to $8,000 to those Connecticut students who meet all of the criteria for getting student financial aid and want to attend a four year Connecticut college or university.

Malloy’s new plan is to further reduce funding from $18 million to $11.3 million.  Last year, State Representative Roberta Willis, the co-chair of the higher education committee, put up a great fight to stop the higher education cuts but the Malloy Administration would not relent and the record cuts were made.

Representative Willis is once again leading the effort to stop the cuts this year.  Hopefully her Democratic colleagues will be more supportive of her effort.

This Administration says we can afford to give an on-line ticket re-selling company $6 million to create 300 jobs but we can’t afford $6 million to help 5,400 needy Connecticut students go to college here in Connecticut.


The Saga Continues – or – what to do when an “answer” generates more “questions”
What?  Wait! blog, Jon Pelto
February 23, 2012

Yesterday’s Wait, What? blog about Governor Malloy’s recent trip to a New York City gala dinner honoring Achievement First founder and Charter School champion Jonathan Sackler sparked the ire of Malloy’s chief advisor.  My blog post (see link below) questioned whether the Governor’s Office had misled reporters into thinking the NYC trip was for the sole purpose of speaking about Connecticut’s economy.  This story begins with the following press release from the Governor’s Office;

“Governor Malloy will deliver the keynote address at the National Executive Services Corps (NESC) annual meeting in New York City, where he will speak about his efforts to reinvent Connecticut and jumpstart the state’s economy to create new jobs for the 21st century.”

However, the materials put out by the NESC explained that Governor Malloy “has graciously offered to introduce Jon Sackler, our distinguished honoree and fellow Connecticut resident.”

The event in question was the NESC’s Annual Gala which is the organization’s annual fundraising event where they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the organization’s activities.  As reported by the Courant’s Rick Green, Malloy’s chief advisor took great offense to my suggestion that the Governor’s attendance was anything more than an opportunity to talk about his accomplishments when it comes to getting Connecticut’s economy back on track.

The Malloy advisor told the Courant;

“Governor Malloy was invited by the NESC to be the keynote speaker at their event – which in fact is an annual event.  They specifically asked him to speak about his economic development initiatives — in particular, entrepreneurial programs.  Which is exactly what he did.  Following his remarks, the Governor left the event.  He didn’t stay for an awards ceremony, nor did he introduce anybody.”

My post was never meant to suggest that the Governor didn’t give a speech that night.  I have no doubt that the Governor gave a great speech.  I raised the issue because the gala’s honoree, Jonathan Sackler and the gala’s chairmen are all associated with Achievement First, ConnCAN, 50CAN and the ongoing effort to increase funding for charter schools in Connecticut.

As a result of Governor Malloy’s recent “education reform” proposal Achievement First will receive an extra $6 million dollars a year.  In fact, Achievement First Charter Schools, which educate less than 3,000 students, will get an extra $2,600 per student while the 222,000 students who live in the 30 poorest towns will get an increase of $150 per student.

As I’ve written previously, if Malloy’s plan is adopted, Achievement First- a charter school management company set up by Jonathan Sackler, Stefan Pryor, Connecticut’s new Education Commissioner and a number of people attending the NYC gala, will get more money than the entire school system in Hartford, New Haven or Bridgeport.  What seemed odd was that the original press release made no mention that his speech was in conjunction with a gala honoring one of his friends and the beneficiary of his reform proposal.

Now the Governor’s Office says that “the Governor didn’t stay for the event nor did he introduce anybody.”

And yet the materials sent out by the event’s sponsor made it clear that a key role for Governor Malloy was to introduce the night’s honoree.  The whole affair gets more confusing considering that this wasn’t just one of those “stop by for a beer” events.

The “Mistress of Ceremonies” was Kelly Wallace of CBS, CNN and Fox News fame while previous emcees for this gala included Lynn Redgrave and Tony Award-winning Broadway singer Brian Stokes Mitchell.

The gala also included a performance by a famous children’s choir.  One thing is clear, the more the Governor’s Office explains, the more confusing the issue gets.


Malloy’s “Strange Love” for Charter Schools;
What?  Wait
February 22, 2012

Yesterday the New York Times ran an editorial entitled “Shuttering Bad Charter Schools”

In which the said “state governments and local districts need to do a much better job overseeing these schools, which now educate more than two million students. When weak charters stay open, students are deprived and public money is wasted.”

A few hours later Governor Malloy was calling for a record investment in Connecticut’s Charter Schools and fund to open more.

If you read his testimony you won’t see the following expert from a highly critical State Department of Education report.

“The Connecticut State Board Department of Education wrote “The pattern of employing non-certified teachers at Amistad Academy [and Elm City Prep – both AF schools] is a significant cause of concern.  The Connecticut State Department of Education has worked with [Achievement First] for a considerable period of time to resolve its teacher certification violations.  Despite ongoing discussions with the school on the vital importance of upholding the state law on teacher certification, the issues had not been completely corrected.  The Connecticut charter school accountability process is designed to ensure compliance with state and federal law and administrative regulations.  Amistad Academy’s [and AF’s Elm City Prep] chronic noncompliance on teacher certification compromises the principles of charter school accountability.”  June 2009

Why didn’t Governor Malloy raise the issue of Achievement First’s unwillingness to meet Connecticut law.

Because the following year Achievement First got the law changed.  Connecticut law required that every school ensure that every teacher we certified to teach within one year of joining the state.  It was – and is – a law that applies to every public school in Connecticut – except for Charter Schools who had an amendment adopted that said they – and they alone – can have 30% of the staff non-certified.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Under Connecticut law, Charter schools must provide serve anyone and yet.

    Achievement First – the Charter School Management Company that runs the plurality of charter schools in Connecticut – (as well as some of the state’s independent charter schools) serve for less Latino students then they are supposed to if they are truly there to provide equal opportunity for all children.

    Achievement First (as well as some of the independent charter schools) serves far less ELL or English Language Learners.

    Achievement First (as well as some of the independent charter schools) serve far less students (Latino or otherwise) who go home to households where English is not the spoken language.

    Achievement First (as well as some of the independent charter schools) serve fewer students who are poor as measured by the number who receive free or reduced lunch.

    Achievements First (as well as some of the independent charter schools) serve students that have far fewer special education needs.

Malloy says the charter schools should do more to attract and retain under-represented “at risk” students – but the change should begin with the NEW charter schools that he plans to fund – with no required change for the existing ones.

The strategy, tactics and messages remain the same.  Charter schools are not standard public schools.  They do not have elected boards of education, they are not held to the same basic standards, they are allowed to unofficially cherry pick the students they want and “out migrate” those they don’t.

The fact is charter schools are not being held accountable in the same way district public schools are and we can be pretty sure that now that one of Achievement First’s founders is the Commissioner of Education — we won’t be seeing a lot more criticism of Achievement First.

Now take a look at yesterday’s New York Times editorial...


Shuttering Bad Charter Schools
NYTIMES editorial
February 20, 2012

The charter school movement has expanded over the last 20 years largely on this promise: If exempted from some state regulations, charters could outperform traditional public schools because they have flexibility and can be more readily tailored to the needs of students. Another selling point is that these schools are supposed to be periodically reviewed when they renew their operating permits — and easily shut down if they fail.

It has not worked out that way. Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools, financed with public money and operating in 40 states, are often worse than traditional schools, the state and local organizations that issue charters and oversee the schools are too hesitant to shut them down. That has to change if the movement is to maintain its credibility.

A new study from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, a nonprofit, pro-charter school organization, found that a smaller and smaller percentage of schools are being denied charter renewals.

According to the study, charter authorizers who oversee many of the nation’s approximately 5,600 charters have, in recent years, shut down fewer schools. Only 6.2 percent of those that came up for renewal in 2010-11 were shuttered, down from 8.8 percent in 2009-10 and 12.6 percent in 2008-9.

A 2009 study from Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that 37 percent of charter schools performed worse on student test measures than their traditional counterparts. Given that data, closure rates should clearly be higher. Those rates vary widely across the country. The District of Columbia Public Charter School Board is one of the agencies that sets clear standards and shuts schools that fail to meet them, according to the study. It oversees 98 charter schools and has closed 14 over the last three years.

The study raises troubling questions about the management practices of the oversight groups. Nearly a third of charter authorizers have not established clear revocation criteria; fewer than half have the kinds of strong, independent review panels the association recommends; and about only half issue annual reports that show the schools how they are doing.

State governments and local districts need to do a much better job overseeing these schools, which now educate more than two million students. When weak charters stay open, students are deprived and public money is wasted.

State Board of Education to Vote On Teacher Evaluation Proposal Today
Board Will Also Consider State's Application for a Waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act
The Hartford Courant
BY KATHLEEN MEGAN, kmegan@courant.com

7:36 AM EST, February 10, 2012The State Board of Education will consider a new framework for evaluating teachers and principals at its Friday meeting.

The new system, agreed upon by a group representing teachers, administrators, boards of education and state officials, ties evaluation to student performance and other factors.

The boad will also consider the state's application for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind Act.

The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.




Malloy Defends Pryor, Calls Conflict of Interest Accusations ‘Ridiculous’
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Jan 10, 2012 2:29pm

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called allegations that his Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor has a conflict of interest heading the state Education Department because he previously worked for a charter school organization, “utterly and fantastically ridiculous.”

What people, who have been writing about this, have to understand is that Connecticut only has public charter schools, Malloy said after a meeting at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday.

“They are public schools. So in essence what you’re saying is because someone’s involved in public schools, they shouldn’t be allowed to be involved in public schools. It’s utterly and fantastically ridiculous,” the governor said.

In an interview with WNPR Tuesday morning Pryor said he was the first one to ask the Office of State Ethics staff for an opinion about his past position as founder of the Amistad Academy in New Haven and his volunteer position on the board of Achievement First, the management company which runs charter schools in Connecticut and New York. He said he was told very “rapidly no and definitively no.”

“The first person to raise this issue was me,” Pryor told WNPR‘s John Dankosky. “We’re talking about public schools here. Just like a superintendent of schools or a school board chair who becomes a commissioner no one would claim that there’s a conflict of interest with the schools in that jurisdiction.”

But he said he’s very “sensitive to perceptions of conflicts,” so on Dec. 5 he sent a letter   the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board. The board is expected to review the draft opinion at its Jan. 26 meeting.

Meanwhile, Pryor’s previous work for on behalf of Achievement First, has been debated online on blogs and amongst his critics who have called on him to recuse himself on matters involving Achievement First.

“As an Achievement First Board member, Stefan Pryor helped create and adopt that strategic plan, a plan that when fully implemented would increase Achievement First’s revenue from $4 million a year in ‘management fees’ to upwards of $10 million a year,” Jonathan Pelto, a former lawmaker and Democratic operative, wrote on his blog.

“To achieve its goal, it will be critical for Achievement First to expand in Connecticut,” Pelto wrote. “Now Pryor, a founder and long time member of Achievement First’s Board of Trustees finds himself in the unique position of being able to determine whether that aggressive growth plan will succeed or fail.”

However, Pryor said as commissioner he’s not ultimately in charge of deciding whether a charter school is renewed, expanded, or approved. He said that’s up to the State Board of Education.

Pryor said he doesn’t want to preempt any decision by Office of State Ethics, but he will take that decision and work with his colleagues at the Education Department to come up with procedures to create an “open, fair, and clear process.”

Only two new charter schools have opened in the state over the past six years and the state didn’t accept applications at all in 2006 and 2009, even though 20 applications were submitted.

Charter school advocates were hopeful when Pryor was named Education Commissioner because they saw it as their best opportunity to get more charter school seats. But Pryor has repeatedly said he supports all high achieving schools.

“There are a number of schools that are exemplary” across the state, that are “achieving at a level that would not be expected,” Pryor said in November at an event at the Amistad Academy. That includes not just charters, but other successful public schools as well.


Charter Schools and Connecticut Education Policy: Part 3 in a series of 3 commentary pieces
Jon Pelto, "What?  Wait!" blog
December 1, 2011

Leaving Out Connecticut’s Latinos and others whose primary language is not English…

It may be the Rule of Unintended Consequences, but unintended Segregation is still Segregation:

Few, if any, topics that I’ve written about have generated as many comments or strong feelings than the columns about charter schools. Connecticut’s charter schools are blessed with parents and advocates who truly believe in the charter school model and have experienced firsthand the direct benefits that their children received at their charter school.  In all my previous commentaries I have failed to successfully differentiate between the good that charter schools are doing for the children and families they serve versus the underlying public policy challenges we face as we try to ensure every child has access to a quality education and receives the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in this increasingly complex world.

Following each column, some very angry and frustrated parents write to make it clear that not only did their children benefit from charter schools but that my comments are an assault on the very essence of the educational model charter schools provide.

The following column is the third in a series of some of the key public policy issues that our elected officials must address as they grapple with the allocation of scarce resources.  My comments are not intended to be an attack on the quality of charter schools or the people who utilize them.  Quite frankly I think charter schools appear to be a viable model as we try to find ways to close the terrible achievement gap that is destroying large segments of our society.

What I am addressing are two key public policy issues.

Charter schools regularly claim that they succeed where public schools don’t.  In addition, in the proposal called “money follow the child”, charter schools are saying that regardless of whether government expands funding for primary and secondary education in Connecticut, if a child moves from the public school system to a charter school all of the money allocated to “pay” for that student should move as well.

That is what the discussion is about.  It is not about whether charter schools are good or that charter schools are successfully educating their students.  The debate is about the legal and moral obligation government has when it comes to ensuring that all children have access to a quality education.

While reasonable people may differ about what should be done, the facts are not in dispute. Connecticut’s urban charter is more racially isolated that the communities in which they exist.  The student bodies in these urban charter schools are significantly “less poor” (as measured by the number of students that qualify for free or reduced lunches) and these charter schools serve a significantly lower percentage of ELL students (students who are not English language proficient).

Charter schools may in fact provide students with “better educational outcome “However, the increased racial isolation means these schools (like many of our urban schools) are unconstitutionally racially isolated.  And second, since poverty and English Language proficiency are two main reasons students don’t do as well on the standardized tests, charter schools will inherently do better if when they are serving less poor and fewer non-English speaking students.

That does not mean charter schools should be closed, but it does mean that policy makers have a moral and legal responsibility to consider those factors as they modify the way Connecticut schools are funded.

The last variable I’ll use to showcase this issue is the huge discrepancy when it comes to students going home to households in which English is not the primary language.  There are poor parents who get actively involved in their children’s education just as there are non-English speaking parents who provide the necessary parental involvement to ensure students do a better job.  That said, both poverty and language proficiency serve as barriers for many families.

In Hartford a total of 43% of the public school students go home to households in which the primary home language is not English. In fact, Hartford school students go home to at least 70 different home languages.

At the same time, Achievement First’sHarford Academyhas only 4.8% of its students going home to non-English speaking households and in their case there are 4 different home languages. And at the other major charter school,Jumoke Academy, there are no students who go home to non-English speaking households.  English is the only language home language that Jumoke Academy teachers need to deal with.

In New Haven, 27.9% of the school system’s students come from homes where English is not the primary language (with a total of 61 different languages). Amistad Academy has only 11.8% of its students going home to non-English households (with a total of 3 different languages).  In Achievement First’s other New Haven charter school, Elm City College Preparatory, even fewer, 8.8% of students return to non-English speaking homes (3 languages)

And in Bridgeport, 40.4% of the students come from homes where English is not the primary language (There are a total of 73 different home languages in Bridgeport).

By comparison, Achievement First’s Bridgeport Academy has 6.3% of its students from non-English speaking households (2 languages), The Bridge Academy has 16.7%  of its students from non-English speaking homes (6 languages) and Park City Preparatory has only 2.5% of its students going home to households whose primary language in not English (with a total of 2 different languages)

It is true that the evidence is that Connecticut Mastery Test scores are marginally higher in charter schools than in the nearby traditional public school systems.  And to the extent that it is the teaching that explains that difference, the charter schools deserve credit for that success.  Yet at the same time, the evidence also suggests that charter school teaching methods may not fully explain those results.

Charter schools rationalize these issues by beginning and ending with the argument that they have “open lottery systems” that provides every child who wants to attend an equal opportunity to do so.  Open lottery systems are important but an open lottery system does not guarantee that the study body is representative of the entire community.  Charter schools have targeted marketing programs that some parents may find more persuasive than others.

And intentional or note, schools maybe be seen as more welcoming or more accessible to some than to others.  Furthermore, since the “burden” to engage in the charter school lottery system is primarily on the backs of parents, the process obviously self-selects parents that are more attentive and active in the education of their children and have an easier time understanding and navigating through the steps necessary to get their children into the schools lottery and then into the school.

Since poverty and language barriers are obviously factors as to who approaches the lottery process and who does not, it is not surprising that the “open enrollment process” ends up with fewer poor students, fewer non-English language students and fewer students who go home to households in which English is not the primary language.  The net result is that students who generally have higher success rates will end up in the charter school while those who face more barriers are left in traditional schools.

The situation is then exacerbated if the official funding policy is to shift dollars to the kids who are statistically more likely to have better outcomes and reduce the resources to those who actually need the greater supports.

Although unintended, the outcome is that the system promotes “De facto racial discrimination” which in turn creates “De facto racial segregation”.

If the law actually discriminates it’s called “De Jur” discrimination.  Much of the “De Jur” discrimination was outlawed in the United States by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other related legislation.  The problem in Connecticut is really not due to laws that force segregation but traditions, systems and processes (along with housing, transportation and political boundaries) that end up segregating our population.  Even though these results are not a result of a specific law and may not even be intended, they are still creating segregation and discrimination which is not only immoral but unconstitutional and illegal.


Connecticut’s Major Charter Schools Face More Questions
WHAT? WAIT!
Jon Pelto blog
November 28, 2011

Despite their rhetoric, not only are most of Connecticut’s charter schools actually increasing racial isolation, they are naively or knowingly overlooking key factors in their ongoing claims that they provide better educational outcomes.  A review of Connecticut’s School Profile Reports raises even more serious questions and concerns are about some of Connecticut’s largest charter schools.  Meanwhile, advocates and lobbyists are engaged in a major effort to persuade policymakers to adopt a concept called “Money Follows the Child” in the upcoming 2012 Legislative Session.

The policy change would move scarce resources away from the public schools systems that presently educate about 99% of Connecticut public school students.

Instead of trying to expand the pot of money that is provided for primary and secondary education in Connecticut, thereby helping all public school children, some charter school supporters have changed their strategy and are now pushing to modify the state’s school funding system so that when a child shifts from a public school to a charter school all of the state money associated with the education of that student would shift as well.

This approach would leave more and more of Connecticut’s public schools without the money needed to provide comprehensive education programs and would, in the end, threaten the quality of education in our public schools while leading to higher local property taxes as towns are forced to rely even more heavily on regressive property taxes.

At stake are both the issue of racial segregation and the quality of education in Connecticut.

At the core of the debate is the fundamental principle that federal and state laws prohibit the use of public funds to promote racial and ethnic segregation.  However, virtually every one of Connecticut’s major charter schools, all of whom receive major state subsidies, are not only failing to reduce racial isolation but are, in fact, significantly less  racially diverse than the public schools in the same communities.  While some charter schools, like the Odyssey School in Manchester  are successfully meeting the diversity challenge, others, especially those run by Achievement First, a major charter school operator with charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island is not.

For example, Achievement First’s Bridgeport Academy, Achievement First’s Hartford Academy, Achievement First’s Amistad Academy and Achievement First’s Elm City Preparatory are all significantly more racially isolated than are the school systems in which they are based – Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven.  As the state spends literally hundreds of millions of dollars to address its moral, legal and constitutional responsibility to make our schools less racially isolated, Connecticut’s charter schools are moving Connecticut in exactly the wrong direction.

What makes this issue particularly troubling is that Connecticut’s new State Commissioner of Education has repeatedly said he will work to expand charter schools in Connecticut even though it is clear from the evidence that most charter schools are unwilling or unable to be a part of the overall effort to reduce racial isolation in our state.  While conveniently overlooking the growing racial isolation in charter schools, Achievement First and other major urban charter schools base their demand for more public funds by claiming that their standardized test scores prove that their charter schools are providing students with a superior education.

However, there is a fundamental flaw in the argument these charter school advocates are putting forward

Putting aside the broader problems associated with using standardized mastery tests to measure educational outcomes; there is overwhelming evidence that test scores are impacted by a number of factors beyond simply what is going on in the classroom.  Study after study has indicated that poverty and standardized test scores (like the mastery test) are closely correlated.  More poverty means lower school test scores; less poverty means higher school test scores.

What policymakers are not regularly told is that although poverty level in all urban schools are high (both at charter and at traditional public schools), the students at many of Connecticut’s urban charter schools are significantly “less poor” than the students who attend the  public schools in those same communities.

In Bridgeport, where 99% of the city’s public school students qualify for free or reduced lunches, according to the data provided to the State Department of Education, the number of students who meet that standard at Achievement First’s Bridgeport Academy is more than 30 points percentage points lower.  The percentage of students at the other two major Bridgeport charters (The Bridge Academy and Park City Preparatory) who qualify for free or reduced lunches are also significantly lower than in the Bridgeport school system.

There is a similar pattern in Hartford, where 93% of public schools students qualify for free or reduced lunches compared to 68% at Achievement First’s Harford Academy and 72% at the Jumoke Academy charter school.  And it is the same in New Haven, where 81% of all New Haven public school students qualify for free or reduced lunches, while at the Amistad Academy 66% meet that poverty standard.  At Achievement First’s other New Haven charter school, Elm City College Prep charter school, the number of students getting free or reduced lunches is 69%.

Considering these schools are more racially isolated these statistics indicate that charter schools have the effect of leaving the poorer students in each city’s public schools systems.  According to their marketing materials and testimony at legislative hearings, charter schools claim that their students score 10 to 30 percent better on master tests than do students in the nearby public schools.  However, a portion of that difference may be due to the poverty level of the students served in those schools.

An even greater impact may come from the language barriers students bring with them to school.

When it comes to the Connecticut Mastery Tests (3-8 grades), 84% of all Connecticut students score at the proficient or better level in math.  However, for English Language Learners (ELL students) that is, “students who lack sufficient mastery of English,” the percent of students who achieve a proficient or better score drops all the way down to 57%.

The language barrier has an even more stunning impact on the test results for the reading portion of the Connecticut Mastery Test.  While 78% of all Connecticut students score at the proficient level or better, only 37% of ELL (those not proficient in the English Language) test at the proficient level or better.  These numbers mean that schools that have more ELL students do significantly worse than schools that don’t have as many non-English proficient students.

So, back to the data on charter schools:

In Bridgeport, 13% of the public school students are ELL students.  At Achievement First’s Bridgeport Academy the number is just 6%.

Less than ½ of 1% of the students at The Bridge Academy charter school are ELL students, while only 2.5% of the students at Park City Prep charter school are ELL.

In Hartford, where over 17% of public school students are non-English proficient (ELL), the percent of ELL students at Achievement First’s Harford Academy is less than 5% and there are literally no ELL students at the Jumoke Academy charter school.  In New Haven, the disparity is less prevalent.  12% of New Haven public school students are ELL, which is similar to the percent at the Amistad Academy charter school, but at Elm City College Prep charter school only 9% of the students are ELL.

While the impact of these statistics has yet to be fully documented,  the fact remains that Connecticut’s charter schools are simply not in a position to claim that the quality of their education programs are substantially better than the education in the public schools.

Charter schools may claim that they utilize an “open lottery system and that allows every child to have access to their schools, but the facts simply don’t back up the charter schools’ claim that their student populations represent the full spectrum of students that attend public schools.  Therefore their claim of educational superiority doesn’t add up.  Before Connecticut policy makers shift additional resources from Connecticut’s public schools to the charter schools they have an obligation to address these fundamental issues.

Achievement First and a number of the other urban charter schools are more racially isolated, they educate a student population that is less poor and they fail to take on their fair share of non-English proficient (ELL) students.  While CMT test scores in charter schools may be marginally higher than public school scores, the evidence suggests that their teaching methods may not fully explain those results.  The Governor and the Legislature should be seeking answers to these questions before turning over any more of the taxpayers’ money to these schools.




Our question:  Does Bridgeport have a "Home Rule" Charter? 
Even if it does, in the $3.4 million strings attached situation, are we not dealing with education matters, which under the CT Constitution, the State keeps to itself?

Bridgeport: $3.4 Million in return for your democratic rights: Illegal, Racist or Both
What?  Wait!  Blog
Jon Pelto
Jun 17, 2012

The State of Connecticut’s Education Funding Formula (ECS) is underfunded by at least $800 million.

This means that many towns must raise their local property taxes higher than they should or that schools go without the funds they need to maintain adequate services.

Last week Governor Malloy proposed and the Democrats in the Legislature adopted a new law that read; “The Commissioner of Education may, upon approval by the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, provide a loan of up to three million five hundred thousand dollars to the city of Bridgeport for the purposes of inclusion in the budgeted appropriation of education for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, to cover education expenditures incurred during such fiscal year. As a condition of making such loan under this section, the commissioner (1) shall require the selection of a superintendent of schools or chief financial officer of the Bridgeport school district from a pool of up to three candidates approved by the commissioner…”

Bridgeport, you get a loan of $3.4 million in return for letting Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s education commissioner pick you superintendent.

Imagine the legislator from Weston or Woodbridge, Avon or Stonington, calling their local leaders and saying, I’ve got good news and bad.  The state will loan us $3.4 million but we must let them pick the person who runs our schools.

Never.  Never in a million years would the state demand or the local citizens in those communities, accept the state over-reaching its authority and telling one of those communities that they should have raised taxes more but since they didn’t, the state will give them a short term loan in return for picking their leaders.

But Malloy and the Legislature did it to the people of Bridgeport.

Why?  Because they are poor? Because the vast majority of their students are Black and Latino? Because they are inherently more corrupt and can’t govern themselves?  (Last time I looked nearly every Connecticut State and local official who has been hauled off to prison over the past thirty years was White.)

Perhaps just as shocking is that a reasonable case can be made that the State’s action is illegal because it is unconstitutional.

Article 10 of the Connecticut Constitutions deals with the issue of “HOME RULE.”

The article reads;

SEC. 1. The general assembly shall by general law delegate such legislative authority as from time to time it deems appropriate to towns, cities and boroughs relative to the powers, organization, and form of government of such political subdivisions. The general assembly shall from time to time by general law determine the maximum terms of office of the various town, city and borough elective offices. After July 1, 1969, the general assembly shall enact no special legislation relative to the powers, organization, terms of elective offices or form of government of any single town, city or borough, except as to (a) borrowing power, (b) validating acts, and (c) formation, consolidation or dissolution of any town, city or borough, unless in the delegation of legislative authority by general law the general assembly shall have failed to prescribe the powers necessary to effect the purpose of such special legislation.

It would, of course, be up to the Connecticut Supreme Court to interpret the meaning of Article 10, Section 1 of the State Constitution but (1) the state has clearly delegated to the towns the authority to choose a superintendent and (2) we are dealing with a situation that is occurring after July 1, 1969.

While the $3.4 million, in return for giving up their rights to select their superintendent of schools, deals with the “borrowing powers” of the community there is no way the framers of the State Constitution intended the state to be able to use changes in the a community’s “borrowing powers” to reach issues as fundamental as their right to self-governance.

Bridgeport is facing a deficit of $3.4 million.  Malloy and the Democrats in the Legislature have said we’ll lend you the money if you’ll allow Stefan Pryor to pick your superintendent.

Considering that the situation would have been handled very differently in one of Connecticut’s many wealthy towns, and the action itself may not be legal, the question is;

Is the State of Connecticut’s action illegal, racist or both.


Ed commissioner sets focus on Bridgeport
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST Staff Writer
Updated 10:42 p.m., Sunday, October 23, 2011

HARTFORD -- A week into his job as the state's new commissioner of education, Stefan Pryor was in Bridgeport for most of the day, combing through school district finances, talking to local officials and wrapping his arms around what is bound to be his thorniest challenge: turning around a failing urban school district.

Pryor, whose last job was as economic development director in Newark, N.J., won't say much about what he learned but indicated he did leave with the impression the district is being guided in the right direction.

"With the new board taking action to change conditions in Bridgeport, there is an opportunity," said Pryor.

"There are other districts and other schools exhibiting low performance within the state ... but Bridgeport is very important and it represents a significant opportunity. There is a real chance here to advance a system that ought to be producing better results for the students in Bridgeport."

Fixing the state's achievement gap, which is the worst in the nation, is one of the prime challenges Pryor assumed as the state's top education chief. Bridgeport, with just one out of three elementary students scoring in the goal range in reading and math on the Connecticut Mastery Test compared to two out of three for the state, is certainly one of the gap's biggest contributors.

Bridgeport doesn't have Pryor's exclusive attention, but is a chief focus of the state Department of Education as it moves to elevate performance levels in low performing school districts.

At the same time, Pryor plans to "get out of the way" of districts that are doing well -- and hold them up as models.

"I am a data-obsessed person, so I am still evaluating at an intricate level Connecticut's data. I wouldn't want to necessarily point out any district by name before I am done looking very closely, but there are surely districts in our state that are exemplars," Pryor said.

Pryor said there are also schools in the state that shatter expectations, such as those that work with urban students facing all of the challenges associated with poverty.

"We know it can be done," he said.

Yet, at the same time that the state seeks to narrow the achievement gap between wealthier suburban students and low-income urban students, it may very well seek a waiver of the federal No Child Left Behind law which requires 100 percent proficiency in math and reading by 2012.

The goal, said Pryor, is arbitrary, unattainable and meant to undermine the system. In its place, Pryor said the state will set rigorous benchmarks that are suitable. The benchmarks won't be the same for every district.

A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, Pryor, 39, served from 1998-2001 as the vice president for education at the Partnership for New York City, where he led the organization's public education efforts and served as executive director of its main school reform program.

He is described by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as the right person to move the state forward. Others call him a workaholic with something to show for his efforts.

"His entire career has been about taking on big problems and fixing them. That is what we need right now," said state Rep. Andrew Fleishmann, co-chair of the Legislature's education committee.

Pryor is also viewed as an advocate for charter schools. He was part of a team that helped create the Amistad Academy, one of the state's first charter schools, which was highlighted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2007 as a model for closing the achievement gap.

Pryor said what he advocates are effective schools. When Amistad was developed, the idea was to create an effective middle school, something New Haven lacked.

"Charter schools happened to be the best way to create a new school," Pryor said.

Pryor wants Connecticut to have a portfolio of great public schools, be they charter schools, technical high schools, magnet schools or conventional schools.

In Bridgeport, Pryor offered new board members suggestions about districts that have organized themselves for success and talked about the trajectory those districts have followed to achieve real progress. He told the board their first priority is to find the right replacement for School Superintendent John Ramos, whose job has been terminated as of Jan. 1. Pryor said he gave the board names of great superintendents, but won't say publicly who he suggested.

"I also made it clear that it is the local school board's decision," he said. "We will answer any question. We will be helpful in any way conceivable, but it is their process to run and their decision to make."

Another topic Pryor won't talk about is the fiscal state of the Bridgeport school system, although he said he is familiar with it at a reasonably high level of detail. Insufficient funding is considered by many to be a big factor in the district's inability to boost student achievement. The district has been flat-funded for four years, and its $215.8 million operating budget is substantially less than the operating budget for Hartford or New Haven schools.

"The main point I would make," said Pryor, ``is that it is essential, given that funding is a factor in the success of the system, that the local parties resolve their issues as it pertains to the financial conditions."




Out With Textbooks, in With Laptops for an Indiana School District
NYTIMES
By ALAN SCHWARZ
October 18, 2011

MUNSTER, Ind. — Laura Norman used to ask her seventh-grade scientists to take out their textbooks and flip to Page Such-and-Such. Now, she tells them to take out their laptops.

The day all have seen coming — traditional textbooks being replaced by interactive computer programs — arrived this year in this traditional, well-regarded school district, complete with one naysaying parent getting reported to the police. Unlike the tentative, incremental steps of digital initiatives at many schools nationwide, Munster made an all-in leap in a few frenetic months — removing all math and science textbooks for its 2,600 students in grades 5 to 12, and providing a window into the hurdles and hiccups of such an overhaul.

The transformation, which cost $1.1 million for infrastructure, involved rewiring not just classrooms but also the mindset of students, teachers and parents. When teachers started hearing that “the server ate my homework,” they knew a new era had begun.

“The material we’re teaching is old but everything around it is brand-new,” said Pat Premetz, chairwoman of the math department at Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster, who described the initiative as both “very overwhelming” and “the most exciting thing to happen in my 40 years of teaching.”

“This isn’t stressing out students,” Ms. Premetz added. “It’s stressing out teachers because of some of the technological problems, and parents who are wondering why their kids are on the computer so much.”

Munster is hardly the first district to go digital. Schools in Mooresville, N.C., for example, started moving away from printed textbooks four years ago, and now 90 percent of their curriculum is online. “It didn’t happen overnight for us — it was an incremental change,” said Mark Edwards, Mooresville’s superintendent of schools. “The competency is evolutional.”

But Munster’s is part of a new wave of digital overhauls in the two dozen states that have historically required schools to choose textbooks from government-approved lists. Florida, Louisiana, Utah and West Virginia approved multimedia textbooks for the first time for the 2011-12 school year, and Indiana went so far as to scrap its textbook-approval process altogether, partly because, officials said, the definition of a textbook will only continue to fracture.

“We’ve stopped pretending that the state board of education is the biggest school district in the state,” said Tony Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction. “I believe in local control, and we don’t have the ability to be the keeper of knowledge we have been in the past. We’ll be better off if we uncuff people’s hands.”

Uncuffed, Angela Bartolomeo’s sixth graders spent a recent Wednesday rearranging terms of equations on an interactive Smart Board and dragging-and-dropping answers in ways that chalkboards never could. (In between, a cartoon character exclaimed that “Multiplying by 1 does not change the value of a number!” in his best superhero baritone.)

When the children followed up the lesson with exercises on their laptops, the curriculum, Pearson Education’s “Digits,” not only allowed them to advance at individual rates, but also alerted Ms. Bartolomeo via her iPad when they were stuck on a particular concept and needed help.

Software wirelessly recorded the children’s performance in a file that the teacher would review that night. “Last year I’d have to walk around and ask every kid how it’s going, and I’d be grading sheets, that kind of thing,” Ms. Bartolomeo said. “This way I can give my time to the kids who really need it. And it’s a lot more engaging for the kids. They’re actually doing their homework now.”

Ms. Norman, the seventh-grade science teacher, is using material from Discovery Education, which on that Wednesday included videos from Discovery’s “Mythbuster” series (commercial-free), an interactive glossary and other eye candy to help students investigate whether cellphones cause cancer. When Ms. Norman told the students to take out their ear buds to watch a video, two in the back yelped, “Cool!”

“With a textbook, you can only read what’s on the pages — here you can click on things and watch videos,” said Patrick Wu, a seventh grader. “It’s more fun to use a keyboard than a pencil. And my grades are better because I’m focusing more.”

Even as more and more schools nationwide have eschewed traditional textbooks, spending an estimated $2.2 billion on educational software last year, vigorous debate continues over whether technology measurably enhances achievement. But long before Munster will have a chance to reap any potential rewards, there has been a steep learning curve.

It was left to Maureen Stafford, Munster’s director of instructional programs and assessment, to convince skeptical colleagues (some of whom did not want to relearn how to teach) and parents (some of whom did not want their children to be exposed to the online wilderness) that the switch could be made in a matter of months. The town contributed about half of the $1.1 million to build the wireless infrastructure in the district’s three elementary schools, middle school and high school, with district funds covering the rest.

Each student was issued a laptop, with an annual rental fee of $150. The computers are cut off from noneducational Web sites, including social networks. The children are not allowed to use any other computer for their work because, she said, “kids on the south end of town will have Cadillacs and others on the north end will have eBay versions. That’s not equitable.”

Some parents balked at the expense and risk, even though the fee is the same as what the district had long been charging for textbooks, and includes insurance. Then there were the Luddites: one father sent so many nasty e-mails to Ms. Stafford that she reported him to the police for, fittingly, cyber-harassment. (He ceased and desisted.)

“You don’t want your child to have a laptop?” Ms. Stafford said. “What are we going to do? That’s our textbook! There’s nothing else.”

There were the inevitable technical glitches. One girl in Ms. Norman’s class missed the video because she could not connect to the network, so she had to catch up in the Media Center (formerly known as the library). During a contentious meeting with a Pearson representative, several math teachers complained of assignments disappearing, tests not saving, and network failures lasting hours while students struggled to get online for homework.

“We have no record of any outages at that time,” the Pearson representative, Chuck Dexter, explained as the teachers grew angrier. “That’s what we need to figure out.”

Ms. Stafford, 62, has long planned to retire in 2013, and noted in an interview that it would have been far easier for her, and many others in Munster, to stay with print textbooks for another few years. But when Indiana made multimedia an option, she felt she had no other.

“This wasn’t a technology initiative — this was a curriculum initiative,” Ms. Stafford said. “The best programs out there needed the technology required to implement it. It was time.”



Cut the summer break: Study backs longer school year
Better grades, better graduation results seen

The Washington Times
By Ben Wolfgang
Friday, September 30, 2011

Students may not want to hear it, but schools that have experimented with extra periods and longer school years report higher graduation rates and higher test scores, according to a new report from the National Center on Time and Learning, a Boston-based nonprofit advocacy group.


About 1,000 school districts now keep their youngsters in class well past 3 p.m., and some have extended their year deep into the summer. Many policymakers want to see that trend continue. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said it’s no surprise the U.S. is falling behind global competitors who aren’t bound by the traditional 180-day school year.

“If we’re serious about closing achievement gaps … we can’t keep doing business as usual,” he said Friday at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress.

“Right now, children in India, children in China and other places, they’re going to school, 30, 35 days more than our students. If you’re on a sports team and you’re practicing three days a week and the other team is practicing five days a week, who is going to win more? Anybody who thinks we need less time, not more, is part of the problem,” he said.

Increased learning time is an issue that has garnered support from both Republicans and Democrats and has been a talking point of education secretaries for decades. Despite the support, the idea hasn’t caught on as much as proponents would like.
A librarian at the Deanwood Neighborhood Library in D.C., talks June 16, 2011, to a group of kindergarten students from nearby Houston Elementary School about the Pledge of Allegiance. (Pratik Shah/The Washington Times)A librarian at the Deanwood Neighborhood Library in D.C., talks June 16, 2011, to a group of kindergarten students from nearby Houston Elementary School about the Pledge of Allegiance. (Pratik Shah/The Washington Times)

But that could soon change, thanks in large part to the President Obama’s plan, announced Sept. 23, to offer states waivers from the deadlines and penalties of the No Child Left Behind federal education law if they implement detailed reform plans. Many education specialists are encouraging states to make longer days and longer years a cornerstone of their proposals, which must be approved by the Education Department.

“Expanded learning time is a valuable tool for improving student achievement, as demonstrated by the schools that have implemented this,” wrote Isabel Owen, a policy analyst at CPA, in a position paper supporting more time in school for students nationwide.

Breaking from tradition, however, is often a hard sell.

School administrators may be unwilling to make drastic changes to their calendar for a variety of reasons. Students would surely disapprove of the move, as it could cut into their free time each afternoon and eliminate a chunk of their summer break. Employees may object because they’d have to work longer hours.

Teachers would probably see little, if any, increase in their pay, but would work more days out of the calendar year. The extra work may lead teacher labor unions to demand salary increases, putting an even greater strain on cash-strapped districts and states.

In addition, some school leaders simply want things to remain just as they’ve been for decades, said John King, New York’s commissioner of education.

“Most people in school buildings … their starting place is how things were when they went to school. They have a set of expectations around that,” he said, also speaking at the CPA forum.

Even supporters of the longer school year do not believe that every student in the nation needs more time in school. The best-performing students from the safest, wealthiest neighborhoods, Mr. Duncan said, are probably doing all right under the current system. But in poor, urban settings, he added, more time off the street and in the classroom can have positive effects beyond better grades and test scores.

“Our schools, beyond being places of learning, are places that are safe,” he said.

Mr. Duncan’s remarks came on the same day the Obama administration announced two initiatives to improve teacher quality. The Education Department is reducing the paperwork districts must submit every year, saying it will free up valuable time for lesson preparation and other vital tasks.



Is there a link here?
With half of schools failing NCLB, Malloy to seek a waiver

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
September 23, 2011

With almost half the schools in Connecticut failing to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was quick to say the state would be seeking a waiver from the federal law's requirements under a process announced today by President Obama.

"I anticipate that we would be looking at a waiver," Malloy said. "As No Child Left Behind was drafted I think there were some major mistakes made and this is one way to clarify that. Cleary not [this many] American schools are failing, that's just not the case."

Malloy's decision comes a few days after he was non-committal when asked if the state would try to seek a waiver. But he did not hesitate today, confirming his intention to reporters about 15 minutes after the president announced states would be granted waivers.

"To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level," Obama said in a statement.

The waivers will give school districts some reprieve from the requirement that 100 percent of their students be proficient in reading and math in three school years. The tradeoff will be that states show they meet certain conditions, such as imposing standards to better prepare students for college or employement and setting evaluation standards for teachers and administrators.

"This waiver will put more of a sense of reasonableness in getting better outcomes from students," said Mark Linabury, a spokesman for the State Department of Education. Linabury said the state's incoming education commissioner Stefan Pryor attended the announcement this morning by the Obama Administration.

Results released Monday by the state Department of Education showed 47 percent of the schools in the state did not meet the requirements of the law -- a long way from the benchmarks the state department is required to meet. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has estimated that more than 80 percent of the nation's schools are not meeting the requirement benchmarks.

Details of what reforms Connecticut's will pitch to the U.S. Department of Education in their waiver application were not immediately available, but if it is approved if could exempt districts from NCLB sanctions --which include offering students the option to transfer to other schools or firing principals and teachers.

According to a fact sheet released by The White House on the waiver, the current requirement that 100 percent of students be proficient in math and reading by 2014 will be pushed back if states "establish ambitious and acheivable goals ... to support improvement efforts for schools and students."

However, that flexibility will only be provided to states that launch interventions to turn around their lowest-performing schools and for those that measure teacher and administrators performance with student outcomes as a factor.



Hartford's Departing Superintendent To Supervise Windham Schools
State Department Of Education Appoints Adamowski As Special Master In State Intervention

The Hartford Courant
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE, vdelatorre@courant.com
11:57 AM EDT, July 7, 2011

The state Department of Education has appointed former Hartford school Superintendent Steven Adamowski to be a "special master" supervising the struggling Windham public schools, a temporary arrangement that will begin in August.

The appointment is the latest in a series of interventions to pull Windham from its steady decline in academic achievement, even among top students.

State education officials have also cited the school system's inability so far to successfully teach the community's growing number of Hispanic students who come from homes where English is the second language.

For the past five years, Adamowski, 60, led the public schools in Hartford, where he implemented an aggressive reform plan that has been credited with improving test scores at some of the city's lowest performing schools.

Adamowski still has a contract with the Hartford Board of Education to serve as a special advisor to new Superintendent Christina Kishimoto through the end of July.

Windham Superintendent Ana Ortiz said Thursday that she welcomed Adamowski, who was her superintendent when Ortiz was principal of Bellizzi Middle School in Hartford through 2008.

"I think I can learn a lot from Dr. Adamowski," said Ortiz, who has also been an assistant principal at Hartford Public High School and a principal at Betances Elementary School. "Even though we're not a full-fledged urban district, we're a microcosm of Hartford and your New Havens and Bridgeports."

Of the roughly 3,450 students in the Windham district, which includes the city of Willimantic, nearly 70 percent are Hispanic.

The state Department of Education first announced its plans in April to take control of Windham schools through the appointment of a special master, whose tasks will include overseeing the school system's operations, implementing the district improvement plan and assisting Ortiz with curriculum.

The state has characterized the decision as a friendly intervention, and Ortiz said she did not feel threatened.

"Not at all. Are you kidding me? No way," Ortiz said. "I see every challenge as an opportunity."

Acting Education Commissioner George Coleman announced Adamowski's appointment on Wednesday, after the state board of education approved a takeover of Bridgeport city schools. At a special meeting of the Windham school board Wednesday night, Coleman said Adamowski would begin his new role in mid-August.

It was unclear Thursday how much Adamowski will be paid and for how long he will work for the state.

Adamowski could not be reached for comment Thursday morning, but last week said he hoped to remain in Connecticut and "try to do something useful and supportive of school reform."




WESTON RE-DOING ITS CHARTER, AS IS BRIDGEPORT
Will Bridgeport residents only get a "yes" or "no"voter on the whole thing?  Any vote? 


Challenged On Bridgeport Takeover, Malloy Decries ‘Tyranny’
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Christine Stuart | Mar 1, 2012 10:46pm

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s first stop on his education tour was in Hartford, but the first question of the evening came from a former member of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

“I want to know if your plan to reform our schools is all about disenfranchising parents and schools all over the state, like you’re attempting to do in Bridgeport?” said Maria Pereira, the former school board member who voted against a state takeover. Her comments drew a smattering of applause around The Village’s community room, which served as the setting for Malloy’s first stop on his education reform tour. 

Malloy, who relishes verbal sparring with anyone who challenges him or his policies, told Pereira he doesn’t want to be in a situation where the state has to take over a school system.

“I wish you lived in a city that had responded to its requirements to educate all of the children, including your own children, which you know and I know hasn’t been happening,” Malloy told Pereira.

“Really can you look at me and say that the Bridgeport Board of Education has done a good job the last 10 years?” Malloy asked.

“No, the Bridgeport Board of Education hasn’t done a good job in the last 20 years it’s been controlled by Democrats, that’s why,” Pereira said. “This is a democracy, not tyranny.”

When Pereira was done speaking, Malloy began to respond. When Pereira tried to interject, the governor told her she was done speaking at that point and went on to explain his position regarding the Bridgeport Public Schools.

“What tyranny is, is sending children to a school year, after year, after year, knowing that they’re not performing at a rate that will allow a vast majority of the children graduating from that school, and finishing that program, to compete — not just on a statewide basis, not just a national basis, but an international basis,” Malloy said.

He said he didn’t want to take over Bridgeport’s school board, but the board voted to disband itself. “Your school board basically threw up its hands and ran away. That’s a reality,“ Malloy said.

Pereira was one of the three members to vote against a state takeover. She went on to sue the state. Earlier this week, Pereira won her lawsuit when the Supreme Court decided the state had violated the law when it disbanded the city’s elected school board and replaced it with an appointed board.

However, there’s already language in Malloy’s 163-page education reform proposal that would keep that appointed board in place. Further, some lawmakers are working to see that the appointed board stays in place by taking legislative action next week before the city can hold a special election.

Asked after the event if he would like to see the current Bridgeport school board remain in place, Malloy said “that’s up to the legislature.”

“Let’s concentrate on this for a second here. Beyond all of that the children of the city of Bridgeport have been let down for a generation, so it‘s time to do something about it,” Malloy said. “And if it’s going to go back to the old way it’s even more imperative that this package be passed.”

Malloy’s reform package also includes incentives for the state’s lowest performing school districts. However, the proposal further says that if the districts agree to allow the state to help them govern their schools, they also have to give up a certain amount of control over things such as collective bargaining with the teachers.

“I do want to be able to step in and supervise . . . the lowest 25 performing schools because if we don’t do that there’s no penalty,” Malloy said. “The woman who came from Bridgeport — she didn’t deny that the children had been let down terribly . . . As a former board of education member she gave no argument at all that the children of Bridgeport were let down for a generation...”  Full article here.


Special election for school board uncertain
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST
Updated 11:42 p.m., Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eligibility requirements for Bridgeport school board candidates and the date of a special election are among the unresolved issues the parties involved in the Bridgeport schools takeover are asking the state Supreme Court to help settle in the wake of the court's decision to overturn the state-appointed board.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled the state's seizure of the Bridgeport school board was flawed because it ignored a key provision requiring training for the board before it could be disbanded. The court sent the matter back to Superior Court, with instructions that a date be set for a special election.

But during an hourlong meeting in state Superior Court in Waterbury on Thursday with Judge Salvatore Agati, attorneys for all parties came with questions about the election, including inquiries about the eligibility requirements of the candidates. After the meeting, which also included representatives from the Office of the Secretary of the State, they said it is likely a motion will be filed with the state Supreme Court seeking clarification, or reconsideration, of the ruling. Under state law, the parties have 10 days from Feb. 28 to make such a request.

In a 6-1 decision, the state's highest court ordered the city to hold a special election to refill its Board of Education, which was dissolved by state takeover. The state-appointed board will continue to serve until the elected board is certified by the town clerk. At that time, the trial court will reinstate the five members of the local board whose terms of office have not expired, to serve along with the four newly elected members.

But there were more questions than answers in court Thursday.

Attorney Norman Pattis, who represents deposed board members Maria Pereira and Bobby Simmons, said the request to the state Supreme Court to clarify procedures was a stalling tactic.

"Given how long the last (decision) took, my fear is by the time this is resolved, my clients terms will have expired. We will have won nothing, and I am outraged by it," he said.

During a special meeting July 5, the city's Board of Education voted 6-3 to ask the state to take charge of the school system. The following day, the state Board of Education voted 5-4 to approve the takeover. Pattis and Danbury civil rights lawyer Josephine Miller, who represented parents of Bridgeport school children, filed suit opposing the takeover. In their lawsuits, they claimed the actions of the state were unconstitutional and the law allowing takeovers had been violated. The state Supreme Court declared Tuesday that the state violated the law when it failed to retrain the city's Board of Education before seizing control of the struggling district.

Miller said three options were presented during the meeting to elect the board. The election could be governed by the city charter, a truncated 45-day election process could be held, or a regular special municipal election could be held, within 150 days.

"If we do that, we are back to November already. If we file a request for articulation, we would be saying basically, help us do this quicker," Miller said.

Attorney John Kardaras, who represents Bob Walsh and others who had won the Democratic nod to run before the November elections when the state appointed a new board, said his clients deserve the party endorsement and automatic spots on the ballot.

"The Supreme Court decision certainly left more questions than answers in terms of the actual remedy. Justice delayed is justice denied," he said.

John Bohannon Jr., representing the city of Bridgeport, said he is not certain who will file the motion for clarification or reconsideration, but said doing so will set off another time clock during which other parties can respond. Even so, he said he would expect a decision shortly thereafter.

He said he doesn't think the motion will necessarily buy the existing state board more time.

Neither did Steven Eckert, who is representing the seven state-appointed board members who have been ordered by the Supreme Court to stay in office until an elected board is selected.



What lessons do you learn from "emergency" legislation that isn't an emergency?  Today education in Bridgeport, tomorrow by-by home rule everywhere...
Hey – it’s only the law – and they are only the Supreme Court

What?  Wait! blog, Jon Pelto
Mar 01


IMPORTANT NEWS ALERT:

“General Assembly leaders are expected to press ahead Thursday to try to circumvent the Supreme Court’s rejection of the state takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education.” –  March 1, 2012

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams said yesterday that the legislature should support the Mayor of Bridgeport’s request to retroactively change the law so that the state can continue to run the Bridgeport School System rather than allow the elected members of the Bridgeport Board of Education to fulfill their duties.

Yes, you are reading that comment right.

The President of the State Senate is saying that rather than follow the law the legislature should simply go back in time and remove the provisions that made the state’s actions illegal.

Last July the state Board of Education voted 5-4 to use its extraordinary authority to remove the nine Democratically elected members of the Bridgeport Board of Education and replace them with seven people who were appointed by the state to run the local school system

The Connecticut Supreme Court struck down the state’s action and reinstated Bridgeport’s Board of Education.  The Court also ordered the city of Bridgeport to hold a special election to replace the members of the local board whose terms expired since last July.

The Supreme Court determined that state’s action was illegal because the state failed to follow the law which requires that before the state can take over a school system it must first make a reasonable attempt to provide the existing board of education members with special training and the opportunity to manage their local program.

Senator Don Williams is now being quoted as saying that the state shouldn’t have to face “unreasonable technical barriers to getting that help to a city that’s requesting it.”

Unreasonable?

Like following the law?

Like helping local elected officials succeed before the state can simply dismiss them?

Like saying Democracy is a luxury we can’t afford right now?

The Bridgeport School System is in deep trouble.  Significant changes are need but no one is above the law.  Connecticut’s leaders can fix the problem.  It’s called following the law and doing their jobs correctly.

AND HERE IS THE MOST INCREDIBLE PIECE OF ALL;

Governor Malloy and his State Department of Education knew all along that they had broken the law and were quietly trying to use the “education reform” bill to get themselves off the hook.

While Governor Malloy tours that state to talk about his reform proposals and the battle rages about charter schools and insufficient funding and doing away with tenure, deep inside Malloy’s “education reform bill” is a change to the state’s requirement to help train board of education members before the state can take over a local school system.

The existing language says that the State Board of Education cannot authorize the Commissioner of Education to take over a local school system and dismiss the locally elected board unless the local board has been given the special training.

Governor Malloy’s bill adds “Any such action taken on or after July 1, 2010, shall be valid notwithstanding any prior requirement for training for members of a local or regional board before such reconstitution is authorized.”

Meaning – we knew we had broken the law, we know we took over the Bridgeport School System illegally but instead of backtracking and doing it right we will simply change the law to say that anything we did after July 1, 2010 is legal even though it was illegal.

The politicians say all they want to do is what is best for the kids.

How about the Governor, the legislature, the mayor and everyone else start with doing their jobs right and that begins with following the laws of the state of Connecticut.


After ruling, school solution sought
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 03:27 p.m., Wednesday, February 29, 2012


HARTFORD -- Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch found some sympathetic ears in the Capitol on Wednesday in his quest for a legislative remedy to the shattering reversal of last year's state takeover of his city school board.

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams was among leaders who Finch visited to alert them to the stunning Supreme Court decision.

"It's certainly our intention to help cities like Bridgeport who want additional assistance from the state to get that assistance," Williams said in a mid-afternoon interview on the Senate floor.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, said that it's a matter of time before a strategy emerges to help the city. "I don't know of anybody who does not want to see the right thing happen by the people who live in Bridgeport so they can get better schools for their kids."

The next step happens Thursday after a judge ordered city of Bridgeport attorneys and plaintiffs in the school board takeover case to appear in Waterbury Superior Court Thursday.

The hearing, scheduled for 10:30 a.m., is the next step after the state Supreme Court on Tuesday voided the state's takeover of the Bridgeport school system.

Norman Pattis, an attorney for two of the displaced school board members, said the city has been ordered to bring a copy of the city charter with them. The court ruled on Tuesday that the state replacement of the school board was not legal and ordered both sides to return to superior court so that a new election can be set.

The order came shortly after Finch arrived in the state Capitol on Wednesday looking for possible legislative solutions to Tuesday's court decision.

"I'll speak with whoever will meet with me," Finch said during a morning interview in the Legislative Office Building.

"This is about the children of Bridgeport," Finch said, as he began a morning-long series of discussions with Senate and House leaders as well as the Malloy administration.

"Our superintendent and state education commissioner have been very supportive and we've been making progress," Finch said. "This is a shame for the children of our city."

With the Senate in session on Wednesday, there was a slim chance that legislation could be debated on an emergency basis. A section in the governor's education reforms that pertains to the Bridgeport takeover issue was reviewed in a public hearing last week and could theoretically be carved out for a quick vote in the Senate, then referred for the next House session that is currently not scheduled.

But with the expected mid-afternoon snow storm, it seemed less likely that action could take place so soon after the high court overturned last summer's takeover.

As Sen. Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, walked by on his way to a morning caucus in the Capitol, Finch asked him for support. Finch then took the escalator upstairs for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney.


What does the Supreme Court decision mean?
CT POST
Updated 11:48 p.m., Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Q: What does the state Supreme Court decision mean for the daily functioning of Bridgeport's school system?

A: Interim Superintendent Paul Vallas, who was chosen by the state-appointed Board of Education, said he plans to push forward with balancing the budget, creating a five-year budget plan for the district and a curriculum plan designed to improve student achievement.

Q: What about decisions made by the new board?

A: Since the Supreme Court is allowing the existing board to stay in place until a special election date is set and the election results are certified, observers believe that decisions made by the state-appointed board will be allowed to stand.

Q: How soon will an election be held?

A: The court ruled the decision must return to the lower court, which will set a date for a special election.

Q: How many seats will be up for election?

A: The terms of four members of the nine-member board expired with the November 2011 election. One board member, who had an unexpired term, has since taken a seat on the Bridgeport City Council.

Q: Can members of the state-appointed board run for open seats?

A: Those who live in Bridgeport can. They include Hernan Illingworth, Jacqueline Kelleher, Kenneth Moales and Michelle Black Smith-Tompkins. State-appointed board chairman Robert Trefry, who lives in Fairfield, cannot run.

Q: Could the education reform package that proposes to retroactively remove the training requirement that the Supreme Court said Bridgeport ignored affect the court's decision?

A: It is not clear, but Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his office is investigating further legal and legislative options with state and local officials. But attorney Norman Pattis, who represented the two city-elected school board members who voted against the dissolution of the board, said he would challenge any such legislative action in federal court.

Q: How does the decision affect the Charter Revision Commission review of the makeup of the school board?

A: The commission still can put forward changes to the city's charter that could give the mayor more power over the board and whether the members are appointed, elected or both. It would then be up to voters to approve those changes.


Bridgeport schools takeover - read decision here.
Supreme Court nixes state takeover of Bridgeport school board
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
February 28, 2012

The state Supreme Court has rejected the state's takeover of Bridgeport's Board of Education, ruling that five of the ousted school board members be put back in office and special elections must be held for the remaining four seats whose members' terms have expired.

The decision was based largely on the fact that the board never received training before the takeover last July, as required by state law.

"Most importantly, the state board does not have the authority to authorize reconstitution until it first requires the local board to undergo and complete training," the majority opinion written by Justice Peter Zarella reads.

This decision comes days after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief counsel said such a reversal by the Supreme Court would be "unworkable and would maximize disruption" in Bridgeport schools. The administration is proposing the General Assembly change in state law so districts no longer have to undergo training before a state takeover.

Calling the decision "disappointing" Andrew McDonald, counsel for Malloy said they still plan to pursue a legislative fix.

"We are reviewing the implications of this decision and intend to discuss further legal and legislative options with state and local officials in the very near future. Our goal has always been to create a stable, productive and educationally sound environment for a chronically struggling school district.  Our focus will not change," McDonald wrote in a statement.

The lawyer for some of the expelled Bridgeport board members said he plans to challenge in federal court any retroactive fix the legislature may make in an attempt to override this Supreme Court decision.

Several decisions the state-appointed board has made may also face legal challenges in the coming months, including budget and contract decisions and the hiring of Paul Vallas as the new superintendent.

Justice Richard N. Palmer was the lone dissenting vote, writing that the training requirement is meant to shield the state from unwanted takeovers. That was not the case in the Bridgeport case, as the majority of board members voted to have the state replace their board.

"The training provision is a shield, a measure meant to protect a locality against what it might perceive as an unwarranted state takeover. The training provision is not a sword, a measure meant to force a local board of education to retain control over the education of the district's schoolchildren," Palmer wrote in explaining why Bridgeport school board members should be allowed to waive the requirement.


Key lawmaker says retroactive fix to Bridgeport school takeover unlikely
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
February 28, 2012

Following the Supreme Court's rejection of the state's takeover of Bridgeport's Board of Education, the leader of the legislature's education committee said the chances for a retroactive fix is unlikely.

"I have serious doubts whether I or other legislators will continue such language. The matter has been dealt with and it's closed. The Supreme Court has ruled," state Rep. Andy Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, said.

The Supreme Court ruled late Tuesday that the State Board of Education violated the law when it ousted the elected Bridgeport board last July. The decision was based largely on the fact that the board never received training before the takeover last July, as required.

"Most importantly, the state board does not have the authority to authorize reconstitution until it first requires the local board to undergo and complete training," the majority opinion written by Justice Peter Zarella reads.

This decision comes as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has proposed Fleischmann's committee and General Assembly approve a bill that would retroactively change the training requirement, and thus retroactively making the takeover legal.

Andrew McDonald, Malloy's chief counsel, said in a statement that the administration "intend[s] to discuss further legal and legislative options with the state and local officials in the very near future."

But the lawyer for those elected Bridgeport members who were not happy with the takeover has said such a maneuver would surely land the state back in court.

McDonald has said a reversal of the state takeover would "maximize disruption" since a new superintendent has been hired and budget and contract decisions have been made. These decisions are vulnerable to legal challenges.

"Our goal has always been to create a stable, productive and educationally sound environment for a chronically struggling school district. Our focus will not change," he said Tuesday.

Fleischman worries such a retroactive fix will just allow the uncertainties that the district has had to face the last eight months will just be prolonged.

"I'm don't think we have the power or authority to retroactively fix this. They ruled... I would really need some strong persuading to be convinced that's the right approach," he said. "We might want to decide what we have going forward but I'm not convinced there is anything wrong with the current law."

The ruling said the five of the ousted school board members be put back in office and special elections must be held for the remaining four seats whose members' terms have expired.

This decision comes days after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief counsel said such a reversal by the Supreme Court would be "unworkable and would maximize disruption" in Bridgeport schools. The administration is proposing the General Assembly change in state law so districts no longer have to undergo training before a state takeover.

Justice Richard N. Palmer was the lone dissenting vote, writing that the training requirement is meant to shield local districts from unwanted state takeovers. That was not the case in the Bridgeport case, as the majority of board members voted to have the state replace their board.

"The training provision is a shield, a measure meant to protect a locality against what it might perceive as an unwarranted state takeover. The training provision is not a sword, a measure meant to force a local board of education to retain control over the education of the district's schoolchildren," Palmer wrote in explaining why Bridgeport school board members should be allowed to waive the requirement.

Bridgeport is the only district the state board has disbanded under this law so far.
Malloy and Finch aides planned out Bridgeport schools' takeover
CT POST
Ken Dixon, Staff Writer
Updated 12:17 a.m., Friday, July 8, 2011

HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's top aides were instrumental in helping Bridgeport officials lay the behind-the-scenes groundwork for this week's stunning state takeover of the city's troubled public school system.

Details that emerged from interviews with Malloy administration officials and others show that Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his aides played key roles in working with the governor's office in advance of the takeover votes to make sure they were following state law.  The governor said Thursday he was not very involved in the negotiations because of his focus on the current $1.6 billion budget shortfall after the collapse of a concessions deal with state employee unions.

"But I'm certainly interested in urban education," said Malloy, the former 14-year mayor of Stamford.

Malloy said Timothy F. Bannon, his chief of staff, was the administration's point man on the preliminary discussions that also involved the state Board of Education. After a request from Finch, Bannon directed several meetings with city and state officials, including with lawyers who reviewed state law that allows for the new oversight.

On June 29, Bannon and Benjamin Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, spoke with Bridgeport officials and state Department of Education personnel in a discussion that centered on the legal requirements should the Bridgeport board ask to be reconstituted.  On Tuesday, at a hastily called special meeting, the local school board voted 6-3 to ask the state to take over the district. The next day, the state Board of Education voted 5-4 to honor Bridgeport's request.

"The meetings I had were mostly to do with the process," Bannon said Thursday. "Certainly our goal and the mayor and superintendent's stated goal is to improve the educational opportunities for Bridgeport kids. That's it. From what I heard from all parties is that the education system is failing the kids. My emphasis was to bring the people together to get the right thing to happen."

Bannon described his job as "expediting" the events that led to this week's state Board of Education decision to take control of Bridgeport's schools.  Participants in the Capitol discussions included Finch, his chief of staff, Adam Wood, school board President Barbara Bellinger, Schools Superintendent John Ramos and Robert Henry, the associate superintendent.  Bannon said that during the legislative session there had been talk of a bill setting the scene for the Bridgeport takeover, similar to legislation that passed to allow state control of the Windham school district, but it was never brought out for debate.

"State statutes spell out the way things will be decided and our role was to make sure the decision under the statute occurred in a timely manner," Bannon said.

Wood said Thursday, "We approached the Malloy administration on Barbara Bellinger's behalf and asked what was available. The superintendent's office had questions, so we were acting as facilitators between the state and those folks. There were our attorneys and their attorneys."

There were several meetings in the Capitol, and conference calls as well.

"It's a painful but positive step for the students," Wood said. "There are clearly changes need in the Board of Education and our goals are positive outcomes for the children."

Barnes, who before becoming Malloy's budget chief was the operating officer for Bridgeport schools, overseeing the school system's facilities, transportation, technology and its nearly $216 million budget, said Thursday that it was clear the city schools -- and the governing board -- were in crisis.

"I have some experience with that school board, and I can attest to the fact that some of the conflict on the board has been a significant distraction to education," Barnes said. "I hope the new board can help focus improvement on outcomes."


What law allowed state to BOE takeover?
CT POST
July 7, 2011 at 6:19 pm by Jim Shay

Q. What law allowed the state Board of Education to vote to replace the Bridgeport Board of Education:

A. Former State Rep. Jason Bartlett, who was on the Legislature’s education committee when the law was passed a year ago said the provision was requested by former Commissioner of Education Mark McQuillan to give him a tool to use to intercede in chronically failing school districts. No one imagined school districts would initiate use of the statute.

It was part of a state school accountability law.

The provision in question reads: (h) The State Board of Education may authorize the Commissioner of Education to reconstitute a local or regional board of education pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (d) of this section for a period of not more than five years. The board shall not grant such authority to the commissioner unless the board has required the local or regional board of education to complete the training described in subparagraph (M) of subdivision (2) of subsection (c) of this section. Upon such authorization by the board, the commissioner shall terminate the existing local or regional board of education and appoint the members of a new local or regional board of education for the school district. Such appointed members may include members of the board of education that was terminated. The terms of the members of the new board of education shall be three years. The Department of Education shall offer training to the members of the new board of education. The new board of education shall annually report to the commissioner regarding the district’s progress toward meeting the benchmarks established by the State Board of Education pursuant to subsection (c) of this section and making adequate yearly progress, as defined in the state accountability plan prepared in accordance with subsection (a) of this section. If the district fails to show adequate improvement, as determined by the State Board of Education, after three years, the commissioner may reappoint the members of the new board of education or appoint new members to such board of education for terms of two years.


State Board Votes 5-4 To Take Over Bridgeport Schools
Vote Comes In Response To 'Unprecedented' Request From Mayor, Superintendent And School Board President
The Hartford Courant
Courant Staff Report
3:39 PM EDT, July 6, 2011


The state Board of Education voted 5-4 Wednesday to reconstitute Bridgeport's school board, at the request of the city's mayor, school superintendent and school board president.

By a margin of only a single vote, the state Board of Education voted Wednesday to take over Bridgeport schools at the request of the city's mayor, school superintendent and school board president.

Faced with budget problems and poor student performance, the Bridgeport board had voted 6-3 Tuesday evening to ask the state education commissioner to reconstitute the board and take other steps to help the school district.

"It's quite unprecedented," said state Education Commissioner George Coleman. "We want to know more about what are the details that precipitated this — to have the board want to surrender its own authority."

The extraordinary moved by the state board was opposed by three of Bridgeport's school board members, who say the request was an effort to remove them as a vocal minority voting bloc on the board and that the move undercuts representative government.

A new state law allows the state education commissioner to replace a school board that has become ineffective, but the law has never been tested. Windham has welcomed the state's recent intervention in its school district, but that intervention was initiated by the state and did not involve replacing the school board.

Other struggling school districts have inquired about a state intervention, wondering what it would mean for their district, though none but Bridgeport has actually made a request, Coleman said. He said that in many cases the requests are driven by struggles with tight school budgets.

"If it's financial relief they're seeking, we have so little capacity at the state to offer that," Coleman said.

In Bridgeport, Mayor Bill Finch, School Superintendent John J. Ramos Sr. and school board President Barbara P. Bellinger initiated the request for state help.


State authorizes takeover of Bridgeport schools
Jacqueline Rabe, CT MIRROR
July 6, 2011


By a single vote, the State Board of Education on Wednesday gave Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch the "miracle" he says is needed to turn around the troubled schools in the state's largest city: a takeover by the state of Connecticut.

"The status quo in the Bridgeport Public School System is not OK," Finch told the state board during a two-hour meeting. "We don't have anywhere to go ...  and that is why we are here."

Bridgeport's school system is facing a 7 percent cut to its $233 million budget, a situation that has exacerbated tensions among the current nine board members and led to an impasse on passing a budget for the fiscal year that began last week.

"There is something wrong in Bridgeport. I don't know how we say 'no' to the request," said Allan Taylor, the chairman of the state board. "I think we have an obligation."

"I have never seen a more hostile situation," said Tom Mulligan, a Bridgeport board member. "This board cannot achieve its purpose. ... It is an emergency situation."

And on Wednesday, members of the state board agreed, voting to grant the state commissioner of Education the power to appoint a new board to manage the 20,000-student district. But the board was split, voting 5-4 in favor of intervention.

"It is the role of this board is to place more scrutiny on failing schools," said Stephen P. Wright, a member of the state Board of Education from Trumbull, a suburb next to Bridgeport. "They are asking for our help. We need to give them some measure of help."

But about a dozen Bridgeport parents and voters traveled to Hartford with a clear message for the state board: Stay out. They said the residents elected the current nine-member board and throwing them out of office is troubling.

"It is outrageous to me that my rights as a registered voter are being taken away. It is not fair," Shavonne Davis, a mother of five children in Bridgeport schools.

The takeover is a reflection of a board that some say is dysfunctional beyond its inability to agree on a budget. The problem facing the current school board, the delegation from Bridgeport in Hartford said, is there are three board members that are very disruptive to the process.

Barbara Bellinger, president of the Bridgeport board, said while she has the majority votes she needs to pass important issues facing the schools, three members are able to delay business because a two-thirds vote is needed to go into executive session or to pass anything if one member is absent.

Hearing those comments, one mother from Bridgeport in the audience yelled out, "That's called transparency."

And with an election just three months away for four of the current board members, the Bridgeport delegation said they are not confident any election will solve this problem.

"I do not think the election will change the situation," Mulligan said.

The uncertainty of their budget is nothing new to Bridgeport schools, as it has faced major deficits to cope with flat-funding from both the state and the city in recent years and is the plaintiff on a pending class-action lawsuit against the state for its funding levels.

Patricia Luke, a member of the state board voting against the intervention, said the problem isn't the current board, it is that the chaos facing them now is a direct result of being underfunded.

"How is reconstituting your board going to change those problems? You don't have enough money," she asked. "It's not going to solve anything, except you will probably pass a budget for this school year."

But Taylor, who witnessed firsthand the state takeover of the Hartford school, said that's exactly was this intervention is aimed at solving, as well as other issues long-term. The new board will be in place for three years and Acting Education Commissioner George Coleman said he believes it will be made up of five members.

"I am not sure the solutions will be immediately evident," he said, adding he will name new members shortly. "Certainly we want people who have the time and commitment."

Bridgeport is not new to state oversight. Its financial problems led more than two decades ago to a state panel taking control of the city's budgeting.


School board vote asks for state takeover
CT POST
Linda Conner Lambeck, Staff Writer
Updated 06:57 a.m., Wednesday, July 6, 2011


BRIDGEPORT -- By a 6-to-3 vote, the Board of Education voted Tuesday to ask for a state takeover that will potentially replace its members and use a budget Superintendent of Schools John Ramos called "terrible" as a guide in helping the district teach 20,000 students in 2011-12.

"I have found this board to be dysfunctional in the manner in which it conducts its business ... The local board and Bridgeport public schools have proven themselves unable to deliver education that the children of Bridgeport deserve," said board President Barbara Bellinger.

She said the intervention request was her idea, not Mayor Bill Finch's or Ramos'. Bellinger said she has contemplated going to the state since December and called the status quo unacceptable.

She said she got help drafting the resolution from the city attorney's office as well as with state guidance.

The action essentially leaves district finances in limbo. Two weeks ago, Ramos got board approval to wait until October to make wholesale cuts in a $233 million spending plan that needs to be whittled to $215.8 million. The board action Tuesday leaves open the possibility deeper cuts could come sooner, since guidance the state will be given includes recommendations for wholesale cuts of staff and district programs.

Associate School Superintendent Robert Henry acknowledged some layoff notices are being prepared. He couldn't say how many, but they are in accordance with a revised list of reductions Ramos presented at a rally staged last week.

Sue Smith, director of social work for the district, said Tuesday she doesn't know what she will do if the board follows through with elimination of 18 social workers. It would leave one social worker for every 760 students in the district. Korene Garcia, incoming president of the district-wide Parent Action Council, said parents believe the budget will cripple student education.

"We have so many questions that need to be answered. How do we weigh in on process?" she asked.

Ramos was not at the meeting, held in a packed Batalla School cafeteria. Many in the back of the room held signs calling for the removal of Ramos, Finch and Bellinger.

Finch, also not at the meeting, issued a statement over the weekend in support of the resolution and another Monday calling the board action an opportunity to move things forward in a positive manner. Adam Wood, Finch's chief of staff, said if anything, his boss was taking a political risk, four months before an election, agreeing the school system wasn't functioning well.

"He has zero control over the Board of Education," Wood said.

Bellinger said she is convinced state intervention will come with assistance enabling the district to better serve its students, raise test scores and resolve a budget gap of nearly $20 million. Allan Taylor, chairman of the state Board of Education, said earlier Tuesday the one thing the state can't offer the city is more money. Commissioner of Education George Coleman called the board action unprecedented -- unlike the Windham school district, where state intervention was initiated by the state, or Hartford's school district, where a state takeover in 1997 was driven by the Legislature.

City school board members Maria Pereira, Sauda Baraka and Bobby Simmons made several failed attempts to get the motions postponed, altered or sent to committee. Pereira said if some board members feel they can't do their jobs, they should resign, not ask the state to replace the entire board.

"Perhaps we should all be dumping tea in Bridgeport's Harbor," said Pereira. She called the action a political ploy and a conspiracy to deny citizens their right to vote because four members, who are in the majority, are up for re-election. Pereira is a member of the Working Families Party, which shocked the Democratic Party last fall by winning two board seats. Bellinger denied the action was political.

Baraka said she will take their case to the state. "It's not even up to the people of Bridgeport anymore," she said.

"Tonight is just another example of the divisions on this board. They are deep and irreconcilable," said Thomas Mulligan, the newest board member.

The district has been flat-funded for four years, and federal stimulus money that kept the district afloat the past two years is gone.

Board member Thomas Cunningham sought assurances the board was only asking the state to consider the cuts proposed by Ramos, not necessarily enact them.

Bellinger called it a "road map" for the state to use. She also said it's up to the state to decide who stays on the board and who goes. "If they gave me the option, I'd have to think about it because this combination, doesn't work."

The approved resolutions will be taken up at the state Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

A high price to pay for help
CT POST editorial
Published 05:51 p.m., Tuesday, July 5, 2011

With no budget and not enough money, the Bridgeport school system is at an impasse. A state takeover, as the school board was prepared to request at Tuesday night's meeting, might be the best path forward.

But there are reasons for caution.

The Board of Education, whatever its faults, is made up of duly elected officials, chosen by the population of Bridgeport. Election results are not to be casually tossed aside, no matter what crisis is at hand.  And few would disagree the problems Bridgeport is facing go far beyond anyone currently in office.

Faced with the fourth consecutive year of no funding increase from the city, Schools Superintendent John Ramos recommended and the school board agreed last month not to adopt the proposed budget for the coming year. The gap between what was needed and what was available, Ramos said, was simply too large.  That point is not in dispute. The state responded by saying that no help could be forthcoming without adopting a budget of some sort.

Mayor Bill Finch, Ramos and School Board President Barbara Bellinger then proposed a resolution that asks the state to replace the nine-member school board and, in effect, take over the district. This is the resolution that was to be discussed Tuesday.

It's true that a vocal minority on the school board has put up some obstacles to the majority's plans. But that's simply the nature of a political board. Those members were elected like everyone else.  And there's little evidence a state takeover would close the budget gap; the chairman of the state Board of Education has said as much.

Ramos has called the inequity in education funding between the city and suburbs "perverse." That is the real issue, and it goes far beyond any squabbling on the Board of Education.

State help for the Bridgeport schools would be welcome, and may ultimately be necessary. But not at the expense of overturning elections.


CT Commission of Education (retiring)...how does this affect this idea?
Finch, Ramos ask for state takeover of Board of Education

CT POST
Linda Conner Lambeck, Staff Writer
Updated 08:18 a.m., Tuesday, July 5, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- Schools Superintendent John Ramos, along with Mayor Bill Finch and School Board President Barbara Bellinger, are asking for what amounts to a state takeover of the city school board.

The board of education is scheduled to meet in special session at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Batalla School, 606 Howard Ave., to consider a resolution asking the state Board of Education to ask the state commissioner of education to reconstitute the local nine-member school board.

If approved, the board would be agreeing to "set itself aside" and for the commissioner to appoint a new board, Ramos said. It remains to be seen, he added, if "this is the kind of game-changer we need for our kids to have a different kind of hope going forward."

"The Bridgeport Board of Education as it is currently constituted is dysfunctional. It's hard to argue that. We also generally agree that our city can't provide an equitable education to its children given its financial constraints. This resolution from my perspective reflects these realities and essentially appeals to the state for help in a more deep and impactful way," said Ramos.

The board, at Ramos' suggestion, agreed last month that it could not provide a decent education for the district's 20,000 students on the $215.8 million operating budget it will receive for the fourth straight year, coupled with a sharp reduction in federal grant money.

Ramos called it drawing a line in the sand. He acknowledged that along with reconstituting the board, the state could very well decide to shake up district staff, including his office.

"That may well be a consequence of this. This can't be about policy and job security. My job is not necessarily secure in this process as far as I am concerned," Ramos said.

Finch, in a prepared statement, said he believes that state oversight will be the best way to calm the waters and take politics out of the process.

"As a public school parent, I realize our school system is at a critical crossroad," Finchsaid. He added that state oversight will allow a renewed focus on improving outcomes for students.

At least two school board members said Sunday that they see it differently.

Sauda Baraka said it is up to the superintendent, who earns more than $225,000 a year, to guide the school board. She sees the resolution as an attempt to remove three members of the board, herself included, who have disagreed with many of the actions taken by Ramos and a majority of the board this school year.

Board member Maria Pereira said it makes no sense to target the board when Ramos asked the board not to pass a budget. She also said that if a majority of the board admits they are incapable of acting in the best interest of children, the minority should not be held responsible. She called the proposal purely political and a possible misuse of a relatively new state statute, part of the so-called parent trigger law, that allows the state to take over districts based on poor student performance.

Bellinger could not be reached for comment. In a statement released by Finch's office, she is quoted as saying what is most important are the children.

"This has been a long and difficult process for our board. ... During the past few years, the Board has struggled to gain a consensus on many issues. Without a laser-like focus on student achievement we are unable to dramatically improve student outcomes, our most important mission," she said in the release.

The two-page resolution blames board conduct at meetings for delaying board business and preventing the board from meeting its goals and improving student outcomes.

Ramos said a state takeover of the district has been talked about for years and the idea got traction after the budget was not passed. He said the mayor's office has been in direct contact with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's office over the matter.

The superintendent said board reconstitution is an opportunity only if it is devoid of politics and is about students, not protecting jobs.

"If we allow this process to be diluted in any way or compromised by politics in any way then its a nonstarter," said Ramos, who does not plan to attend Tuesday's meeting. He is moderating a Connecticut Conference of the Church of Christ. He said he expects the mayor will be at the meeting.







Fiscal pressures push districts toward regional cooperation
Robert A. Frahm, CT MIRROR
November 9, 2010

NORWICH - When this cash-strapped town closed its schools for spring vacation last April, it still had to pay to keep school buses rolling.  The school district continued operating buses for students attending programs outside the district, including a New London magnet school and state-run technical and agricultural high schools.

The cost of running the buses that week, about $20,000, could have been saved if all of the schools had been on the same vacation schedule, officials said.

This week, the Norwich Board of Education is expected to vote to join other districts in adopting a common school calendar to avoid such conflicts, hoping eventually to coordinate schedules with more than two dozen school systems in the region.  Pressured by Connecticut's mounting fiscal crisis, school districts are warming to the idea of working together to hold down costs - a sharp break from the longstanding Yankee tradition of local control and immutable district boundary lines.

"We need to let go of these border lines and boundaries that inhibit and make education costs so expensive," said Charles Jaskiewicz, Norwich's school board chairman. "We really need to work on regionalizing better."

A uniform school calendar could be one of the first steps. Educators also are discussing regional approaches to health insurance, purchasing agreements, busing and even curriculum, especially as schools across the state brace for more layoffs and budget cuts next year.

"I think [regionalism] is being pursued more seriously now than I've ever seen it," said Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

In other parts of the nation, too, school districts increasingly are looking for ways to share costs and work together under the pressure of tight budgets, especially in states with numerous small districts confined to small geographic areas, said Bruce Hunter, associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.

"That is going on almost everywhere," he said. "It's money. It's efficiency. It's also access to resources."

The budget crisis is particularly urgent in places such as Norwich, where the school district laid off more than 10 percent of its workforce this year, closed two schools and saw class sizes balloon.  Jaskiewicz, the board chairman, sees potential savings in areas such as busing, where he believes neighboring towns could jointly operate buses to take students to state-operated technical high schools, for example. Under the current system, he said, "A lot of times you'll see a bus going down the highway with only a handful of students on it, and other towns will follow the same route."

Officials from Norwich and other nearby districts also are exploring the possibility of cooperative arrangements for insurance coverage," Jaskiewicz said.

The push for regional cooperation gained momentum last January when Democrats in the state House of Representatives created the Commission on Municipal Opportunities and Regional Efficiencies (MORE) to examine potential collaborations among towns, school districts and regional organizations.  More recently, the issue was raised by an ad hoc committee of the State Board of Education. The committee, which is studying school finance, has asked the state's regional education service centers to collect information on the feasibility of cooperative approaches to busing and insurance coverage.

There are six regional education service centers in Connecticut, assisting school districts in areas such as special education, technology, curriculum development, professional training and purchasing.

"This year, more than ever, we're engaged in discussions to help [districts] put people together to reduce costs," said Craig Edmondson, executive director of ACES, a regional center based in North Haven.

Some educators believe the legislature's passage of a major school reform law earlier this year, including new graduation requirements, could lead to a more standardized statewide curriculum. "If that were to take place . . . it may help school districts to not spend significant resources to develop [their own] curriculums," Edmonson said. A common curriculum also could allow for districts to make joint purchases of textbooks.

"We need to think differently than we have in the past," Edmondson said.

The major factor behind the renewed interest in regional cooperation is the sputtering economy, including a looming $3.3 billion state budget deficit.

"All of this has come with the recession," said Bruce Douglas, executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council, a regional agency covering Greater Hartford. "How can we create economies of scale so we can reallocate needed resources back to the classroom?"

In Connecticut, nearly all of the state's 169 towns operate their own separate school districts and often cling fiercely to the notion of local autonomy - even in towns with only a few hundred students.  Nevertheless, said Douglas, "There are multiple ways [regionalism] can work - information technology services, technology repair, facilities management, food services, transportation. Probably the most important one is health benefits and regional contracts."

Joint purchasing agreements already are relatively common as districts join municipal cooperatives or other school systems to buy paper, classroom materials, custodial supplies and other materials. "I've been doing that for years," said Maria Whalen, the business and finance director for New London's public schools.

In Plainville, public schools are involved in cooperative purchasing arrangements for things such as special education services, paper, copiers, oil and electricity, said Richard Carmelich, the school system's director of finance and operations.

"Most districts do at least some things regionally," he said. "We're part of a number of consortiums."

As educators squeeze what they can from their budgets, they are expecting little, if any, additional help this year from the state. Lawmakers will be hard-pressed just to maintain existing levels of state aid to schools.

"I think the smart districts are the ones being creative," said State Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, co-chairman of the legislature's Education Committee. "The budget situation we're in really dictates that."

Gaffey is among advocates for regional cooperation, including a common statewide school calendar. So is state Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan.  A common calendar "is very important and, arguably, a simple thing to do. . . . We're not that big a state," McQuillan said. "I can't imagine you couldn't have a post-Labor Day start and the same basic configuration of days off."

Educators believe a uniform calendar not only would help neighboring towns to coordinate bus schedules, it would also allow them to share the cost of hiring speakers or running training programs for teachers on days scheduled for professional development.

"If you can get common vacation days and common professional development days - that would make a difference," said Patrice McCarthy, deputy director and general counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

However, some districts set vacations and teacher training days in labor contracts while others have well-established traditions they may be reluctant to alter. "Everyone has their own idea as to what the perfect vacation schedule is," McCarthy said. "You get lots of opinions. People are wedded to what they've been doing."

Nevertheless, she said school boards are expressing a "significantly heightened interest" in working together on matters such as busing, special education, professional training and summer school.

"The time is right," she said.


A former mayor plans to tackle state's education aid formula
Jacqueline Rabe and Robert A. Frahm, CT MIRROR
April 4, 2011

As mayor of Stamford, Dannel P. Malloy grew so frustrated seeing his wealthy neighbors get almost the same per-pupil education grants from the state as his city did that he joined a class-action lawsuit over the funding system.  As governor, he intends to change that system from within.

"There are two ways to do it: We could leave it up to the courts or we could take it up ourselves," Malloy said in an interview with The Mirror. The current system, he says, "does a bad job of telling us where we should spend money."

The state spends about $2.7 billion on primary, secondary and adult education each year. Malloy is calling for a fresh look at how the state spends almost $2 billion of that money dispersed for public schools through the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant, the largest single source of state support for public education to the state's 169 towns, and about 10 percent of the state's total budget.

The ECS system, which dates back more than two decades, relies on a complicated formula measuring each town's wealth, tax base and level of need based on family poverty and other factors.

It is designed to equalize education spending among the state's wealthy and poor towns, but the formula has never been funded to the level originally intended and has been the subject of an annual tug-of-war and frequent political compromises in the legislature.

"We just need to have an honest conversation about it," Malloy said. "It's been tinkered with enough."

Malloy also wants to change other elements of the education funding system, including:

    Funding of magnet schools, a key part of the state's strategy for meeting the goals of the Sheff vs. O'Neill school desegregation settlement. Critics say some $1 billion spent on magnets has not produced the intended results. "I'm not rushing to fund more magnet schools," Malloy said.

    School construction grants. The state currently pays 20 to 80 percent of the cost of new schools, depending on the wealth of the town. That system has resulted in too many schools built at too high a price; he wants to cut back the state's share and apply stricter oversight of projects.

    Regionalization. Although he does not support mandating regionalization, Malloy said school officials "would be very wise to get ahead of that curve... We're paying for with state dollars, we are subsidizing, too many superintendents, too many deputy superintendents, too many facility managers, too many department heads."

But the big money, and probably the toughest political fight, is in changing the ECS grant formula. Every effort to adjust the formula comes up against the same obstacle: Barring substantial added funding, any change makes some towns winners and some losers.

Leaders of local school boards and teachers' unions, frequently at odds, agree on one thing: The primary problem with ECS is that not enough money is put into it.

Patrice McCarthy, general counsel for the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said addressing the formula will help -- but the chronic underfunding from of education is a large contributor to the state continuing to have one of the largest achievement gaps among poor and wealthy students in the nation.

"A greater commitment from the state is still necessary," she said. "You have to both fund the formula and apply it... You really have to do both."

"I think perhaps the single greatest problem with the ECS formula is its underfunding," agreed John Yrchik, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union. "I don't think an equity formula can be fixed by simple redistribution."

A soon-to-be-published study commissioned by CEA found that the formula -- if it were fully funded as originally designed -- would result in more than $1.3 billion in additional support for public schools.

But that money isn't forthcoming any time soon, Malloy said, given the deficits the state is facing in coming years.

"That's why looking at how we allocate the dollars we know we're going to spend is very important," he said. "Every dollar that we do have to spend needs to be spent wisely."

Some critics say the measures of poverty in the ECS formula are too low. They also wonder why rich districts still receive a minimum grant and why the figures used to measure a town's wealth are rarely updated and drawn from aged data.

Malloy said he believes the formula does a good job of measuring town wealth, but fails to account adequately for student needs, and he cites the example of Stamford and its western neighbor, Greenwich.

Both communities rank high in terms of property tax base per capita--Greenwich is No. 1 of 169 municipalities, while Stamford is 27th, according to state calculations. But the ratio of poor students in Stamford, as measured by eligibility for subsidized school lunch, is three times higher than in Greenwich. Still, the $386 per pupil that Greenwich gets in state aid is nearly 75 percent of Stamford's $521.

"That's the big, giant disconnect," he said. "It doesn't make any sense."

Tom Murphy, longtime spokesman for the State Department of Education, said the way the state factors in poverty is problematic.

"Some cities with high amounts of poverty have not benefited from this formula," he said.

With a budget deficit as high as $3.7 billion to deal with this year, Malloy isn't proposing to change ECS as well. But he plans to have a study panel make recommendations for changes by January 1 and hopes the legislature will change the formula by next May.

"It would be wrong for Connecticut state government to be a defender of the status quo,' he said. "The status quo is not working."


Slicing a smaller pie: Educators consider how to share reduced funding
Jacqueline Rabe, CT MIRROR
November 9, 2010

Governor-elect Dan Malloy may have promised not to cut state aid for schools, but state education leaders aren't taking that for granted: They're scrambling to form a plan for dealing with a major loss of funding.

For the current school year, state lawmakers capped school aid at $1.9 billion, but $270 million of that was paid for with one-time federal stimulus money. Education leaders are not confident the state will be able to afford to fill that $270 million gap, which amounts to 14 percent of state aid for schools, in the face of a $3.3 billion deficit.

So a panel of education leaders -- including teachers unions, the superintendents association, the state board of education members and Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan -- are weighing the options. 

Should funding for school districts be cut across the board? Should poor communities be spared? Should districts with more English language learners or special education students not be cut as much?  Those are among the issues the panel will weigh and offer recommendations on to Malloy and state lawmakers as early as December.  The panel's final recommendation will likely be a starting point for state lawmakers, who will have to decide how much state aid will be given and how it will be distributed.

"We have a long journey here," said McQuillan. "For every change we make, there will be a tradeoff."

Joseph Cirasuolo, the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, agreed.

"If someone's making money, then another district is losing money, and that's a problem," Cirasuolo told the education panel Monday.

Alex Johnston, head of the New Haven-based school reform group ConnCAN, said renewing the current funding structure and having across-the-board cuts is not the right answer.

"Politically, of course the easiest thing to do is to just give everyone a haircut," he said. "The formula should not be about what [a district] brings back from the state Capitol. It's, 'Are we funding our students fairly based on their needs?'''

Brian Mahoney, the budget director for the State Department of Education, presented the panel a laundry list of options and how the changes would impact different school districts.  For example, basing funding only on a district's wealth and special education needs would result in 38 of the richest communities receiving nothing from the state.

"This really would be a way to drive money to these urban districts," said John Yrchik, the executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, but stripping any district of funding may not be a good idea.

"This is a fundamental question that I think we are going to have to answer."

The panel meets again in December, and at that time hopes to adopt recommendations for what the state funding formula should look like. The next step is convincing Malloy and state legislators to agree.

"If we can get it in the governor's budget then that's a good first step for it becoming a reality," Mahoney said.


PRIOR TO NOV. 2, 2010 BELOW

Ex-Radical Talks of Education and Justice, Not Obama
By COLIN MOYNIHAN
October 27, 2008


Over the last several months, as pundits and partisans have debated the significance of his relationship with Senator Barack Obama, William Ayers has avoided the limelight, steering clear of political commentary and public pronouncements.

But on Sunday afternoon, Mr. Ayers, 63, a founder of the 1960s-era radical group the Weather Underground, a former fugitive, former Chicago Citizen of the Year and current professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, appeared without fanfare at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, in Chelsea, to participate in a symposium on educational justice.

In 1995, Mr. Ayers held a fund-raiser for Mr. Obama, who was running for a seat in the Illinois State Senate. The two men later served together on the boards of two Chicago philanthropic groups as well as on the board of an education reform organization. The two men have been described as friendly, but not close.

The campaign of his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, has used Mr. Obama’s ties to raise questions about his fitness to be president.

On Sunday, after Mr. Ayers was introduced to an audience of about 50 people who had bought tickets to the event, the moderator, the WNYC radio host Leonard Lopate, asked, “Does this mean I can’t run for president?”

“It means you can win,” Mr. Ayers said in response.

But Mr. Ayers, who was part of a group that claimed responsibility for bombing several buildings including the Capitol, the Pentagon, banks and police stations, seemed to go out of his way to avoid presidential politics.

When he spoke about a person from his neighborhood — Mr. Obama has several times referred to Mr. Ayers as simply “a guy from my neighborhood” — some audience members leaned forward in anticipation.

It turned out that Mr. Ayers was not talking about the junior senator from Illinois but rather about the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who was also from Chicago.

While describing his views on education and social justice, Mr. Ayers hardly resembled the unrepentant terrorist that his critics have sought to paint him as while attacking the Obama campaign.

He urged one man in the audience, a principal of a South Bronx high school, to establish closer ties with parents in his school district. He praised students at a high school in Detroit who started a farm.

And he called upon educators to establish curriculums that help equip students to be active in society.

“In a democracy, we educate for citizenship,” he said. “Not for obedience of authority, but for participation.”

After the discussion, some audience members asked questions.

“What happened to the activism?” one woman asked. “What happened to the revolution?”

Mr. Ayers at first mentioned the realignment of 1994, in which Republicans took control of Congress, which some Republicans referred to as a revolution, and then went on to talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s uses of the term “revolution,” and saying that it would be futile to emulate political models from the 1960s and ’70s.

“Can we imagine another world?” he said.



New federal rule complicates desegregation efforts
Robert A. Frahm, CT MIRROR
September 7, 2010

On an enrollment form at Hartford's Classical Magnet School, seventh-grader Elisa Laureano's mother lists Elisa's race as white but also checks a box categorizing her ethnicity as "Hispanic." So is Elisa white? Hispanic? Both?

For Classical Magnet, it's a $4 million question.

Under a federal rule that takes effect this year, students can identify themselves in multiple racial and ethnic categories. Critics say the rule could upset a variety of race-related programs, from measuring academic achievement to ensuring civil rights compliance.

One immediate impact in Connecticut is that the rule complicates the process of determining whether schools such as Classical meet the racial balance standards in the court-supervised desegregation settlement of the Sheff vs. O'Neill desegregation case.  Schools throughout the region take their official census on Oct. 1, and depending on how the question is resolved, some could lose their magnet status - and a financial lifeline from the state.

"We have a problem," said Classical Principal Tim Sullivan. "It could be a game-breaker for us."

If Classical--hailed as a model in the regional desegregation effort--were to fall below the required quota of white students, it could lose up to $4 million in state magnet school grants and be forced to send suburban students such as Elisa, who is from West Hartford, back to schools in their hometowns, Sullivan said.

The state could wind up back in court if it fails to meet the standards established in the desegregation settlement. That settlement grew out of a 1996 state Supreme Court ruling ordering Connecticut to desegregate Hartford's mostly black and Hispanic public schools.

Classical is one of about two dozen magnet schools in the Hartford region created to help meet the court order. The schools, featuring specialty themes, are designed to draw racially mixed student bodies from Hartford and the city's predominantly white suburbs.

Under the Sheff agreement, white students must make up at least 25 percent of a magnet school's enrollment. (The minimum is 20 percent for some newer magnet schools that have been granted a grace period to meet the goal.)

But, under the new federal regulation, who counts as white?

Seventeen-year-old Alexis Deschenes, a senior at Classical Magnet, checked two boxes on her enrollment form this year.

"I listed myself as white and black," said Alexis, whose father is white and mother is black. "It feels good to identify myself as both races rather than just choosing one," she said.

Alexis lives in East Hartford and has attended Classical since seventh grade. "I love it here," she said. "I wouldn't be anywhere else." Until now, she had been classified as white on the school rolls.

As America grows increasingly diverse, many people - among them President Obama - can claim mixed ethnic or racial heritage. At schools such as Classical, multiracial students are common.

"On the surface, Classical looks like it's a diverse school," Sullivan said. But depending on how strictly or loosely the state categorizes students, Classical's white population could be as low as 21 percent or as high as 44 percent, he said. Last year, while Classical was still in a grace period under the Sheff agreement, the official percentage was just under 24 percent.

For the first time this year, students across the state are being asked  to identify themselves in one or more of five racial groups: Black, white, Asian, American Indian or Alaskan native, and Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. In a separate question, they are asked whether or not they are Hispanic, considered an ethnic but not a racial category.

The new rule allows students "to more accurately reflect their racial and ethnic background by not limiting responses to only one racial or ethnic category," the U.S. Department of Education says in a policy memo.

The regulation could have far-reaching implications beyond those in the Sheff case.

"It's going to produce all kinds of chaos. This is just one of the examples," said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and a nationally recognized proponent of school desegregation. Orfield and other civil rights leaders have opposed the rule, saying it will make it difficult or impossible to conduct research or monitor civil rights compliance.

"It's going to make data impossible to compare," he said. "It doesn't relate very well to actual social reality. . . . It's a terrible mistake."

The identification of students in multiple racial categories could require schools to rethink the reporting of racial data on matters such as graduation rates, test performance, and college attendance rates, for example.

"All of those things have traditionally been reported with a simple definition. That all can change," said Tom Murphy, a spokesman for the State Department of Education. "It's really going to be an interesting challenge."

Bruce Douglas, executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council, oversees several magnet schools, most of them in suburban towns near Hartford. The CREC-operated schools have been able to meet the quotas under the Sheff plan, and Douglas said he has no problem with the new federal rule.

"This allows families to identify every aspect of who they are," he said. "I think it's a good thing."

However, at Classical and several other magnet schools located in Hartford and operated by Hartford Public Schools, officials have had to scramble to attract enough white students.

Lawyers for the Sheff plaintiffs said they have discussed the new racial classification rules among themselves but have not yet met with state officials to establish guidelines for measuring compliance with the Sheff settlement.  If the two sides cannot agree, the matter could wind up before a judge.

Sullivan, the Classical principal, applauds the intent of the new federal rule. "It allows students not to have to deny part of their heritage," he said. "They can acknowledge what they really are."

But, he wonders, how will the state decide who they really are?

"This is a tough one," he said.


Deal Reached In School Lawsuit;  Desegregation Fight In Hartford Dragged On For 12 Years 
By Associated Press    
Published on 4/5/2008 


Hartford (AP) — A tentative settlement was reached Friday in the long-standing school desegregation lawsuit that for 12 years has sought to remedy the racial isolation in Hartford schools.

The question of whether the city's schools must be desegregated was settled by the landmark state Supreme Court Sheff vs. O'Neill ruling in the case in 1996, but the high court left it to the Sheff plaintiffs and the state to figure out how to do it.

The latest deal requires the state to develop a detailed plan to address racial disparity, including more magnet schools in Hartford suburbs and an increase in the number of spots available in suburban schools for Hartford students.

The agreement also requires that at least 80 percent of Hartford students who want to attend integrated schools be accommodated by 2012.

The settlement must be approved by a state judge and the General Assembly.

“This is a watershed day in our ongoing efforts to ensure that all of Hartford's children are afforded their constitutional right to a quality integrated education,” said Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program and an attorney in the case.

Parker said that for the first time in 12 years, the state must follow a detailed framework to assure racial balance.

Others involved in negotiating the agreement included lawyers with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. and Center for Children's Advocacy.

The original case was brought in 1989 on behalf of Milo Sheff, who was then a 10-year-old student in Hartford's Annie Fisher School. Following the 1996 Supreme Court ruling, the case landed back in lower courts after plaintiffs complained over a lack of progress.

The two sides reached an agreement on a four-year plan in 2003: It was left largely to Hartford to implement the terms of the settlement by building magnet schools and sending students to suburban schools through the “Open Choice” program.

However, the numerical goals of the 2003 agreement specifying levels of integration were not met and after the accord expired last year, the plaintiffs returned to court.

“Equal opportunity to a quality, integrated education is a fundamental right and for the first time there is a clear structure in place for the state to follow to ensure that no child is denied that right,” Parker said. 



Some See Connecticut Reflected In Obama Speech

By RINKER BUCK | Courant Staff Writer
March 19, 2008

In his landmark speech on race Tuesday in Philadelphia, Sen. Barack Obama pointedly addressed America's long "racial stalemate" in terms that were bound to strike familiar chords throughout the country.

But Obama's heartfelt ode to a "more just, more equal, more free" America also was a stark and brutally familiar description of Connecticut, where geography and neighborhoods are often defined by race, where Hartford schools continue to be embroiled in the Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit and where even major areas of government like the state police are grappling with racial strife.

Obama scheduled his remarks in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the Constitution, after news reports on the comments of his friend and former Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., on American racism continued to dog his campaign over the weekend.

In his speech, Obama condemned Wright's comments as "not only wrong but divisive," yet he did not just issue the politician's standard distancing from a supporter who has embarrassed him. He instead used his speech as a springboard for a remarkably candid and perhaps risky assessment of the continuing problem of race in American society, words that echoed the theme of challenging the status quo that has marked his campaign.

"Nutmeggers can really recognize what Obama was talking about in his speech," said John C. Brittain, one of the lawyers who filed Connecticut's Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation lawsuit in 1989. "Because what he was saying is the story of their home, too."

Despite the Connecticut Supreme Court's 1996 finding that "extreme isolation" characterized the state's schools, the legislature, the governor and the parties to the lawsuit are still haggling over implementing the desegregation order more than 12 years later.

"There has been some limited progress as a result of Sheff v. O'Neill, where minority kids, say, have a chance to attend better suburban schools," Brittain said. "But 18 years after the case was filed we still face the essential issue that Hartford schools are completely black and the suburbs are white. That's exactly the kind of stalemate Obama was talking about in his speech."

Obama is significant, Brittain said, because instead of running on the race issue and appealing only to his own community, his campaign is about aspirations to go beyond past obstacles over race and offer genuine hope for change. "The profound mistake of Rev. Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society," Obama said in Philadelphia. "It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country ... is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know — what we have seen — is that America can change."

In a far-ranging speech that attempted to link racial issues from America's constitutional era to the present, Obama also said the Constitution "was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery." He said anger over racial issues is justifiable within both the African American and white communities, concluding that the country is stuck in a "racial stalemate."

Obama also said the race issue is distracting the public from other problems facing America, and he excoriated an American "corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed."

"I've certainly never heard a politician use language this blunt," said Mark Silk, the director of Trinity College's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life and author of "Spiritual Politics: Religion and America Since World War II."

Silk said most politicians are deliberately vague on the subject of race to avoid raising a difficult subject, a stricture that Obama abandoned in Tuesday's speech. Silk also said Obama might have been most frank in addressing the assumptions of black Americans, not whites.

"At the core of the Obama campaign is a riposte to the notion in the black community that American society is irredeemably racist," Silk said. "Going all the way back to Booker T. Washington, and his doctrine of self-reliance for blacks, there has been a deeply separatist strain in the thinking of the black community.

"Because racism was considered so ingrained in America, so the thinking went, blacks had to go it alone and be apart. But Obama's speech was a call to move away from this past. It was courageous."

New Englanders should find significance in what Obama said for another reason, Silk said. He pointed out that he spent 10 years in Atlanta in the 1980s before returning north, which gave him a fresh perspective on the Northeast.

"In Atlanta, race just seems to be center stage all the time, while in Connecticut, because of the way neighborhoods and schools are divided up, it becomes easy to ignore race issues," Silk said. "For a lot of white people who don't live down South, the presence of race in life and society is just not front-of-mind. But Obama has been forced to deal with this himself, and now he is forcing us to think about it, too."

Obama joined Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's South Side 20 years ago, impressed by the congregation's dedication to economic revival and community service. The Rev. John Deckenback of Frederick, Md., a conference minister, or bishop, for the UCC denomination, said many of the themes in Obama's speech date from historic commitments of the church. This included the large role the church played in the 1840s in the case of the Amistad, the Spanish ship that carried slaves who rebelled and who eventually were freed after standing trial in New Haven and Hartford.

"You have to remember that in the UCC, the same denomination that Wright and Obama belong to, we are the religious descendants of the same people who raised money to return the Amistad captives back to Africa," Deckenback said. "UCC has in its DNA from its very beginnings being responsible critics of our society. That's rooted in the Amistad story, which holds a special place in UCC's teachings."

Deckenback said that after the New England — and largely Connecticut — founders of the Amistad Defense Committee finished paying for the return of the Amistad slaves to Africa, money left over was used to establish the American Missionary Association, which founded schools for freed blacks throughout the South, including Howard University in Washington and Fisk University in Nashville.

"These were New England Congregationalists who believed that education is the foundation of opportunity and that churches play a vital role in keeping communities together," Deckenback said.

"Obama partly built that speech on those beliefs and on church history."


School Desegregation Agreement Withdrawn
Courant Staff Report
March 5, 2008

A settlement reached last year to meet the Hartford school desegregation targets set by the Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit was withdrawn Tuesday from the General Assembly, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said he hopes to submit a new agreement for ratification by the end of March.

The decades-long case to integrate city children in schools with their suburban peers returned to court last fall after the legislature failed to act on an agreement between the state and the plaintiffs on how to proceed with desegregation.

The original Sheff settlement, which was reached in 2003 and expired last year, set a target calling for 30 percent of Hartford students to be enrolled in racially integrated schools by 2007, but that effort fell considerably short.

In January, the Superior Court judge hearing the case ruled that the prior agreement was still technically pending in the legislature and would take effect March 6 if not withdrawn or voted down.

The two sides are negotiating changes broader than the changes originally proposed under the multiyear agreement that set annual desegregation targets, according to legislators with knowledge of the talks.

Among the ideas now being considered are opening magnet schools for children in the suburbs and the expansion of the Open Choice program, which enables Hartford students to enroll in suburban schools.



Suburban Magnet Schools May Ease Hartford’s Endemic Segregation Problem
State Eyes A New Tack
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK | Courant Staff Writer
March 3, 2008

In an acknowledgment that attracting white students to Hartford has been a tough sell, the focus of court-ordered desegregation efforts in Greater Hartford may soon be shifting to the suburbs.

State education officials are talking about channeling more than $100 million toward building new magnet schools in Hartford-area towns and increasing the number of slots for city students in suburban schools through the Open Choice program.  Officials are scrambling to meet a deadline to either withdraw or revise an outdated agreement between the state and the plaintiffs in the Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit to see if a legislative, rather than judicial, solution can be found to the problem of unequal, segregated education in the capital region.

The idea of basing magnet schools in the suburbs, broached last year by Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan, has garnered support from key legislators. At least three suburban districts have endorsed the idea for the preschool and early elementary grades, according to state Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the education committee.  But significant hurdles remain, not the least of which is that McQuillan does not have authority to force suburban districts to accept city children through the voluntary Open Choice program.

"There may be a need for some additional authority for the commissioner to open more seats. That issue, among others, will need to be addressed if that option is adopted," said state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who would not discuss the specific proposals under discussion.

The decades-long case to integrate city children in schools with their suburban peers returned to court late last year after the legislature failed to ratify an agreement between the state and the plaintiffs on how to proceed with desegregation. In January, the Superior Court judge hearing the case ruled that the prior agreement was still pending in the legislature and would take effect March 6 if not withdrawn or voted down. 
McQuillan could not be reached for comment last week. But Fleischmann, who has been meeting with McQuillan, the secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, other key legislators and representatives from Blumenthal's office said that McQuillan's ideas are included in written proposals submitted to the plaintiffs.

To date, Blumenthal said, the only consensus reached is that dates in the agreement submitted to the legislature last year must be updated.  Other components of the original agreement — including the funding of charter and vocational technical schools — remain in the revised version that the state is hoping plaintiffs will approve and then send back to the legislature for ratification.  The newstrategy recognizes that suburban parents have been reluctant to send their children to Hartford.

The original Sheff settlement, which was reached in 2003 and expired last year, set a target calling for 30 percent of Hartford students to be enrolled in racially integrated schools by 2007, but the effort fell short.

A study by Trinity College researchers shows that just 9 percent of the city's students attend schools that have enough white students to qualify as racially integrated. Meanwhile, enrollment at many Hartford schools, including some magnets, remains almost entirely black and Hispanic.  Safety in the city is a concern that holds some suburban parents back, state officials have found.

In November, McQuillan conceded that the assumption that suburban youngsters would be drawn to magnet schools run by Hartford was mistaken, but said that six or seven magnet schools run by suburban towns and focusing on children in pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade could work.  Parents who otherwise would pay to send their preschool-aged children to day care would find the offer of an all-day public preschool school program enticing, McQuillan said.

Key legislators support McQuillan in his bid to carve a bigger role for the suburbs. "Magnet schools in the suburbs — that makes sense to me. We've tried the Hartford magnet experience and that hasn't worked that well toward reducing racial isolation," said Sen. Thomas Gaffee, D-Meriden, co-chairman of the legislature's education committee.

"Parents are extremely reluctant to send their kids into Hartford except for some of the unique offerings like the school for the performing arts," Gaffee said. They're concerned about the crime rate and kids getting killed. I know that would weigh on my mind as a parent. Suburban parents will feel a lot more secure sending their children to a magnet school in the suburbs."

"It's a multi-pronged approach that is less reliant on Hartford," said Fleischmann.

Hartford officials declined to comment.  At least three suburban districts have expressed interest in building magnet schools for young children, Fleischmann said. Windsor, for example, formed a task force to examine the potential for building a magnet school for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.  Students who live outside Windsor would return to their town's schools for first grade. Simsbury is also forming a task force to explore the option of building a magnet school in the town.

The state pays 95 percent of construction costs and contributes to the operating costs of inter-district magnet schools.  Now the plaintiffs must sign on.

Elizabeth Horton Sheff, mother of the case's first named plaintiff, Milo Sheff, said magnet schools probably would be more successful in the suburbs than in Hartford. Waiting lists for successful magnet schools and for Open Choice slots show that there is demand among Hartford youngsters, she said. What troubles Sheff is the limited age group that the magnets would accommodate.

"What happens after third grade? They go back to their neighborhood schools?" she asked. "You have to talk about the 'what next?' There should be a path all the way through."

As further incentives for towns to create more room for Hartford students in their schools, Fleischmann and Gaffee said they would support increasing state aid tied to children who enroll in suburban districts.  The additional funding, coupled with an emphasis on enrolling children beginning at an earlier age, addresses the concerns some districts express about accepting older urban children who are years behind in their studies, taking the hit for their low test scores and providing enough support to help them catch up.

"If you get to educate a child from the age of 3, it's easier to make sure they progress the way you like them to," Fleischmann said.



Closing arguments in latest desegregation court action
Norwalk HOUR
Associated Press
January 5, 2008

HARTFORD — Closing arguments have been made in the latest court action involving Connecticut's landmark school desegregation case, Sheff vs. O'Neill.

The question of whether the city's schools must be desegregated was settled by the state Supreme Court ruling in the case in 1996, although the high court left it to the Sheff plaintiffs and the state to figure out how to do it.

The two sides reached an agreement on a four-year plan in 2003: It was left largely to Hartford to implement the terms of the settlement by building magnet schools and sending students to suburban schools through the "Open Choice" program.

However, the numerical goals of the 2003 agreement specifying levels of integration were not met and after the accord expired last year, the plaintiffs returned to court.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued Thursday that a detailed court order be issued to specify what the state must do to end the racial isolation.

"We're not asking for mandatory busing," Dennis Parker, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, argued. "We are asking that a comprehensive plan be put into effect."

A lawyer for Hartford urged Judge Marshall K. Berger Jr. to appoint a monitor to oversee the desegregation case.

John Rose, Hartford's lawyer, called the 2003 stipulated agreement between the state and the plaintiffs "a failure.

"We need a plan and it needs to be monitored by the court, he said.

It can take us places where we have never gone before," Rose said. "This case is about children who are going nowhere fast."

An attorney for the state of Connecticut argued that no order, nor monitor is necessary or desirable.

Ralph Urban, arguing for the state, opposed any judicial intervention, saying a court-issued comprehensive plan to desegregate Hartford's schools would lock resources into specific programs, making it impossible to move them into areas where the money would be better spent.

Berger has 120 days from Thursday to issue a ruling.


Desegregation By Order?
Plaintiffs' Attorneys In Sheff v. O'Neill Argue For Court-Ordered Plan, Monitor To Direct It
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK | Courant Staff Writer
January 4, 2008

Attorneys in the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case offered sharply conflicting recommendations to a Superior Court judge who is considering ways to end the racial and social isolation of Hartford schoolchildren.

In closing arguments Thursday, plaintiffs' attorneys asked Judge Marshall K. Berger Jr. to issue a detailed order spelling out exactly what the state should do to integrate city students with their suburban counterparts. A lawyer for the city urged the court to appoint a monitor to oversee the task.

An attorney for the state of Connecticut argued that no order, nor monitor was necessary or desirable. The state education commissioner can bring about the desegregation goals without judicial intervention, he said.The closing arguments followed a six-week hiatus in the hearing. Testimony concluded in November and Berger gave lawyers time to prepare legal briefs.

If his questions to the lawyers offered any indication, Berger is at least considering requests that he issue a plan for desegregation or appoint a monitor to oversee progress.

The question of whether the city's schools must be desegregated was settled by a state Supreme Court order in 1996, though the high court left it to the Sheff plaintiffs and the state to figure out how to do it. The two sides reached an agreement on a four-year plan in 2003: It was left largely to Hartford to implement the terms of the settlement by building magnet schools and sending students to suburban schools through the "Open Choice" program. However, the numerical goals of the 2003 agreement specifying levels of integration were not met and after the accord expired last year, the plaintiffs returned to court.

In testimony in November, the plaintiffs proposed leaving desegregation efforts voluntary for parents and children, but imposing stricter guidelines for the state and the 22 Hartford-area towns in the Sheff district. They called for doubling the space available for city children in suburban schools and a heavier hand by state officials to ensure that every city child who wants a place in a suburban school or a magnet school is accommodated.

"We're not asking for mandatory busing," Dennis Parker, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, argued Thursday. "We are asking that a comprehensive plan be put into effect." Efforts to date, he argued, have been ad hoc.

"African American and Latino children of Hartford have earned the right to question what a constitutional right means," Parker said. "A declaration of their rights by the Supreme Court has been ineffective for so long."

John Rose, Hartford's lawyer, called the 2003 stipulated agreement between the state and the plaintiffs "a failure;" though he didn't offer a specific remedy, Rose asked for judicial oversight beyond the role that the court has played in the past.

"We need a plan and it needs to be monitored by the court. It can take us places where we have never gone before," Rose said. "This case is about children who are going nowhere fast."

Berger asked Rose who he should name as a monitor if he does appoint one. Rose suggested that the court ask the parties to suggest names.  At one point, Berger asked Parker what he would think of appointing the commissioner of education as a monitor. Parker objected to the idea, saying he doesn't have faith in the state's overseeing its own progress. Since 1996, Parker said, the state's posture has been "trust us — we're on top of this."

Ralph Urban, arguing for the state, vehemently opposed any judicial intervention, saying a court-issued comprehensive plan to desegregate Hartford's schools would lock resources into specific programs, making it impossible to move them into areas where the money would be better spent.

He conceded that the state was disappointed by the number of slots suburban districts made available for city children and by the number of white students enrolled in some magnet schools. But, he said, the state is addressing concerns suburban districts have about admitting more students through the Open Choice program by increasing the transportation and educational subsidies and by helping to pay for more kindergarten slots in the suburbs so districts can work with children from a young age and avoid having to offer more remedial services for older children.

"The question is 'What now?'" Berger asked Urban.

Now, Urban replied, the state is still working on achieving the goals established for the first two years of a plan agreed upon in 2003.

But that's a four-year plan, Berger said. "The only people who signed on to this plan are the plaintiffs. Hartford has not signed on." The state legislature did not ratify the plan either.

Last year, a plan negotiated between attorneys for the Sheff plaintiffs and the state failed to win legislative approval. It would have required the state to spend $112 million to expand the network of magnet, charter and vocational schools.

Urban said that the state's education commissioner has agreed to work on the kind of plan that the plaintiffs have sought.

So "you're not averse to creating a strategic plan?" Berger asked.

"Right," Urban said. "But we don't want to be subject to a court order."

"Are you telling me that you don't want a strategic plan, but you will deliver to me a strategic plan?" Berger asked.

"We don't think we should be ordered to deliver a strategic plan," Urban said. But if the court orders the state to create one, he said, then it will.

While Urban asserts that the matter doesn't belong in court, the plaintiffs disagree. They argue that the state Supreme Court previously ruled that court has jurisdiction and that a second generation of children is languishing in segregated schools since the Supreme Court first ruled in 1996.

Berger can craft a ruling that grants the plaintiffs what they're seeking, he can agree with the state and refrain from issuing an order, or he can fashion a compromise that he devises himself. He has 120 days from Thursday to issue a ruling.



A Shift Of Minorities In Schools; 18 Years After Sheff Suit Filed, Noticeable Change In Suburbs
By MICHAEL REGAN | Courant Staff Writer
December 26, 2007

In the early 1980s, as the state engaged in a school desegregation debate that would lead to the landmark 1989 Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit, Bernice O'Neal's daughter was one of the few black children enrolled in Manchester's Verplanck Elementary School, where the minority student population was less than 20 percent.

"There wasn't a whole lot of African American children there at all," O'Neal recalls.  Today, O'Neal's granddaughter is among more than 220 minority students who make up about 70 percent of the pre-K through sixth-graders at Verplanck.
 
And the Sheff case is back in front of a judge, who last month heard arguments that there has not been enough progress in reducing the racial isolation of Hartford schoolchildren.  But if not much has changed in Hartford in the 18 years since Sheff was filed, dozens of schools in the region look much different than they did then.

While the number of minority students in Hartford's schools has declined slightly since then, the number in the rest of the region has nearly tripled. Outside of Hartford, school districts within the 36-town Capitol Region Education Council enrolled almost 38,000 minority students in the 2006-07 school year, up from a little more than 14,000 in 1988-89.  And while some schools outside of Hartford have themselves become overwhelmingly minority, three out of four minority students in those districts attend schools that would meet the Sheff goal of having a minority enrollment below 75 percent.

They include schools such as Manchester's Verplanck, where parents like Lilliam Irizarry, whose son Alejandro is in the fifth grade, say the diversity makes their children's educations richer.

"He has black friends, he has Spanish friends, he has white friends, he has Asian friends, he has friends from Pakistan, from India, from Africa," Irizarry said. "He would be able to deal with any kind of people."

But with the town's minority population growing steadily, Manchester officials already are grappling with the issue of balancing the racial makeup of its elementary schools.  Longer term, some wonder if an individual town can maintain integrated schools on its own.

"Given the small size of suburbs in Connecticut, the suburbs are going to need regional plans as well if they're going to maintain reasonable residential stability," said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and a witness in the original Sheff lawsuit. "If you are going to have stable integration, you usually have to have policies for it."

Moving To The Suburbs

The movement of minority families to the suburbs is a major factor in the findings of two recent national studies: While Connecticut remains one of the more segregated states in the country by several measures, it is one of very few to have made any progress in reducing the racial isolation of black and Hispanic students. One study, by the Pew Hispanic Center, found that the proportion of Latino students attending schools that were more than 95 percent minority fell from 24 percent in the 1993-94 school year to 18 percent in 2005-06, the largest decline among six states. Black enrollment in the nearly all-minority schools dropped from 28 percent to 23 percent, fourth among seven states and the District of Columbia.

But the other study, by Orfield's Civil Rights Project, used the same national data to conclude that Connecticut was among the 20 most segregated states on three measures: the proportion of black and Latino students in schools that are more than 50 percent minority; the proportion of blacks and Latinos in schools more than 90 percent minority; and the percentage of white students in schools attended by the typical black or Latino student.

Orfield said there's no inconsistency between the studies: The desegregation effort mandated by Sheff, while "small potatoes" in his estimation, is better than what's going on elsewhere. "There are very few places that have any policy encouraging them to think about this issue at all," Orfield said. "Almost anything that you do can make a small improvement in the statistics."

What's improved the statistics most, however, is suburbanization, an analysis of state numbers shows:

•Inter-district magnet schools — the principal means of reducing urban segregation in Hartford and statewide — first opened in the early 1990s. Since then, enrollment has grown to more than 18,000, including almost 13,000 minority students.

•In the seven school districts that were more than 50 percent minority in 1988 — suburban Bloomfield and the cities of Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, New Britain, New London and Waterbury — total minority enrollment in traditional, non-magnet public schools was about 75,000 in the 2006-07 school year. That represents an increase of about 8,000 — less than 12 percent.

•Meanwhile, the number of minority children attending traditional schools in the remaining districts increased by almost 60,000, or 156 percent, to more than 98,000. Orfield and Richard Fry, author of the Pew study, said the growth of minority households outside central cities is part of a national trend.


"All groups of students are suburbanizing," Fry said. "That's true both of public school enrollments and of the whole population."

Fry's study noted that in past years the most racially isolated students nationally have been white, and the same was true of Connecticut: In 1988, almost half of the state's white public school children went to schools that were at least 95 percent white. Last year, that proportion was about 12 percent. The number of almost-all-white schools — those with minority enrollment of less than 5 percent — has fallen from almost 400 in 1988 to just over a quarter that number in 2006, almost entirely because of the increase in minority students in the suburbs. In Wethersfield, for example, where only one school had minority enrollment over 5 percent in 1988, none of the schools now has less than 18 percent.

But that "suburbanization" doesn't occur uniformly. Of the 77,000 minority students enrolled in districts that were less than 50 percent minority in 1988, more than half live in just 12 communities.

"Are those places going to remain integrated, or are we just seeing a temporary process, a transitional process?" Orfield said. "That's the billion-dollar question here."

The Right Way To Go

The original Sheff lawsuit was premised on the idea of a largely minority city in the center of a largely white region, said Jack Dougherty, an assistant professor at Trinity College who has studied the Hartford-area desegregation efforts and was a witness in the latest Sheff hearing.

"It's less clear now if that's the right way to frame things," Dougherty said. "There are more suburban communities that have much more in common demographically or fiscally with the city of Hartford."

"Should the remedy be reorganized to include different suburbs in different ways? That's the question," he said. "A great opportunity to make a cognitive shift here is to think about both city and suburban schools, and to recognize the variety of suburban schools. Not all suburbs are alike."

Hartford lawyer Wesley Horton, an attorney for the plaintiffs in Sheff v. O'Neill, said changes in the region are irrelevant to the case. "The fact that the suburbs are more integrated isn't any use for the kids still in Hartford," he said. "Certain kids are lucky enough that their parents can move to the suburbs. That's wonderful. … But what about the kids that can't?"

And Elizabeth Horton Sheff, a Hartford city council member and mother of named plaintiff Milo Sheff, said it's too soon to be tinkering with the settlement. Although the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 1996, it was another 5½ years before the state legislature approved a plan to settle the case.

"When we started in 1989, yes, things were different," she said. "But we didn't really get cracking with Sheff until 2003 — that's four years ago."

Years before the settlement was approved, though, the two main remedies of Sheff — development of magnet schools in Hartford and the region and voluntary busing of students from Hartford to the region — were in the works.  Last year, fewer than 10 percent of Hartford's minority students attended schools that actually met Sheff's goal of having a minority enrollment below 75 percent, according to Dougherty's study.  Progress has been "very discouraging," Horton Sheff said. But, she said, where the settlement's goals have been met, there have been promising results, like higher test scores.

Still, she said, Sheff is only one means of reducing racial isolation. Improved economic and housing opportunity would give parents of minority students more choices of school districts.

"I believe that affordable housing should be on the plate," she said. But, she added, "if you think that talking about providing quality integrated education raises hackles, talk about putting affordable housing in the suburbs and see how far you get."

A Limiting State Law?

Meanwhile, many suburban towns are themselves forced to deal with the racial makeup of their schools under a 38-year-old state law that prohibits racial imbalance within any district. The state says a school is out of balance if the minority student population is 25 percent or more above or below the district average in the same grades.

Dougherty, the Trinity professor, said the imbalance law is of limited usefulness in promoting racial balance on a regional basis.

"The state really has no mechanism for dealing with racial change in suburbs if Sheff doesn't address it and if the suburban racial change is uniform," he said. "All we have right now is a mechanism that says, 'If one part of your suburb is out of whack with the rest of your suburb, that's a problem.' But that's a limited mechanism, because that talks about each box independently."

The most recent list released in the spring by the state Department of Education says six schools in four districts are not in compliance with the law because the minority student populations are 25 percent or more above or below the district average.  Districts with schools that are out of compliance have to submit plans for ending the imbalance.

Another 30 schools are approaching racial imbalance, the department says, because their minority enrollments are 15 percent to 25 percent above or below the town average. Of the 13 towns on that list, Manchester is the most often cited: six of its 10 elementary schools have an impending imbalance, including Verplanck.

The prospect of coming under state scrutiny doesn't sit well with many in Manchester. "They sit there and say Verplanck might be out of balance," said Louise Svalestad, president of the Verplanck PTA and mother of two students at the school. "You're looking at [a school in which] 30 percent are Hispanic, 30 percent are white, 30 percent are black — how much more balanced can you get?"

Diane Kearney, supervisor of equity programming for the Manchester schools, said the district is looking at options for improving racial balance in the schools so they reflect the world Manchester's children will live in.

"School is a microcosm of what it used to be, so from that perspective, it's important to maintain racial balance. But it shouldn't be forced on us, that's the problem," she said. "I think it becomes counterproductive and divisive when the law says, 'You have to do this.'"

Longer term, though, the district is more concerned with improving race relations townwide than with counting heads school-to-school.

"It's about building good race relations, so ultimately it doesn't matter," said Kearney, who also has been a teacher and assistant principal in Manchester. "If you better your race relations, then difference becomes healthy and not divisive. Then it doesn't matter if there's an imbalance."

To achieve that, Kearney said, the town has been engaged in conversations about race involving students, faculty and parents for the last several years.

"I think Manchester really is moving in a direction in which hopefully race doesn't matter, because we are having conversations about race," she said. "Once you begin that conversation, I think the rest becomes easy." "We have an advantage because we have to work together."


Sheff Case Turns Into A Classroom; College, Magnet School Students Are Court Observers
By MAGDALENE PEREZ | Courant Staff Writer
November 19, 2007

Before Jared Chase took a course on educational inequalities at Trinity College, he never thought much about the challenges city students in public schools face.

Chase grew up in Farmington, where his family of four had a house and five cars. He went to a good school where the work was challenging, the teachers supportive, and there was enough money to pay for state-of-the-art facilities.

But then Chase enrolled in "Cities, Suburbs and Schools," a class taught by Jack Dougherty, director of education studies at Trinity.

Dougherty is a witness for the plaintiffs in the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill school desegregation case, which was recently back in court for a hearing. And Chase — like students from many colleges and high schools across the area — sat in as a way to learn more about educational equality and the legal process.

In fact, research by some of Dougherty's students was key in creating a report on the state's desegregation efforts — and where it falls short — that Dougherty presented in court earlier this month.

For Chase, what really brought the differences between city and suburban education home was a book he read in Dougherty's class, "The Children in Room E4," that chronicled the experiences of fourth-graders at Hartford's Simpson-Waverly Elementary School.

The book describes a rare field trip the children took out of the city. Some students were amazed to see the Connecticut River. They pointed and cheered.

"You get an understanding of the isolation city students experience," Chase said. "A lot of things you might take for granted."

Chase was one of several dozen students from Trinity, the University of Connecticut and other schools to visit Hartford Superior Court over the past two weeks as the Sheff v. O'Neill case returned to court. Teenagers, graduate students, city magnet school children and first-year law students attended the hearings with notebooks in hand. Even two undergraduates studying psychology sat in the benches.

The reasons behind sending students into the courtroom is simple, educators said: The case is being fought on behalf of educating every Connecticut student fairly, and the hearing is an opportunity to give students an up-close understanding of educational and legal issues.

In the nearly two decades since Sheff v. O'Neill was filed in 1989, it has been the subject of many a master's thesis, Ph.D dissertation and high school writing assignment, said Eugene Leach, a co-plaintiff in the case and history professor at Trinity College.

"It's still a very innovative suit," Leach said. "I think students of education have a lot to gain by studying it."

A former student at Wesleyan University, Ana Weibgen, wrote her senior thesis on the Sheff case in 2005. She is now a paralegal for the racial justice program at the American Civil Liberties Union, part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs.

The long-running case aims to end the racial and economic isolation of Hartford children. The plaintiffs, 10 families representing 19 children, first brought the case in 1989. The state Supreme Court ruled on their behalf in 1996, but left it up to them to reach a compromise with the state. A decade later, the plaintiffs are still arguing that the state has not done enough to improve city education and integrate schools.On the hearing's opening day, so many high school students filled the courtroom that the judge called a recess to provide more seating. Among those attending were 23 juniors and seniors from Capital Preparatory Magnet School, accompanied by their social studies teacher, Juliet Sullivan.

The trial provided a perfect opportunity for the city magnet, which engages students in issues of social justice, to teach about a legal battle that is important to the lives of its students, Sullivan said.

"We want the students to understand how decisions are made," Sullivan said. "Everything that they were doing there could potentially directly affect us."

Some educators have made the Sheff v. O'Neil trial a part of their curriculum. At Capitol Preparatory, Sullivan is following the field trip with a math and geography lesson that will study minority enrollment in suburban schools.

And at Trinity, it was student research on the Project Choice program and other desegregation efforts in the Hartford region that produced the report Dougherty presented at the Sheff v. O'Neil hearing. Students interviewed parents, created computer tables and even analyzed data on the distances children travel to school.

"One thing we're trying to do is get students out of the classroom," Dougherty said. "I want them to not just read, but interact with real people."

And students have appreciated leaving the chalkboard behind.

"It's actually kind of cool to see the things we've been reading about in real life," said Mari Zigas, a student in Dougherty's class. "We got to meet Elizabeth Sheff and some of the other plaintiffs. It's like what we read come to life."



Schools Chief Makes A Pitch; Adamowski Seeks Regional District

By RACHEL GOTTLIEB FRANK | Courant Staff Writer
November 15, 2007

A regional school district that would craft and run interdistrict schools could be an effective way to diminish the racial and economic isolation of Hartford's schoolchildren, the city's superintendent of schools, Steven Adamowski, testified Wednesday.

The existence of 166 local and regional school districts in 169 towns has had the effect of segregating minority children, he said in the final day of testimony at Superior Court in Hartford in the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation case.

"All the poor students are bottled up in one place. It is essentially the reason we have the Sheff case," said Adamowski, whose city is now party to the case...full story here.


Open Dialogue On Sheff
Hartford Courant
Stan Simpson
November 10, 2007

The excuses have certainly mounted about why there hasn't been more suburban school engagement in Open Choice - an inclusion program that transports Hartford students to suburbia to get them a better education.

Class size issues. Enrollment increases. Paltry state tuition reimbursement.

An emerging concern from the 'burbs, usually expressed privately, is test scores. The fear is that under No Child Left Behind, their schools will be unduly penalized for taking in city kids, many of whom have significant academic deficits.

I've heard it all - and I'm not unsympathetic.

The buy-in for Open Choice, now in its 41st year, has been uneven at best - and particularly disappointing in the last few years. Of the 1,600 Open Choice seats the state set as a goal, about 500 slots are available, and there is waiting list of 206 Hartford kids.

There's been a slow-go approach with Open Choice and for the construction of several theme magnet schools, the two primary remedies agreed upon after the landmark Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation court ruling 11 years ago. The state Supreme Court ordered the legislature to remedy the problem of segregated schools.

Well, the 24,000-student Hartford school district is more segregated than ever. Several of the magnets have not been built. Those magnets that are up are indeed attracting suburban students, but they are mostly black and brown kids, not the intended target - whites.

The Sheff plaintiffs and the state were in court again this week. The plaintiffs say the state is moving at a snail's pace; the state says it's doing the best it can. This is what happens when a court makes the right decision, then undermines it by allowing lawmakers to use the honor system for implementation.

Since the 1996 decision, millions have been expended for new schools and programs, yet wholesale segregation continues and test scores have not significantly improved.

Unfortunately, the Sheff case is reviving discussions about whether integration in education is worth it. Demographers tell us this reality: Minority workers - black, brown and others - will make up more than 40 percent of the state's workforce by 2030. A large majority of that population will come from urban markets. By 2050, the country's minority populations will be in the majority. Over the years, I've highlighted a smattering of urban, segregated schools with mostly poor kids that have defied the odds and produced impressive test scores. But I believe there's tremendous value to a child learning among peers from different ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds.

If Open Choice is to work, and magnet schools are to be built in a timely manner, there has to be Open dialogue. Yes, more magnets should be built in suburban towns if that will better encourage white parents to participate. And yes, Hartford's role in running some of these magnets should be handed over to the Capitol Region Education Council, which has a record of running quality, diverse magnets. If suburban schools are concerned about reimbursements and potentially being punished because they are accepting city students with lower test scores, then put those issues on the table - and come up with solutions.

Twice in the past 12 months the state education commissioner's office has met informally with Hartford-region superintendents to discuss the impediments to Open Choice. It should also meet with white suburban parents to find out why they are not enrolling in the Sheff magnets.

If we want to promote real choice - then open up the discussion.



Money Should Follow City Kids To Suburbs
Hartford Courant
Rick Green
November 9, 2007

We've got over 100,000 seats in public school classrooms in suburbs around Hartford and there's room for just 1,000 city kids.

One percent.  That's so pathetic it's embarrassing to even say.  But as the Sheff school desegregation case is again in Superior Court this week, it's a failure we have to confront.

Sure, Hartford schools must improve. Perhaps we need more regional magnet programs. But can't we do better than the 1,070 children currently in the 40-year-old Project Choice voluntary school busing program?

Our affluent and middle class towns say they don't have space for more than this. Fine, but there are consequences here - be prepared for the day when we can't find enough skilled workers or bunks in our prisons.

There are hundreds of children on the waiting list for this proven program that disperses poverty and opens opportunity. Suburban superintendents will tell you these children invariably succeed and end up in college. Isn't this what the Sheff case - and public education - is about?  As it turns out, there's a reason for this limited success: Most of the money doesn't follow the kid to the suburbs.

"The grant that follows the child is woefully insufficient," said Bruce Douglas, director of the Capitol Region Education Council, which runs Project Choice.

So, for example, the state of Connecticut - which is under a court order to desegregate metropolitan Hartford schools - gives Avon about $2,500 for each of the 41 children it takes. The district, however, spends about $11,000 per child.  Meanwhile, Hartford keeps most of the money it would have spent educating this child. Much of that money comes from state taxpayers.  This is no education crisis, it's a taxpayer rip-off.

"There isn't enough of an incentive," said Avon Superintendent of Schools Richard Kisiel, in comments repeated to me by other superintendents.

There are a million bureaucratic reasons why the legislature set the $2,500 amount. The idea that taxpayers' money should follow the student is a radical notion in public education, where failure is almost never penalized.  Meanwhile, because "my parents are screaming about class size," Kisiel said, Project Choice becomes "an issue I try to keep it as low-profile as I can."

The Sheff plaintiffs say the state should have the authority to order districts to take more kids. State Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan told me he doesn't want to strong-arm districts to take more Hartford kids, but he has commissioned a study to look at how much space they really have in their classrooms.

"Some of this is about will," McQuillan told me. But it's also about hiring teachers and expanding classrooms for children who don't live in their town - not to mention overcoming worry that city kids will lower test scores. Just look at the numbers: Glastonbury accepts 42 kids, while Wethersfield has a woeful 13.

Two decades ago, West Hartford had 267 students coming from Hartford; now it has 77. School Board Chairman Jack Darcey told me his district is now 34 percent minority and schools have grown more overcrowded.

"We can probably do a little more," Darcey said. "You send the money with the kid, you will see a different response."

One percent. We need a judge, a governor or an education commissioner with the backbone to tackle this.



The Adamowski Gambit
Hartford Courant editorial
October 8, 2007

Controversial though it may have been, a comment by Hartford Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski at a state Board of Education meeting last week points to an underlying change in the nature of the Sheff v. O'Neill dilemma.

In a discussion about quotas of white children in Hartford's host magnet schools, Mr. Adamowski told state officials that "there is no research to suggest that minority students will do better by sitting next to a white student."

The context was money. The state has withheld operating funds for four of the city's host magnet schools because they are not in compliance with the requirement that no more than 75 percent of a student body be made up of racial minorities. (For schools in operation before 2005, the requirement is no more than 80 percent of students from the same district.)


Hartford can get the funds - about $1 million per school - if it files an "enrollment management plan" for each school explaining how it plans to bolster the school and non-minority enrollment. Mr. Adamowski has signaled that he wants to cooperate with the state, so presumably he will file the paperwork and get the funds.

The broader question some critics raised is whether Mr. Adamowski is settling for some variation of "separate but equal." His comment brought a sharp response from desegregation advocates, who aver that minorities and whites benefit from integrated classrooms. Indeed, most people, Mr. Adamowski clearly included, see great value in racially integrated schools.

But Mr. Adamowski said in a later interview that research shows economic integration - a child from an affluent family sitting next to a child from a poor family - results in better learning.

That opportunity has been lost at many Hartford schools.

The Sheff case was filed in 1989 to reduce both racial and economic segregation in Hartford schools. Since then, large numbers of middle-class African American and Latino children have moved to suburban schools, yet Hartford's schools remain overwhelmingly minority. That suggests that poorer minority children are being left behind.

The focus of resolving the Sheff case has been on racial balance. Almost nothing is said of economic integration, yet that seems to be an increasing part of the problem.  Public policy should embrace both challenges. The interdistrict magnet schools should be going after suburban kids, white and minority.

Alan Hadad, dean of magnet schools at the University of Hartford, persuasively argues that admission requirements instead of admission lotteries would draw more bright suburban kids to Hartford. A new state law that allows regional magnet schools to fill vacancies with students from towns that do not have formal partnerships with the magnets should also bring more white kids to the magnet schools.

On the economic front, the state should stop building so much low-income housing in Hartford, and should move more state jobs into the city. Perhaps we should stop looking at schools in isolation.

The magnet schools have left Hartford with a two-tiered school system that Mr. Adamowski rightly believes must end. He has proposed a bold program to turn all city schools into schools of choice. The state should support this effort, and apparently does. The best of these schools will draw students of all hues. If a school is "separate but better," it won't stay that way for long.




A Study of the Special Education Program
WESTON, CONNECTICUT PUBLIC SCHOOLS
JUNE 2000
BY CLAIRE S. GOLD AND KATE MCGRAW
(NOTE:  This document contains 57 pages of text and 22 pages of appendices; below please find only the "Conclusion" section.  Copies of the full document are available at the Weston Board of Education at no charge.  Also, please note that the type face and other format characteristics of this Internet version of the Conclusions of the study are different--but the text is identical!  It is reported that the Board of Education listened to public comment about the Special Education Program and discussed this report at its June 19, 2000 regular meeting for the first time.  "About Town" was not present at that meeting.)

Section IV.        Conclusion

The findings of this report should be weighed within a historical context.  Weston has gone through a recent history of much administrative turnover, the superintendent, a new assistant superintendent, and three new principals.  The superindendency alone has been in significant transition with at least four different individuals holding that position in the last dozen years.  This, coupled with turnover on the Board of Education, has contributed to changing focus and ever different policy and decision making.  This set of circumstances is in part responsible for the pendulum swings so apparent in the special education program.

A rather rigid and cost saving approach of past years was replaced by one which some view as too permissive and expensive.  It should be clear that it is not the Director of Special Education, alone, that establishes policies and practices for special education.

Weston shares some of the same issues that other affluent districts experience.  A high powered curriculum, without a program of studies and teaching methodologies, broad enough to accommodate different rates and styles of learning, will leave average and/or minimally learning disabled students struggling or failing.  This issue is now more pronounced because the nature of the student body is changing.  If it ever was, Weston is certainly no longer the exclusive domain of the intellectually gifted.  The numbers of children with a wide variety of cognitive, emotional and physical difficulties has increased markedly.  The most important mission of a school district is to assure that each and every student develops to his maximum potential; the mission is not merely getting through the curriculum.

Although there are situations when parents’ aspirations exceed their children’s ability, by and large, parents are generally satisfied if they see that every effort is being made to help their children progress.  When that does not happen, parents will press for academic support and special education services.

Weaknesses in the reading program, gaps in remedial services and basic curriculum and the absence of alternative programs, particularly at the high school, exacerbate the demand for special services.

While there are significant problems to be resolved in the special education department, many of the issues will not be resolved without a holistic approach by the entire school district.  The Director of Special Education will need the power and authority of the Board of Education and the Superintendent in order to work out a complementary relationship with regular education.  The education of one hundred percent of the students belongs to the entire school district.  At the present time there are students disabled by the curriculum.  Teachers who see their responsibility as confined to the so-called normal student need to be required to broaden their perspective and practices; building administrators who may not see these children as their province need to be brought into a much closer relationship with the special education department in planning, supervision, and accountability.  Ownership of the educational development of special children does not lie only with the Department of Special Education.

With the dollars spent and the general high quality of much of the staff, Weston should be able to be more effective.  There is need for further development of a program continuum in special education, improved communication, and consistency of application of special education procedures.

Parents need to be viewed as partners, not adversaries.  As partners, parents, too, need to keep their commitments to fulfill their role in the partnership.  The IEP, Individualized Education Program, is not an end in and of itself; it is a contract which should be fulfilled.

Planning is going to be the key to rectifying the existing problems.  It must begin with clear direction from the Board of Education to the administrative team.  It must be understood that whatever is done in one aspect of the educational process, will ultimately effect other aspects of the educational’ endeavor.  Programmatic changes in regular education will either abate or exacerbate special education problems.  Therefore, it is imperative that planning be joint and begin with a team effort at the central office.

Staff development planning will be crucial.  What is needed is staff development that is prescriptive i.e., based on the specific instructional needs of students.  It should be targeted to specific groups of staff, be continuous with good follow-up.  It needs also to be a requirement of holding a position.  Knowledge of the education issues associated with various disabilities has to be the cornerstone of good instruction.

Although the anticipated retirement of many staff in the next few years is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for rebirth.  New teachers require consistent, intensive and on-going training.  Experienced exemplary teachers should be involved in mentoring these new staff members.  It will be an excellent opportunity for the district to reexamine its goals and implement new and strong programs.

This report is replete with findings and recommendations.  It is the sincere hope of the consultants that it be considered carefully.  The Board of Education, the staff and the school community will have to consider which recommendations seem to have the greatest merit.  This will require prioritization, defining the tasks and laying out a plan for implementation.  This plan must include the individuals responsible, the resources needed, a time line, the means by which achievement will be judged, and an assessment of the potential impact on other aspects of the school system.

The consultants have appreciated the opportunity to work with the Weston school community.  We hope to have played some part in helping the district to realize its full potential.



Report: Special ed needs changes
Greenwich TIME    
By Keach Hagey, Staff Writer
Published December 24 2005

An independent review of Greenwich schools' special education programs recommends splitting the department that runs them in half and eliminating the heads of two of the district's alternative high school programs, among other streamlining measures.  The report, prepared by Florida-based management consulting firm MGT of America, contained 18 commendations and 40 recommendations, determined through visits, surveys and reviews of department data throughout the last six months.

Mary Forde, director of Pupil Personnel Services and Special Education, the department that now runs the programs, said the district's leadership has not yet discussed the report's recommendations in detail, but a few of the suggestions did give her pause.

"I have some questions about the recommendations about the structural changes," she said.

The recommended structural changes include breaking up her department into two new departments: one for special education, and another for pupil personnel services, which includes things like guidance, psychology and social work. Under this plan, the director of special education would report to the assistant superintendent of curriculum, research and evaluation, a position currently held by John Curtin.

They also include eliminating the positions of program associate at the ARCH School and special education program administrator at the high school, and converting one of the high school's psychologist positions into a bilingual position.  Such a reorganization would save the district $36,090 a year, for a total savings of $180,450 over five years, according to the report.

In order to help reduce the expenses from legal disputes with parents, the firm recommended that the district conduct a risk analysis of its disputes to determine those practices that must be changed to reduce the district's exposure to expensive disputes.  For example, the district paid out $239,346 in 2003-04 and $324,321 in 2004-05 for mediation and due process settlements, the report noted.

Some progress in this area has already been made, according to the report. In addition to including a line for settlements in the 2006-07 budget, the district has helped reduce its legal costs in recent years by hiring the Hartford-based education law firm Shipman and Goodwin for particularly complex cases requiring specialized knowledge, Forde said.

The report commended the district for its ability to maintain consistent special education policies, commitment to closing achievement gaps and Forde's knowledge and expertise in special education matters.  It also approved of the district's inclusive pre-kindergarten program for children with disabilities, new Data Dashboard database system to help design intervention strategies and inclusion of parents through the Special Education Services Committee of the PTA Council.

Paige Davis, who represents Greenwich High School on the committee, had not had a chance to look at the report in detail, but said that the parent group had a good relationship with the district and looked forward to working with them to improve special education.

"I think educating children like ours is tricky business, and as parents, we want our kids to make as much progress as they can every year," she said. "I think that anything that focuses on accountability, measuring success for our kids and the better integration of special education with regular education is a good thing. Some of our kids have really great potential, if the teacher sees that in them and tries to teach them at their highest level."

Forde said school officials now plan to meet with the consultants to discuss the report, decide how to best align the report's recommendations with their own goals for serving students and set up a series of hearings with stakeholders to determine a plan of action.

"These are recommendations," she said. "We will look at them and decide where we want to go in terms of outcomes for kids."



Dr. Susan Marks resigns as Norwalk Public Schools superintendent
Hour Staff Report | Posted: Friday, July 13, 2012 2:24 pm

NORWALK — Schools Superintendent Susan Marks is set to vacate the post Aug. 17 and onlookers are pointing to the ongoing budget drama as the reason.

According to a prepared statement released by schools Friday, Marks tendered her resignation at the Board of Education meeting Thursday night, where the board settled on her budget reconciliation plan.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me. I have met some wonderful people. I have never been to a city that cares so much about it’s young people,” said Marks, who became the city’s first female superintendent in 2009 after leaving her post in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

“A decision like this is not an easy one to make, and it wasn’t an easy one for me to make. I love my work and I love what I do. For personal reasons, I have decided to tender my resignation at this time.”

Marks said she would spend her last few weeks in Norwalk preparing for the coming school year.

“It’s sad to see her go,” said Board of Education Chairman Jack Chiaramonte.

“I hope the public understands how stressful this has been for all the board members, central office and teachers,” he said. “She was a woman who was very committed to improving Norwalk. She came here with great vision.”

Both Chiaramonte and West Rocks Middle School Principal Lynne Moore, who has sometimes been critical of the superintendent, were surprised by Marks’ resignation.

“She’d not given us any comment that she would be anticipating leaving but the work here is really, really difficult. It’s not a difficult place to live and to try and enjoy it but when you’re in the throes of funding a district and supporting kids, it’s very difficult work,” Moore said.

According to Moore, Marks had the city’s best interests at heart but financial difficulties kept her from moving forward.

“Personally, I think it was the lack of being able to do some things,” she said.

Norwalk Federation of Teachers president Bruce Mellion was not surprised by Marks’ resignation and said she did not have the support of teachers, with 70 percent giving her a D and 30 percent an F in a May 2012 survey.

“She was over her head before she even started. The one compliment I’ll give her is she tried to get out to the schools to see what was happening,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have nothing to show for the 25 months we were here and we’re further behind than we were when we started.”

Mellion said Marks picked the wrong battles and worked with the wrong people.

“She shot her mouth off about things. She picked battles that she shouldn’t have had and she didn’t listen to people who have been here. She was really, really lost,” said Mellion, adding that Marks did not respond as well to the needs of the city’s 11,000 students. “I think she pandered to the mayor and the Board of Education and the Board of Estimate.”

Thursday night, the Board of Education settled on their budget reconciliation that cuts $6.3 million from the board’s initial budget request.

This year’s budget was particularly difficult, with a reconciliation target that started at $5.9 million before it ballooned to $9.9 million due to a fiscal year 2011-12 budget deficit found in mid-April.

That number steadily came down, first to $7.7 million, then to $7.2 million and finally to the $6.3 million figure.

Each time the dollar amount was brought down, the board relied on Marks to guide the money back into the budget.

According to schools officials, Marks will work with the Board of Education to set up a transition plan until she leaves in August.



Corda wants changes
Norwalk HOUR, Monday, Jan. 3, 2005
By BRIAN FRAGA Hour Staff Writer

NORWALK -- School officials brought up the potentially thorny issue of how the state classifies minority students during a recent discussion with state legislators on the racial and cultural balances in the public schools.

Schools Superintendent Salvatore Corda said current state guidelines that define minority students as simply being non-white threaten to put the Norwalk school district -- which has a minority population greater than 50 percent -- to be classified as racially unbalanced.

That is because state law stipulates that racial imbalance exists within minority districts when the proportion of minority (non-white) students is less than 25 percent or more than 75 percent of the total school population. According to a recent report from the school board's racial balance committee, the school district's demographic makeup consists of three main groups: 27 percent black, 34 percent Hispanic, 35 percent white and the rest Asian.

Although there is no one dominant cultural group, the school district is still subject to the 25/75 rule because blacks and Hispanics together account for more than 50 percent of the student population. Corda is proposing for the state to identify racial and ethnic groups based on the characteristics that define them as groups, rather than lumping everybody who is non-white into one category.

"A school which reflects what Norwalk actually looks like, could be considered by the state to be racially unbalanced, and that to me doesn't make a whole lot of sense," Corda said.

"It would seem to me logic behind the law was developed when the dominant populations in terms of minority was African-American, and Hispanics were very slight," Corda said.

"That is no longer the case, so there needs to be a rethinking how groups are characterized... They need to be differentiated." Several legislators who were present during the special meeting with Corda and the school board, however, warned the proposal would be a lightning rod in Hartford, and could go to the heart of the Sheff v. O'Neill court case that barred unintentional segregation in the Hartford school district. State Rep. Larry Cafero, R-142nd District, warned about a "suspicious eye" being gazed by other districts at legislation that would be perceived as a "Norwalk bill."

"I would suggest you get some other support from other like-situated towns so that people in Hartford know this isn't just a Norwalk problem," Cafero said.

Outgoing state Sen. Robert L. Genuario, R-25th District, also warned of a possible rollout effect where certain schools in the city would have disproportionate percentages of white and minority students.

"You have to consider if it is OK for Norwalk to have one school that is 90 percent non-white and another school 50 percent white, and if we are comfortable with that, " Genuario said.

"That could be the roll out. It's not an easy thing to deal with." The Norwalk Board of Education has been dealing with the issue since adopting its policy on racial balance in the 1960s. The policy calls for ensuring the balance of students from the different racial and cultural groups in each individual school mirrors the community's demographics. State law requires that school boards formulate and submit plans to correct any existing racial imbalances in the schools.

The Norwalk school board's existing plan to ensure racial balance is to have the individual schools not deviate from the system-wide average for each minority group by plus or minus 10 percentage points. According to October 2003 data compiled by the school board's racial balance advisory committee, seven schools were out-of-balance based upon the 10 percent deviation guideline.

Those were Naramake, Kendall, Jefferson, Fox Run, Cranbury and Brookside elementary schools. The racial balance advisory committee -- comprised of administrators, parents, citizens and teachers -- has been looking into possibilities of implementing new mechanisms to ensure racial balance, such as developing magnet schools and instituting modified parental school choice.

The committee will conduct a financial analysis of the various choices -- which include the existing program -- in March and is expected to choose a course of action in June. No changes would be made before the 2006-07 academic year.

Brian Fraga covers education. He can be reached at (203) 354-1045 or by e-mail at education@thehour.com.



N E W   J E R S E Y   E D U C A T I O N    F O R M U L A    R E W R I T E    I D E A


In New Jersey, this issue has been around for a long time...
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/12/11/nyregion/20071212_JERSEY_GRAPHIC.html

Corzine Wants to Change Formula for Local Aid
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN
Published: March 28, 2008

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — After listening to weeks of complaining by small-town officials over proposed budget cuts, Gov. Jon S. Corzine said on Thursday that he wanted to do away with the state’s 13-year-old multibillion-dollar formula for municipal subsidies and come up with a new system by the end of the year.

The proposal would not affect Mr. Corzine’s current $33 billion budget, which calls for $168 million in cuts to municipalities as part of an overall reduction of $500 million. Instead, Mr. Corzine said that he hoped his new plan would be in place by the start of the next fiscal year, which starts in July 2009, four months before he is expected to seek re-election.

But the notion of revamping the entire formula, which is based on a town’s per capita expenditures, suggests that Mr. Corzine is taking to heart a bipartisan chorus of criticism from legislators and mayors.

The revamping proposal reflects a broader attempt by Mr. Corzine to change the way the state has financed its public schools and is trying to alter the way hospitals are reimbursed for costs associated with caring for the poor, often in emergency rooms.

He said that while the formulas “may have very well served the state at one point,” they “don’t relate to the realities of the world today.”

“The closer we can get to formulas that people believe are objective and nonpolitical, I think, the better we are,” Mr. Corzine said at a news conference, where he recognized the efforts of Lambertville and West Amwell to share services, a procedure he has been advocating.

When asked about his proposal, mayors from towns large and not so large said that they were stunned. They offered a guarded assessment, saying that although they liked the principle, they were worried about the details.

“I think it could be one of the most significant policy changes in the past 35, 40 years,” said William G. Dressel Jr., executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities. “But recasting funding formulas and trying to achieve fairness in the midst of one of the most severe fiscal crises in the history of our state makes me a little nervous, to say the least. There’s going to be large winners and losers, and that concerns us greatly.”

As Mr. Dressel put it, “If he thinks he’s getting political heat now, he hasn’t seen it.”

Municipal aid has been one of the most wrenching topics in Trenton this year, not only because of Mr. Corzine’s proposed cuts, but also because of the way he wants to achieve them: taking the biggest percentage of money from the smallest towns, with populations under 10,000, in an effort to force them to merge more operations with neighboring communities.

But in budget hearings in recent weeks, many mayors have testified that they are already sharing, and sharply criticized Mr. Corzine’s proposed cuts as arbitrary.

As a result, Mr. Corzine said on Thursday that he and Joseph V. Doria Jr., the state’s community affairs commissioner, would consider factors like population density, income and special needs in arriving at a new formula.

Robert Bowser, the mayor of East Orange, said in a telephone interview that whatever formula is arrived at, he hopes that Mr. Corzine allows municipalities to get involved early — unlike this year’s budget process.

“I understand the governor is trying to do exactly what he was elected to do — fix the whole financial mess of the state,” Mr. Bowser said. “But he can’t do it by himself. This is not the corporate world.”


New Jersey Revamps State Aid to Schools
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN
Published: January 8, 2008

TRENTON — After a tense three-hour stalemate, legislators handed Gov. Jon S. Corzine a dramatic political victory on Monday night when they approved his $7.8 billion plan to revamp New Jersey’s formula of financing the state’s public schools.

Now on the Governor’s Desk (January 8, 2008) After the Legislature threw in an extra $20 million for special education with his approval, Mr. Corzine, a Democrat, was able to sway three Republican senators and overcome opposition from urban lawmakers.

The plan is designed to direct more money to children who live outside the poorest districts, which now receive more than half of all state aid.

If the plan survives the scrutiny of the State Supreme Court, which Mr. Corzine will seek, the state would apportion funds to schools based on demographics, including family income, population growth, language ability and special academic needs.

Under the formula, education spending would increase by an estimated $532.8 million the first year, with all districts receiving at least a 2 percent increase for the next three years, and some receiving as much as 20 percent more.

But for hours, the fate of the bill — and by extension, a major pillar of Mr. Corzine’s agenda — was uncertain.

With the legislative session due to close on Tuesday at noon, the bill stalled initially in the Senate when six Democrats joined 13 Republicans to freeze the vote at 20-19 in favor of the bill, one vote shy of the majority needed.

So for the next three hours, Democratic and Republican supporters of the bill surrounded one colleague after another who had initially voted no, hoping to change minds.

The drama yielded moments of pure political theater and high-stakes brinkmanship. At one point, at least 15 senators huddled in the middle of the Senate floor, not unlike the way baseball players, anxious, huddle around the pitcher’s mound.

At another point, Assemblyman Joseph R. Malone III, a Republican who was part of a 41-36 majority that approved the bill in the Assembly earlier in the evening, wandered down the hall to the Senate. He escorted Senator Martha W. Bark, a fellow Republican who had voted no, to his office, fueling speculation that he was trying to win her over.

But in the end, it was something much simpler — a promise, with Mr. Corzine’s approval, of an additional $20 million for special education in next year’s budget — that compelled Ms. Bark and two other Republicans, Senator Gerald Cardinale and Senator Joseph A. Palaia, to switch their votes.

“I’m jubilant,” said Senator Barbara Buono, a Democrat from Metuchen who was the bill’s sponsor, and who helped to craft the compromise. “This is the way it’s supposed to work.”

Mr. Corzine said in a statement: “The new law replaces a flawed system with an equitable, balanced, and nonpartisan formula that addresses the needs of all students, regardless of where they live. This formula puts the needs of all children on an equal footing, and will give them the educational resources they need for success.”

The vote on school financing capped a frenetic final day of the legislative session. With the two houses meeting simultaneously, the corridors of the State House teemed with lobbyists, reporters, educators and other interest groups until 11 p.m.

Among the dozens of measures that passed on Monday, the two chambers overwhelmingly approved bills authorizing a formal state apology for New Jersey’s role in slavery. New Jersey, the last Northern state to abolish slavery, became the first Northern state to apologize for it.

The two chambers also passed bills to increase judicial salaries, offer tax credits for businesses that invest in urban transit areas and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Assembly also approved a bill, previously passed by the Senate, to toughen the state’s hate crime and bullying laws.

Those legislators who will continue serving when the next session begins on Tuesday will not have much time to catch their breath.

A few hours after they are sworn in, Mr. Corzine is scheduled to outline in his State of the State address his long-simmering proposal to squeeze more money out of the state’s toll roads. He is expected to call on the Legislature to approve his idea of selling billions of dollars worth of bonds that would be backed by higher tolls on the state’s three toll roads, the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway.

But on Monday, the focus was education, which for the last two decades has largely been guided by a landmark State Supreme Court ruling, Abbott v. Burke, which found that students in poor and urban districts were not receiving the same education as their counterparts in wealthier ones, and therefore deserved a bigger percentage of the state’s aid to schools.

Those who opposed Mr. Corzine’s bill did so for a variety of reasons, including the sense that it was being rushed through, or that it threatened to cut funding to poor urban districts. All six Senate members of the Legislative Black Caucus opposed the bill.

“They don’t want the middle class suburban schools to examine this formula, not in terms of what it takes from Abbott, but what it takes from us,” said Senator Nia H. Gill, a Democrat from Montclair.

After the vote, Senate President Richard J. Codey summed up the relief felt by the bill’s supporters when he grabbed Joseph V. Doria Jr., Mr. Corzine’s commissioner of community affairs, who until recently had been a Senate colleague.

“Joe, it’s like delivering a baby,” Mr. Codey joked. “It’s painful, but it’s worth it.”


Panels Approve New Jersey School Financing Plan
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN
Published: January 4, 2008

TRENTON — Despite mounting criticism from the mayors of the state’s largest cities, Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposal to revamp New Jersey’s formula for financing schools cleared two important legislative hurdles on Thursday.

By comfortable margins, the budget committees in both the State Senate and Assembly approved Mr. Corzine’s plan directing more money to children who live outside the poorest districts, which now receive more than half of all state aid, in accordance with a court mandate. The plan would also apportion funds to schools based on demographics including family income, population growth, language ability and special academic needs.

Over all, the formula would increase education spending by $532.8 million the first year, with all districts receiving at least a 2 percent increase for the next three years, and some receiving as much as 20 percent more.

The plan will go to the floor of both chambers on Monday, the last full day of the legislative session. But its passage was hardly assured, since several of Mr. Corzine’s fellow Democrats, particularly from urban areas, have promised to reject the new formula for financing unless substantial changes are made.

Over the last two days, Mr. Corzine has met with two Democratic mayors — Jerramiah T. Healy of Jersey City and Cory A. Booker of Newark — who have been among his strongest allies, yet have been sharply critical of the school plan.

Although Mr. Booker said Thursday that Mr. Corzine had given him some reassurances on such issues as improving student performance, he expressed qualms about what he said was the haste with which the formula was being pushed through the Legislature.

“My preference is more deliberation,” he said. “The more deliberation, the better.”

These sentiments were echoed by nearly all members of the Senate budget committee, during the testimony of the education commissioner, Lucille E. Davy.

State Senator Shirley K. Turner, a Democrat from Mercer County who is chairwoman of the Education Committee, was especially curt, noting that all but one of the towns she represents would receive the minimum 2 percent increase.

“They feel that they are being given the shaft,” Ms. Turner said. “I’m in no position to support this school funding formula today.”

But in the end, she was one of four senators to abstain, and the committee approved the measure 7-1, with some changes, including more money for charter schools.

“I really believe this formula is logical, and it’s fair,” said State Senator Barbara Buono, a Democrat from Middlesex County, who sponsored the bill.

The measure was approved on a 9-3 vote in the Assembly committee.

But even if the measure is approved by the full Legislature on Monday, it still requires the approval by the State Supreme Court.

The court has been guiding school financing issues since its ruling more than two decades ago, Abbott v. Burke, found that students in poor and urban districts were not receiving the same education as their counterparts in wealthier ones.

Earlier on Thursday, the proposal cleared another hurdle when Attorney General Anne Milgram released a letter saying that the new formula would not violate the law.

Yet that did not prevent Gary S. Stein, a former State Supreme Court justice who participated in numerous Abbott v. Burke decisions, from warning legislators in a letter that the bill could be “‘one of the most costly and counter-productive votes ever cast by the State’s Legislature.”


Reaction to Corzine Plan Better Than Anticipated
NYTIMES
By DAVID W. CHEN and WINNIE HU
Published: December 14, 2007

TRENTON — It could have been a lot worse.

For decades, education financing — one of New Jersey’s most intractable issues — has tripped up many a governor, thanks to court decisions that required the state to spend the bulk of its education funds on students in historically poor urban districts.

So when Gov. Jon S. Corzine began tackling a new financing formula after taking office in January 2006, the odds were against him. And early on, the signs were discouraging, as one delay begat another, and people in Trenton began to whisper that a new formula might never emerge because of the combustible mix of schools, money and politics.

Then, as word circulated in recent weeks that the financing plan promised a year ago was ready, Mr. Corzine seemed to lose control of the issue. Parts of the plan dribbled out to the press, but the administration delayed releasing specific numbers. Educators and legislators filled the vacuum by complaining about the formula’s general tenets. Republicans criticized the timing of the formula, which came near the end of a legislative session.

But when Mr. Corzine finally released his plan on Wednesday, the reaction was, with some notable exceptions, not as poisonous as anticipated.  A group of Republicans set to join the State Senate next month met on Thursday morning with Mr. Corzine, and actually said that they were encouraged. And though they cautioned that they had concerns about the fate of special education under the plan, and that they needed to see an actual bill elaborating on the formula, the governor had been fair and inclusive in devising the proposal, they said.

“I think the process that the governor and his team have got has been very different from previous governors in both parties,” said Assemblyman Bill Baroni, a Republican from Mercer County who sits on the education committee. “We may not always agree, but they’re listening and they’re talking, and that is a fundamental change from what has happened in the past.”

The proposal, “A New Formula for Success: All Children, All Communities,” the proposal would steer more state money to poor and disadvantaged children who live outside the so-called Abbott districts, which now receive more than half of all state aid. The new approach, which would increase overall spending by $532.8 million in the first year, would apportion money to schools based on the characteristics of the students, including income, language ability and special academic needs.

Some education advocates contend that if the formula were applied in full during the next school year, the state would have actually cut its spending by more than $300 million. But by pumping more money into education to come out $532.8 million in the black, and promising that no district would see a reduction in aid for three years, Mr. Corzine may have quelled some dissent.

As the formula makes its way through the State Legislature, of course, changes will be inevitable. About two dozen mayors, for instance, released a report on Thursday recommending alterations, like keeping the system of allocating special education aid to districts without regard to community wealth.

“Multiple governors have struggled with this issue, and no funding formula has been deemed to be both constitutional and sustainable,” said Jun Choi, the mayor of Edison and a former state education official. “The fact that we are still struggling with this is an indication of how challenging and complex the problem is.”

Perhaps the most vocal critics of the Corzine proposal have been advocates for the Abbott districts, despite the fact that those districts tend to be heavily Democratic.

“There seems to be a lot of discomfort and uncertainty about aspects of the plan,” said Jerome C. Harris, chairman of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention, a coalition of 35 African-American groups. “Not having access to the details, and not being able to evaluate it whole cloth, has left people who might have been supporters voicing cautious optimism, and in some cases, skepticism.”

Yet, if nothing else, Mr. Corzine clearly cares about the issue. At briefings on Wednesday with legislators at Drumthwacket, the governor’s mansion, he was very much on top of the specifics of the plan, and passionate about his goals, according to Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, a Republican from Red Bank.  Mr. Corzine is so determined that the formula be enacted before the end of the legislative session on Jan. 7 that he unveiled the plan on two consecutive days in different districts — on Wednesday in Burlington Township and on Thursday in Carteret. His education commissioner, Lucille E. Davy, attended both events, and testified on Thursday for an hour at a hearing of the Senate budget and education committees.

Some legislators have criticized what they say is the haste with which the administration is pushing the formula.

But Mr. Corzine, in Carteret, said: “Quite frankly, this concept has been debated since 2002 — since we’ve stopped using formulas altogether. This has been the slowest-moving train I can ever imagine. When people say we are going too fast, I think they are failing to look at the history of how long this kind of discussion has been happening.”

Mr. Corzine acknowledged that some people had complained about the delay in the release of the details, but he said that the administration was waiting for some population statistics to incorporate into the formula.
Even supporters of the formula, however, noted that the governor could, by handling the plan’s unveiling more deftly, have gained a bit more political capital.

“Over all, I’m pleased with the way he’s handled it, because anyone can be a Monday morning quarterback, and you’re never going to please everybody with a school funding formula,” said the Senate president, Richard J. Codey, who is, like Mr. Corzine, a Democrat.

“I only wish that he had announced the formula earlier,” Mr. Codey said. “He could’ve done that lobbying maybe six months ago, and said, in general terms, this is what it probably will look like, and try to work out those kinks ahead of time.”


Increases in Education Aid Range From 2 to 20 Percent Under Corzine Plan
NYTIMES
By WINNIE HU and DAVID W. CHEN
Published: December 13, 2007

Each of New Jersey’s 615 school districts would receive 2 percent to 20 percent more in state aid next year under a new financing formula officially unveiled by Gov. Jon S. Corzine on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after parts of the proposal were revealed by state lawmakers and state education officials.
 
The proposed increases represent the largest gain in state aid in more than a decade for some affluent suburban districts, but they were a sharp disappointment for many historically poor urban districts that have received more support in the past. Last year, every district also received an increase in state aid, with the increases varying from 3 percent for wealthier districts to 10.3 percent for those less well off.

The new formula would raise overall state education spending in the 2008-9 school year by $532.8 million, slightly less than the $579.1 million increase in the governor’s 2007-8 budget proposal. The state proposes spending $7.8 billion total on education next year.

The plan, part of the governor’s effort to address criticism that many districts have been shortchanged in favor of poor schools, will now go before the State Legislature, where it is likely to be a subject of intense debate.

The districts that would fare the best are working-class communities like Carteret, Hamilton and Roselle Park, which have large and growing numbers of poor and disadvantaged students. In all, 146 districts would receive the maximum increase of 20 percent; these districts received far less last year, about 9.6 percent on average, according to budget figures.

The districts that would fare the worst under the plan are cities like Newark, Asbury Park and Camden, each of which would receive a 2 percent increase. At the other end of the spectrum, districts in wealthy beach communities also would receive the minimum increase. In Cape May County, for instance, all 18 districts, including Stone Harbor and Sea Isle City, would receive the 2 percent increase.

Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy said that the Cape May County districts had “the worst of both worlds” when it came to calculating their share under the new formula: fewer students with shrinking enrollments and greater wealth with rising property values.

“Those are the kinds of things that are likely to impact a district being a candidate for additional aid,” she said.

Governor Corzine presented the new formula at a news conference on Wednesday at B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington Township. He received loud applause when he said that the district would probably receive the maximum increase in part because it had a high number of at-risk and special education students. “I knew there was a good applause line in there somewhere,” he said.

For more than a year, Governor Corzine has made clear that he wants to send more money to poor and disadvantaged students who live outside the state’s 31 so-called Abbott districts, which receive more than half of all state education aid under a court-ordered remedy.

The new formula would apportion money to schools based on the characteristics of the students, including income, language ability and special academic needs, regardless of where they live. It would also reshape the way that the state divides nearly $1 billion a year for special education by shifting a larger share of the money to special education students in poor districts.

Preliminary breakdowns of state aid show that about two-thirds of the Abbott districts would receive the 2 percent increase, though a few would receive more. For instance, Union City would get a 16 percent increase, and the City of Orange a 5 percent increase.

To seek support for the new formula, Governor Corzine said that no district would see a reduction in aid for three years, though after that a district could receive less if its enrollment were to decrease. The governor said that he was confident that the new formula would withstand a court challenge, saying that he and Commissioner Davy had worked with lawyers “every step of the way to meet our thorough and efficient mandate.”

Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, which represents 5,000 teachers in the city’s public schools, said he was disappointed by the 2 percent increase for the Newark district.

“You might as well say you’re flat-funding the district,” he said. “I’m sure the Abbott districts have to pay just as much for operating expenses like heating oil as the suburban districts, and 2 percent will mean they will have to reduce educational services.”
 
New Jersey School Districts Compared In the Orange school district, Nathan Parker, the superintendent, said that it was not clear to him how the state aid had been calculated under the new formula. Even though the district would receive a 5 percent increase compared with 3 percent last year, he said, the money would only partially offset the district’s increased costs for teacher salaries, health care benefits and utility bills, among other things.

David G. Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which has represented Abbott plaintiffs for years, condemned the proposed formula. He said that if the formula were applied, the state would essentially be cutting school aid by $320 million, with the bulk of it in Abbott districts. Because of political sensitivities, he said, he estimated that the state was adding $850 million “to minimize the harm that would occur to over a third of the districts if the formula were actually used.”

But some suburban districts viewed the proposed formula favorably. The Glen Ridge district would receive a 10 percent increase in state aid, to $1.2 million — nearly all of it directed toward special education, and its largest increase in years. The money would be used to cover the costs of educating a student population that has grown to 1,795 students this year from 1,497 in 2000.

As part of that total, the district would receive about $250,000 more for 190 special education students, an increase partially offset by decreases in other categories of state aid. “I’m surprised and pleased and hopefully the funding is moving in the right direction toward equity for funding of all students in the state of New Jersey,” said Daniel Fishbein, the Glen Ridge superintendent.

Though Governor Corzine had pushed lawmakers to approve the formula by the end of the session on Jan. 7, Mr. Corzine said on Wednesday that he wanted a formula in place by Feb. 15 so that districts could plan their budgets, which are due in April.


Hoboken’s Rebirth Fuels School Aid Formula Fight
NYTIMES 
By WINNIE HU
Published: December 12, 2007

HOBOKEN, N.J. — In the early 1970s, Hoboken was so broken down that some residents feared for their lives. Crime and arson were rampant, and those who could afford to fled to neighboring towns like Secaucus.

But gleaming restaurants and luxury condominiums now beckon affluent newcomers to Hoboken, like Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who keeps an apartment there. And the city’s public school system, which once educated Frank Sinatra, is going through a renaissance, with enrollment growing to 1,874 students this fall, after years of decline.

Hoboken’s rags-to-riches transformation is often cited by critics of New Jersey’s so-called Abbott system, in which 31 historically poor urban school districts receive the bulk of state school financing, to illustrate its shortcomings. Cities like Hoboken, these critics say, are no longer impoverished enough to merit special treatment.

“Hoboken is exactly why we need a new school funding formula,” said Assemblyman Bill Baroni, a Republican from Mercer County. “Hoboken has been blessed by an economic renaissance that a lot of other towns have not seen. That’s why we need to make a new formula that talks about kids and not ZIP codes.”

Governor Corzine is expected to officially unveil a new school-financing proposal on Wednesday that would shift the emphasis away from the Abbott system — which takes its name from a landmark New Jersey Supreme Court case — by directing at least $400 million in new state education money to poor students who live outside the Abbott districts.

But Abbott districts say that academic achievement has risen significantly under the system and that they should not be penalized in an effort to expand benefits to the state’s 584 other districts in rural and suburban areas. They also say that rising property values do not always mean more money for schools.

In Hoboken, for example, school officials said that a majority of their students come from housing projects, not the upscale condos whose owners often send their children to private or parochial schools. Seventy-five percent of the district’s students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunch, the seventh-highest level among all Abbott districts, according to state statistics. Union City is first, with 92.7 percent, followed by Passaic (84.7 percent) and Asbury Park (81.9 percent).

Jack Raslowsky, the Hoboken schools superintendent, said that another point lost in the political rhetoric is that Hoboken receives far less state aid than the other Abbott districts. In the district’s $54 million budget, state aid accounted for just $12.4 million, of which only $4.2 million for preschool programs was tied to its Abbott status. The local share of contributions was $35 million.

But because it is an Abbott district, Hoboken’s school construction projects are paid for by the state. This year, an $8.5 million renovation was completed on the Calabro elementary school. In the last five years, the state has spent $18 million to bring the district’s six schools up to health and safety standards, which included repairing leaking roofs and replacing windows and boilers.

The state has also agreed to renovate the Connors elementary school and the Brandt middle school and build a new $25 million school complex that will include high school and elementary school buildings and athletic fields to accommodate the growing enrollment, particularly in the preschool and lower grades.

But those projects were suspended last year after the state ran out of money, and with the current debate over financing for Abbott districts, their future remains uncertain. Hoboken school officials say they cannot afford to pay for the new complex without state assistance.

Mr. Raslowsky said that because they are in an Abbott district, his schools have been subject to more rigorous academic and financial oversight. In return, he said, he expects the state to follow through on its commitment to improve the district. “We’ve been promised this great banquet,” he said. “We’ve finished the appetizers, but there’s still the meal to go and we’re hungry.”

David Sciarra, an advocate for the children of the Abbott districts, called the criticisms of Hoboken a “red herring” because the district receives so little Abbott aid. More important, he said, were the educational reforms introduced under Abbott to address decades of neglect and concentrated poverty in urban schools. One such reform is the focus on preschool programs in Abbott districts. “The Legislature could remove Hoboken from Abbott, but it must have a plan in place to continue those educational reforms,” he said.

At the Connors elementary school, which overlooks a housing project, the 300 students were supposed to move into temporary classrooms this September while their century-old building was being renovated. When the renovation was suspended, students stayed where they were and the building remained in disrepair.

The Abbott money has paid for three preschool classes at the school, two of which are squeezed into the basement because of a shortage of classroom space. The free preschool program has helped many families. Danny LaViena, 49, a repairman, said that his 4-year-old grandson, Selman Brashaw, was able to attend preschool only because of the Abbott money.

“We’re low-income people, and we can’t get no money to pay for that,” he said.

But on Monday afternoon, as a dozen 4-year-olds napped on mats on the floor of one classroom, their teachers rattled off the things that they still did not have: their own bathroom, child-friendly sinks or even a school playground.




LEGAL CHALLENGES AND OTHER FALLOUT FROM SANDY HOOK

Washington Post photo, right





Dr. Reed has served as Weston's Interim Superintnedent of Schools twice






Final Report on Sandy Hook Killings Hints at Anguish of Gunman’s Mother
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER, NYTIMES
December 27, 2013

Authorities in Connecticut released a final report on Friday outlining the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012, providing the most complete account to date for one of the nation’s most wrenching massacres.

It contained hundreds of photographs, hours of video and voluminous crime scene reports.

Care was taken to conceal the most graphic crime scene images. Yet painfully detailed descriptions accompanied the often-redacted pages, relaying eyewitness accounts from students and school staff members, and snapshots of emergency workers dashing to locked doors, at times straining to convince terrified teachers on the other side that they were officers.

There were new details concerning the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed 20 first graders and six adults in the school and then killed himself; and his mother, Nancy, who told an acquaintance the day before the shooting that she had traveled to New Hampshire for a brief trip as “an experiment to allow Adam to stay at home alone for a few days,” the documents said. Mr. Lanza also killed his mother.

The report also included many photographs of the contents of their house, including one of a young child holding what appears to be a gun, with ammunition in his lap.

Mr. Lanza’s father, Peter, who was divorced from the killer’s mother, appeared in sharper focus, too: He supplied documents that included resources he had sought out about autism and Asperger’s syndrome, which his son reportedly had. There was also a birthday card, signed “Love, Dad,” with an offer to take his son “hiking or shooting.”

Then there were the reports about the families of the victims, some of whom, less than a month later, could not yet bear to receive the belongings their children had left behind. Other loved ones asked to tour the school.

For all its material, the report did not appear to alter the broader understanding of the shooting, for which the authorities have not established a clear motive.

The state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection said the release of the full report was “indicative that this State Police criminal investigation is concluded.”

Questions of how and when to release sensitive investigative details from the shooting have been prevalent since shortly after the massacre.

In a letter accompanying the report, Reuben F. Bradford, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, said the names and “contextually identifying information of involved children” were withheld, including descriptions of the children, their clothing and their belongings. “All visual images depicting the deceased have been withheld,” he added, “as well as written descriptions whose disclosure would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and would violate the constitutional rights of the families.”

Mr. Bradford said that balancing the “often competing interests of government transparency and individual privacy has been difficult.”

The records’ release on Friday followed a far shorter report last month from the office of Stephen J. Sedensky III, the state’s attorney in Danbury, which focused in large measure on the home that Mr. Lanza shared with his mother on Yogananda Street.

At the time, the account provided the most detailed report yet about Mr. Lanza’s final months — his bedroom windows covered with black trash bags, as he was preoccupied with video games and communicated with his mother only through email, even though they were on the same floor.

According to the new report, Ms. Lanza traveled to New Hampshire on Dec. 11 and returned on the evening of Dec. 13. During a lunch in New Hampshire with an acquaintance, the interviewee said, Ms. Lanza “described a difficult life but gave him the impression that she was courageous and ‘handling everything.’ ”

She added that she “accepted the obligations of caring for Adam” and was “very proud of Adam’s accomplishments,” the acquaintance said.

According to the photographs, the tidy, well-ordered parts of the house where Ms. Lanza came and went stood in stark contrast to the rooms where her son retreated in his solitary moments. The other rooms had an abundance of Oriental carpets and white couches. Crystal glasses, books and sundry knickknacks were artfully arranged on shelves, and framed family photos rested on her desk.

Other police photos only raised more questions, including some documenting how someone in the house kept bullets in a Planters Cocktail Peanuts can. Another captured the birthday card from Mr. Lanza’s father, with whom he had not spoken for years, according to an associate.

It was unclear when the card had been sent. Ms. Lanza has been described by friends as a gun enthusiast who was known to take her son to shooting ranges. She separated from Peter Lanza in 2001.

Other interviews sketched a more complete portrait of the shooter. He could play the saxophone, the documents said, and had taken private lessons in Mandarin. Writings recovered from his computer included two fictional works about being attacked by babies and a screenplay or script called “Lovebound,” describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

“The shooter had recently begun to drive,” another entry read, “after previously not wanting to get his driver’s license.”

The report also included the most exhaustive information yet from inside the school, where Mr. Lanza blasted through the glass windows at a locked entrance around 9:34 a.m. (By 9:40, the police said, he had shot himself in Classroom 10, a first-grade room.)

Though the names, physical descriptions and belongings of adults were included, information about the children was omitted, even as the macabre scenes were relayed in meticulous detail. The victims were first identified using numbers, 3 through 26. Mr. Lanza was assigned the number 27. “Once all the victims were removed from the school,” one document read, “only the shooter’s body remained within the scene.”

Alison Leigh Cowan and Marc Santora contributed reporting.

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Police file on Newtown shooting to be released

DAY
Associated Press
Article published Dec 27, 2013

New Haven (AP) — The planned release Friday of thousands of pages of police documents from the investigation into last year's school massacre in Newtown could shed light on the world of the 20-year-old gunman.

State police said their report totaling several thousand pages would be released at 3 p.m. The report "has been redacted according to law," and includes text, photos and 911 calls received by state police, they said Thursday.

Prosecutors issued a summary of the investigation last month that portrayed the gunman, Adam Lanza, as obsessed with mass murders, but the report concluded that Lanza's motives for the massacre might never be known.

The summary report referred to items found on a computer at Lanza's house that included writings detailing relationships, personal beliefs, a daily schedule, desires, goals and other topics.

Lanza gunned down 20 first-graders and six educators with a semi-automatic rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, after killing his mother inside their home. He committed suicide with a handgun as police arrived at the school.

The summary says Lanza had "significant mental health issues."

The report said that in 2005, Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger's disorder, a mild form of autism that is not associated with violence, and that he lacked empathy for others and behaved strangely. Nobody was allowed into his room, he wouldn't touch doorknobs, his food had to be arranged on the plate in a certain way and he changed clothes often during the day, according to the report.

In fifth grade, Lanza wrote "The Big Book of Granny," in which the main character has a gun in her cane and shoots people, and another character talks of liking to hurt people, especially children. The book was among items seized from Lanza's home, but there was no indication he ever handed in the book at school.

Lanza became obsessed with the 1999 bloodbath at Columbine High in Colorado and other mass killings, the report said. He even kept a spreadsheet ranking mass murders.

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Major findings: Lanza was a loner, with Asperger’s, OCD, a shut-in with shooting, computer games, dancing for pastimes
Greenwich TIME
Ken Dixon
Monday, November 25, 2013

Murderer Adam Lanza wasn’t a tortured anti-social genius. He had an average IQ and no learning disabilities, but soaring levels of anxiety, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Asperger’s and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But he refused to take medication or engage in recommended behavioral therapies, according to the new report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. He wouldn’t handle door knobs, changed his clothes frequently and repeatedly washed his hands.

“Dance, Dance Revolution,” a video game in which people dance as directed, engaged the unemployed, possibly unemployable Adam Lanza, who made video recordings of himself dancing at home. At a nearby theater that had a commercial version of the game in its lobby, he would play the game on weekends for four to 10 hours up until about a month before the school massacre. At the same time that he played the non-violent dance game with a friend, Lanza confided that he had an interest in mass murders.

Growing up he loved Sandy Hook School, which he attended from first through fifth grades. But in pre-school his behaviors included repetitive traits, temper tantrums, excessive hand washing, “eating idiosyncrasies” and smelling things that weren’t there.

By fifth grade, for a class project he wrote a book in which the protagonist had a gun in her cane to shoot people. The story included violence against children, but was never turned in. Withdrawn, he initially loved music, studied the saxophone and played in school concerts in fifth and sixth grade. But as he grew older he became more of a loner. By seventh grade, Lanza stopped playing the sax and withdrew from athletics.  He didn’t like the “noise and confusion” and didn’t like walking between classes. While at Newtown High School, from which he graduated in 2009, he was also home-schooled. He had non-violent “episodes” of up to 15 minutes in length that would prompt his mother to come to the school. Evaluations over the years showed Lanza with speech and language needs; and seizures. In 2005, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s, displaying symptoms of anxiety and social impairments. “It was also noted that he lacked empathy and had very rigid though processes. He had a literal interpretation of written and verbal material.”

“It is important to note that it is unknown what contribution, if any, the shooter’s mental health issues made to his attack on SHES,” the report says. “Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.”

The 43-page report is a profile of a troubled, well-armed young man who brought multiple weapons to Sandy Hook Elementary School – where he spent five of the happiest years of his younger life – along with his obsession for mass murder. After shooting his mother several times with a .22 rifle on the morning of December 14, he took a military-style semi-automatic Bushmaster rifle to the school, blasted through the front door, killed 20 first graders and six adults. At 9:40, he shot himself in the head with a Glock 10-mm pistol in Classroom 10, near the body of Victoria Soto, 27. Eleven of the children in Classroom 10 survived, with nine fleeing the room and two others hiding in the class restroom.

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Conn. to approve funds for new Sandy Hook school
DAY
Sep 24, 2:23 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut is prepared to approve the first round of funding for construction of a new Sandy Hook Elementary School building, the governor said Tuesday.

State lawmakers have set aside $50 million to help Newtown build a new school to replace the one where a gunman killed 26 people last December.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the State Bond Commission is ready to approve $3.7 million to go toward the building's construction at its meeting on Friday. The commission this summer approved $750,000 for design of the building.

"With strong resolve and a determination to move forward, we can do our best to support the people of Newtown," Malloy said.

A task force of Newtown officials voted in May in favor of a plan to tear down the Sandy Hook school and build a new one. Sandy Hook students have been attending classes at a school building in the neighboring town of Monroe.

Newtown is holding an Oct. 5 referendum on whether to formally accept grant money from the state to build a new school. The state's budget director, Ben Barnes, wrote in a letter this month to Newtown's first selectman that state officials are willing to allocate all of the $50 million authorized by lawmakers to support construction of the new school.

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OP-ED | Newtown Info Seekers Stonewalled At Every Turn
CTEWSJUNKIE
by Terry D. Cowgill | Sep 13, 2013 5:30am

It never ceases to amaze me how government officials will behave when under pressure from those who have been victims of tragedies — especially gruesome, high-profile murders such as those that occurred in Newtown last December.

After witnessing the behavior of the General Assembly earlier this year, I’m convinced that it’s a reflex action of lawmakers to pass legislation that does nothing to address the crime itself, but everything to make victims feel better.

To wit, the first item the General Assembly took up in January was a sweeping gun-control bill that, while well intentioned, would have done little to prevent the massacre of 26 young people and educators a month earlier. It did, however, make us all feel good that we had done something.

But more troubling was the move to amend Connecticut’s strong freedom-of-information laws — laws that really were a model for the rest of the nation — to exempt from public release any crime-scene photo depicting a murder victim. So proud were lawmakers of the bipartisan bill that they passed it in the wee hours of the morning less than a day before the close of the legislative session in June.

Though prosecutors assure us that it’s coming soon, the State Police report of the incident still hasn’t been released a full nine months after the crime.

Interestingly, State Police officials such as Col. Danny Stebbens had no problem sharing details of the massacre with attendees at police conferences held out-of-state earlier this year. The epidemic of loose lips prompted Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky, who will issue the final investigative report on the crime whenever he gets around to it, to order police to stop discussing details of the mass shooting at conferences.

And the foot-dragging also extends to the Newtown officials who resisted releasing the school records of the 20-year-old shooter. Shockingly, a representative from the office of Attorney General George Jepsen told the Freedom of Information Commission at a hearing that public release of the Lanza records “can cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.” Might the release of Adam Lanza’s records also help social workers and school officials recognize similar traits in their students and get them the help they need before they harm someone?

Much to its credit, Jepsen’s office did get involved when Newtown school officials refused to release Lanza’s records to the state Child Advocate’s office, which was conducting its own investigation into the tragedy. Earlier this week, a state superior court judge ordered the Newtown Public School District to comply with a subpoena for the records.

Much to the dismay of freedom-of-information advocates, for months the Newtown Town Clerk had refused to release death certificates of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims. The assistant town clerk had even acknowledged in written testimony before the General Assembly that “according to current law, these death certificates are public information.”

Under intense pressure, the town clerk finally relented and released the certificates, bringing a merciful end to six months of obstruction and lawbreaking. Predictably, a state representative from Newtown responded to the controversy by introducing legislation that would restrict public access to children’s death certificates. Thankfully, he failed.

The most recent Newtown FOI controversy concerns the refusal thus far of local officials to release recordings of 911 calls made that fateful day at the school — a defiance rightly judged by an FOI Commission hearing officer to be against the law. An attorney from the Victim Advocates Office wondered aloud at a recent public meeting whether those seeking the recordings were doing so out of a desire for government accountability or morbid curiosity.

Who cares what the motive is in seeking the righteous release of public information? The law and the law alone should determine the appropriateness of the request. Call me naive, but you would think public officials, of all people, would understand that simple concept.

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Post-Sandy Hook school security changes don't come cheap
Linda Conner Lambeck, CT POST
Published 9:53 pm, Saturday, August 31, 2013

Ask James Richetelli Jr. what new security measures Milford Public Schools have adopted this year, and the answer is an exhaustive and expensive list.  There will be four police officers assigned to its schools, updated locks on classroom doors and panic alarms to link school offices and the police department.  On top of that, there are classroom phones to call 911, electronic key chain cards that give police access to all schools and upgraded cameras throughout the district.

The $2.5 million price tag is high -- but these days almost no expense would be considered too high to secure the district's 13 school buildings and protect its 6,600 students.  Milford's security spending is in line with what school districts across the region have invested since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.  In the aftermath of the massacre, it is unlikely there will be a blanket set of security standards for schools, but instead guidelines each community can adopt, said Adam Byington, a Fairfield police officer, who is part of the state's school security council.

"What happened was an unspeakable tragedy that shook the state and shook the nation," Byington said. "We can't take a risk of that happening again."

Across Connecticut, 107 school districts have requested a total of about $20.8 million since the state authorized a School Security Grant Program in May. The first $5 million in winning grants are expected to be announced this week, said Scott DeVico, a spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and there will be two more $5 million rounds of funding.

Fast alert, fast response

Perhaps no one understands the need for security better than Janet Robinson, who was superintendent of schools in Newtown when the Dec. 14 massacre claimed 20 children and six educators. She now is superintendent in Stratford.  Robinson said all the new security efforts represent money well spent as long as they do two things: Delay intruders and decrease the time it takes for help to arrive.

"Those are the two things that are important and will help keep schools safer," Robinson said. "Hardware and cameras help you be alert if there is a problem. The faster the alert, the faster the response time."

In Stratford, lockdown drills have become as common as fire drills for the 7,410 students and $1.5 million has been bonded for security upgrades to the district's 13 schools.  Stratford's list of new security measures was drawn up before Robinson's arrival with the help of a Connecticut State Police security critique. Beyond hardware, the critique offered advice on visitor protocol, crisis drills and procedures and the establishment of a safety committee. The district hopes to get a portion of that investment back through the state grant.

"People are your best safety measure," said Robinson. "Everyone who is part of the school is part of the security plan. If you see someone in the hallway you don't know and you are a teacher, you stop them."

Beyond fiscal investments, many districts changed policies as a result of Sandy Hook. Some have tested crisis responses.

Vigilant staff

In Shelton, a district of 5,137 students, schools Superintendent Freeman Burr said the initial response to Sandy Hook was to redirect maintenance and repair funds toward security and to beef up school entryways and windows in the district's three school construction projects. Just as important, said Burr, are efforts to make sure all staff are more vigilant.

"Security can't just fall to a single person but everyone," he said. "If someone leaves a door propped open, security is compromised."

Fairfield Schools Superintendent David Title agreed. His district has 10,273 students and 16 schools. Staff and students there are better at not leaving doors propped open, he said. But sharply curtailing access to the elementary and middle schools, by requiring parents to buzz in and state their names, was an adjustment, he added.

"People are torn between security and the inconvenience that that causes. You still want schools to feel welcoming," Title said.

The same dilemma exists in Bridgeport, where school security officers started asking visitors for photo identification last January. Some suggested that could discourage undocumented parents from visiting schools.

Bridgeport Police Sgt. Paul Grech said there has to be a balancing act between making schools safe and still welcoming. His department had started training school police and conducted risk assessments before Sandy Hook.

Metal detectors were already in place in Bridgeport's three high schools. Last fall, the district also started a Safe Corridor program, designed to keep kids safe on their way to and from school. Also, a School Security Command Center on Connecticut Avenue, in the works since the fall, was unveiled last April. The center ties together 720 cameras that monitor and record activities at about 14 of the district's 35 schools.

Will all this make schools safer?

"Obviously every layer we put into a school, we make it safer," Grech said. "It gives kids a sense of being comfortable,"

Title said the efforts will make schools safer from a hardware perspective, but permanently changing behavior will be a challenge as the memory of Sandy Hook fades.

From buzzers to panic buttons

In Brookfield, with only 3,000 students, the entryways in all of the district's four schools were fortified with a total of $110,000 worth of new glass, double buzzers and card access for new employees.

Shortly after Sandy Hook, Stamford school officials compiled a $2 million list of security measures, but then decided to hold off on them until the state's School Safety Infrastructure Council issues recommendations, Stamford Schools Superintendent Winifred Hamilton said this week. The state recommendations are expected in January.

In the interim, the district of nearly 16,000 students at 20 schools has taken smaller steps. It has trained teachers and staff in safety procedures and spotting children who might be struggling with mental illness. After testing personal panic buttons for all staff in one elementary school last year, it is ordering the devices for all 12 elementary schools in the district.

It also plans to hire an architect to design security vestibules and door planters, similar to ones outside federal buildings, to prevent cars from careening into school buildings.

Stamford outsources its facilities management to Al Barbarotta, whose company AFB Construction Management has contracts with school districts around the state and, after the Sandy Hook massacre, helped relocate school equipment from Sandy Hill Elementary to the Chalk Hill school in Monroe. Barbarotta also serves as property manager of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Stamford home.

"I think parents, in general, think our schools are safe," Barbarotta said earlier this summer. "However, after Sandy Hook, that level of making everyone feel totally safe when they send their kids to school has changed ... We've had to step it up a few levels."

Urgent response

Most admit many of the security measures would not have been adopted it not been for Sandy Hook, or at least not as quickly.

"These are not wild or crazy ideas. We have always wanted SROs," said Milford's Richetelli of school resource officers, who are armed police officers.

But Richetelli acknowledged the request likely would not have been approved with such urgency by the Board of Education and Board of Aldermen at this time last year. The district and city are splitting equally the cost of four police officers stationed at the school, whose base salary starts at $58,728. The district is paying $150,000 for four resource officers for the 10-month school year.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, the National Rifle Association proposed having armed civilian guards in every school.

No schools in southwestern Connecticut have gone that route, but many districts have increased their reliance on school resource officers.


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Back To School: From Armed Guards To Door Buzzers, Different Takes On Security
The Hartford Courant
By SUZANNE CARLSON
9:36 PM EDT, August 25, 2013

Eight months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown left 26 people dead, many schools across the state are preparing to welcome students back from summer break with increased security measures in place.

But which types of safety measures and how they should be funded has been a source of debate, with no clear consensus on the best way to protect children and staff members.

In Enfield, each of the town's 14 public and parochial schools will have an armed guard at the door when they open for the year Sept. 3. Enfield Police Chief Carl Sferrazza said he believes armed guards are the best deterrent for an "active shooter" like Adam Lanza in Newtown.

"These people are homicidal and suicidal individuals. Their intent and their planning is all geared toward killing as many people as they possibly can," Sferrazza said.

All Glastonbury schools also will have guards at the doors when school starts Aug. 29. The high school and Smith Middle School already had guards stationed there, and the town added seven additional guards at a cost of $315,000 for the school year.

Other school districts have chosen to add cameras, door buzzers, card-swipe entry systems or other, less drastic, security measures.

"We don't necessarily believe that having an armed guard in front of a school is the most productive way to make a school safer, for a variety of reasons," said East Hartford Superintendent Nate Quesnel. The father of six said, "I don't want to live in an America where we have to have an armed guard in a school that my children go to."

Instead, officials in East Hartford are planning approximately $175,000 worth of infrastructure improvements. About $50,000 has already been spent on such upgrades, including installing "access control systems" at Norris, Pitkin, Synergy and East Hartford High schools, Quesnel said. Most of the town's schools already had card-swipe locking systems on doors, Quesnel said.  While some might argue that the East Hartford measures don't go far enough, Quesnel said school officials are confident that a more holistic approach will ensure student safety without compromising their sense of freedom and comfort.

"We're in the business of schools, not prisons," he said. "We're not of the belief that schools should be covered in bulletproof glass with concertina wire at the front door."

Much of the money spent on school security has been funneled toward improving buildings, but Quesnel said officials are working to provide more mental health resources for students to "make sure that our children don't get to a place where they would ever want to hurt themselves or hurt others."

During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers passed an omnibus bill that dealt partially with school security in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings. But unlike the state's strict new gun control laws, many of the security provisions in the legislation won't become a reality for some time.  For instance, the new law allows school districts to apply for a state grant to enhance security, beginning in July 2014, when renovating or building new facilities.  The law also requires the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to develop school security and safety plans by Jan. 1.

Locks, Alarms

Other districts chose to spend their money on building-safety improvements.

In Bloomfield, district officials have spent about $110,000 on beefing up security, including new cameras and buzzer systems at multiple entrances to several schools, and a new system that allows district and public safety personnel to remotely view and replay live and recorded video footage from campus cameras. They also have placed large planters and other blocking devices in front of glass-dominated school entrances.  Chris Leone, chief operating officer and director of magnet schools for Bloomfield, said the focus on campus safety and upgrades to security are constantly evolving.

West Hartford schools added $250,000 worth of security upgrades to this year's budget. "Panic buttons" are being tested at some schools to work out any bugs that may crop up, according to Tom Moore, assistant superintendent for administration. The buttons are linked to the police department and also allow the schools to receive alerts about emergencies like tornadoes, Moore said, and will be in all schools as soon as possible.  Keycard entry systems will be installed at all West Hartford's schools by the beginning of October, Moore said. And the district increased the number of "roving" security guards at the 11 elementary schools and two middle schools. Police officers are already stationed at the two high schools.

In Avon, new alarms, door locks and surveillance equipment were installed during the summer or will be in place in the next month or so. The town allocated $240,000 for the safety projects.  John Sprang, the district's assistant superintendent of finance and operations, said new video surveillance cameras have been installed at all of the schools. Those are being connected to the district's central administrative offices and the police department for monitoring purposes.  New locks that allow teachers to lock doors from inside the classroom will be installed in the next month or so. Sprang said those locks have been purchased but that installation will take some time because it will be done after school hours when students are not around.

Bristol has created a school safety task force and is working with police to increase patrols at all of the schools, which already have entryway cameras and remote-operated door locks so visitors can't get in without an office staff worker buzzing them through.

New Britain bought panic buttons for each of its 15 schools over the summer. The staff in the main office will be able to quickly call for help by pressing a button, which is intended to alert the district's alarm contractor to notify police.  New Britain schools had been gradually buying security systems since the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, so they've had little else to add since the Newtown killings. The city paid for some of the equipment, and in 2008 the schools got a $1.3 million state grant that brought cameras to every building.  The policy at each school in New Britain is to keep exterior doors locked; visitors are directed to the front entrance, where security cameras monitor the vestibule. A secretary can buzz people in from the office.  At the main office, visitors hand over a driver's license for the staff to run through a machine that looks like a credit card scanner. It checks each ID against two databases, and notifies the staff if the visitor is listed on the state's sex offender registry or has a pending arrest warrant.

The Simsbury and Farmington school districts each added a school resource officer, doubling the number of resource officers in the schools. Farmington also added seven unarmed security monitors, one for each school.

Newington used the summer vacation to significantly upgrade security at its seven public schools, Superintendent William Collins said. The district expanded its already robust network of surveillance cameras and hired two new security personnel, Collins said.  In addition, police officers will incorporate the schools into their patrols, resulting in a stronger and more visible law enforcement presence, Collins said.

"People will notice an increased security presence at the schools," he said. "That will be noticeable, I believe. We've added technology to increase our security ability."

Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett said his district this summer fixed security weaknesses at Alfred W. Hanmer Elementary School, installing stronger doors and more locks.  Hanmer, built in the early 1970s, was designed for the Open Classroom, a controversial, short-lived teaching method in which students learned independently in large open rooms. As a result, the school lacked heavy-duty doors and sufficient locks, Emmett said.  To enable faster entry in case of an emergency, the district put keypads on numerous outside doors, Emmett said.

In Rocky Hill, security consultants will begin on-site visits to all public schools Sept. 4. The walk-throughs will assist representatives of Secure Watch 24 in preparing a comprehensive analysis of the safety and security needs of the four schools. The town council has set aside $350,000 in the current budget to fund security improvements.  A high-end security firm consisting of former New York Police Department officials, SW24 has been working with the architect and construction manager in planning the renovation and expansion of Rocky Hill High School.  Under a separate agreement, the firm will develop recommendations for the middle and two elementary schools, and improve threat awareness and response efficiency for the entire town.

Recommendations could include adding school resource officers, installing surveillance cameras, bullet-proof glass, card scanners and improvements to building communications, particularly the elementary school intercom systems.

"I'm seeing strong collaboration between the board and the council, and town staff and board staff to keep our schools as safe as possible,'' Superintendent Mark Zito said.

Middletown Superintendent Patricia Charles said the district already has tackled pressing security needs like checking security cameras and make sure entrances are locked or monitored. School, city and public safety officials also have been meeting regularly since the Newtown shooting to discuss school security.

In Manchester, voters are likely to see a referendum question in November seeking $1.5 million for school security and safety improvements. The board of directors is to vote on the proposal, part of a bonding package, in the next two weeks.

'Airy Spaces'

Soon after the tragedy in Newtown, said Sferrazza, the Enfield police chief, town officials got to work trying to figure out how to prevent something similar from happening there, with a focus on school security.

"Schools were designed to be open, airy spaces, primarily built for egress," said Enfield Superintendent Jeffrey A. Schumann. "The architects that designed these buildings years ago wanted to make sure in the event of emergency, everyone could get out safely. We never built them with the idea of trying to keep people from getting in."

After the shooting in Newtown, school staff members were assigned to be "greeters" at each of the schools' entrances, which was "tremendously successful," Schumann said.

"The department of public safety felt that they'd like to take it one step further and have these greeters be armed greeters, so they'd add one more level of safety and security ... so now we're going to get the best of both worlds," he said.

The Enfield security force consists of approximately 20 retired police officers, each with around 20 years of experience. All will undergo intense training and will be given a department-issued Glock handgun, the same weapon used by the town's police, Sferrazza said. While the town's secondary schools already have armed school resource officers stationed there full-time, Sferrazza said the armed guards are important because their sole focus will be monitoring access to the building and ensuring visitors are screened properly.

"We think there's absolutely a need to have both," he said.

There has been much criticism of the plan, which the town council and board of education approved $610,000 to fund.  But Sferrazza said he is confident that other municipalities will follow suit and begin establishing their own forces of armed guards, and three town officials who recently returned from a safety seminar reported a lot of interest in Enfield's plan.

"They got a tremendous amount of inquiries from other departments really amazed at how we're pushing this forward, because we're out there by ourself right now and we're doing it because we're thinking it's the right thing," Sferrazza said.

Courant Staff Writers Daniela Altimari, Shawn Beals, Ken Byron, Steven Goode, Jesse Leavenworth, Bill Leukhardt, Peter Marteka, Nick Rondinone, Don Stacom and Julie Stagis, and freelance writers Christopher Hoffman and David Drury, contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant


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Gun industry group sues Conn. over gun law
DAY
By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press
Jul 8, 2013 7:06 PM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- A national gun industry group on Monday filed the latest lawsuit challenging Connecticut's new wide-ranging gun law, passed in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc., which is based in Newtown a few miles from Sandy Hook, claims the emergency legislation was illegally passed in April without proper public input, time for adequate review by members of the General Assembly, or a statement of facts explaining why lawmakers needed to bypass the usual legislative process.

"There was no emergency and so there's no statement of facts as to why this is an emergency," Lawrence G. Keane, the foundation's senior vice president and general counsel, told The Associated Press, arguing the public's federal and state constitutional due process rights were therefore violated. "There was truly no emergency other than a political one."

Keane said the foundation wants a U.S. District Court judge to strike down the law as invalid, prohibiting it from being enforced. Many parts of the legislation have already taken effect, such as an expanded ban on guns considered to be assault weapons and a ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines.

"The correct, legally required process was not followed," Keane said.

Susan Kinsman, a spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen, said the office had not yet been served with the complaint as of Monday afternoon and therefore could not comment.

Connecticut's bill originally stemmed from a legislative task force charged with reviewing the state's gun laws, mental health care and school security following the Dec. 14 school shooting that left 20 first graders and six educators dead. Those recommendations were passed on to the top leaders of the General Assembly, both Democrats and Republicans, who ultimately crafted a compromise bill behind closed doors that was presented to the rank-and-file lawmakers on April 1.

The final bipartisan, 139-page bill - designated as "emergency certified" and therefore bypassing public hearings and committee votes - received final legislative approval early April 4. It passed 26-10 in the Senate and 105-44 in the House of Representatives. Both were bipartisan votes. Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, signed the bill into law the same day.

Malloy, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, Senate President Donald Williams Jr., and other state officials are named as the defendants in the lawsuit, which is the third challenge to the state's new gun law but the first to accuse the legislature and governor of violating the law in order to pass it.

In March, a group of Connecticut organizations that support gun rights, pistol permit holders and gun sellers filed a lawsuit claiming, among other things, the assault weapons and large-capacity magazine bans violate their rights to bear arms and to equal protection under the law. A month earlier, a New London resident filed a suit on behalf of the Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights, arguing the new law infringes on the rights of people with disabilities to protect themselves.

Jepsen said in March that his office believes the legislation, considered among the strictest in the nation, is lawful and that his office was prepared to defend it against any court challenges.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is a nonprofit entity that represents the interests of more than 9,500 federally licensed firearms manufacturers, distributors and retailers, as well as companies that manufacture, distribute and sell shooting and hunting-related goods and services. The foundation also represents sportsmen's associations, gun clubs and shooting ranges.

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Lawsuit: New gun ban violates rights of people with disabilities

Arielle Levin Becker
April 11, 2013

A group representing people with disabilities is filing a legal challenge to the state's expanded assault weapons ban, arguing that the new law prohibits features that make guns adaptable for people with physical limitations, taking away their rights to use firearms.

The law, passed last week in response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, bans the sale of dozens of weapons, some by name and some if they have certain features. It covers the AR-15, a popular rifle, and any semiautomatic rifle that can accept a detachable magazine and have either a folding stock, pistol grip or forward grip.

The complaint argues that people with disabilities "require adjustable or customizable firearms built on the AR-15 platform, or other semiautomatic weapons with certain of the prohibited features, such as pistol grips, forward grips, and folding or telescoping stocks, in order to safely and effectively exercise their fundamental right to bear arms."

The lawsuit's plaintiff, Scott Ennis, is a New London resident with hemophilia A, a bleeding disorder that causes joint damage. Ennis said he's unable to rotate his palm upward, and needs to use a forward vertical grip to hold a firearm.

"Now that's banned," he said. "That's a big problem."

North Stonington attorney Scott D. Camassar, who represents Ennis, said the lawsuit will be filed in New London Superior Court the coming days. It seeks an injunction to prevent the law from being implemented, and asks the court to declare that the law violates the plantiffs' rights.

Jaclyn M. Falkowski, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the office is reviewing the complaint and will respond in court.

“However, it is our belief that this legislation is lawful, and the Office of the Attorney General is prepared to vigorously defend the law against this and any other potential court challenge,” she said.

Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said the legal challenge was not a surprise.

"We believe the bill improves public safety, and we will work with the Attorney General's office to defend it," he said. "Let's not forget that this has happened before. In prior instances where Connecticut has passed common sense restrictions on firearms, there have been challenges. They have all been unsuccessful."

In addition to Ennis, the lawsuit is being brought on behalf of Disabled Americans for Firearms Rights, an organization Ennis founded. He said it has about 2,700 members in Connecticut, many of whom joined in the past month and a half.

The debate about guns often doesn't include specific issues related to people with disabilities, Ennis said, but he noted that there are many people with disabilities who use firearms, including many wounded veterans.

Prohibiting a person from using a gun with both a forward grip and a collapsible stock -- which allows you to hold a rifle closer to yourself -- doesn't affect its lethality, Ennis said.

"There's no difference if a disabled individual has a collapsible stock and a vertical grip than if he had just a collapsible stock," he said.

Other gun-rights groups are also likely to challenge the law.


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Gun shop where Newtown shootings weapon was purchased loses firearms license
New Haven REGISTER
By The Associated Press
Friday, April 5, 2013

EAST WINDSOR — A Connecticut shop that sold a gun to the Newtown school shooter's mother has lost its federal firearms license.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revoked the license of Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor, about 15 miles north of Hartford, in December. The agency didn't disclose why. The revocation was first reported Thursday by The Journal News of White Plains, N.Y.

Authorities raided the store for undisclosed reasons shortly after the December school shootings, after a man tried to steal a rifle.  Shop owner David LaGuercia has said Nancy Lanza bought a gun from him years ago, but couldn't remember what kind. LaGuercia didn't return a message Friday.  Adam Lanza killed 20 first-graders and six adults with his mother's rifle. He also killed his mother and himself.


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Newtown official gets new position

DAY
Article published Feb 26, 2013

Newtown (AP) - The head of the Connecticut school district where a gunman killed 20 elementary school students and six faculty members reportedly intends to take another job.  Newtown Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson tells The News-Times of Danbury on Monday she intends to accept an offer from the Stratford School District to become its new superintendent as of July 1.  The News-Times said Robinson has been praised for her leadership after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, but has clashed with the school board leadership. She previously was superintendent in Derby. She also had been the superintendent in Preston.



OVERHEAD AND EXPENSES OF CHARITY AN ISSUE HERE?
Is this perhaps a case where donations are made to a tax-exempt entity which disburses somewhat less than 100% of donations?


WHO PAID FOR LOBBYING COSTS (AIRPLANE TICKETS, HOTEL BILLS, FOOD...)? 
From YouTube:  MSNBC.  Photo above taken at the White House April 17th...CT MIRROR

Heslin offered plea deal

Hartford Courant
John Pirro
Updated 8:16 pm, Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Read more: http://www.newstimes.com/newtownshooting/article/Heslin-offered-plea-deal-4500234.php#ixzz2SkwIbqk1
MILFORD -- A state Superior Court judge on Wednesday offered the father of a slain Sandy Hook Elementary School student a plea deal to resolve criminal and motor vehicle charges against him and gave him until July 9 to accept it.

Neil Heslin of Shelton, a self-employed contractor transformed by the Dec. 14 tragedy into an outspoken advocate for state and federal gun control legislation, would have to serve a minimum of 30 days in jail in exchange for his guilty plea to two counts of operating under suspension, Judge Frank Iannotti said.

Noting that Heslin has already made financial restitution to three victims to whom he gave bad checks last year, Iannotti also said he would order a conditional discharge if Heslin pleads guilty to those charges, a disposition that will allow him to avoid jail time if he meets certain, as-yet unspecified conditions to be imposed by the court.

The 50-year-old defendant didn't speak during his brief court appearance and was hustled out of the courtroom afterward by his attorneys, Public Defender Bruce Weiant, who represented him in the criminal cases, and Guy Soares, who handled the motor vehicle charges.

"No comment, no comment," Weiant said as they rushed past a reporter.

Heslin, along with other Sandy Hook parents, has appeared at rallies and met with leading politicians, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and spent several weeks in Washington, D.C, lobbying the Senate on behalf of stricter federal gun control laws. The latter effort apparently made him miss his scheduled court appearance April 15 and spurred a demand from the judge that Heslin account for his whereabouts that day.

His legal problems stemmed from some $3,600 worth of bad checks he used to pay for building materials, home heating oil and auto repairs as well as the two operating under suspension counts, incurred in 2011 while his drivers license was suspended for a previous drunken driving arrest. He had come under criticism from some gun rights advocates, conspiracy theorists and so-called Sandy Hook truthers on a variety of Internet website postings.

Speaking to a reporter before the court hearing, Heslin gave no indication he planned to give up his advocacy role.

"It's going to be a long, tough fight," he sad.

If Heslin does accept the judge's offer and plead guilty, he will also serve two years probation on the motor vehicle charges and pay a total of $1,000 in fines plus court costs.

Away from the spotlight, Sandy Hook parent battles criminal charges
CT POST
John Pirro
Updated 10:04 pm, Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Neil Heslin, father of a slain Sandy Hook first-grader, has appeared before Congress and the state Legislature urging the passage of tough gun-control measures.

But on Wednesday he will make an appearance of another kind, this time before a state Superior Court judge in Milford, to answer a variety of criminal and motor vehicle charges ranging from operating with a suspended license to issuing bad checks to larceny.  Reached by telephone on Tuesday, Heslin, who lives in Shelton, said he couldn't discuss the five cases dating back to July 2011 that will require him to be in court. He referred all comment to the lawyers representing him.

"You're welcome to call my attorneys and get their comments. I have no objections to that, but I have representation," he said.

Calls to both lawyers weren't returned on Tuesday.

Heslin's status as a father of a murdered child in one of the country's most notorious sprees of gun violence has turned the self-employed, 50-year-old contractor into a prominent activist, one who is often shown on TV and in newspapers displaying the portrait of his murdered son, Jesse Lewis.

It's made his legal troubles fodder for gun-rights websites, conspiracy buffs and so-called truthers, who claim the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults on Dec. 14 was part of a government plot. And it illustrates how the high-visibility roles embraced by Heslin and some others from Newtown have put their private lives squarely into public view.

"One crooked gun control hero" and "Heckled Sandy Hook dad has sordid past," are typical of the headlines on several Internet articles seeking to discredit Heslin for his alleged "criminal associations."

The allegations against Heslin, if true, mostly paint a picture of a man struggling with his business finances and stiffing his creditors.  Three of the cases involved writing bad checks, the largest for $2,424, which he used to buy building materials he purchased for a job that his company, V&H Construction, was doing in Oxford.

Court documents indicate that when the supplier, O&G Construction of Torrington, delivered the material on Sept. 19, 2011, Heslin initially said he forgot his checkbook but provided the salesman with a check later the same week. After the check, which also included a disconnected phone number for Heslin's business and an invalid driver's license number, was returned for insufficient funds, an O&G representative contacted State Police.

Heslin promised to make good on it but never did, police said.  In addition to passing a bad check, a misdemeanor, he was charged with third-degree larceny in that case.  The two other cases involve checks on closed accounts that Heslin allegedly used to pay for just over $1,000 worth of home heating oil in June 2012 and a check for $102.35 worth of repairs to his vehicle at an Ansonia tire shop six months earlier.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.  The motor vehicle charges were the result of stops by Shelton police in July and August 2011. The operating under suspension counts indicate that his license had been suspended for a previous drunken-driving conviction, but there was no information available about that case in state Superior Court records. He also was charged with failure to display plates, carry registration and carry insurance as a result of the July stop.

Former state Victim Advocate Michelle Cruz, now in private practice in Hartford, said Tuesday that pointing out past indiscretions "is often used as a way to undermine a victim's credibility." Heslin's legal problems, she said, have nothing to do with his work on gun control.

"Whether someone has a pending matter shouldn't invalidate what someone is saying about their victimization," she said. "This parent may have a larceny charge that they have to deal with, but that has nothing to do with a child being murdered," she said.

Cruz added that the publicity about Heslin's charges -- most of which are at a level that rarely draws news media scrutiny -- also point to why some victims shun the spotlight.

"Victims are sometimes reluctant to come forward out of fear of being ridiculed, but they often have valid points about what they want to see happen and how the situation has affected them," she said.

Heslin has been among the most forceful and visible of the Sandy Hook parents pushing for gun restrictions. "I'm really ashamed to see that Congress doesn't have the guts to stand up and make a change and put a ban on these types of weapons," Heslin said at a news conference with Vice President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg after the Senate failed to enact a ban on assault weapons.

Court records indicate that Heslin apparently drew the ire of Judge Frank Iannotti for not showing up an appearance in state Superior Court in Derby, where the five cases were being heard on April 15.

Heslin wouldn't say Tuesday why he wasn't present, but according to several news reports he was in Washington, D.C., with several other Newtown families, unsuccessfully lobbying the Senate to pass a variety of gun-control bills, including one that would have instituted universal background checks for firearms purchases.  Iannotti ordered Heslin to bring proof of his whereabouts on April 15 to court in Milford, where the judge will sit Wednesday.  Heslin didn't want to discuss whether his legal problems might undermine his advocacy efforts.

"I never gave it much thought. I guess you can look at it either way," he said. "If there's something to talk about, people are going to talk about it, good or bad, no matter what. I don't really have any comment on that part of it either. Down the road, I may be able to."


Decisions On Distributing Money To Newtown Victims On Hold
The Hartford Courant
By DAVE ALTIMARI and JON LENDER, daltimar@courant.com
7:08 PM EDT, May 6, 2013

Hearings on how to divide $7.7 million among 40 families affected by the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown have been postponed after questions were raised about whether more money should go those families.

The hearings were scheduled for this week. A three-person committee headed by former federal judge Alan Nevas was formed to distribute the money, which comes from an approximately $11.3 million fund under the control of the Sandy Hook-Newtown Community Foundation Inc.  The group had determined that the money would be distributed among the families of the 20 first-graders and six women killed in the Dec. 14 shooting, the 12 first-graders who survived the shooting, and two teachers who were wounded.

The hearings were postponed after representatives of state Attorney General George Jepsen's office met with some of the families late last week and the decision was made to convene a meeting between the attorney general's office and the foundation.

Foundation spokesman Patrick Kinney said that meeting could take place as early as Wednesday. Kinney said Jepsen's office wants to review the process that was used to determine the amount of money to be distributed to the families.  A source familiar with what transpired during the meeting between Jepsen's representatives and some of the families said some family members questioned why more money was not being given to the families.

Questions about the "transparency" of the foundation's decision-making were raised at Friday's meeting by family members and representatives of the 40 families, a source familiar with the situation said Monday.

Among questions to be resolved are how the foundation decided on the 70-30 split of the $11.3 million between the families and the community, the source said. Family members have said the foundation has failed to provide clear answers on that, the source said.  Other issues to be resolved, according to the source, are: whether there could be an increase in the percentage for the families; whether more would go to families whose loved ones were killed; and whether victims' families might be eligible for services made available to the overall community, the source said.

Foundation members have indicated that they did not believe all of the money raised should be distributed to the victims' families because the community would have long-term needs after the shooting.  It is unclear how many families attended the meeting with the attorney general's representatives.

A spokeswoman for Jepsen said he was "not available to discuss this matter."

She released a statement from his office that said:

"The Attorney General met with various families who lost precious loved ones on December 14 and their representatives on Friday. As a result of the meeting, and consistent with his responsibilities to oversee charitable activities and fundraising in Connecticut, the Attorney General has scheduled a meeting with representatives from the Sandy Hook Community Foundation to discuss issues surrounding the decision to disburse $7.7 million to the families most affected by the tragedy."

The foundation created the three-member distribution committee to be headed by Nevas with assistance from arbitrator Kenneth Feinberg. Some families and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy have previously indicated that they wanted Feinberg brought in as an independent authority to oversee the distribution of funds.  Feinberg helped distribute funds following mass shootings at Virginia Tech and in Aurora, Colo. He also was recently tasked with distributing funds raised for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

The board had said it hoped to distribute the $7.7 million by the end of this month. The next step would be to hold public hearings on what to do with the remaining $3.5 million.

The United Way initially oversaw donations to the fund before handing over administration to the local group. Kim Morgan, executive director of the United Way of Western Connecticut, remains involved with the fund.

More than 40 charitable groups, many formed after the shootings, have collected more than $20 million, with about 15 percent of the money distributed.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant



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MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE TAKES BACK SEAT TO SIZE OF MAGAZINES?
As the fog rises over the Newtown tragedy, we ask "Is there really any question that Sandy Hook could happen again?"


OP-ED | New Gun Law: Good Intentions Meet With Reality
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Terry D. Cowgill | May 24, 2013 5:30am

Call it the law of unintended gun-sequences. Well-intentioned legislation passed by the General Assembly last month is disrupting the lives of firearms retailers, unnerving gun manufacturers, and inflicting a financial burden on the State Police.

As is often the case when lawmakers make laws and pass them, there was little consideration given to how the state was going to deal with the economic consequences of what is being hailed as the toughest gun law in the nation. But hey, what’s a few million dollars when you have the grieving residents of an entire state breathing down your neck?

State Police told lawmakers recently that they need 39 additional employees at an estimated cost of $2.6 million to perform an exploding number of new duties spawned by the new gun control law. Taxpayers would be expected to foot most of the bill.

A small army of office assistants, processing technicians, analysts, and identification technicians will be needed to deal with the background checks now required for all gun purchasers and the eligibility certificates buyers will need to purchase to acquire ammunition and long guns in just a few short months.

“It’s a substantial amount of work that needs to be entered into the system,” Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman, told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers. “There is a lot of work.”

For obvious reasons, labor leaders often inflate estimates of the additional union hires needed for any new initiative. So the number will likely go down. Still, the state police has a mountain of work with a seven-figure price tag. The overall cost of the gun law to the state government was originally estimated at $17 million through the 2015 fiscal year, according to the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis.

Gun retailers in the state say they’re groaning under the weight of the new law. If so, they’re groaning all the way to the bank, as weapons and ammo sales soared in the wake of the Newtown shooting, causing shortages in some stores. But there evidently was no shortage of paperwork and uncertainty associated with the new law. Indeed, some gun stores have had to hire additional help to deal with both the mad rush and the new bureaucracy.

And local police were reporting a surge in pistol permit applications, which now take almost twice as long to process, in part because of a backlog of 4,800 permits at the state level.

But if you’re hoping and praying for an economic recovery in Connecticut — and I most certainly am — it was troubling to learn that firearms manufacturers, who have in the past played such an important role in the state’s economic and cultural heritage, are threatening to move out of the state because of a perception that lawmakers are hostile to them.

PTR Industries announced last month the company would relocate, most likely to Texas. Others, including Colt & Sturm, Ruger and Stag Arms, are likely to follow suit, taking with them about 3,000 jobs and an estimated $1.75 billion in taxable revenues.

“If they leave, it’s because they want to leave. They have a decision to make — are they loyal to their employees who helped them build that company in this place?” Gov. Dannel Malloy surmised last week at a community forum in Bristol, home of PTR.

It’s unfortunate that, when confronted with the prospect of yet more bad economic news, not only did the governor do his best impression of Alfred E. Newman, but he insulted the entrepreneurs who built those companies by accusing them of being disloyal to their workers.

So where do we get the money to pay for the enforcement of the new gun law and to pay the unemployment benefits of the firearms workers who will soon be without jobs? Well, estate tax revenues unexpectedly soared this year, pumping about $275 million more than anticipated into the state treasury and turning a deficit into a temporary surplus.

The windfall came on the heels of the deaths of a handful of wealthy Fairfield County residents, one of whom happened to be the grandmother of state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney.

Even the Malloy administration acknowledges they’re unlikely to hit the jackpot again soon, but there’s always hope. You know things are bad when the passing of a bunch of well-heeled taxpayers passes for good economic news.

Lawmakers in Connecticut Approve Gun Limits Bill
By PETER APPLEBOME and RAY RIVERA, NYTIMES
April 4, 2013

HARTFORD — With memories of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School as fresh as an open wound, Connecticut lawmakers early Thursday passed what members called the nation’s most comprehensive package of gun control legislation.

The vote came in a deeply divided Capitol packed with angry and frustrated gun owners who arrived in buses and vans carrying signs reading “Connecticut the Un-Constitution State,” “N.R.A. Stand and Fight” and “Shall Not Be Infringed.” And it came in a state that has historically been at the heart of the American gun manufacturing industry.

But 110 days after Adam Lanza fired 154 shots in about 4 minutes with a Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, killing 26 children and educators, lawmakers voted for gun, school safety and mental health legislation drawn up over the past month by a bipartisan group of legislative leaders. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, has said he will sign the bill into law.

Legislators called it the most divisive issue in memory and said the legislation was an imperfect response to an impossibly complex issue. Several objected to the rushed pace with which the 138 pages became available only that morning.

 Donald E. Williams Jr., a Democrat from Brooklyn, Conn., and the Senate president pro tempore, began discussion of the legislation by recalling the morning of the killings, on Dec. 14, when “for a few seconds, it was hard to breathe” as people took in the news. He concluded it by saying mass killings were not solely about mental health issues, as gun advocates say, but also about firearms.

“It’s access to the weapons of war, the access to the weapons that can kill mass amounts of children or adults in our schools and in our communities,” Senator Williams said. “That’s the essential issue when it comes to mass killings.”

The Senate minority leader, John McKinney, a Republican from Fairfield who represents Newtown, where the school is, called the legislation the most important of his 14 years in the Senate and concluded by reading the names of those who died at the school.

Senator Beth Bye, a Democrat from West Hartford, choked up as she held up a picture of one victim, Ana Marquez-Greene.

“Ana Grace would have turned 7 this week,” Senator Bye said. “Anyone who has seen her picture or heard her sing knows that our whole world lost a Connecticut treasure that day.” She added: “We can’t turn back the clock, we can only go forward. And we’ve gone forward with collaborative, innovative, groundbreaking legislation.”

Many were far less pleased, including gun owners and gun manufacturers who said the bill was too broad and focused on the wrong issues. They also criticized its becoming effective immediately, saying that put an impossible burden on manufacturers and retailers.

“It’s a mental health issue, not a firearms issue,” said Jake McGuigan, director of government relations for the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown. “Nothing in this legislation would have stopped what happened in this horrible tragedy in Sandy Hook.”

Asked if there were any limits he could support on the sale or possession of weapons or magazines, he said: “No. We believe in going after the individual and not the cosmetic features of firearms.”

Two gunmakers, Mark Malkowski of Stag Arms and Jonathan Scalise of Ammunition Storage Components, both in New Britain, declined to say whether they would continue to operate in the state.

The legislation includes a ban on the sale of magazines carrying 10 or more bullets and requires registration of existing ones. It also includes an expansion of the existing assault weapons ban, requires background checks on all firearms sales and sets up a registry of weapons offenders. Among the mental health measures are changes intended to require insurers to make faster decisions on coverage for mental health and substance abuse issues, a program to help educators recognize signs of mental illness and a doubling in the number of specialized treatment teams providing intensive support to people with serious mental illness.

Hundreds of opponents of the bill gathered throughout the day at Cabela’s sporting goods in East Hartford, where a line of buses supplied by the National Rifle Association waited to transport them to the Capitol. They were joined at the Capitol by supporters of the legislation, many wearing green to commemorate Sandy Hook. The two sides mingled, sometimes engaging in relatively respectful debate, often keeping their distance.

At Cabela’s, Jim and Elma Stoveken of Ridgefield brought along two of their elementary-school-age grandsons.

“We’re not crazed for guns or anything like that,” Mr. Stoveken, 73, a retired financial manager, said. “We just have guns for target shooting and home protection.”

Legislative debate was respectful and often emotional, with legislators citing constitutional, mental health and public safety issues and the proper role of government.

On the Senate floor, Senator Tony Guglielmo, a Republican from Stafford Springs, said the legislation would affect law-abiding citizens more than criminals.

“The premise is wrong,” he said. “How do you get Adam Lanza tied up with the Rockville Rod and Gun Club? That’s what I want to know.”

In the Senate, two of 22 Democrats voted against the legislation, and 6 of 14 Republicans voted for it. In the House, 13 of the 98 House Democrats present voted against the bill, and 20 of the 51 Republicans there voted for it.

Senator Catherine Osten, a Democrat who represents a rural stretch of eastern Connecticut, said she supported elements of the bill but could not support adding new regulations on people who follow the law.

“I also cried when those children died that day, as everyone here did, and if I could assure those parents that this legislation would stop that from happening again, I would vote yes,” she said.

Senator Michael McLachlan, a Danbury Republican, said that much in the bill made him uncomfortable, but that the Newtown shooting “changed a lot of people’s viewpoints on a lot of things, on the preciousness of life, on the priority of our lives, and it certainly affected me in a very great way.”

He cited one of the victims, whose grandparents and great-grandparents he had known his whole life.

“Under different circumstances, I would look at this bill very differently,” he said, “But today I’m supporting this bill in hopes that I am properly honoring Caroline Phoebe Previdi.”

The House approved the legislation around 2:30 a.m. Thursday after debate in the chamber continued until the early morning hours. Despite overall support for the legislation, there were repeated calls for more emphasis on mental health. Some representatives, particularly Robert Sampson, a Republican from Wolcott, expressed skepticism whether the gun provisions would accomplish much, if anything, in a world where handguns, not rifles, account for the overwhelming majority of gun deaths.

But from beginning to end, the victims were never far away. Around 12:40 a.m. Mitch Bolinsky, a freshman Republican who has been elected from Newtown a month before the tragedy, rose to speak.

"On Dec. 14, evil visited my town and everything changed,” he said. He cited the strength he’d seen in Newtown, the compassion shown for the town, the painful journey everyone had been through and read the names of those who died at the school. He said the legislation was not perfect, especially on mental health but said his constituents overwhelming supported the firearms provisions and as a result he would vote in favor of the bill.

"I dedicate my vote to the memory of those whose lives were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” he said.

State lawmakers set to unveil gun-control legislation
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 10:58 pm, Saturday, March 30, 2013

HARTFORD -- Lawmakers and gun-control advocates anticipate the strongest laws in the nation to emerge Monday, when leaders of the General Assembly finally unveil their bipartisan response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.  After closed-door House and Senate caucuses review the secret list of gun-control, school-safety and mental-health legislation, top Democratic and Republican leaders will meet a final time, then announce what they will debate and vote on later in the week.

"We're hoping we can reach a conclusion," said Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, whose district includes Newtown. "We should have a comprehensive package that will be more encompassing than we've seen anywhere else."

"A lot of that depends on our respective caucuses," said House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. "The goal was to set an example on how Democrats and Republicans could work together and the goal was always comprehensive. That's not to say exhaustive. In the future, we'll still be looking at ways to improve on issues of mental health and school safety."

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn agreed that it could be the most comprehensive bill in the country.

"I'm looking forward to our caucus Monday," Williams said Friday. "It's been a lengthy negotiation, but fruitful. We've discussed every issue."

The House and Senate debates are scheduled for Wednesday.  At the start of the legislative session, leaders appointed a 52-member committee of lawmakers, with three subcommittees studying guns, school safety and mental health. Earlier this month, the subcommittees presented recommendations to House and Senate leaders for final bipartisan negotiations.  Democrats have 99-52 and 22-14 majorities in the House and Senate, respectively, but leaders agreed at the start of their private negotiations on March 6 that a bipartisan agreement would carry more weight.

"I think a lot of our discussions, especially on mental health, are leading us to future discussions down the road," McKinney said. "But this will be a comprehensive package that will be more encompassing that we've seen anywhere else. I hope we have bipartisan support to hopefully send a message to Washington that people can come together and make progress on these issues."

"If we do a good thing, people will take note," Cafero said. "Leading by example was not the goal. We want an effective, comprehensive piece of legislation."

A widening of the state's 1993 ban on assault weapons to include semi-automatic, military style rifles is expected in the final bill, along with a requirement that all gun sales, including rifle purchases and private transactions, must include criminal background checks.  Whether a ban on ammunition magazines over 10 rounds would allow those currently owning them to retain them was still being discussed last week. 
Gun-control advocates stress that prohibiting the larger magazines is key to reducing incidents such as the Sandy Hook shootings.

There, Adam Lanza was able to fire about half of the 300 rounds of .223 caliber ammunition for his Bushmaster XM15 rifle that he brought in 10, 30-round magazines. He killed 20 first-graders and six adults before committing suicide with a handgun.

Ron Pinciaro, executive director of the Fairfield-based Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said Friday that Congress needs states such as Connecticut to be "the laboratories for change" that could lead to better national gun-control measures.

"A lot will depend on what happens in those caucuses," he said in a phone interview. "I think they're going to cover all the bases on the main proposals. The sticking point now is the `grandfathering' of those large magazines."

Pinciaro said if the General Assembly prohibits ownership of large magazines, there are "very clear" constitutional grounds for public safety. Some gun enthusiasts call such a measure a violation of their constitutional right to property.  Gun-control advocates and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who introduced his own proposals Feb. 21 in response to the Newtown shootings, say large magazines can be mechanically altered to accept fewer bullets, or they can be sold to people in other states.

Pinciaro noted that the evidence released by state prosecutors last week shows that Lanza left his smaller magazines at home, bringing the 30-round magazines for the Bushmaster, plus a Saiga 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun with two magazines containing 70 rounds of ammunition he left in his vehicle outside the school.

Pinciaro believes the bill will also include tougher safe-storage requirements for gun owners and a limit on the number of guns someone can buy each month.  Pinciaro, while agreeing with lawmakers that Connecticut may end up with the toughest gun-control laws in the nation, said it will likely fall short of what he and others want.  CAGV has proposed the registration of all handguns, with annual renewals under the stipulation that they remain in the possession of legal owners. Currently, permits are needed only to carry handguns and are renewed every five years.

"Most urban violence is carried out by those prohibited from using guns and the (federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has reported that 60 percent of the guns involved in crimes in Connecticut were purchased in Connecticut," Pinciaro said. "There are things we'll want to go back to in future legislative sessions."



Relation to this previous event?

An inventory of carnage: Newtown warrants unsealed
CT MIRROR
Mark Pazniokas
March 28, 2013

Authorities today released chilling details of Adam Lanza's troubled life and his horrific assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School, providing tantalizing hints and clues, but no answers about what launched the bloodiest primary school shooting in U.S. history.

Lanza killed 26 children and educators in less than five minutes, firing 154 rounds from a Bushmaster XM15 military-style rifle. He was prepared to kill far more: Police found three more 30-round magazines on him, with another 15 rounds in his rifle.

The first new on-the-record details from law enforcement came in search-warrant documents unsealed by the Superior Court and in a written statement from Danbury State's Attorney Stephen J. Sendensky III, who is overseeing the investigation.

Lanza carried the rifle, extra magazines and two loaded handguns, a 10 mm Glock and a 9 mm Sig Sauer during the attack. He left a loaded Saiga shotgun, which resembles an AK-47 assault weapon, and 70 shells in the passenger compartment of his mother's 2010 Honda Civic, which he parked in the fire lane outside the school.

The details are likely to whet the considerable appetite for gun-control at the General Assembly, especially restrictions on military-style weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

"In some cases, the facts really do speak for themselves, and in this case they only add starker detail to what we already knew," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.

Legislators have not scheduled a vote, but debate is widely expected Wednesday in the Connecticut General Assembly on a bill that would ban the sale of military-style rifles such as the AR-15, as well as magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. The XM15 is Bushmaster's version of the AR-15, the nation's best-selling rifle.

Lanza killed himself with the Glock in one of the two classrooms he attacked, clad in military gear. Sedensky said a search warrant affidavit incorrectly said he wore a bullet-proof vest and that he died in the middle of three classrooms he attacked.

His mother, Nancy Lanza, was discovered at their home, dead in bed, shot once in the forehead. A rifle was on the floor. There were no signs of a struggle, and a gun safe was unlocked.

The state police affidavits and inventories of the items seized at two crime scenes, the Lanza home and Sandy Hook Elementary, described a home chock full of guns and ammo, including four weapons in a safe kept in Adam's bedroom, near a gaming console and clippings of other mass killings.

But investigators offered no detailed narrative and provided scant details from witnesses about what sent him on a mission on Dec. 14 to his old elementary school, killing 20 first-grade students and six educators and then taking his own life as police answered frantic 911 calls.

Malloy said Lanza carefully chose his weapons, taking a Bushmaster fitted with a 30-round magazine and 9 extra magazines, loaded with .223-caliber bullets. In all, the magazines contained 300 rounds.

"This is exactly why we need to ban high capacity magazines and why we need to tighten our assault weapons ban," Malloy said. "I don't know what more we can need to know before we take decisive action to prevent gun violence. The time to act is now."

Anticipating today's release, legislators gave up on an effort to bring a gun-control bill to a vote this week.

The Lanzas' house at 36 Yogananda Street in Newtown, a pale yellow Colonial with dark green shutters, contained guns and ammunition - more than 1,000 rounds in a gun safe and closet, ammo for shotguns, handguns and rifles.

The Lanzas - the affidavit does not specify whom - also had a collection of knives and three Samurai swords.

In one affidavit, authorities quoted an acquaintance describing the killer as a "shut in and avid gamer who plays Call of Duty," a video game that gives the player the perspective of a soldier on violent missions. The school he attacked was described as "his life" by a witness quoted in the affidavit.

An inventory of items found in the house reflected the mother's passionate interest in firearms and shooting and the challenges posed by the youngest of her two sons, 20-year-old Adam.

His report card from Sandy Hook was in the house. So were emails and documents relating to weapons, including the purchase of a Glock handgun and an NRA certificate awarded to Adam. Police found a holiday card made out to him, with a check made out for a firearm.

Among the books seized, two were about autism: "Look me in the eye, my life with Aspergers," and "Born on a blue day. Inside the mind of an autistic savant."

A third was the "NRA guide to the basics of pistol shooting."

The documents can be read in their entirety here and here.


Newtown Gunman Had Swords, Guns, & Ammo; Witness Says School Was His ‘Life’
CTNEWSJUNKIE
by Hugh McQuaid & Christine Stuart | Mar 28, 2013 10:36am

According to search warrants released by prosecutors Thursday, a witness told police that Newtown gunman Adam Lanza was a reclusive shut-in with access to numerous weapons and a large quantity of ammunition.

The disclosure of the warrant documents Thursday morning by prosecutors came one week after Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for the release of more information from the ongoing investigation into the Dec. 14 murder of 20 first graders and six educators at an elementary school in Newtown.

Malloy’s request came amid criticism from lawmakers over a leak of previously undisclosed information by the state police. Legislative leaders have been working for weeks to negotiate a bipartisan bill in response to the shooting and have requested as much information as possible to inform their legislation.

The search warrants unsealed Thursday confirm much of what has been reported in the months since the shooting. The warrants also indicated that while the shooter’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had a safe for the family’s extensive gun collection, it was either kept unlocked or the shooter was able to easily access it.

Malloy has called for a package of stricter gun regulations in response to the shooting. Although he requested additional information from prosecutors, he said he didn’t believe that information was necessary to pass legislation.

He issued a statement Thursday saying the warrants confirmed the need to expand the state’s assault weapons ban and to prohibit high-capacity ammunition magazines.

“We knew that he had ready access to weapons that he should not have had access to. We knew that these weapons were legally purchased under our current laws. We knew he used 30-round magazines to do it, and that they allowed him to do maximum damage in a very short period of time,” Malloy said in a Thursday statement.

The guns used in the shootings were apparently all purchased by the shooter’s mother, according to State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky III. There is currently no indication that the shooter had attempted to purchase the guns and was denied.

The gunman shot his mother with a .22 caliber rifle before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary School. There, he took the lives of 26 people in about five minutes with a Bushmaster AR-15 before killing himself with a Glock 10 mm handgun.

Lanza was found among the dead wearing military-style clothing and a bulletproof vest. His mother was later found in their home “lying in a supine position on a bed in the 2nd floor master bedroom. “The white female sustained an apparent gunshot wound to her forehead. Investigators located a rifle on the floor near the bed,” according to the warrant.

Police recovered 154 spent .223 shell casings from the school. They also found six additional 30-round magazines for the Bushmaster rifle. Three were empty, and the others were partially loaded.

The police found a loaded, 12-gauge shotgun in the passenger compartment of the car that the shooter drove to the school. Police said they moved the shotgun to the trunk for safekeeping.

The witness, whose name was redacted from the warrant, described Lanza as a “shut in” and an “avid gamer.” The witness told police that Sandy Hook Elementary School was Adam’s “life.”

At the Lanza home, law enforcement officials also found documents including “personal notes, memoirs, and thoughts believed to have been written and/or collected by Adam Lanza.”

Police also found a holiday card with a check from Nancy Lanza to Adam Lanza for a “C183.” The search warrant identifies the C183 as a firearm, but it’s unclear what weapon this is referring to.

“Documents such as these are routinely utilized by investigators to develop [a] psychological profile of the author of such,” the search warrant says. It also says the seized documents were to be turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis.

There were five search warrants released Thursday. Three from Dec. 14 (here, here, and here), one from Dec. 15 and one from Dec. 16. The investigation is ongoing and won’t be completed until June.

Newspaper: Lanza built spreadsheet on mass murders
CT POST
Staff reports
Updated 12:01 am, Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Connecticut law enforcement authorities have discovered a detailed spreadsheet that shows Adam Lanza plotted the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and researched mass murders for years, the New York Daily News reported.

"What investigators found was a chilling spreadsheet seven feet long and four feet wide that required a special printer, a document that contained Lanza's obsessive, extensive research -- in nine-point type -- about mass murders of the past, and even attempted murders," the newspaper said.

Hearst Connecticut Newspapers previously has reported that investigators found reams of material that showed Lanza's obsession with other mass murders and that investigators believe he had plotted his Dec. 14 rampage for some time.

The Daily News story attributed the information to an unnamed veteran police officer who attended last week's International Association of Police Chiefs and Colonels midyear meeting in New Orleans. At the meeting, Col. Daniel Stebbins, of the Connecticut State Police, briefed other high-ranking police officials on the investigation into the shootings, when Lanza, armed with an AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and two handguns, killed 20 first-graders and six adults at Newtown's largest elementary school.

Before driving to the school, Lanza first shot and killed his mother, Nancy, in the Yogananda Street home they shared.

The source told the Daily News that investigators believe the spreadsheet was in reality a video game score sheet, one that the 20-year-old mass murderer wanted to have his name atop, and that he picked the school because it gave him the best chance to rack up the greatest number of "kills."

He also said that investigators now believe Lanza had planned the massacre for years.

Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance issued a statement Monday morning saying that police would not be releasing any further information on the case. Stebbins' comments at the New Orleans seminar were intended "for law enforcement professionals only," and should not have been made public until the families of the victims had been briefed, Vance said.

"Following every tragic mass murder incident in this country, it is customary for law enforcement to share their lessons learned from the investigation," Vance said. "It is unfortunate that someone in attendance chose not to honor Col. Stebbins' request to respect the families' right to know specifics of the investigation first."

But unlike some previous instances when information about the shootings and Lanza's possible motivation were reported by the news media, Vance didn't dispute the accuracy of the story.

He said a final state police report is "still several months away."

Earlier this month, Hearst reported that State Police investigators had recovered from Lanza's home what a source described as documents related to "virtually every mass murder" in the United States and abroad.

Lanza showed particular interest in the October 2006 shooting at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pa., in which gunman Charles Carl Robert IV took hostages and shot 10 schoolgirls, five of them fatally, before killing himself.

Lanza also had researched Anders Behring Breivik's shooting spree in Norway in July 2011. Breivik killed 77 people, eight of them by setting off bombs in downtown Oslo, before he shot and killed 69 others, many of them teenagers, at a summer camp on Utoya island in July 2011.

Investigators have theorized that Lanza wanted to exceed Breivik's death toll, sources told Hearst.

Malloy Says He'll Propose Language To Get Legislators Moving On Gun Control
Will Discuss Plans At Danbury Conference Attended By Biden

The Hartford Courant
By JON LENDER, jlender@courant.com
10:28 PM EST, February 20, 2013

HARTFORD— Exhibiting frustration with what he sees as the General Assembly's lack of progress on gun control, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday that he will propose language Thursday that can be pushed through the House and Senate into law.

The sudden pronouncement by the Democratic governor came on the eve of a visit Thursday by Vice President Joe Biden for a conference in Danbury on legislative solutions to gun violence — an event that is partly intended to generate political momentum for gun control proposals by the White House and congressional Democrats in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 Newtown school massacre.

"No one can deny there is a critically important debate playing out right now on how to move forward to prevent gun violence — it's happening in Washington, and in state houses and town halls across our nation. Connecticut is at the center of that debate," Malloy's director of communications, Andrew Doba, said in a statement Wednesday evening. "At this critical juncture, in the wake of unspeakable tragedy in our own state, the governor believes that we cannot let the chance to affect real, positive change pass us by."

Doba released no particulars but said the language of the governor's proposal will be "very specific." For example, he said, it will describe in detail "what an assault weapon is" under an expanded and intensified version of the state's current assault-weapons ban.

A Republican legislative leader charged that Malloy was using Biden's visit to try to short-circuit ongoing deliberations about possible new state laws and policies — deliberations by both a bipartisan legislative task force and a special study commission of his own that he appointed last month.

"It is unfortunate and bewildering that the governor would at this juncture declare he is prepared to usurp the work of the task force before it has had a chance to put forth its bipartisan response to the events of Dec. 14," House Republican leader Larry Cafero said.

"Both parties have been working very hard and in a cooperative manner. It appears the governor has unilaterally decided that there can be no bipartisan proposal. He wants to act before either his own task force or the one the legislature created are scheduled to report," Cafero said.

Asked why Malloy chose the day before the nationally promoted Danbury conference to express impatience that he had never voiced before, Doba declined to comment.

Since January the General Assembly has been considering legislation, including expanding the state's ban on assault weapons, prohibiting high-capacity ammunition magazines, beefing up school security and improving the mental health system to identify and treat disturbed individuals such as Newtown killer Adam Lanza.

When Malloy appointed his special Newtown study commission in January, he gave it a March 15 deadline for issuing preliminary findings. He also said that it could take as much time as it needed, adding: "This is not a race." Meanwhile, the legislative task force, although it is working faster than Malloy's panel, still isn't finished, either.

Democratic House Speaker Brendan Sharkey also had advocated a measured approach, saying in mid-January that "taking quick action is important, but taking smart action is more important."

Other states — most prominently New York — have reacted more quickly to the Connecticut tragedy. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed through legislation in January including a ban on magazines containing more than seven bullets.  Malloy hadn't given any public indication of dissatisfaction with the pace of progress in Connecticut until the Journal Inquirer of Manchester published a story Wednesday saying he had told its editors and reporters in an interview that it's "apparent to me that the legislature will not reach bipartisan consensus on this issue" and that he needs to step in.

On Thursday about noon, Malloy will appear at the Danbury conference on gun violence with not only Biden, but also several of Connecticut's members of Congress, and others including municipal officials and experts.

At 10 a.m. — two hours before Malloy appears in Danbury — the governor's office will put out a press release giving his proposed legislative language for quick action in the General Assembly, Doba said. Malloy will talk about proposals at the conference, Doba said.

Malloy and other Democrats have called for expanding the state's assault-weapons ban for reasons including the fact that the current ban doesn't cover the Bushmaster AR-15 semiautomatic rifle that Lanza used to kill 20 first-graders and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Doba said Wednesday evening that Malloy "thinks we should act quickly and decisively to make Connecticut safer. Connecticut has time and again come together to tackle the difficult issues. We must do that again."

Malloy's fellow Democrat, state Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, issued a statement agreeing with the governor's new statements. "I share the governor's concern that this process is dragging on," Williams said. "While this bipartisan task force has allowed us to gather input from concerned citizens from across Connecticut, it is time to pass a strong bill."

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant



Investigators recover Lanza computer data
CT POST
John Pirro, Michael P. Mayko and Ken Dixon
Updated 8:28 pm, Saturday, February 16, 2013

NEWTOWN -- Investigators have succeeded in recovering some data from one of the damaged hard drives in a computer used by Adam Lanza and have subpoenaed computers of people they believe were in contact with the Sandy Hook mass murderer, a law enforcement source said Friday.

Another smashed hard drive still is being reconstructed by technicians with the U.S. Department of Defense, the source said.

Authorities are particularly interested in what relationships Lanza had within the online and video game community, hoping there may be clues about what provoked him to shoot his mother to death and then kill 20 first-graders and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on the morning of Dec. 14.

Earlier in their investigation, State Police had found a trove of violent gaming material at the Newtown home Lanza shared with his mother, Nancy.

Lanza attempted to destroy the computer hard drives either on the day of the shootings or shortly earlier.

Investigators also have concluded that Adam Lanza's mother did not restrict his access to the Bushmaster rifle and three other guns he took to Sandy Hook school to embark on his killing spree, according to another law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.

Nancy Lanza "had the means to secure the weapons" inside the Yogananda Street home she shared with her 20-year-old son, but the security measures she employed didn't include keeping them away from Adam, the source said. Nancy Lanza and her son had frequently used area firing ranges.

How Nancy Lanza's weapons were stored is of interest to state lawmakers as they draft gun-control proposals in the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting.

They have asked the state's attorney's office for an update on the investigation, seeking information not only about the weapons Lanza used but also the state of his mental health.

In addition to the high-powered rifle that Lanza wielded to blast his way into the school, the two handguns he was carrying and a shotgun police found in the trunk of the car he drove, there was one other weapon in the Lanza house -- an "old Springfield rifle" -- one of the law enforcement sources told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.

The source said the bullets that struck three cars in the Sandy Hook Elementary parking lot were fired from inside one of the classrooms and exited the building through the windows. It's not yet clear whether the shots had been aimed at arriving police officers or were just shots that had gone wild.

State police also are returning to families the since-laundered clothes worn by the victims when they were killed. Some of the families are accepting them. Others don't want them back.

Investigators appear to be making slow but dogged process.

"There is a lot of evidence that was recovered, but the question is, what does it tell us?" said one law enforcement source. "This is not a who-done-it."

Stephen J. Sedensky III, the state's attorney in Danbury who oversees the investigation, said Friday, "I expect that it will go on for a number of months, but I hope that it can be (completed) within the time frame that I testified to before the Legislature, which is the summer."

In the two months since the shootings, Newtown residents have sought to achieve some degree of normalcy, albeit a new one.

The students of Sandy Hook now attend classes at the former Chalk Hill Middle School in neighboring Monroe. The building was quickly upgraded with the latest security measures and also refurbished to remind students of their old home.

The fate of the Sandy Hook school has been the subject of two lively town hall meetings, with residents divided over whether the building that housed kindergarten through fourth grade should be razed or converted to some other use.

Some parents in the school district are pushing for a continued presence by armed security guards or police officers at all seven district schools.

More than $9 million has been raised by the United Way's Sandy Hook Relief Fund, the largest of several ventures to help the victims' families, first responders and the community at large.

Several family members of the victims have joined Sandy Hook Promise, a community group that seeks a broad national dialogue on ways to avoid future mass shootings and on how to promote community healing.

Victims' family members have cautiously stepped into the public arena, joining gun-control rallies, urging attention for mental health treatment and attending President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

On Friday, Obama at a White House ceremony awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second-highest civilian honor, to the families of the six slain teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook.

The recommendations of Vice President Joe Biden's task force on gun violence either have been enacted into executive actions by Obama or referred to Congress for review. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said last week that lawmakers are likely to support universal background checks for gun purchasers, but are divided on whether to limit large-capacity ammunition magazines and to ban assault weapons.

Two state task forces are reviewing the events of Dec. 14 -- a blue-ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and a bipartisan group of state legislators.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. said Friday he anticipates bills to come before the House and Senate by March 13, and perhaps a week earlier.

Cafero said he has given Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane a list of 10 questions that would aid lawmakers in fashioning proposals, including whether Nancy Lanza used a storage locker or some sort of safe to store her weapons; details on Adam Lanza's mental health history; whether he attempted to buy guns on his own; and exactly which guns he used in the killings.



Criminal charges weighed in Newtown deaths
Ken Dixon, CT POST
Updated 11:26 pm, Thursday, January 24, 2013

HARTFORD -- The prosecutor investigating the Newtown school massacre told a new panel Thursday not to expect a final report on the Dec.14 slaughter anytime soon.  Danbury State's Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III announced that while no criminal prosecution seems likely to emerge from the mass murder and suicide, he wants to suppress much of the evidence from the public, anyway.

"This is an ongoing criminal investigation, for which I have obtained extensions of time from the Superior Court to keep documents sealed, so that the investigation may continue unencumbered by distractions," Sedensky said.

"The rules of professional responsibility for prosecutors require that I take steps to prevent publicity that would have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a potential prosecution," he said.

In a brief appearance before Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's 16-member Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, Sedensky said that he expects the State Police report on the shootings to be several months away.

"Of course, if the investigation reveals that there should be a criminal prosecution, then that prosecution would take precedence over any report," Sedensky said to the panel of municipal officials, mental health experts, security professionals and social-service providers.

"Though no such prosecution currently appears on the horizon, I am sure you can appreciate that all leads need to be investigated and evidence examined before final decisions and statements are made," he said.

He offered to meet privately with a representative of the advisory panel to provide information that he might not release to the public.  Sedensky said that during the first week after the shootings, federal, state and local police worked around the clock investigating the crime scenes at Sandy Hook Elementary School; at the 36 Yogananda Street home of Nancy Lanza, whose son Adam, 20, murdered her before driving her car to the school; and elsewhere.

It will be months before a report is released.

"We are hoping for some time this summer, perhaps in June," said Sedensky, a Newtown resident, adding that details on the mental health of Adam Lanza, are protected from disclosure under privacy regulations and might not be able to be provided to the commission.

Bill Ritter, the former governor of Colorado who district attorney of Denver investigated the aftermath of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, told the panel that the nation is watching.

"You could wind up saving lives at some point in the future," said Ritter, who later became governor and became a target for a deranged gunman who was shot and killed by a State Trooper outside his office. "Healing can happen¦but it can be a long-term process."

Richard Bonnie, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law who was an adviser to the Virginia Tech Review Panel following that 2007 shooting, warned that legislation and regulatory changes can be affected by emotions.

"Tragedy can compromise thoughtful policy making," he said via video connection from Virginia.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in the panel's first meeting Thursday morning, said that the consequence that seems to be separating Newtown from other mass shootings in that momentum for a positive reaction to the crime seems to be gaining every day, not fading.

"We must take a serious look at public safety, particularly school safety, so our children can grow up and go to school without the fear of violence in a culture that does in fact glorify violence," Malloy said.

"We need to have a discussion about stopping that," Malloy said. "The recommendations you will craft over the coming weeks and months will no doubt take us toward that goal: better mental health, better safety in our schools and a system that is set up to stop the glorification of the violence."

Later in the afternoon, after Sedensky's testimony, Malloy, a former prosecutor, was asked by reporters about the reticence to release more details of the shooting.

"I think there's always this situation where a prosecutor is trying to make the right balance," Malloy said.

"This was an attack so outrageous, in the killing of 20 six-year-olds that in many ways it's going to have an imprint, the likes of which¦(CQ)I can remember remember where I was, in the classroom, when someone came in to say President Kennedy was shot," Malloy said. "I think this is that kind of event. So I think he needs to take the time necessary to conclude the investigation. Having said that, I would hope that as little time is necessary. It's more important to get it right than to rush out a report."

On Friday morning, a legislative subcommittee looking into issues of school security after the Sandy Hook shootings, will hold a public hearing starting at 9:30 in Room 2-C of the Legislative Office Building.





THE SELECTMEN'S PUBLIC HEARING 3-21-13 IN SHADOW OF CT BILLS/POLICY BEING CONSIDERED...

WESTON PUBLIC HEARING ON FIREARMS ORDINANCE CLOSED:
(L-R) No action to be taken until target practice issue is resolved;  those previously objecting no longer do (most clearly opposed are now OK with Weston's new ordinance);  Police Commission weighed in with three lawyerly changes...30 minutes total for this public hearing - compared to the previous one, just below.



WESTON UPDATES ITS EXISTING 1990 GUN ORDINANCE:  Nothing to be done in Weston until Spring, as we heard it.


WHAT BEING ABLE TO OWN A GUN MEANS TO SOME FROM OTHER PLACES IN THE WORLD...

We were hit hard with this observation - something to consider, for sure!

SELECTMEN'S MEETING, WMS CAFETERIA 1-17-13 - watch the Town TV channel and website to see this informative meeting!!!
Weston Selectmen elicit public opinion - a picture story not in order of speaking (to protect identity.on Internet).  There were close to total 300 (250 seated) people in WMS Cafeteria.



NON RESIDENTS PERMITTED TO SPEAK SO LONG AS THEY STAYED ON THE TOPIC AS IT AFFECTS WESTON, IN THEIR OPINION.


SELECTMEN ADDRESS ISSUES:  An ongoing discussion; indication that action should come from CT and U.S. Governments on guns. 
Two Connecticut State Police officers (with their great hats) and Weston Police present, directing traffic, controlling flow of pedestrians and cars outdoors as well as checking audience.inside the cafeteria.

THOSE WHO ATTENDED GOT COPIES
Xeroxes of 1990 ordinance as well as draft copies of revisions just done.  In photo at right, Selectman Dennis Tracey (r) did drafting and research so far.


Armed security guards on radar of Greenwich Public Schools
Neil Vigdor, Greenwich Time
Updated 10:27 pm, Friday, January 4, 2013

Connecticut's wealthiest municipality is openly considering the posting of armed guards in all of its public schools, where security has become a paramount concern of parents following last month's shooting rampage in Newtown.

In a district-wide letter sent out Thursday, Greenwich Public Schools Superintendent William McKersie said he is continuing to field emails from parents and staff calling for security to be beefed up, with an untold number of them lobbying for armed guards.

"Adding armed guards at all schools, which some parents have advocated, is a complicated step that presents many pros and cons, and may ultimately have minimal effects in the type of tragedies in Newtown and Columbine," McKersie wrote. "Nevertheless, we will consider the option as we review our safety and security procedures relative to best practices in Connecticut and nationally."

McKersie, who is in his first year as Greenwich's schools chief, told Greenwich Time Friday that parents have weighed in on both sides of posting armed guards throughout the district...

Selectman Drew Marzullo panned the idea of assigning armed security guards to each school, however.

"An armed guard does not stand the chance against a psycho or a terrorist with a semi-automatic weapon wearing body armor," Marzullo said. "This notion of combating gun violence by introducing more guns in public areas is a dangerous, false sense of security."

The Democrat raised concerns about the precedent that posting armed guards would set.

"Schools with multiple entrances, playgrounds, movie theaters, Greenwich Avenue places of worship, where does it stop?" Marzullo said. "Having armed guards is not in the value or fabric of our community."

Marzullo couched his comments to say that if it is necessary to have armed security at schools, he prefers that they be police or professional law enforcement officers.

While Greenwich Public Schools take stock of the security at each of its facilities, from checking locks to reviewing lock-down drills, McKersie wrote that there will be a heightened law enforcement presence throughout the district.

"Please know that the Greenwich Police Department will continue to provide an increased presence around all our schools for the next couple of weeks," McKersie wrote. "Police will be in uniform and in civilian attire, as well as in standard and unmarked police vehicles. In addition, police patrols will continue to give highest priority to any and all events in or around our schools."

A message seeking comment from school board Chairman Leslie Moriarty was left by the newspaper Friday.


Guns and Mental Illness
By JOE NOCERA, NYTIMES
December 28, 2012

Many years ago, when I was a young reporter at Texas Monthly magazine, I spent the better part of six months in the company of a man who suffered from schizophrenia. His name was Fred Thomas; he was 23 years old; and he had been steadily deteriorating since high school, which is when most men first show symptoms of the disease.

I watched Fred as he was shuttled in and out of the state hospital in Austin, Tex. — one of the few that had not been closed down by the mid-1980s — where he was wildly overmedicated, and then released to either his mother’s home, which was invariably disastrous, or a halfway house ill equipped to help someone as delusional as he was.

I learned about the group homes that had sprung up after the closure of the mental hospitals. They were so gruesome that one outplacement worker told me she had never been to one “because I don’t want to know where I am sending them.” I spent time at a homeless shelter that had become, in effect, a mental institution without doctors or aides. Ultimately, the article I wrote was about how the “deinstitutionalization movement” of the 1960s and early 1970s — a movement prompted by the same liberal impulses that gave us civil rights and women’s rights — had become a national disgrace.

What spurs this recollection are two things. The first is Nina Bernstein’s powerful report in The Times this week about the plight of the mentally ill in New York. Although the article was pegged to the loss of services after Hurricane Sandy, in truth, Sandy only exacerbated a situation that was already terrible. With the mentally ill rarely institutionalized for any length of time — on the theory that their lives will be better if they are not confined in a hospital — other institutions have sprung up to take their place.

Prisons, for instance. According to E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who founded the Treatment Advocacy Center, a staggering 20 percent of the prison population is seriously mentally ill. Around a third of the homeless are mentally ill.

And one more statistic: “Ten percent of homicides are committed by seriously mentally ill people who are not being treated,” says Torrey.

In the wake of the massacres in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., there have been essentially two central arguments about the cause. Liberals have stressed the need for new gun regulations that would make it more difficult for the likes of James Holmes and Adam Lanza to get ahold of killing machines like semiautomatics. There is no lack of sensible ideas: background checks for all gun purchasers, a national registry that would allow guns to be traced, an assault weapons ban, controls on ammunition, and so on. Nouriel Roubini, the economist, wrote in a Twitter message that gun owners should be required to have liability insurance, an intriguing idea. Some legislators who once blindly followed the bidding of the National Rifle Association are now saying they are reconsidering in the wake of Newtown.

Many conservatives, however, have placed the blame for the recent rash of mass shootings not on the proliferation of guns but on the fact that James Holmes and Adam Lanza were allowed to go about their business unfettered, despite their obvious mental illness. The editorial writers at The Wall Street Journal recently wrote that changing the way we treat the mentally ill “strikes us as a more promising path” for reducing mass killings than a fight over gun control.

In truth, both are necessary. If conservatives need to face the need for gun regulations — controls that will make guns less ubiquitous while still staying on the right side of the Second Amendment — liberals need to acknowledge that untreated mental illness is also an important part of the reason mass killings take place. Yes, it is true, as has been noted in recent weeks, that most mentally ill people don’t commit crimes. But it is equally true that anyone who goes into a school with a semiautomatic and kills 20 children and six adults is, by definition, mentally ill.

The state and federal rules around mental illness are built upon a delusion: that the sickest among us should always be in control of their own treatment, and that deinstitutionalization is the more humane route. That is not always the case. Torrey told me that Connecticut’s laws are so restrictive in terms of the proof required to get someone committed that Adam Lanza’s mother would probably not have been able to get him help even if she had tried.

“Mentally ill street people shame the society that lets them live as they do,” I wrote toward the end of that article in Texas Monthly. It has been 50 years since deinstitutionalization became the way we dealt with the mentally ill.

How much more proof do we need that it hasn’t worked?




Lawyer withdraws Sandy Hook suit, may refile
Michael P. Mayko, CT POST
Updated 7:09 pm, Monday, December 31, 2012


Just days after filing a $100 million lawsuit claiming the state failed to adequately protect the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a New Haven lawyer has withdrawn it.  But that doesn't preclude a future filing, Irving Pinsky said.

"I received new evidence on security at the school, which I need to evaluate," Pinsky said Monday.

Once that happens, Pinsky said he may re-submit the paperwork to J. Paul Vance Jr., who as the state's claims commissioner has the authority to determine if a claim is justified and requires hearings. Vance must approve any claim before a state agency can be sued.

Vance is the son of Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman assigned to the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook school massacre investigation. Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old Newtown resident, killed 20 children and six female staff members before turning the gun on himself.

Nearly two weeks after Lanza's autopsy, his father, Peter, claimed the body Thursday at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Farmington. Peter Lanza resides in Stamford and works at General Electric Financial Services

Pinsky said once he reviews the evidence, he will decide what "route to take."

His clients are the parents of a 6-year-old girl who survived the attacks, but was traumatized by the shooting, gunfire and the screaming she heard over the school's loudspeaker that day.

"We haven't decided which route to take yet," Pinsky said. "A lot depends on the evidence we uncover."

Earlier in the day, Attorney General George Jepsen said his office will defend the state against any claim Pinsky might file.

"However, the Office of the Claims Commissioner is not the appropriate venue for that important and complex discussion," Jepsen said.

"Although the investigation is still under way, we are aware of no facts or legal theory under which the state of Connecticut should be liable for causing the harms inflicted at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nor does the claim letter filed in this case identify a valid basis to support a claim against the state...and its taxpayers..."


Conn. AG: State isn't liable for school shooting
DAY
Dec 31, 4:56 PM EST


HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's attorney general says he sympathizes with families affected by the deadly Newtown school shooting but the state isn't liable for the harm inflicted.

Attorney General George Jepson responded Monday to a New Haven attorney's request to the state claims commissioner last week to sue the state for $100 million on behalf of a 6-year-old survivor.

Jepson says people affected "deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination" of the tragedy and appropriate public policy responses. But he says the claims commissioner's office isn't the appropriate venue.

Attorney Irving Pinksy says his request is about school safety. He says his client sustained "emotional and psychological trauma and injury" on Dec. 14 after a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six adults and then killed himself.

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First intent to sue made in Sandy Hook shootings
Susan Tuz, CT POST
Updated 10:07 pm, Friday, December 28, 2012



NEWTOWN -- A New Haven attorney is seeking permission from the state to sue on behalf of a 6-year-old girl who was "traumatized" by what she heard over the loudspeakers at Sandy Hook Elementary School the morning of the mass shootings.

The request, the first apparent litigation effort filed in the shootings, comes just two weeks after the death of 20 children and six educators.

Attorney Irving Pinsky sent a notice of claim and request for permission to sue the state to Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr. on Thursday on behalf of "Jill Doe, a minor child of six years of age and resident of Newtown, Connecticut."

He is asking for $100 million on the child's behalf and brings the claim through the child's parents, cited as "John and Jane Doe."

"I'm not releasing her name or her parents' names," Pinsky said Friday. "She's a little girl and she's suffered enough."

Pinsky said he was contacted by the girl's parents within days of the shootings and agreed to take the case because "we must stand together to protect our children. If we don't, nothing will change."

He hopes suits such as this would bring legislators to act to change gun control laws.

Pinsky cites in the claim that the child "was a student on the premises" of Sandy Hook Elementary School and heard "conversations, gunfire, and screaming" transmitted through the school's intercom system on the day Adam Lanza attacked.

As a result, the child has "sustained emotional and psychological trauma and injury, the nature of the extent has yet to be determined," the basis of claim reads.

"The State Board of Education, Connecticut Department of Education and State Commissioner of Education failed... to provide a safe school setting at Sandy Hook Elementary School," the claim reads.

Also the state "failed to determine whether the Newtown Board of Education had in fact provided a safe school setting," the intent claims.

The state's claims commissioner has the power to determine whether many types of claims of damages or injuries lodged against the state government are just.

The commissioner, after reviewing evidence, and if necessary, scheduling hearings, can approve immediate payment of claims worth $7,500 and under; recommend the General Assembly pay or reject claims over $7,500; and allow lawsuits against Connecticut to proceed.

His decision can be appealed by only the Legislature.

Earlier this year, he rejected Charla Nash's request to sue the state for damages related to her severe mauling by a chimpanzee in 2009.



Sandy Hook Shooter's Pause May Have Aided Students' Escape
Detectives reviewing Lanza's psychiatric records

The Hartford Courant
By EDMUND H. MAHONY, DAVE ALTIMARI and JON LENDER, daltimar@courant.com
3:02 PM EST, December 23, 2012

As many as a half-dozen first graders may have survived Adam Lanza's deadly shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School because he stopped firing briefly, perhaps either to reload his rifle or because it jammed, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the events.

A source said that the Bushmaster rifle that Lanza used in the shootings is at the state police forensic laboratory undergoing several tests, including tests to determine whether it was jammed.

The children escaped from the first-grade classroom of teacher Victoria Soto, one of the six educators Lanza killed in Newtown after shooting his way through a glass door with the .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle on the morning of Dec. 14.

On Friday, detectives obtained and began examining records related to psychiatric care Lanza had received in an attempt to determine a motive. Several friends of his mother have said that he suffered from Asperger's syndrome but authorities have not confirmed that or indicated it had anything to do with the shootings.

Lanza killed 27 people — 20 children, four teachers, the school principal, a school psychologist and his mother, Nancy — before shooting himself in the head as police began arriving at the school.

The arriving officers encountered a shocking scene in Soto's classroom. Lanza had shot her, as well as special education teacher Anne Marie Murphy and six of Soto's 6- and 7-year old students. Seven of Soto's students were found huddled and unharmed in a classroom closet, apparently hidden by Soto when she heard shooting. The other students fled the classroom.

Based on initial statements from surviving children and the fact that unfired bullets from Lanza's rifle were found on the ground, detectives suspect that some students were able to run to safety when Lanza stopped firing, probably for a short period of time, the officials said.

It is possible that Lanza, who reloaded the rifle frequently, mishandled or dropped a magazine and unfired bullets fell to the floor, they said.

But it also is possible, they said, that the mechanism that fed bullets into the rifle jammed, causing Lanza to remove the magazine and clear the weapon. Unfired bullets could have fallen to the classroom floor during that process as well, law enforcement officials said.

The six children who escaped Lanza's rampage ran to a home a short distance from the school. Upon reaching the home, one of the boys told the owner that "we obeyed the rules, we stayed on the sidewalk," one of the officials said.

The authorities have learned generally from the children who ran away that something may have happened to Lanza's rifle that caused him to stop firing. The substance of the statements, which are not entirely consistent, is that a piece of the weapon, probably a magazine holding live bullets, was dropped or fell to the classroom floor.

Investigators have decided not to formally interview the children, based on advice from Yale child psychologists. Given the chaotic nature of the scene, it is also possible that some children escaped while Lanza was shooting others in the room.

State police are expected to wrap up work at the school and release the school as a crime scene in the next few days. They still are trying to determine how many shots Lanza fired.

Lanza killed himself in Soto's classroom with one of the two pistols he carried into the building. He killed himself as police entered the building.

Police found a loaded 20-round shotgun in the trunk of the car similar to what is known as a "street sweeper." Police believe that Lanza didn't bring it into the school because he couldn't carry all of the weapons and ammunition. Lanza, who was about 6 feet tall, weighed barely 110 pounds, law enforcement sources said.

The few people who knew Lanza have portrayed him in the days since the mass shootings as an awkward, emotionally isolated, withdrawn young man. He attended public schools in Newtown, but at times was home-schooled by his mother, who was said by authorities and others to be the only person with whom he was socially engaged.

Lanza lived with his mother. He had two bedrooms and used one of them to keep computer equipment on which he is said to have enjoyed playing video games involving violent war games.

Before the shootings at the elementary school, Lanza shot his mother four times with a .22-caliber rifle as she lay in bed. He left the rifle at the house. All the guns were properly registered to Nancy Lanza.

Adam Lanza also broke apart his computer equipment in a way that has prevented authorities from retrieving data that could reveal with whom he may have corresponded or played video games.

He then drove to the school, getting there about 9:30 a.m. He walked up to the front entrance and fired at least a half dozen rounds into the glass doors. The thunderous sound of Lanza blowing an opening big enough to walk through the locked school door caused Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach to bolt from a nearby meeting room to investigate.

He shot and killed them both as they ran toward him. Two other staff workers in a meeting with Hocksprung and Scherlach were injured in the hail of bullets but made it back inside the conference room where one called 911 from under a table.

Lanza then turned toward the first classroom on his left, that of teacher Kaitlin Roig. By then, authorities said, Roig had hidden with her students in a closet in her classroom. Before securing the closet door, which opened inward, authorities said she concealed the door behind a movable bookcase.

Lanza then walked past Soto's classroom into the third one, where Lauren Rousseau was teaching. He shot and killed Rousseau, special education teacher Rachel D'Avino and 14 students.

One member of the class was not killed, although it is not clear if the child escaped the shooting or was not in the room.

"I think the community is very much respecting their privacy," Newtown schools Superintendent Janet Robinson said of the student's family. "I think that everyone is very sensitive to what a horrific experience this 6-year-old ... has been through."

Lanza then backtracked to Soto's classroom.

Much later, after police had found Lanza's body and were searching for survivors, an officer had to slide a badge beneath the closet door before Roig could be persuaded to open it.

Courant staff writer Matthew Sturdevant contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant




...BEYOND THE ACTIONS TAKEN IN 1990 BY THE BOARD OF SELECTMEN
Gun control debate on local level because of Sandy Hook, proposed at Selectmen's meeting.  Friday, N.R.A.  proposes immediate solution, no press q&a.


A THOUGHTFUL ARTICLE BY FORMER PSYCHIATRIST (WHO KNEW!)
Do you think Weston will take up the proposal to have guards in place after the Christmas vacation as offered by the N.R.A., for free (we thought we heard that) late this morning?  Sounds like an offer our budget conscious Board of Selectmen should look at, once the alternative program descriptions are available.  Since we have a local assault weapons position already, as former First Selectman Guidera may have suggested, as was reported by First Selectman Weinstein, perhaps we are better prepared for leading the way in CT?





AG far left above. 
To meet in secret with first responder and law enforcement officials.

U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder coming to Newtown
Westport News
December 20, 2012 at 10:53 am by Jim Shay

Attorney General Eric Holder will travel to Newtown on Thursday to meet law enforcement officials and investigators who are examining the school massacre there, a Justice Department official told Reuters this morning.

Holder, the chief U.S. law enforcement official, will go after his scheduled meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and other cabinet officials about measures to reduce gun violence, the official said.  Federal law enforcement officials have been assisting local and state investigators to try to determine why and how the shooter killed 20 children and six adults on Friday.  In Newtown, Holder will meet with first responders and law enforcement officials.

The official requested anonymity because Holder’s visit to Newtown is not a public trip. He will not be doing any public events during the visit.

Gunman Adam Lanza burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Friday, killing 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.

Biden convened the first meeting of his working group to explore solutions following the Newtown shooting.  Biden met with Thomas Nee, President of the National Association of Police Organizations, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, President of Police Executive Research Forum & Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Education Secretary Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius also attended, as well as other law enforcement representatives and senior White House officials.  Biden acknowledged that he has long working relationships with many leaders in the law enforcement community, many of whom worked with him to help write the 1994 crime bill. Biden said many of them helped come up with ideas about community policing, among other initiatives.

“I’ve worked with some of you for a long, long time,” he said.

Biden said, “We have to have a comprehensive way in which to respond to the mass murder of our children that we saw in Connecticut.”

Biden said, “The president is absolutely committed to keeping his promise that we will act and we will act in a way that is designed – even if as he says we can only save one life — we have to take action.”

Biden added that “there’s some things we can immediately do, and we’re going to need your help.” He said he sees “no reason” why the assault weapons ban can’t pass the Congress. “Quite frankly, you guys helped me write it,” he said. (Check transcript for this full quote; audio in this portion is hard to hear clearly.)

“We’ve worked on everything from cop-killer bullets to type of weapons that should be off the street,” Biden added. “That’s what I want to talk to you about today, I want to hear your views, because for anything to get done we’re going to need your advocacy.”

Newtown gunman Adam Lanza's body claimed by father
NYPOST
From ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last Updated: 10:11 AM, December 31, 2012
Posted: 7:45 AM, December 31, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. — The father of the gunman who killed 26 people in a Connecticut elementary school, including 20 first-graders, has claimed his son's body, a spokesman for the family said Monday...


Adam Lanza's Body Claimed
The Hartford Courant
By DAVE ALTIMARI, daltimari@courant.com
8:02 AM EST, December 31, 2012

Adam Lanza's body was claimed several days ago by someone who wanted to remain anonymous, State Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II said Sunday.  Lanza's burial site also is being kept secret.

Lanza, 20, killed himself inside a classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 after a shooting rampage that left 26 people dead in the school, including 20 children. Lanza earlier killed his mother, Nancy, at their house.

Carver has ruled Lanza's death a suicide but he is awaiting results of toxicology tests before completing the case.  In addition he has asked geneticists from the University of Connecticut to study Lanza's DNA for any mutations or other abnormalities that could shed light on his motivation for the shootings.

Nancy Lanza's body was claimed by a funeral home in New Hampshire and she was buried in a private ceremony earlier this month. She was born in Kingston, N.H. Carver would not comment on whether the same funeral home claimed Adam Lanza's body.

Peter Lanza, Adam Lanza's father, lives in Stamford, although sources said he had little contact with his son the past two years. Carver would not comment on whether Peter Lanza or someone representing him claimed the body.

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant


Funeral held in NH for mother of Conn. gunman
DAY (AP)
Dec 20, 6:19 PM EST


KINGSTON, N.H. (AP) -- A private funeral has been held in New Hampshire for the mother of gunman who shot and killed 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school.

The police chief in Kingston says the funeral was held Thursday for Nancy Lanza at an undisclosed location.  He says about 25 family members attended the ceremony in the town of about 6,400, where Nancy Lanza once lived.

Her son Adam Lanza burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last Friday, killing 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.


Out-of-state family to claim body of shooter's mom
DAY
Dec 20, 6:52 AM EST


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut's chief medical examiner says arrangements are being made out of state for the burial of the mother of Adam Lanza, who fatally shot 20 children and six adults in a Newtown elementary school.

The New Haven Register reports (http://bit.ly/T9lc3X ) that Dr. H. Wayne Carver said a funeral home outside Connecticut wants to claim the body of Nancy Lanza, who was shot last Friday by her son shortly before he headed to Sandy Hook Elementary School where he went on a deadly rampage.

Carver says he doesn't know the name of the funeral home, but says police in New Hampshire are fielding questions from the media. Nancy Lanza once lived in New Hampshire and her brother is a retired police captain in Kingston, N.H.

Carver wouldn't say whether Adam Lanza's body remains unclaimed.

---

Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com

M. Jodi Rell: We need to reset our moral compass
Danbury News-Times
Updated 6:55 am, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Read more: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/opinion/article/M-Jodi-Rell-We-need-to-reset-our-moral-compass-4129268.php#ixzz2FcSDhoWo
Many of you may know that for over two decades, I had the honor of serving the people of Connecticut in elected offices. I first served as a state representative, then as lieutenant governor and governor.


On March 6, 1998, I was serving as lieutenant governor when a disgruntled employee went into the Lottery headquarters in Newington, shot and killed four people, then shot and killed himself. One of those killed that day was my friend, Linda Mlynarczyk, the Chief Financial Officer of the Lottery Corporation.  Gov. John Rowland and I attended the funerals of the victims and grieved with their families. I had never experienced anything like it. Did this really happen in Connecticut?

On Sept. 11, 2001, the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center shattered our nation like no other event in my memory. I was serving as lieutenant governor and watched and listened as the governor called EVERY family with Connecticut ties.  We cried and we grieved, we mourned the loss of life, but we also hugged survivors, heard stories of heroism and later built a lasting memorial to those lost that day.

On Aug. 30, 2010, I was serving as governor when once again a disgruntled employee opened fire at the Hartford Distributors facility. He managed to kill eight people before he took his own life.  As I went to the scene, I remember thinking about the victims -- wondering about their lives. These men were not strangers, they were our brothers, our fathers, uncles, husbands. What will their families do without them?

Once again, I cried and grieved with the families.

On Dec. 14, 2012, I was NOT serving in elected office. Rather, I was serving as chauffeur for my 6-year-old grandson.  I took him to school and at the pupil drop-off, an aide opened the car door and led him into the building. Just a few steps into his journey, my grandson turned, smiling at me.

He waved and said, "Bye, Mema."

"Bye," I replied, and whispered, "I love you."

Later, as the events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting unfolded, I kept thinking of my grandson and our goodbye that morning.  How many mothers, fathers, other "memas," "nanas" or "grandmas" had said goodbye that morning -- and now would not see their child again.  What horror had befallen on our cute and quaint little Sandy Hook? Why was our beloved state once again in the midst of violence?  What an unspeakable crime! What sadness! What grief! What misery!

To the families and to the wonderful people of Newtown, please know that I cry and grieve with you. Unfortunately, as a state representative, lieutenant governor and governor, I have learned that we cannot legislate common sense.  There is evil in our world, and we must recognize that.

It is time for a national dialogue on how to address this malady that has beset our nation.  It's about more than gun control.  It's about more than mental health issues.  It's about more than violence seen in movies, TV shows and video games.  Our country is better than this. We need to reset our moral compass. We need to commit ourselves to being a better society.

It starts today and it must last longer than our short-term memory.

Former Gov. M. Jodi Rell is a resident of Brookfield.


Newtown shooter wanted to join Marines
MariAn Gail Brown, CT POST
Published 10:59 pm, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NEWTOWN -- Adam Lanza aspired to be a Marine, one of "the few, the proud."

Failing that, he planned to join another branch of the military.  That is what he told his mother Nancy Lanza, his biggest cheerleader, and that is what she relayed to one of her closest friends, Ellen Adriani of Sandy Hook.  At first, Nancy Lanza supported her youngest son's dream. She liked the idea that the military would give him purpose, a career path and structure to his life. But the more she thought about it, the more she saw a downside.

"It became overwhelmingly clear to her that it [military service] wasn't right for him," Adriani said. "She squashed" any notion of Adam joining the Marines or any branch of the armed services by reminding him "that he didn't like to be touched," said Adriani, and that if he were injured "doctors and medics would have to handle him to treat him."

Lanza, 20, harbored a dream of joining the military after he stopped taking college-level courses at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, said a local merchant who knew Nancy and her son.  Lanza first made his military aspirations known when he was 17, about the time his older brother Ryan was attending Quinnipiac University in Hamden.

The Adam Lanza who went on a shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Friday was outfitted for war. Only his targets were civilian, not military.  He was clad in body armor, black clothing and wielding a Bushmaster rifle, equivalent to a military M16. He was also armed with a 9mm Glock originally used by the Austrian military -- and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

Lanza was a familiar face at area shooting ranges in recent years, federal agents said, but not in the past six months. Nevertheless, he had ample opportunity to hone his skills firing off as many virtual rounds as he wanted in the comfort of his own home.  It was clear he was an avid gamer from the trove of gory video and Internet gaming material investigators seized.

Peter Wlasuk, a Newtown plumber who claims he worked at the Lanzas' home, informed The Sun of London that Lanza would play soldier in violent video games such as "Call of Duty" for hours in a windowless, bunker-like basement.

"They had one poster of every piece of military equipment the U.S. ever made," Wlasuk told the British newspaper.

Lanza's dreams are hauntingly similar to another school shooter, Eric Harris, who along with Dylan Klebold killed 12 people at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999.

Harris had hoped to join the Marines, too, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Five days before the shootings a recruiter told Harris he wasn't eligible because he had used psychiatric medicine. Like Harris, Lanza enjoyed playing violent computer and video games.

All three weapons Lanza used when he stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School were lawfully owned and registered to his mother, who grew up on a New Hampshire farm where she learned early how to shoot and handle guns.

Adriani visited Lanza's girlhood home last October, when the two of them attended a retirement party for Lanza's brother, James Champion, a police officer.

"She was a real farm girl," Adriani said, and had a respect for firearms. "She was one of the most responsible people I know. She kept them locked up. She was safety conscious in every aspect of her life. If you got into her BMW and didn't buckle up, as soon as the car started making that ding-ding-ding sound she'd stop driving and wouldn't start until you were safely buckled in."

Adriani met Nancy Lanza several years ago at the My Place restaurant in Newtown, where a number of their mutual friends hang out. The two shared a passion for gardening and good food.

All of what Adriani knows of Adam Lanza she concedes she learned from his mother, whom police said he shot in the head. He then drove to the school to kill 20 children and six women before killing himself.

"Nancy was proud of both of her sons," Adriani said. "They were the world to her. Adam had been doing some computer work for someone I know. He was incredibly bright. And Nancy was looking into some schools for him and the possibility of moving, too."

As he progressed through the school system he did well academically, but socially he was an outcast.  When anyone passed him in the hallway between classes, fellow classmates say, he would press himself against the wall, shunning even inadvertent physical contact.  Whether Adam Lanza was depressed about giving up his military dream or resuming his education, Adriani said she has no idea.

In the past year or so, Nancy Lanza had started traveling more, leaving him home alone more often, Adriani said. And Adam Lanza had started taking on more responsibility at home, grocery shopping and venturing out alone.

COURANT PRESS CONFERENCE REPORT
V-P Biden now in charge plus cabinet members and others, to recommend actions in the "multifacited" matter of mass shootings - in January.


FROM CHANNEL 12 REPORT WEDNESDAY (DEC.19) MORNING...

NEWTOWN - There is a new theory emerging in the Newtown massacre.  Some believe Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree because his mother planned to commit him to a mental institution.  Adam Lanza shot his mother Nancy as she slept in her bed.  He then went to the school where his mother volunteered and gunned down 26 victims.

Published reports say Lanza may have shot the children because he thought his mother loved them more than she loved him and she was going to send him away.


Geneticist Asked To Join Search For Clues In Newtown Massacre
State Police Say Investigation Will Take Months
The Hartford Courant
By DAVID OWENS, dowens@courant.com
10:34 PM EST, December 18, 2012

NEWTOWN As detectives continue to comb through evidence and talk to people who witnessed Friday's mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the state's chief medical examiner is seeking clues in the gunman's biology.


Dr. H. Wayne Carver has asked a geneticist at the University of Connecticut to join in his investigation of the killings. Carver is awaiting toxicology testing results for gunman Adam Lanza, 20, and information that may help answer the question of why Lanza gunned down 20 first-graders and six women at Sandy Hook.

"I'm exploring with the department of genetics what might be possible, if anything is possible," Carver said Tuesday. "Is there any identifiable disease associated with this behavior?"

Carver said he does not know whether Lanza had Asperger's syndrome — a possibility that has been raised — but he said Asperger's "is simply not on the menu, in terms of what is wrong with this kid. Asperger's is not associated with behavior patterns that are violent."

Determining why Lanza went on a rampage that apparently ended only when fast-arriving police prompted him to kill himself may be difficult. Lanza destroyed a hard drive from his computer, which authorities had hoped would reveal clues about what he did, and he killed his mother as she slept.

Carver said that Nancy Lanza died of four gunshots to the head from a .22-caliber rifle. She was in bed when her son killed her, and likely still asleep, Carver said. The rifle was left at the house.

Mary Ellen O'Toole, a retired FBI profiler and behavioral scientist, said seeking an answer in Adam Lanza's biology is worthwhile.

"I think it's great to consider if there's something here that would help people understand this behavior," O'Toole said.

There will be other important clues contained in the reports that detectives prepare about the crime scene and their interviews with witnesses, O'Toole said. Some of that information may help behavioral scientists answer the key question: why?

One thing is apparent from the evidence made public so far, she said. The assault on Sandy Hook Elementary "was not an impulsive act," she said. "This was well thought out."

The planning could have gone on for days, weeks or months, she said.

State police Lt. J. Paul Vance has repeatedly described the investigation as a process during which Newtown and state police detectives will peel back the layers of the case. Just how much of the story detectives will finally be able to tell remains unknown, but it will not be a fast process.

"It's going to take months," Vance said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has declared Friday a day of mourning and has asked that people observe a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m. He has also asked houses of worship and government buildings with bells to ring them 26 times in honor of the victims.

"Let us all come together collectively to mourn the loss of far too many promising lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Malloy said. "Though we will never know the full measure of sorrow experienced by these families, we can let them know that we stand with them during this difficult time."

Malloy has also asked governors throughout the nation to join Connecticut "during this time of reflection and mourning."

"Mourning this tragedy has extended beyond Newtown, beyond the borders of Connecticut, and has spread across the nation and the world," Malloy said. "On behalf of the state of Connecticut, we appreciate the letters and calls of support that have been delivered to our state and to the family members during their hour of need."

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Connecticut's senators thanked their colleagues for a resolution of condolence and support for Newtown and urged Congress to never let such a tragedy occur again.

"Criminal and deranged people should not be able to get their hands on firearms,'' said Democrat Richard Blumenthal, who called for "a meaningful and thoughtful debate. .. This is our moment."

"The Supreme Court has made it clear that government can impose sensible regulation,'' said Blumenthal, who called for new restrictions on high capacity ammunition magazines that enable weapons to quickly fire multiple rounds.

"What real hunter uses or needs 30-round clips?"

Independent Joseph Lieberman said, "The question is, 'Can we do anything to stop this from happening again?' "

"We can prevent this from happening to people again," Lieberman said. "We can certainly prevent it from happening to some people. I have seen some progress. Some colleagues who have been protectors of gun rights are saying things have to change."

He cited Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. On Monday, in response to the Newtown shootings, Warner said "enough is enough" and called for "rational gun control."

"I hope we will act," Lieberman said. "There will be no better tribute, no better consolation to the families that lost loved ones."

Copyright © 2012, The Hartford Courant


Son's difficulties dominated mother's life
DAY (we later visited the Post for pictures)
The Washington Post

By MICHAEL S. ROSENWALD, TIM CRAIG and PETER SLEVIN
Article published Dec 18, 2012

Kingston, N.H. - Her nickname was Beanie.

She grew up here in her family's 1740s farmhouse not far from the town's center, an idyllic New England backdrop of general stores, ice cream shops, and the historic home of Josiah Bartlett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  By all accounts, Nancy Jean Champion - or Beanie, as her high school yearbook calls her - had a charmed upbringing. Her mom was a school nurse. Her brother became a town police officer. And after she married her sweetheart in 1981, becoming Mrs. Peter J. Lanza, the couple built a house next door to her childhood home.

"They were very nice people," said the owner of the local pizza shop here. "They are from a lovely family."

In 1988, the couple welcomed a baby boy, Ryan. Four years later, another baby boy arrived: Adam. Nancy, who worked in the Boston financial district to put her husband through college, became a stay-at-home mother increasingly focused on the challenges of her youngest.  Last week, Adam shot his mother four times in her bed, authorities said, killing her. Next he gunned down 26 other people, most of them not much older than he was when he bounced around the grassy family homestead as a little boy.

While investigators either don't know or haven't said why Adam Lanza went on a horrific killing spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a clearer portrait of the family that raised him is emerging through interviews around the country with friends and family and in divorce documents sealing the end of Lanza's marriage three years ago.  From the outside, the Lanza family portrait was one of wealth and privilege, of jobs landed at marquee corporations - he at General Electric, she briefly at John Hancock. They moved to a hilltop home in Newtown, a village exurb of New York City.

But it was their difficult second son who came to dominate the family's time and collective psyche, especially Nancy's. He had few friends, had trouble in schools and had difficulty reaching the stepping-stones of normal teenage life. At age 20, he had only recently begun to drive.

As time passed, the family fractured and broke apart. Around the time of the divorce, Ryan Lanza graduated from college and moved to work in New York. Adam stayed with Nancy Lanza, and her life took on strange habits. She didn't let visitors into their home. She collected powerful weapons. And she began to bring her increasingly troubled son to "multiple shooting ranges," officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said Monday, to practice using those guns together.

'She wasn't afraid'

"She wasn't afraid to be there for her kids," said Marsha Lanza, who is married to Peter Lanza's brother Michael, at her home in Crystal Lake, Ill. "She was involved. That's why, when I heard that he shot her, that floored me. That just didn't make sense to me, because your mom did all this stuff for you, what the hell were you thinking? Why did you take your revenge out on her? What did she do?"

Nancy and Peter moved to Newtown in 1998. Peter commuted to New York City to work as a vice president in accounting for GE. Nancy had health problems - multiple sclerosis - for which she sought treatment in New York, according to her former sister-in-law.

In 2009, the couple filed for divorce, saying their 28-year marriage had "broken down irretrievably," according to court records. What led to the breakup is unclear. Peter has remarried, to Shelley Rae Cudiner, a librarian at the University of Connecticut.

Nancy was a stay-at-home mom when they divorced, listing no income in court papers. Peter made $445,000 a year and agreed to pay $240,000 a year in alimony and child support, according to court records. That sum was set to rise in 2012 to $289,800.

Adam had Asperger's syndrome, the parents told Paula Levy, the family therapist who was their divorce mediator, Levy said in an interview with the Associated Press. The parents were unified in their commitment to meet all of Adam's needs, Levy said and gave few details about his condition.  The generous settlement, said John Aldrich, a family law attorney in Connecticut, "could have been, they took into account that with a special-needs child, the mother was going to be more hands-on, require more money for her son. There is no magic percentage."

The couple agreed to joint custody of Adam and of their partial set of Boston Red Sox season tickets. Nancy got the house and the rights to final decisions about Adam.

"They always stayed civil," Marsha Lanza said. "They always stayed friends."

Caring for Adam took time and patience, and educating him presented challenges.  Newtown school officials couldn't be reached to comment on his schooling, but interviews in recent days with acquaintances and family members, as well as published reports, suggest that Adam bounced from public school, to a private Catholic school, to home schooling, to taking college courses at Western Connecticut State University, according to the Associated Press.

He was not close with his older brother, Ryan, who lives in Hoboken, N.J., and works for Ernst & Young.

"I know they were totally different kids," Marsha said. "Just totally different kids. Oil and water. I mean, they didn't obviously click. They tolerated each other because they were brothers."

At some point while he was in high school, Adam joined a technology club, a move Nancy apparently supported.  Gloria Milas, whose son Joshua was in the club, said the teens would sit around and link to each other by computer and play games - called LAN parties, for local area network - with each player on a computer. She said that contrary to published reports, the games were not violent. She likened them to Mario Brothers and games like that.

"They were always laughing," she said. "When this all came out, I asked my son, I begged him, 'Were you playing games that were violent?' He said no."

Adam did like to shoot guns - real ones, with his mom. It is not clear when Nancy became a gun collector, but she had at least six firearms registered to her, including the semiautomatic assault rifle used in the massacre, and she sometimes showed off an antique rifle to visitors. The mother and son's "shooting activities" at "multiple ranges" went back several years, ATF officials said, but the last activity was more than six months ago.

If Adam Lanza's mental health had begun to worsen, Nancy Lanza had not shared it widely. The crowd at My Place, a local restaurant where she often hung out, always was happy to see her show up and have a microbrew at the bar. But those friends didn't really know her home life.

She did confide that she had recently discovered a school in Washington state that she thought would be good for Adam, said Mark Tambascio, the restaurant's proprietor.

"They were going to move out there together," Tambascio, who had known Nancy Lanza for several years, said Sunday night.

Her connections to her New Hampshire home town remained strong.  Her brother, James Champion, rose to become a captain on the eight-member Kingston police force. He retired in November 2011 but remains a part-time officer and county sheriff's deputy. Nancy returned to Kingston for her brother's retirement party.  Less than a week before Nancy was killed, her brother was hailed as a town hero after he resuscitated a man who began having an apparent heart attack while running on the high school track.

"He's always been a great guy," said Brian Stack, the principal at the high school. "He single-handedly saved that guy's life, and he should be celebrating that this week instead of this."

As Newtown began its wrenching ritual of multiple funerals Monday, two services had yet to be planned.

"She was my friend," said Marsha Lanza. "I said to my husband, 'Who's going to bury Nancy?' He said, 'Knowing my brother, he'll take care of it, because that's the right thing to do.' "

Nancy's family, including her mother and three adult siblings, have gathered at the old family farmhouse in Kingston, according to a family friend. They have been told the two bodies may not be released by the medical examiner for another week.  The first snow of winter came Monday, and the ground is covered in white, as are the cars coming to the home carrying people from around town offering condolences. There's a banner outside that says, "Merry Christmas."

Rosenwald reported from Washington and Slevin reported from Chicago. Rick Maese and Peter Hermann in Newtown, Conn., and Sari Horwitz, Alice Crites and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.



School gunman an early university student in Connecticut

DAY
Associated Press
Article published Dec 17, 2012

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — A spokesman for Western Connecticut State University says the man identified as the gunman who killed 26 children and adults in an elementary school was an unusually young college student.

Paul Steinmetz, spokesman for the Danbury school, confirmed Monday that Adam Lanza earned a 3.26 grade point average while a 16-year-old student. He dropped out of a German language class and withdrew from a computer science class, but earned an A in a computer class, A-minus in American history and B in macroeconomics.

Steinmetz said Lanza was among a small group of 16-year-olds among the school's 5,000 undergraduates.

The Hartford Courant and The Wall Street Journal first reported Lanza's academic record at Western Connecticut State.

Steinmetz says Lanza took his last class in the summer of 2009 and did not return.



Special Session on Wednesday may take care of this...or our own Police Commission at their next meeting might care to propose it?

In Town at Ease With Its Firearms, Tightening Gun Rules Was Resisted
By MICHAEL MOSS and RAY RIVERA, NYTIMES
December 16, 2012

People in the rural, hilly areas around Newtown, Conn., are used to gunfire. In one woodsy stretch, southeast of downtown, the Pequot Fish and Game Club and the Fairfield County Fish and Game Protective Association, where members can fish in ponds and hunt pheasant, lie within a mile of each other, and people who live nearby generally call them good neighbors.

But in the last couple of years, residents began noticing loud, repeated gunfire, and even explosions, coming from new places. Near a trailer park. By a boat launch. Next to well-appointed houses. At 2:20 p.m. on one Wednesday last spring, multiple shots were reported in a wooded area on Cold Spring Road near South Main Street, right across the road from an elementary school.

Yet recent efforts by the police chief and other town leaders to gain some control over the shooting and the weaponry turned into a tumultuous civic fight, with traditional hunters and discreet gun owners opposed by assault weapon enthusiasts, and a modest tolerance for bearing arms competing with the staunch views of a gun industry trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has made Newtown its home.

The place that witnessed one of the worst mass killings in United States history on Friday, leaving 20 schoolchildren and 8 adults dead, is a bucolic New England town comfortable with its firearms, and not an obvious arena for the nation’s debate over gun control. But the legislative battle right here shows how even the slightest attempts to impose restrictions on guns can run into withering resistance, made all the more pointed by the escalation in firepower.

“Something needs to be done,” said Joel T. Faxon, a hunter and a member of the town’s police commission, who championed the shooting restrictions. “These are not normal guns, that people need. These are guns for an arsenal, and you get lunatics like this guy who goes into a school fully armed and protected to take return fire. We live in a town, not in a war.”

The gunman’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had collected several weapons, including powerful handguns and a semiautomatic rifle that she and her son, Adam, were fond of shooting, and it remains unclear where they took their target practice. Much of the gunfire and the explosions reported by residents to the police in recent months came from a spot less than three miles from their house. Police logs identified the spot as one of the town’s many unlicensed gun ranges, where the familiar noise of hunting rifles has grown to include automatic gunfire and explosions that have shaken houses.

“It was like this continuous, rapid fire,” said Amy Habboush, who was accustomed to the sound of gunfire but became alarmed last year when she heard what sounded like machine guns, though she did not complain to the police. “It was a concern. We knew there was target practice, but we hadn’t heard that noise before.”

Earlier this year, the Newtown police chief, Michael Kehoe, went to the Town Council for help. The town had a 20-year-old ordinance aimed at hunters that included a ban on shooting within 500 feet of occupied dwellings, but the chief complained that the way the law was written had left him powerless to enforce the rules or otherwise crack down on the riskiest shooting.

The police department logged more than 50 gunfire complaints this year through July, double the number for all of 2011, records show. Some of the complaints raised another issue. Gun enthusiasts here, as elsewhere in the country, have taken to loading their targets with an explosive called Tannerite, which detonates when bullets strike it, sending shock waves afield. A mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, Tannerite is legal in Connecticut, but safety concerns led Maryland this year to ban it.

Mr. Faxon, the police commission member, who is a lawyer, said he wrote the new ordinance, which would have imposed additional constraints on shooting, including limited hours, and a requirement that any target shooting range, and the firearms that would be used there, be approved by the chief of police to make sure they were safe. This was no liberal putsch, Mr. Faxon said; three of the five commission members are Republicans, and two members are police officers.

“I’ve hunted for many years, but the police department was getting complaints of shooting in the morning, in the evening, and of people shooting at propane gas tanks just to see them explode,” Mr. Faxon said.

The proposal was submitted to the council’s ordinance committee, whose chairwoman, Mary Ann Jacob, would play a heroic role on Friday. Ms. Jacob is a librarian aide at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she is credited with protecting many lives by throwing two rooms crowded with children into lockdown as the gunfire erupted.

“We’re growing,” Ms. Jacob said in an interview on Saturday, describing a town where hikers and mountain bikers now compete with gun owners for use of the many trails and wooded areas. “The police chief is not looking to change behavior or go after a group of people, but rather he’s trying to give his officers the ability, if an incident occurs, to react appropriately. Right now, if you’re standing on your property and my house is 20 feet away, you can shoot.”

The first meeting took place on Aug. 2, with about 60 people crowding into the room. Some spoke in favor of the new rules, the meeting minutes show. But many voiced their opposition, citing the waiting lists at established gun ranges. Among the speakers was a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who was described as saying he believed there was a greater danger of swimming accidents. “No privileges should be taken away from another generation,” he said.

The president and spokesman of the group did not respond to messages left Sunday. Citing the continuing investigation, the group said on its Web site it would not be commenting on the massacre, but that “our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in our community.”

A second committee gathering in September drew such a large crowd that the meeting was moved into a high school cafeteria, where the opposition grew fierce. “This is a freedom that should never be taken away,” one woman said. Added another, “Teach kids to hunt, you will never have to hunt your kids.”

“No safety concerns exist,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation spokesman said, according to the minutes.

The proposed ordinance was shelved, and Ms. Jacob said the committee was in the midst of researching a more limited rule, perhaps one restricted to making the existing ban on firing weapons within 500 feet of an occupied building more enforceable.

“Five hundred feet!” Mr. Flaxon said in an interview. “A BB gun can go that far.”

Newtown residents said many of the ranges in the area have long waiting lists of people eager to join, which has led to the profusion of informal ranges.

On High Rock Road, where many gunfire complaints originated, what appeared to be three or more gun ranges were set back from the road.

The owner of one, Scott Ostrosky, said he and his friends had been shooting automatic weapons since he bought the 23-acre property more than 12 years ago. It is safe, he said, because his land is sandwiched between two other gun ranges, the 123-acre Pequot hunting club and the 500-acre Fairfield club.

The explosions his neighbors hear are targets that are legally available at hunting outlets. “If you’re good old boys like we are, they are exciting,” he said. He said he was distraught at the school massacre but said guns should not be made the “scapegoat.”

“Guns are why we’re free in this country, and people lose sight of that when tragedies like this happen,” he said. “A gun didn’t kill all those children, a disturbed man killed all those children.”

Reporting on the Connecticut shootings was contributed by Alison Leigh Cowan, Robert Davey, Joseph Goldstein, Kia Gregory, Raymond Hernandez, Thomas Kaplan, Randy Leonard, Andy Newman, William K. Rashbaum, Michael Schwirtz, Michael D. Shear, Ravi Somaiya and Vivian Yee.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 17, 2012

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of an owner of a gun range on High Rock Road. He is Scott Ostrosky, not Ostrovsky.




What pushed shooter to kill?
CT POST
Paul Grondahl, Tim Loh and Ken Dixon
Updated 8:16 am, Sunday, December 16, 2012

NEWTOWN -- A divorce, a shattered family dynamic and a disturbed, enigmatic young man with easy access to his mother's extensive gun collection may have sowed the seeds of Friday's massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Adam Lanza, 20, was remembered Saturday as a quiet, "anti-social" student at Newtown High School, which he left before graduation in 2010, to be home-schooled by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whose murder in the home they shared set off the rampage.

Nancy Lanza, 52, was recalled as an educated, striking woman and a loving mother who was proud of Adam and his older brother. Friends say she was optimistic about Adam's cloudy mental outlook and was even planning on following him to a college when he eventually got himself together and was accepted somewhere.  But her perchant for firearms and her family excursions -- taking her two sons target shooting in recent years -- may have come back to haunt this upscale community of 27,000.

Marsha Moscowitz, a former school bus driver, said Saturday that Adam was very shy, reserved and memorable for being a loner in the hustle and bustle of the daily rides to and from school.

"Not every student sticks out," said Moscowitz, 56. "You know how certain kids stick out? He stuck out because he never really talked."

Unlike his older brother Ryan, 24, who graduated from Quinnipiac University and moved to the New York City area for a job with a major accounting firm, Adam stayed in the family home on Yogananda Street, apparently aimless.  John Bergquist, 37, a Newtown native who was friends with Nancy Lanza, said he would see her about once a week at My Place Pizza and Restaurant in a shopping plaza off Church Hill Road, up the hill from Sandy Hook.

"She was very beautiful, with a great sense of style," said Bergquist, who works at the nearby Dodgington Market and Deli, where he last saw her, while selling her a couple of Powerball tickets for the big drawing in late November.

"She had season's tickets to the Red Sox, being from New Hampshire," said Bergquist. "She'd speak lovingly of both Adam and Ryan; but Adam, he was her life. Every time she would speak of Adam, she said he had his "medical" issues, but she would always lend itself in the positive, about how he was making progress, making friends. She would move with him wherever he went to go to college. I thought he was good to go."

Bergquist said that the last time they spoke, he and Nancy joked about giving him a percentage of a winning Powerball ticket. "She was all into investing and we negotiated beforehand what my cut would have been: $5 million," he recalled.

Following their 2009 divorce, Nancy Lanza may have volunteered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, although her role was not clear Saturday as investigators continued to sift through evidence in the school and her Yogananda Street home, about 4.7 miles away.  Moscowitz said she thought Nancy Lanza was a substitute teacher at the school, but there are no such records of her in that job. State Police Lt. Paul Vance told reporters Saturday that there was no connection between Nancy Lanza and the school system.

Vance was cryptic, but said there was enough material being gathered at the school and the home to eventually announce a motive.  Lanza apparently shot and killed his mother, then drove her car to the school that he attended as a youngster. He forced his way in, carrying two handguns and an assault-style rifle, which he used for many of the murders, said Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the state's chief medical examiner.  In an interview Saturday afternoon, Vance said that Lanza had more weaponry than the three guns, but declined to provide details.

The 2009 divorce decree between Nancy Lanza and her ex-husband Peter Lanza, a General Electric executive who remarried and lives in Stamford, included provisions for alimony. So Nancy Lanza was able to purchase the 3,100-square-foot home in February of 2011, with the appraised value of $707,000, according to the town tax assessor. She was a gun enthusiast who was known to take her sons target shooting.

Moscowitz remembered both Peter and Nancy Lanza, but was more friendly with Nancy, whom she recently encountered at the Big Y Supermarket.

"The mother was quiet, too, and didn't talk much," said Rhonda Cullens, a neighbor of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter's dead mother, Nancy Lanza. "Right now, it's just shock and disbelief. We're totally devastated. It's affecting all of us."

Yogananda Street remained sealed off as a crime scene by yellow police tape and was surrounded by scores of investigator vehicles Saturday morning.

"This is a very nice, quiet neighborhood and the only crime we have to worry about is kids smashing a mailbox," said Cullens, who lived a block away and was a casual acquaintance of Nancy Lanza. "We're a very close-knit, welcoming and warm neighborhood. A lot of people moved here because the school system is so good. It's shocking that anything like this would happen in our community."

Cullens, a stay-at-home mom of two college-aged sons, recalled playing the drinking and dice game Bunco with Lanza and other neighborhood women on a monthly ladies' night out several years ago. They were the wives of executives who commuted to white-collar jobs in New York City or suburban corporate parks at GE, IBM and other large corporations.

"She was very nice and friendly," Cullens said of Lanza. "We had some conversations during the Bunco games. She seemed like the rest of us." Cullens never saw the shooter or Lanza's other son, Ryan, who reportedly lives in New Jersey and was interviewed by authorities shortly after the mass killing at the school.

Cullens never met Lanza's former husband and she did not know that the couple had divorced until long after the split in a neighborhood where the 4,000-square foot homes are often set on large, heavily-treed, secluded lots that create a zone of privacy that neighbors are reluctant to cross. Cullens has lived there since 1993 and she said the Lanza home was built around 1998.

Cullens was still shaken by the horrific, frightening scene that unfolded Friday morning in the small, tight-knit community just moments after Adam Lanza's shooting rampage that killed his mother and 20 young students and six adults dead at the elementary school.

Cullens is an amateur photographer who was taking down a photo exhibit of the local photo club Friday morning at the Municipal Center when the scene turned tragic. News began filtering in that there had been a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Police and troopers began arriving and the building, which houses the Board of Education and Board of First Selectmen, went into lockdown mode. A big-screen TV was tuned to the unfolding tragedy. Some people cried. Others hugged. Everyone searched for answers amid the chaos and a gripping fear that their might be more shooters loose and bent on violence.

"Rhonda, where are your kids?" a friend asked Cullens. She said they had just finished finals week at college and were at the family home.

"Are you sure?" the friend asked. A bolt of fright shot through Cullens. That's when the Municipal Center was locked down, police secured the Board of Education offices and the situation grew even more tense.

Cullens tried to remain calm and she told others around her: "Start praying. There's been a shooting at Sandy Hook."

She described a scene of panic and devastation.

"You could see the shock on everyone's face," she said. "A lot of people were crying."

Cullens' two sons had attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, she was a volunteer there and knows most of the teachers and staff. When she saw her sons' beloved kindergarten teacher on TV, safe and uninjured, she wept tears of joy.

"It was a sense of overwhelming relief," Cullens said. "And then I just kept watching for other people I knew from the school, to see if they were OK."

The Municipal Center was whipsawed by emotions of dread and fear Friday morning.

"All sorts of rumors about maybe another shooter on the loose were floating around," she said. "When we heard police were searching our neighborhood, I heard a guy call his wife and say, `Lock the doors.' "

That's when Cullen called her house and told her two college-aged sons to lock their doors and be alert for any sign of an intruder.

"It was scary, very scary," Cullens said. "We didn't know what was going on. We were terrified there could be more shootings." Cullens said the people at the Municipal Center all had direct connections to teachers, staff, parents and students at the school and they waited grimly to get word if they were alive.

"When I saw a picture of one of the secretaries I dearly loved, I just broke down and hugged other people there," Cullens said. She learned that the secretary, whose name she did not want to disclose, was sick and had not reported to work at the school Friday.

"Otherwise, she probably would have been sitting in the office and might not have ..." she said, as her voice trailed off.

Cullens continued to say silent prayers and was relieved each time she saw a TV image of someone she knew at the school who had survived.

"Thank God they're OK," she repeated to herself. "The whole thing was just heart-wrenching."



Gunman broke into school, shot victims multiple times
DAY
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press
Article published Dec 16, 2012

Newtown — The gunman behind the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre stormed into the building and shot 20 children at least twice with a high-powered rifle, executing some at close range and killing adults who tried to stop the carnage, authorities said Saturday.

He forced his way into the school by breaking a window, officials said. Asked whether the children suffered, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver paused. "If so," he said, "not for very long."

The terrible details about the last moments of young innocents emerged as authorities released their names and ages — the youngest 6 and 7, the oldest 56. They included Ana Marquez-Greene, a little girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada; Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher who apparently died while trying to hide her pupils; and principal Dawn Hochsprung, who authorities said lunged at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him and paid with her life.

The tragedy has plunged Newtown into mourning and added the picturesque New England community of handsome Colonial homes, red-brick sidewalks and 27,000 people to the grim map of towns where mass shootings in recent years have periodically reignited the national debate over gun control but led to little change.

Faced with the unimaginable, townspeople sadly took down some of their Christmas decorations and struggled Saturday with how to go on. Signs around town read, "Hug a teacher today," "Please pray for Newtown" and "Love will get us through."

"People in my neighborhood are feeling guilty about it being Christmas. They are taking down decorations," said Jeannie Pasacreta, a psychologist who was advising parents struggling with how to talk to their children.

School board chairwoman Debbie Leidlein spent Friday night meeting with parents who lost children and shivered as she recalled those conversations. "They were asking why. They can't wrap their minds around it. Why? What's going on?" she said. "And we just don't have any answers for them."

The tragedy brought forth soul-searching and grief around the globe. President Barack Obama planned to visit Newtown today. Families as far away as Puerto Rico planned funerals for victims who still had their baby teeth, world leaders extended condolences, and vigils were held around the U.S.

"Next week is going to be horrible," said the town's legislative council chairman, Jeff Capeci, thinking about the string of funerals the town will face. "Horrible, and the week leading into Christmas."
Looking for a reason

Police shed no light on what triggered Adam Lanza, 20, to carry out the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence ... that our investigators will be able to use in painting the complete picture, the how and, more importantly, the why." He would not elaborate.

However, another law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators have found no note or manifesto from Lanza of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.

Lanza shot to death his mother, Nancy Lanza, at the home they shared, then drove to the school in her car with at least three of her guns, forced his way in and opened fire, authorities said. Within minutes, he killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

Education officials said they had found no link between Lanza's mother and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there Friday.

Authorities said Adam Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job. Lanza was believed to have suffered from a personality disorder, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism often characterized by social awkwardness. People with the disorder are often highly intelligent. While they can become frustrated more easily, there is no evidence of a link between Asperger's and violent behavior, experts say.

The law enforcement officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

Richard Novia, the school district's head of security until 2008, who also served as adviser for the school technology club, of which Lanza was a member, said he clearly "had some disabilities."
"If that boy would've burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically," Novia said in a phone interview. "It was my job to pay close attention to that."
Heroes emerge

Amid the confusion and sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of Hochsprung, 47, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, rushing toward Lanza in an attempt to stop him. Both died.
There was also 27-year-old teacher Victoria Soto, whose name has been invoked as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil. Investigators told relatives she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.

"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about," a friend, Andrea Crowell, told The Associated Press. "She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day."
There was also 6-year-old Emilie Parker, whose grieving father, Robbie, talked to reporters not long after police released the names of the victims but expressed no animosity, offering sympathy for Lanza's family.
"I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you," he said.

On Saturday, Carver, the medical examiner, said that all the victims at the school were shot with a rifle, at least some of them up close, and that all were apparently shot more than once. All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys and 12 were girls.

Asked how many bullets were fired, Carver said, "I'm lucky if I can tell you how many I found." 

Parents identified the children through photos to spare them some shock, Carver said.

Odd and remote

Relatives of the shooter were at a loss for words.

"The whole family is traumatized by this event," said Donald Briggs Jr., police chief of Kingston, N.H., who knows the family. "We reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for this incomprehensible and profound loss of innocence," the family said in a statement.

James Champion, Nancy Lanza's brother and a retired police captain in Kingston, N.H., said through the police chief that he had not seen his nephew in eight years. Champion, who still works as a part-time officer, said he would not discuss what might have triggered the rampage since the case is under investigation.

Acquaintances describe the former honor student as smart but odd and remote.

Olivia DeVivo, now a student at the University of Connecticut, recalled that Lanza always came to school toting a briefcase and wearing his shirt buttoned all the way up. "He was very different and very shy and didn't make an effort to interact with anybody" in his 10th-grade English class, she said.

Lanza would also go through crises that would require his mother to come to school to deal with. Such episodes might involve "total withdrawal from whatever he was supposed to be doing, be it a class, be it sitting and read a book," said Novia, the tech club adviser.

When people approached Lanza in the hallways, he would press himself against the wall or walk in a different direction, clutching his black case "like an 8-year-old who refuses to give up his teddy bear," said Novia, who now lives in Tennessee.

Even so, Novia said his main concern about Lanza was that he might become a target for teasing or abuse by other students, not that he might become a threat.

"Somewhere along in the last four years there were significant changes that led to what has happened Friday morning," Novia said. "I could never have foreseen him doing that."

Nancy Lanza, who was once a stockbroker for John Hancock in Boston and once lived in Kingston, N.H., was a kind, considerate and loving person, Briggs said.

"She was very involved in the community and very well-respected," Briggs said.

Lanza's family was struggling to make sense of what happened and "trying to find whatever answers we can," his father, Peter Lanza, said in a statement late Saturday that also expressed sympathy for the victims' families.

Sandy Hook Elementary will be closed this week — some parents can't even conceive of sending their children back, Leidlein said — and officials are deciding what to do about the town's other schools.
Asked whether the town would recover, Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library who took cover in a storage room with 18 fourth-graders during the shooting rampage, said: "We have to. We have a lot of children left."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald, Bridget Murphy, Pat Eaton-Robb and Michael Melia in Newtown; Adam Geller in Southbury; and Stephen Singer in Hartford.

State police update investigation into Newtown school shooting
By The Forum Staff on December 15, 2012

According to Connecticut State Police, on Friday, Dec. 14, at approximately 9:30 a.m., Newtown police received a 911 call reporting a possible shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, 12 Dickenson Drive in Newtown. Newtown officers immediately responded and requested assistance from Connecticut State Police. Troopers, both on-duty and off-duty, responded to the scene.

Surrounding police agencies also sent assistance to the scene. Four Weston police officers assisted:

Sgt. Pat Daubert who was in the Newtown area at the time of the shooting and Officer Daniel Cascone, who grew up in Newtown, went to a staging area at a firehouse near the Sandy Hook school. They  helped with traffic control and reuniting children who were evacuated from the school with their parents. Sgt. Matt Brodacki assisted police and the medical examiner with photo identifications of the victims so formal notifications could be made to the families. Officer Dann McInnis assisted patrol in Newtown during the midnight shift.

In addition, Weston Police Chaplains, Father Michael Dunn and Reverend Bernard Wilson went to Newtown to help parents, children, and first responders through any trauma they may have suffered.

Officer Joe Miceli is planning to assist Newtown police tonight during the midnight shift.

Upon arrival on the scene, teams of troopers and officers formed “Active Shooter Teams” and immediately entered the school. Teams performed rescues of students and staff, removing them to a safe location as they searched for the shooting suspect within the building. The building was evacuated, and students walked hand in hand out to a safe location.

Teams encountered several students and staff suffering from gunshot wounds. The building was secured, the ”shooter” was located deceased, and Newtown EMS personnel entered to provide emergency care for the wounded.

Eighteen children were pronounced dead at the scene, and two children were taken to Danbury Hospital and later pronounced dead. Six adult victims were also pronounced dead at the scene. Teams located the shooter on scene; he was also pronounced dead.

The perimeter was also searched and secured by responding law enforcement.

The building was secured and at the request of the Newton police chief and Danbury state’s attorney, two Connecticut State Police Major Crime Squads responded to conduct the investigation into this crime. Troopers are assisted by Newtown Police detectives, Danbury state’s attorney, and many federal, local, and states law enforcement agencies

The processing of the scene began immediately with documentation of the crime scene and identifying and gathering both physical and forensic evidence. The urgent focus of the major crime investigators was to work with the Office of the Chief State’ s Medical Examiner to establish the identity of all the deceased victims. This was accomplished overnight, and the next of kin were all notified that positive identification was made.

The family of each victim was assigned a trooper or officer to establish and maintain an open line of communication. This was put into place so families of the victims can have immediate contact related to any questions they may have and to also provide State Police investigators with the ability to communicate with families without delay.

The families have requested no press interviews, and Connecticut State Police are asking that this request be honored.

The deceased victims have been taken to the Office of The Chief State’s Medical Examiner where a post mortem examination will be conducted to determine the manner and cause of death.

State Police Major Crime investigators are continuing to process the school crime scene, gathering evidence and documenting the entire facility. State Police detectives, assisted by Newtown detectives, processed the interior and exterior crime scene. Teams of investigators flooded the community and followed each lead, developing extensive information

Second crime scene

A second crime scene was located by investigators at a residence on Yogananda Street in Newtown. A female was located deceased inside the residence.

This scene was secured and an additional State Police Major Crime Squad responded to this scene to investigate this incident. Preliminary information determined that the deceased was a relative of the “shooter” at the elementary school.

As of Saturday morning, the school scene is still being processed by detectives and it  is anticipated this process will take several days. In addition, troopers are continuing to follow any and all leads in this case utilizing law enforcement in-state as well as out of state as required.

Crisis counseling teams are on-site to provide support to the families of all of the victims.



Gunman Forced His Way Into School, Police Say
By MARC SANTORA and JAMES BARRON, NYTIMES
December 15, 2012

The gunman in the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting forced his way into an elementary school in Connecticut, where he shot 26 people, 20 of them children, a spokesman for the State Police said on Saturday as the medical examiner completed the grim task of identifying the victims.

The chilling details about the opening moments of the carnage in the bucolic community of Newtown came as investigators pressed for information about the gunman, Adam Lanza, 20. A police spokesman, Lt. J. Paul Vance, said investigators had produced “some very good evidence,” but he provided no explanation for a massacre that unfolded with chilling speed as Mr. Lanza opened fire in one classroom and then another, turning a place where children were supposed to be safe — an elementary school with a sign out front that said, “Visitors Welcome” — into a national symbol of heartbreak and horror.

Lieutenant Vance said the victims’ bodies had been taken from the school, Sandy Hook Elementary. He said the one survivor of the massacre, a woman who was shot and wounded at the school, would be “instrumental” in piecing together what had happened. He declined to describe what evidence investigators — who combed through the one-story school on Saturday — had found.

Officials said the killing spree began early on Friday at the house where Mr. Lanza had lived with his mother, Nancy Lanza. There, he shot her in the face, making her his first victim, the authorities said. Then, leaving her dead after taking three guns that apparently belonged to her, he climbed into her car for the short drive to the school. Two of the guns were semiautomatic pistols; the other was a semiautomatic rifle.

Outfitted in combat gear, Mr. Lanza forced his way into the school, apparently defeating an intercom system that was supposed to keep people out during the day unless someone inside buzzed them in. This contradicted earlier reports that he had been recognized and allowed to enter.

“He was not voluntarily let into the school at all,” Lieutenant Vance said. “He forced his way in.”

The lieutenant said the authorities were “investigating the history of each and every weapon” that Mr. Lanza carried to the scene of the rampage and said that the guns were found in the school, “in proximity” to where Mr. Lanza shot himself to death.

A federal law enforcement official said the three guns recovered at the school — Glock and Sig Sauer pistols and an M4 .223-caliber Carbine — were bought legally by the gunman’s mother and registered in her name. Other weapons were recovered from her home, the official said.

The dead included the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, law enforcement officials said, and even before the medical examiner had released the identities of the victims, some were being mourned on the Internet. One was Ana Greene, the 6-year-old daughter of the jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who moved to Newtown in July. Several other jazz musicians express condolences on Facebook, and Mr. Greene posted a response in which he thanked them.

“As much as she’s needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me,” he wrote, “Ana beat us all to paradise.” He added, “I love you, sweetie girl.” (The Ottawa Citizen quoted a family member as saying that Mr. Greene’s son, who also attended the school, was “fine.”)

Dorothy Werden, 49, lives across the street from Christopher and Lynn McDonnell, who lost their daughter Grace, 6, on Friday. In an interview Saturday morning, she said that several other families who had lost children lived close by, and that the Lanza household was a block away.

Ms. Werden said she saw Grace getting on a bus Friday morning, as she did every day at 8:45. Shortly afterward, she received a call that there had been a lockdown at the school — something that happens periodically, she said, because there is a prison nearby. It was only when she saw police cars from out of town speed past her that she knew something was wrong.

“A lot of my friends in the neighborhood lost their children,” she said. The feeling in the once-quiet streets Saturday morning is “absolute, indescribable devastation,” she added.

“The fact that the killer killed his mom a block away while we were getting our kids ready for school, it’s too much for your brain to process. And the fact that I have to look across the street and see the McDonnells’ house,” she said, before trailing off.

The shooting affected a small community of close-knit families, Ms. Werden added. “The fact that it’s contained in the Sandy Hook area,” she said, “I don’t think we’ll recover from this for a very long time.”

Like the rest of the nation, she said, local residents were asking one question: Why?

“Why did he have to go to the elementary school and kill all of those defenseless children?” Ms. Werden said.

Terrifying new details emerged Saturday about how teachers and school staff members scrambled to move children to safety as the massacre began. Maryann Jacob, a library clerk, said she initially herded students behind a bookcase against a wall “where they can’t be seen.” She said that spot had been chosen in practice drills for school lockdowns, but on Friday, she had to move the pupils to a storage room “because we discovered one of our doors didn’t lock.”

Ms. Jacob said the storage room had crayons and paper that they tore up for the children to color while they waited. “They were asking what was going on,” she said. “We said: ‘We don’t know. Our job is just to be quiet.’” But she said that she did know, because she had called the school office and learned that the unthinkable had happened just steps away.

Law enforcement officials said Mr. Lanza had grown up in Newtown, and he was remembered by high school classmates as smart, introverted and nervous. They said he had gone out of his way not to attract attention when he was younger.

There was still no public explanation of what had motivated Mr. Lanza. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed his brother, Ryan Lanza, in Hoboken, N.J. His father, Peter Lanza, who was divorced from his mother, Nancy Lanza, was also questioned, an official said.

President Obama, meanwhile, used his weekly radio and Internet address to mourn the victims, saying that “every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt.” Republicans, who normally prepare a reply to the president’s address, did not do so this time.

The president’s address was similar to a statement he read in the White House press room on Friday, when he paused, more than once, and wiped his eyes.

“Our hearts are broken today,” Mr. Obama said in his address. He mentioned other places where there had been mass shootings this year, including a mall in Oregon, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and a movie theater in Colorado, as well as “countless street corners in places like Chicago and Philadelphia.”

“Any of these neighborhoods could be our own,” Mr. Obama said. “So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Lieutenant Vance said 18 youngsters were pronounced dead at the school, and two others were taken to hospitals, where they were declared dead. All the adults killed at the school were pronounced dead there.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were tracing all of the guns registered to Mr. Lanza’s mother and had completed the work on several, the official said, but would not provide additional details.

The agents were also visiting all the licensed federal firearms dealers in the area to determine if they might have records on any other weapons linked to the gunman or to his family, and they were canvassing sporting ranges in an effort to learn whether the gunman might have visited them for recreational use.

On Friday night, thousands of people flocked to local churches, attending candlelight vigils and seeking comfort in community.

“These 20 children were just beautiful, beautiful children,” Msgr. Robert Weiss of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church told reporters. “These 20 children lit up this community better than all these Christmas lights we have.”


Former excellent state legislator Julia Wasserman
A Town of Tradition at a Loss as Grief Engulfs Holiday Joy
By JIM DWYER and EMILY S. RUEB, NYTIMES
December 15, 2012

The phone rang just after 10 Saturday morning in an old farmhouse along Walnut Tree Hill Road. Julia Wasserman had been undecided about even going to the farm, which she and her late husband bought decades ago, and where people still come to cut their own Christmas trees. She answered.

Yes, she said, the farm was open.

After she was finished, Ms. Wasserman shrugged her shoulder. “I wasn’t even going to come today,” Ms. Wasserman said. “I didn’t know what the right thing to do was. I still don’t know. But the man said he wanted to come, to bring his kids out. That they needed it...”

Newtown, incorporated in 1711, takes its child-friendly, Norman Rockwell ambience seriously. The all-purpose landmark is the downtown flagpole, which dates to 1876. Fat and packed with small-town ephemera including weekly equestrian news, the Newtown Bee dates to 1877 and has been owned by the same family since 1881. Scrabble was developed in Newtown by a local lawyer, James Brunot, in 1948, who adapted an earlier version and changed its name from “Criss-Crosswords” to “Scrabble.”

Late Friday evening, the Colony Diner, just off Route 84, was still busy. It is a classic, with a menu the size of an encyclopedia and desserts lit in a refrigerated display case. Heaped along the ceilings, like drifts of snow, were white Christmas lights, pushback against the dominance of the winter night. A fat Santa figure stood in a stack of bread, holding a chalked sign that read: “Challah Bread, $3.95.”

“They’ve already started putting things on the door,” the man behind the cash register said to the manager.

The manager stepped out to look at them.  People had turned over place mats and made crayon drawings on the backs: a purple angel, hovering over words written in green, “RIP Children & Adults of Newtown.” They were taped to the entryway window.

The manager came back inside. “Leave them there,” he said.

“Oh yeah,” the cashier said.

The manager spoke again, his voice flat: “We have to leave them.”

Peter Applebome and Matt Flegenheimer contributed reporting.



Judge OK’s Release of Newtown Gunman’s Records
by CTNewsjunkie Staff | Sep 9, 2013 11:59am

On Friday, Hartford Superior Judge Antonio Robaina granted the state Child Advocate’s request to obtain the educational records of Newtown gunman Adam Lanza.

Robaina ordered the Newtown school system to comply with the March 11, 2013 subpoena for the records. It had not complied with the request, which is when Attorney General George Jepsen’s office got involved and filed the subpoena on behalf of the Child Advocate’s office.

In January, the Child Advocate’s office, as part of the Child Fatality Review Panel, began its own investigation into the deaths of the 20 children killed during the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The panel customarily reviews the deaths of children in the state when they occur out-of-home or are unexplained.

As part of the investigation, under former Child Advocate Jamey Bell (Sarah Healy Eagan doesn’t take over as Child Advocate until Sept. 12), the office subpoenaed the school records of Lanza. Lanza had earlier attended public schools in Newtown.

The records sought included Lanza’s psychological reports and evaluations, report cards, attendance records, nursing reports and notes, social work records, disciplinary records, education plans, and any communications with his family.

Mickey Kramer, the acting child advocate, said Friday that the office’s request was a standard part of the panel’s review.

“In any review we look at all records, it’s very common. In this particular case, the town really wanted a judge to order the release of the records and that’s what occurred today,” she said.

Kramer said she expects to receive the records within the next week.

Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky said last month that a report on the investigation into the shooting will not be available until the fall. The investigation was expected to be released this summer, but the deadline continues to be pushed back. Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive for the shooting, which sparked sweeping legislation that changed gun laws, access to mental health services, and school security.

Newtown Must Provide Lanza's School Records To State Child Advocate
Hartford Courant
By ALAINE GRIFFIN And JOSH KOVNER
2:01 PM EDT, September 6, 2013

HARTFORD –

A Connecticut judge Friday ordered Newtown to comply with a subpoena from the state child advocate's office seeking the school records of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza.

The advocate's office, which investigates homicides and questionable deaths of children, had sought the records in March as part of an investigation into the 20-year-old Lanza's formative years.  Newtown school officials balked at complying without a judge's order. State Attorney General George Jepson then went to court and requested one.  Friday morning, with representatives of both sides present, Superior Court Judge Sheila A. Huddleston granted the state's request.

Huddleston specified that the order "requires the production of documents and records by the Board of Education relating to a deceased individual named Adam Lanza, who at the time of his death was more than 18 years old.''

Brian W. Smith, lawyer for Newtown Public Schools, said "there was no resistance on the part" of Newtown schools to release the records but because school records are protected by law, an appropriate court order was needed before those records could become part of the public record.

"This was the last step in the process," Smith said.

Lanza killed his mother at their Newtown home, then shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 children and six educators before killing himself on Dec. 14.

In its request for the court order, the child advocate's office explained that one of its duties was to probe child deaths with an eye toward crafting prevention strategies, identifying patterns of risk, and improving coordination of services for children and families.  In January, the office's Child Fatality Review Board voted to investigate the "mechanism'' of death of the 20 children. That mechanism is Lanza.

The records sought in the subpoena include report cards, attendance records, any individualized education plans, minutes of any meetings of specialized teams that dealt with Lanza as a student, nursing reports, social-worker records, psychological evaluations, disciplinary records, and "any and all correspondence" with the Lanza family.

Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant


A Gunman, Recalled as Intelligent and Shy, Who Left Few Footprints in Life
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER, NYTIMES
December 14, 2012

He carried a black briefcase to his 10th-grade honors English class, and sat near the door so he could readily slip in and out. When called upon, he was intelligent, but nervous and fidgety, spitting his words out, as if having to speak up were painful.

Pale, tall and scrawny, Adam Lanza walked through high school in Newtown, Conn., with his hands glued to his sides, the pens in the pocket of his short-sleeve, button-down shirts among the few things that his classmates recalled about him.  He did all he could to avoid attention, it seemed.

Until Friday.

The authorities said Mr. Lanza, 20, wearing combat gear, carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in the nation’s history. He killed 20 children and six adults at the elementary school where his mother worked, they said. He then apparently turned his gun on himself. Earlier, the police said, he also killed his mother.  In his brief adulthood, Mr. Lanza had left few footprints, electronic or otherwise. He apparently had no Facebook page, unlike his older brother, Ryan, a Hoboken, N.J., resident who for several hours on Friday was misidentified in news reports as the perpetrator of the massacre.

Adam Lanza did not even appear in his high school yearbook, that of the class of 2010. His spot on the page said, “Camera shy.” Others who graduated that year said they did not believe he had finished school.

Matt Baier, now a junior at the University of Connecticut, and other high school classmates recalled how deeply uncomfortable Mr. Lanza was in social situations.  Several said in separate interviews that it was their understanding that he had a developmental disorder. They said they had been told that the disorder was Asperger’s syndrome, which is considered a high functioning form of autism.

“It’s not like people picked on him for it,” Mr. Baier said. “From what I saw, people just let him be, and that was that.”

Law enforcement officials said Friday that they were closely examining whether Mr. Lanza had such a disorder.  One former classmate who said he was familiar with the disorder described Mr. Lanza as having a “very flat affect,” adding, “If you looked at him, you couldn’t see any emotions going through his head.”

Others said Mr. Lanza’s evident discomfort prompted giggles from those who did not understand him.

“You could tell that he felt so uncomfortable about being put on the spot,” said Olivia DeVivo, also now at the University of Connecticut. “I think that maybe he wasn’t given the right kind of attention or help. I think he went so unnoticed that people didn’t even stop to realize that maybe there’s actually something else going on here — that maybe he needs to be talking or getting some kind of mental help. In high school, no one really takes the time to look and think, ‘Why is he acting this way?’ ”

Ms. DeVivo remembered Mr. Lanza from sixth grade and earlier, talking about aliens and “blowing things up,” but she chalked this up to the typical talk of prepubescent boys.

Still, after hearing of the news on Friday, Ms. DeVivo reconnected with friends from Newtown, and the consensus was stark. “They weren’t surprised,” she said. “They said he always seemed like he was someone who was capable of that because he just didn’t really connect with our high school, and didn’t really connect with our town.” 

She added: “I never saw him with anyone. I can’t even think of one person that was associated with him.”

Mr. Baier, who sat next to Mr. Lanza in the back of their sophomore-year honors math class, said Mr. Lanza barely said a word all year, but earned high marks. He said he knew this only from peeking at Mr. Lanza’s scores when their teacher handed back their tests.

Out of view of his classmates, Mr. Lanza’s adolescence seemed to have been turbulent. In 2006, his older brother graduated high school and went to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, leaving him alone with their parents — whose marriage was apparently coming apart.

In 2008, they divorced after 17 years, court records show. His father, Peter Lanza, a tax executive for General Electric, moved to Stamford, and in January 2011 married a woman who is a librarian at the University of Connecticut.

His mother, Nancy, kept their home in Newtown, a prosperous, hilly enclave of spacious, newer homes about five miles from the elementary school where she worked. Adam Lanza was thought to have been living in the house, too.  Friends remembered Ms. Lanza as being very involved in her sons’ lives.

“Their mother was very protective, very hands-on,” said Gina McDade, whose son was a playmate of Ryan Lanza’s and spent much time at his home, which she described as a two-story Colonial with a pool.

“It was a beautiful home,” Ms. McDade said. “She was a good housekeeper, better than me. You could tell her kids really came first.”

Beth Israel, 43, said she and her family lived down the street from the Lanzas, and her daughter went to school with Adam Lanza. She said she had not spoken to any members of the family in three years.

“He was a socially awkward kid,” Ms. Israel said. “He always had issues. He was kind of a loner. I don’t know who his friends were.”

She said she would speak with his mother on occasion, but said the family was not social.  On Friday, police officers and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation swarmed through the Lanzas’ neighborhood, blocking off streets and asking residents to leave their homes.  Throughout the afternoon, Ms. Lanza’s surviving son, Ryan, was named by some news outlets as the killer.

Ryan Lanza’s identification had been found on the body of his underage brother, leading to the mistaken reports.

Brett Wilshe, a neighbor of Ryan Lanza’s in Hoboken, said he communicated with him by instant message at 1:15 p.m.

“He said he thought his mom was dead, and he was heading back up to Connecticut,” Mr. Wilshe said. “He said, ‘It was my brother.’ ”


Connecticut shooter used weapon ‘made for combat’ to kill 27 people at elementary school
Witnesses told reporters the madman fired at least 100 rounds, which the expert said would have required him to pack extra magazines so he could quickly reload.
By Daniel Beekman / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, December 14, 2012, 3:14 PM

   
The shooter who killed at least 27 people at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school — including 18 children — was brandishing up to four weapons and wearing a bullet-proof vest, witnesses told reporters. A law enforcement source said one of those weapons was a .223 caliber rifle, a highly lethal firearm made for combat.

Witnesses told reporters the madman fired at least 100 rounds, which the expert said would have required him to pack extra magazines so he could quickly reload.

A .223 caliber rifle is a semi-automatic assault rifle that allows its shooter to fire up to six bullets a second. The gun was first used in the Vietnam War, said Ronald Scott, an independent firearms consultant and former head of the firearms lab for the Massachusetts state police.

In Connecticut, a permit is required to purchase a handgun, while assault weapons are banned completely from the state, according to the National Rifle Association.

"This is a small caliber, but don't let that mislead you," Scott said. "This is different from a typical .22 caliber bullet. It contains a sufficient amount of propellant to create an incredible velocity of about 3000 feet a second.”

Scott said .223 rifles are compatible with high-capacity magazines that are restricted in some states. The special magazines allow a shooter to fire up to 50 rounds at a time without reloading, he said

"If you pull the trigger as fast as you can without aiming, you can fire up to six bullets a second," Scott said.

"What makes the .223 so lethal is that it travels so fast that when it strikes someone it has the tendency to be unstable. It can tumble a bit and fragment. If it hits someone in the ribs or leg, the chance is fairly good it's going to fragment somewhat and create a huge wound path.

"When it strikes someone and goes through them it creates this tremendous wind channel, like the wake of a boat."

Scott said .223 rifles are easily obtained by people with the legal right to buy them. Obtaining a .223 rifle illegally is more difficult but manageable, he said.

"If you want one you're going to find it," he said.

"I myself don't understand why there's a need for people to have assault rifles. They aren't used for hunting. There are people who use them for target practice. These are made for combat. There's really no other use for them."






Judge accepts insanity plea in Colo. shooting case
CT POST
By DAN ELLIOTT, Associated Press
Updated 12:46 pm, Tuesday, June 4, 2013

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — A judge on Tuesday accepted James Holmes' plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, setting the stage for a lengthy mental evaluation of the Colorado theater shooting suspect.

The court clerk placed a written advisory of the ground rules of the plea before Holmes so he could examine it as Judge Carlos Samour Jr. read through all 18 points.

When Samour asked if he had any questions, Holmes replied no. Samour then accepted the plea.

"I find Mr. Holmes understands the effects and consequences of the not guilty by reason of insanity plea," the judge said. "He was looking at the advisement and appeared to be following along."

Holmes is accused of opening fire in a packed Denver-area movie theater last summer, killing 12 people and injuring 70. He is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Holmes' lawyers repeatedly have said he is mentally ill, but they delayed the insanity plea while arguing state laws were unconstitutional. They said the laws could hobble the defense if Holmes' case should ever reach the phase where the jury decides if he should be executed.

The judge rejected that argument last week.

Hundreds of people were watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Aurora theater when the shooting occurred July 20.

The dead included a Navy veteran who threw himself in front of his friends to shield them, an aspiring sports journalist who had survived a mall shooting just two months earlier, and a 6-year-old girl.

Prosecutors say Holmes spent months buying weapons, ammunition and materials for explosives and scouted the theater in advance. He donned police-style body armor, tossed a gas canister into the seats and opened fire, they say.

The insanity plea is widely seen as Holmes' best chance of avoiding execution, and possibly his only chance, given the weight of the evidence against him.

But his lawyers delayed it for weeks, saying Colorado's laws on the insanity plea and the death penalty could work in combination to violate his constitutional rights.

The laws state that if Holmes does not cooperate with doctors conducting a mandatory mental evaluation, he would lose the right to call expert witnesses to testify about his sanity during the penalty phase of his trial. Defense lawyers argued that is an unconstitutional restriction on his right to build a defense. They also contended the law doesn't define cooperation.

Samour rejected those arguments last week and said the laws are constitutional.

The next step is an evaluation of Holmes by state doctors to determine whether he was insane at the time of the shootings. That could take months.

Colorado law defines insanity as the inability to distinguish right from wrong caused by a diseased or defective mind.

If jurors find Holmes not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed indefinitely to the state mental hospital. He could eventually be released if doctors find his sanity has been restored, but that is considered unlikely.

If jurors convict him, the next step is the penalty phase, during which both sides call witnesses to testify about factors that could affect why Holmes should or shouldn't be executed.

The jury would then decide whether Holmes should be executed or sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

If jurors impose the death penalty, it would trigger court appeals and open other possibilities that would take years to resolve.


Lawyers in Colorado shooting case to challenge insanity defense law
Hartford Courant
Keith Coffman, Reuters
6:33 AM EDT, May 23, 2013

DENVER (Reuters) - Public defenders representing James Holmes, accused of killing 12 moviegoers in Colorado last summer, will return to court on Thursday to challenge the state's insanity defense law in a bid to try to avoid the death penalty for their client.

Lawyers representing Holmes, 25, are challenging Colorado's capital punishment statute on several fronts, and on Thursday are arguing that it unconstitutionally bars him from calling his own mental health experts at sentencing if he refuses to cooperate with court-appointed psychiatrists.

Holmes, a former graduate student, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if he is convicted.  Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. ruled last week that he would hear the defense arguments.  Holmes is accused of spraying gunfire inside an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in July 2012 during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

The shooting rampage killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 58 others. Another dozen people were injured fleeing the theater when the shooting erupted.  Holmes' attorneys contend in a written motion that compelling him to reveal information that could be used against him at trial or at sentencing if he is convicted violates his right against self-incrimination, especially in a capital case.

"The statute as it is written forces counsel to make decisions about how to advise their client without knowing what type of examination their client will be forced to undergo ... how the results of this can be used ... or what behavior or actions by their client may in turn severely restrict their ability to present mitigating factors on his behalf," the motion stated.

Prosecutors contend that state and federal courts have upheld the legality of the statute.

"It is well established law in Colorado that submitting to court-ordered evaluations does not violate a defendant's Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination," prosecutors said in a written pleading.

In March, then-presiding Judge William Sylvester entered a standard not guilty plea for Holmes, but allowed his attorneys to change that to not guilty by reason of insanity.  Samour, who took over the case in April, has ruled that there was "good cause" for Holmes' lawyers to change the plea.

However, Samour said he could not rule on whether he would accept it until certain legal issues were resolved so he could properly advise Holmes of the ramifications of an insanity plea.

(Editing by David Bailey and Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2013, Reuters

Judge Enters Not Guilty Plea for Suspect in Theater Rampage
By JACK HEALY, NYTIMES
March 12, 2013

CENTENNIAL, Colo. — A judge here entered a not guilty plea on Tuesday for James E. Holmes, a former neuroscience student charged with killing 12 people and wounding scores more in a mass shooting in a suburban Denver movie theater.

In the days before Tuesday’s hearing, the judge in the case, William B. Sylvester, had laid the groundwork for Mr. Holmes to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, describing the mental examinations and court-ordered interviews that would flow from such a plea.

But Mr. Holmes’s lawyers told the court on Tuesday that they were not ready to enter any plea, and said they did know when they might be ready.

Clearly frustrated, Judge Sylvester refused the defense’s requests for more time and entered the simple not guilty plea for Mr. Holmes.

Mr. Holmes, 25, was arrested moments after the July 20 shooting at the Century theaters in Aurora, clad in black body armor. Prosecutors have already presented hours of testimony and documentary evidence that Mr. Holmes was the gunman who slipped out of a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” armed himself in the parking lot, and then re-entered through an emergency exit and started shooting.

Mr. Holmes can still change the plea, but prosecutors signaled they would fight any such move.

“As far as we’re concerned, they are entering a plea of not guilty, and what they have done to this point is not sufficient to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity,” Karen Pearson, an assistant district attorney for Arapahoe County, said in court.

On Tuesday, prosecutors said they would announce whether they would seek the death penalty against Mr. Holmes at an April 1 hearing.

The judge set a four-week trial for the month of August. Given the delays so far in the case, that date may not hold.

Note related to Batman
4 dead after police standoff at a Colo. townhome

Stamford ADVOCATE
Updated 12:24 pm, Saturday, January 5, 2013

AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Four people, including an armed suspect, died after an hours-long police standoff Saturday at a Colorado townhome, authorities said.

Police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson said a SWAT team was called after gunshots were heard at the Aurora, Colo., home at about 3 a.m. Investigators said three victims, all of them adults, appeared to have been killed before officers arrived.

Carlson said the suspect shot at officers at about 8:15 a.m. and was killed during a gunfight about 45 minutes later when police entered the home. It remained unclear if officers shot the suspect or if he shot himself.

A motive for the killings also was unknown.

"We're just getting in there with our crime scene detectives, so obviously we'll have to determine if it was our rounds or his rounds," Carlson said. "This is a big investigation, and a lot is entailed."

A fifth person escaped uninjured before officers arrived and reported that she saw three people inside the home who "appeared lifeless," Carlson said. The sergeant declined to elaborate about the woman's escape.

Police declined to release the name of the suspect or the victims.

Violence marred Aurora and put the Denver suburb in the national spotlight nearly six months ago when a gunman's bloody rampage inside a movie theater left 12 people dead. Prosecutors will go to court Monday to outline their case against the suspect, James Holmes.

Colorado Prosecutors End Bid to See Suspect’s Notebook
By JACK HEALY, NYTIMES
September 20, 2012


CENTENNIAL, Colo. — James E. Holmes, accused of killing 12 people inside a Colorado movie theater, appeared in court on Thursday, his once-shaggy hair now shorn and brown rather than neon orange, as prosecutors abandoned their fight to see a notebook he sent to a university psychiatrist, saying they did not want to delay proceedings.

The contents of the notebook could provide a revealing glimpse into the mental state of Mr. Holmes in the days and weeks leading up to the shootings inside a sold-out midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo.  But public defenders for Mr. Holmes have argued that the notebook cannot be made public or shared with prosecutors because it is privileged communication between Mr. Holmes and Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado-Denver, who saw Mr. Holmes briefly in June.

Police seized the notebook a few days after the shootings when it was discovered in a campus mailroom. It has been under seal with the court since then.  On Thursday, prosecutors agreed to let Mr. Holmes’s lawyers examine and take photographs of the notebook and the packaging in which it had been sent.

Prosecutors said on Thursday they were giving up their fight to examine the notebook the defendant mailed to his psychiatrist just hours before the July 20 shootings because they anticipated that it might ultimately be entered into evidence by Mr. Holmes’s lawyers as part of an insanity defense, and thus they would get to see it anyway.  His lawyers have described him as mentally ill, but have not yet said how Mr. Holmes will plead.

In abandoning their efforts, prosecutors may have few other options. Mr. Holmes was arrested outside the Century 16 theater minutes after the shootings, wearing commando-style gear and with four guns in his car. As the case moves slowly toward trial, much will rest on his mental state and actions in the minutes, days and weeks before the killings.  Prosecutors and police have described his purchases of firearms, explosives and 6,000 rounds of ammunition as calculating and deliberate, suggesting that Mr. Holmes had created an intricate plan to kill as many people as possible.

The attack was the deadliest mass murder in Colorado since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.

Fellow graduate students at the University of Colorado, Denver, said that Mr. Holmes, always quiet and socially awkward, had seemed to grow increasingly isolated and silent in the spring before he took steps to drop out in June. In a text message to one student, Mr. Holmes suggested he was suffering from “dysphoric mania” — a form of bipolar disorder — and said that he was “bad news.”

After appearing impassive and dazed in other hearings, the defendant’s eyes darted over the faces of the lawyers, court officials and reporters gathered in the second-floor courtroom on Thursday. He even appeared to smile to himself a few times.  Prosecutors also filed 10 additional charges against Mr. Holmes but did not immediately release any details about them.

Colorado massacre suspect silent in first court hearing
Hartford Courant
Keith Coffman and Mary Slosson, Reuters
1:04 PM EDT, July 23, 2012

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - The man accused of killing a dozen people in a Colorado movie theater during a showing of the new "Batman" film gave little away in his first court appearance on Monday, sitting silently in a red jailhouse jump suit and with his hair dyed bright red.

James Eagan Holmes, 24, who was detained immediately after the massacre early on Friday morning, appeared groggy and emotionless during the brief hearing, looking straight ahead and occasionally closing his eyes. He was shackled at the wrists and ankles.

About 40 members of the victim's families were seated on the left side of the courtroom. One family member seated in the front row glared at Holmes throughout the entire proceeding.

Several times when Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester asked Holmes a question, one of his attorneys answered for him.

Police say Holmes was dressed in body armor and toting three guns when he opened fire at a packed midnight screening of the new Batman movie at a theater complex in the Denver suburb of Aurora in the early hours of Friday. Fifty-eight other people were wounded, and many of them have serious injuries.

The former neuroscience student also left his apartment booby-trapped with explosives that police said could have destroyed the apartment complex. They conducted a controlled detonation over the weekend.

Police say they are still searching for a motive for the crime, which baffled fellow students and acquaintances. They described him as a quiet high-achiever whose past gave little inkling that anything was amiss.

At the hearing the judge set a date of next Monday for formal charges to be filed.


POSSIBLE DEATH PENALTY

Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said she would consult with the victims and families of the dead before making a decision on seeking the death penalty.

She told reporters outside the court house that the decision on the death penalty had to be made within 60 days of his arraignment, "so it's months down the line."

Chambers has prosecuted two of the three inmates who are now on Colorado's death row.

Holmes was represented by a public defender during the brief hearing before Sylvester. It was not clear if any of his family attended the hearing.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama traveled to the suburb of 325,000 to offer comfort to families of the victims. He told them their loved ones would be remembered long after the justice system was done with the killer.

The dead included war veterans, an aspiring sportscaster who had barely escaped a shooting in a Toronto mall earlier this summer, and a 6-year-old girl.

The crime meets all the elements of Colorado capital case law, including premeditation, multiple victims, and the killing of a child, said former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman.

"If James Holmes isn't executed, Colorado may as well throw away its death penalty law," he said.

Many in Aurora have vowed to deny Holmes the publicity they believe he craves by not uttering his name.

"I refuse to say his name. In my house we're just going to call him Suspect A," Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told a memorial on the steps of the suburb's municipal center on Sunday night. He captured a spirit of defiance voiced by citizens as well as religious and political leaders.

Holmes and his motives remained largely a mystery, with past associates saying he displayed no hints of a mental illness or violent tendencies.

He was armed with a Smith & Wesson M&P .223 semi-automatic rifle, similar to an AR-15 assault rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and a Glock .40-caliber handgun. Police found an additional Glock .40-caliber handgun in his car. All the weapons had been bought legally.

He is in solitary confinement to protect him from other prisoners. Holmes had recently dropped out of a doctoral degree program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical School, a few blocks from his apartment.



Prior to PhD studies with prestigious scholarship...
...After graduation Mr Holmes returned to San Diego, where he is said to have struggled to find a job. Eventually, he got part-time work at McDonald's.
I-BBC
23 July 2012 Last updated at 12:22 ET
Aurora shooting: Suspect James Holmes appears in court


The US man accused of killing 12 people in a shooting at a Batman film screening in Aurora, Colorado has appeared in court for the first time.

James Holmes, 24, sat in court in a red jail suit with dyed orange hair, and appeared sleepy during the proceedings.

Nine of 58 people wounded by the gunman remain in critical condition.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama met survivors and families of the dead as hundreds of people took part in a service of remembrance.

Mr Holmes is to be held without bail at a jail in Centennial, Colorado, the judge said...


BACKGROUND

21 July 2012 Last updated at 07:31 ET

Profile: Aurora cinema shooting suspect James Holmes

Before he allegedly shot 12 people dead at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, on Friday, James Holmes was considered a quiet young man, introverted but pleasant.

The 24-year-old had been studying for a PhD in neuroscience at the University of Colorado at Denver, although he was about to quit.

"He basically was socially awkward, but not to the degree that would warrant suspicion of mass murder or any atrocity of this magnitude," said Billy Kromka, a research assistant at a lab where he spent several months last summer.

The FBI said he had no significant criminal record - local police said he had a speeding ticket from 2011 - and no links to terrorism.


Scholarship

Mr Holmes was born on 13 December 1987 in San Diego County, California, where he spent at least part of his childhood.

In 2006, he graduated from Westview High School in the upmarket district of Torrey Highlands, where his parents still live. A yearbook showed he played football (soccer, across the pond) for the school's junior varsity, or "B" team.

A former classmate, Breanna Hath, said Mr Holmes was extremely quiet, "really sweet, shy" and "didn't have any creepy vibe about him at all".

"There were no real girls he was involved with," she told the Washington Post. "It seemed he was really into a video game group that hung out together."

Intellectually gifted, Mr Holmes won a scholarship to study at the University of California at Riverside, where he gained a bachelor's degree in neuroscience in 2010.

"He had the capability to do anything he wanted academically," Timothy White, the university's chancellor, told reporters on Friday.

After graduation Mr Holmes returned to San Diego, where he is said to have struggled to find a job. Eventually, he got part-time work at McDonald's...


Pain, puzzles in wake of Colorado tragedy
Bomb experts disarm suspect's apartment booby-trapped with intricate trail of explosives.
Anchorage Daily News
By JACK HEALY and SERGE F. KOVALESKI, The New York Times
Published: July 21st, 2012 11:43 PM
Last Modified: July 22nd, 2012 12:02 AM

AURORA, Colo. -- Killing a dozen people and wounding more than 50 others was apparently not enough for James Eagan Holmes, according to the police. Inside his otherwise ordinary apartment lay an intricate series of explosive booby traps, seemingly designed to kill anyone who entered while pursuing his trail.

Holmes, 24, who the police say brought terror to a midnight movie screening in this Colorado community, also left behind a litany of questions, many of them focused on how and why a once-promising student could now stand accused of being the lone gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in Colorado since the 1999 Columbine High School attacks.

Holmes had been a shy, awkward boy who once seemed quietly bound for big things. He was a science student from Southern California who won scholarships and internships, graduated "at the top of the top" from the University of California, Riverside, and moved to Colorado last year to take the next step: a doctoral program in neuroscience.

Holmes had an appointment at the university under a one-year Neuroscience Training Grant from the National Institutes of Health, a spokeswoman for the university said. The federal grant pays for six pre-thesis doctoral students in the university's Neuroscience Program at the Anschutz Medical Campus. Such grants are usually quite difficult to obtain, going to only the top students.

But Holmes struggled through his first academic year at the University of Colorado, Denver, and had dropped out by this spring. Neighbors from his gang-ridden neighborhood in Aurora described him as a solitary figure, recognizable as one of the few white residents of a largely Hispanic neighborhood, and always alone. Alone as he bought beer and liquor at neighborhood shops, as he ate burritos at La California restaurant or got his car fixed at the Grease Monkey auto shop. Alone as he rode his bicycle through the streets.

He appears to have sought companionship through the website Adult Friend Finder, posting a photo of himself with bright orange hair and saying that he was "looking for a fling." In an online profile, he described himself as a nice guy, or as nice as any man "who does these sorts of shenanigans," though its authenticity could not be independently verified.

Some nights neighbors heard loud music throbbing in his third-floor apartment and often complained about it, or noticed a strange, purple light in the windows. Sometimes, the windows were masked by newspaper, as if he wanted no one to see inside.

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On Saturday Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates offered an explanation for why that might have been. When the police arrived after apprehending Holmes outside the theaters where the shootings had occurred, they found an apartment full of explosives and shells. The array had been designed "to kill whoever entered it," Oates said.

For more than four months, Oates said, the suspect had been getting large mail-order deliveries at his home and at his college.

"What we are seeing here is evidence of some calculation and deliberation," he said.

After more than a day of efforts involving bomb-defusing robots and painstaking patience, law-enforcement officers said they had defused the main threats inside the apartment by Saturday afternoon. They set off controlled detonations that could be heard from across the street.

By the afternoon, teams of firefighters in heavy gear appeared to be entering the apartment -- a place that may hold hints about Holmes.

Holmes' background was science. Before dropping out he took a class that explored the biological origins of psychiatric and neurological disorders, and was scheduled to give a presentation on "MicroRNA Biomarkers," according to a class schedule published online. The topic appears to demonstrate an interest in the genetic basis of mental illness.

With his academic career in tatters, law enforcement officials say, Holmes began to assemble another plan. Over the last two months, he bought two handguns, a shotgun and an assault rifle from local gun dealers. He bought and stockpiled 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. The police said he began to receive large deliveries to his home and work. He outfitted himself with black body armor and a gas mask.

And early Friday morning, the police said, he walked into a darkened multiplex here in Aurora -- a sprawling city east of Denver -- where a midnight showing of the new Batman movie had just begun, and began firing bullets at the families and teenagers packed into the sold-out auditorium. The police said that when he was arrested, he compared himself to the Joker character in the Batman movies.

Twelve people were killed, and 58 were wounded, and the authorities said that 11 remained hospitalized in critical condition Saturday.

The initial spasms of shock and disbelief soon turned to open grief and outrage. Memorials sprang up near the site of the shooting. The White House said Saturday that President Barack Obama would fly to Aurora on Sunday afternoon to meet with families of the victims of the killing spree and with local officials.

Neighbors, acquaintances and teachers who knew the suspect found themselves searching for any glimmer that could offer some small clue as to how the quiet man from their memories came to be arrested in such horrific crimes.

Apart from a speeding ticket, Holmes had no previous encounters with the police in Aurora. He had no history of trouble with the police at college in California. He left no easily identifiable online messages or videos that might offer any insight to his mind-set. It also remained unclear how Holmes was able to afford the large amount of weapons, ammunition and protective gear he had, and how he learned to booby-trap his apartment.

He was being held away from other inmates at the Arapahoe County Jail on Saturday because of the case's high profile, Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. Holmes is due to make his first court appearance at 9:30 Monday morning. In interviews, neighbors and friends from Southern California and Aurora described a young man as anonymous as a glass of water, more Invisible Man than Joker, who left the lightest of impressions on people. He grew up on a pleasant street of Spanish-style tract homes east of San Diego. His mother, Arlene Rosemary Holmes, is a registered nurse. News reports and a LinkedIn profile suggest that his father is a software company manager in the area.

When he was younger, Holmes dabbled in soccer and running cross-country but seemed to give them up for academic pursuits. Breanna Hath, 23, a classmate who graduated from Westview High School with Holmes in 2006, said he had a small group of friends who played video games and were "a little nerdy."

"He was really shy, really quiet, but really nice and sweet," Hath said.

He won merit scholarships to the University of California, Riverside, and graduated in 2010 as an honors student in neuroscience, school officials said.

"I think he was kind of quirky, just the way you expect smart people to be," the school's chancellor, Timothy P. White, said in an interview on Saturday. "Quirky in the sense that he probably had a wry sense of humor. He kept to himself more than he socialized. But he was social. He wasn't a hermit or an introvert. He wasn't a loner."

But friends and neighbors said Holmes was hesitant to make small talk if seen on the street, slow to smile in conversations with strangers, often seemingly tucked away inside himself. They described him as pleasant and benign.

A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the trip wire was about waist high and that among the hazards found in the roughly 800-square-foot apartment were bullets in jars that were rigged to detonate. And there were about 30 aerial shells, typically used in fireworks, which had been fashioned to be explosive devices.

With the major trip wires and explosives defeated, the police said they could enter the apartment and search for clues as to what spurred the gunman to go on his shooting rampage.

12 Killed in Shooting at Colorado Theater
NYTIMES
By DAN FROSCH, WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, TIMOTHY WILLIAMS and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
July 20, 2012

AURORA, COLO. — A gunman armed with three weapons, including a rifle and shotgun, opened fire in a theater crowded with families and children at a midnight showing of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in a Denver suburb early Friday morning, killing at least 12 people and wounding at least 38 others, the local police and federal officials said.

Just before he began shooting, the police said the man, identified as James Holmes, 24, had appeared in front of the packed theater in Aurora, Colo., and set off at least one smoke device before firing randomly at audience members, who had just settled into their seats.

Mr. Holmes was arrested in a parking lot behind the theater near his car without further incident, according to the Aurora Police. He had a gas mask and was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun. The authorities believe Mr. Holmes had acted alone, and that the death toll may increase because some of the wounded were seriously injured.

With the investigation in its earliest stages, the authorities on Friday morning said they were unsure what prompted the attack and whether Mr. Holmes had ties to any hate groups.

“No motivation yet,” one senior law enforcement official said, adding, “The kid’s not talking.”

After his arrest, Mr. Holmes told the police that he had explosives at an Aurora residence, and on Friday morning, F.B.I. agents, along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local police had cordoned off a north Aurora neighborhood and focused attention on a third-floor apartment in a redbrick building.

Firefighters perched on a cherry picker were seen breaking the window with an ax.

John Priest, who lives in the neighborhood, said that his 21-year-old son had been in the movie theater with two friends during the shooting, but had been unharmed. The two friends, however, had each been wounded — one was hit by a bullet in the buttocks and grazed in the leg, and the other was shot in the leg. Neither injury is life threatening, he said.

“How could people do something like this?” he said. “I don’t understand this.”

At Gateway High School, where the authorities have directed people to gather to get news about friends and family members, Rosemary Ratcliff said she had so far been unable to find her son, Abdullah, 17, who she believes had been at the midnight screening.

“I haven’t heard from him, and none of his friends are picking up their phones,” she said in a near-whisper as she left the school.

The authorities have not released the names of victims, but Pentagon officials said that some members of the military were among the casualties. The officials said they did not yet have an accurate count, or know what branches of the service the victims were from or whether they were dead or injured.

The shooting erupted at the Century 16 Movie Theater, during the first showings of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Throngs had gathered, some dressed as characters from the highly anticipated Batman sequel.

Witnesses said the gunman appeared to have entered the theater through an exit door and described smelling either pepper spray or tear gas in the theater as the gunfire rang out.

Dan Oates, Aurora’s police chief, said that the smoke device had made “a hissing sound” before starting to emit smoke.

President Obama, who spent the night in southern Florida as part of a campaign swing, was notified of the shooting by his top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, at 5:26 a.m., according to the White House. He later released a statement saying that he and the first lady were “shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado,” and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

Mr. Obama was briefed Friday morning by Mr. Brennan, Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, and Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff. “We do not believe at this point there was an apparent nexus to terrorism,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One.

Mr. Obama will return to Washington on Friday afternoon, cutting short his Florida trip, his campaign said.

In a seven-minute speech in Fort Myers, Fla., Mr. Obama talked in highly personal ways about the tragedy. “My daughters go to the movies,” he said. “What if Malia and Sasha had been in the theater as so many of our kids do every day? Michele and I will be fortunate enough to hug our girls a little tighter tonight.”

He reflected on the fragility of life and the triviality of so much of what passes for daily existence, calling on the country to remember what really matters. “The people we lost in Aurora loved and were loved,” he said. “They were mothers and fathers, they were husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. They had hopes for the future and they had dreams that were not yet fulfilled.”

He asked for a moment of silence and asked the crowd to “spend a little time thinking about the incredible blessings that God has given us.”

Both Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, said they planned to pull television campaign advertisements in Colorado.

The movie studio Warner Bros., which is owned by Time Warner, released a statement Friday morning, saying that the company and the filmmakers were “deeply saddened” and “extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.”

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has waged a national campaign for stricter gun laws, called on President Obama and Mr. Romney to more concretely address the issue of gun violence in their campaigns.

“You know, soothing words are nice,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly radio show, “but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country.”

On Friday morning, television images showed several ambulances moving about and dozens of police officers gathered at the Century 16 movie complex in the early morning darkness. A police robot could be seen inspecting a white compact sedan, its two doors and trunk wide open, in the parking lot of the movie complex, television images showed, though it was unclear whether the car belonged to the gunman.

“I saw a man walk in through the exit,” a witness told a reporter from 9NEWS in Colorado, saying he threw what appeared to be a pair of gas canisters to the ground. “He waited for both the bombs to explode before he did anything. Then, after both of them exploded, he began to shoot.”

Cellphone video appeared to show the traumatic scene outside of the large multiplex immediately after the shooting. Some people wandered away with bloodstained shirts as others could be heard screaming, “Get out of here!”

A witness told CNN affiliate KUSA that he was in one of the other theaters showing the movie. “It’s crazy to think I could have been in the other line,” he said.

“We were watching a scene of the movie — it was a shootout scene, there were guns firing,” he said. “Then loud bangs came from the right of the theater. Smoke took over the entire theater, and it was really thick and no one could really see anything. Me and my sister were sitting there wondering what was going on. Five people were limping, wounded, slightly bloody.”

“I saw a girl who was pretty much covered in blood. It made me think the worst,” the man said. “A cop came walking through the front door before everyone was cleared up and before everything was completely under control holding a little girl in his arms, and she wasn’t moving.”

Dan Frosch reported from Aurora, Colo., William K. Rashbaum, Timothy Williams and J. David Goodman reported from New York and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington. Peter Baker contributed reporting from West Palm Beach, Fla., Elisabeth Bumiller from Washington and Victoria Shannon from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research.

Gunman kills 12 in Denver suburb at Batman movie
Hartford Courant
Keith Coffman and Stephanie Simon, Reuters
11:50 AM EDT, July 20, 2012

AURORA, Colo. (Reuters) - A gunman in a gas mask and bullet-proof vest killed 12 people at a midnight premiere of the new Batman movie in a suburb of Denver early on Friday, sparking pandemonium when he hurled a gas canister into the auditorium and opened fire on moviegoers.

Some 55 others, including children, were hurt in the attack on the showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" at a mall in the suburb of Aurora, some of whom were treated for the effects of tear gas, hospital officials said.

Police took the suspect into custody in the parking lot behind the theater, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told a news conference.

Multiple media outlets named the suspect as James Eagan Holmes, 24, though Reuters had not independently confirmed his identity.

The suspect booby-trapped his Aurora apartment with sophisticated explosives, Oates told reporters.

"We are trying to determine how to disarm the flammable or explosive material. We could be here for hours or days," Oates said. "The pictures are fairly disturbing. It looks very sophisticated, how it's booby-trapped. It could be a very long wait."

Police lifted to his third-floor window by a crane searched the suspect's apartment building with a remote camera.

Firefighters, police and sheriff's deputies from several jurisdictions swarmed the scene with heavy weaponry and trucks from the bomb squad.

BLOODY CHAOS AT CINEMA

The gunman, appeared at the front of the theater during the movie and released a canister which let out a hissing sound before gunfire erupted, police said.

"When we got out of the theater it was just chaos. There was this one who guy was on all fours crawling. There was this girl spitting up blood," witness Donovan Tate told KCNC television. "There were bullet holes in some people's backs, some people's arms. There was this one guy who was stripped down to just his boxers. It looked like he was shot in the back or something. It was crazy."

Confusion reigned as shooting broke out during an action scene in the summer blockbuster, one of more highly anticipated films of the year. The gunman may have blended in with other moviegoers who wore costumes as heroes and villains.

"He looked like he was in the military or like he was a SWAT person so he just kind of blended in with the chaos of the crowd. People thought he was probably like a cop or something," witness Jennifer Seeger told NBC's "Today."

"He came in and threw in the gas can and then I knew it was real. He shot the ceiling and right after he shot the ceiling he pointed the gun right at me. At that point I dove into the aisle. And I got lucky because he didn't shoot me," she said.

President Barack Obama, who was notified of the shooting early on Friday morning by his homeland security adviser, John Brennan, urged Americans to "stand together" with the people of Aurora and said political campaigning ahead of the November 6 election should be set aside.

"There are going to be other days for politics. This, I think, is a day for prayer and reflection," Obama told supporters at a previously scheduled campaign event in Fort Myers, Florida, that he cut short to address the shooting.

"We're going to stand by our neighbors in Colorado during this extraordinarily difficult time," he said.

White House officials saw no connection to terrorism, an Obama spokesman said.

Obama's opponent, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, pulled all television ads in Colorado until further notice and a scheduled campaign event was to be dedicated to addressing the shootings, campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

MEMORIES OF COLUMBINE

The shooting evoked memories of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, also a Denver suburb and 17 miles from Aurora, where two students opened fire and killed 12 students and a teacher.

Aurora Police spokesman Frank Fania said the suspect was carrying a knife, a rifle and a handgun when arrested, and one other gun was recovered from the theater. The gunman was also wearing a bulletproof vest and a gas mask.

"He did not resist, he did not put up a fight," Fania said.

Chandler Brannon, 25, who had been watching the movie with his girlfriend, said that about 20 minutes into the movie he saw a smoke bomb go off and heard what sounded like fireworks. He later realized they were a rapid volley of gunshots.

"I told my girlfriend to just play dead," he told Reuters, adding that he never got a full view of the gunman. "All I could see was a silhouette."

One man told an NBC affiliate he was in the adjacent theater watching another screening of the "Batman" movie when he heard gunshots and the theater filled with thick, choking smoke.

He saw bullets holes in the wall, and some people in his theater were wounded. "I heard moaning ... they were in pain."

In all six hospitals reported receiving 55 patients from the scene. Ten victims died in the theater and two died in the hospital, Fania told NBC.

"This is one of the most horrific nights I've ever had to work," said Comilla Sasson, an emergency doctor at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora where 22 patients ranging in age from three months to 45 years arrived in private cars, police cars and ambulances.

SECURITY PRECAUTIONS

In New York, police will deploy officers at screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises" throughout the city "as a precaution against copycats," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said in a statement.

The Paris movie premiere was cancelled on Friday, event organizers said. Workmen cleared away barriers that had been set up in preparation for the premiere at a cinema on the capital's Champs Elysees avenue.

"Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time," said Jessica Zacholl, a spokeswoman for Time Warner-owned Warner Bros., the studio behind the film.

The film, with a budget of $250 million, opened on 4,404 screens, the second widest release ever behind "Twilight: Eclipse," and industry analysts had said it stood a good chance of matching or beating the opening weekend box office record of $207 million set by Disney's "Avengers" in May.

The prior release in the Batman series, "The Dark Knight," has grossed more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office since its release in 2008.

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Joseph O'Leary, Sunaina Karkarey and Cynthia Johnston; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Vicki Allen)




Glock pistols the rage:  weapon of choice for terroristists using guns.

'Jihad Jane' terror suspect pleads guilty in Pa.
YAHOO
By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press
1 February 2011

PHILADELPHIA – A Pennsylvania woman who called herself "Jihad Jane" online pleaded guilty Tuesday to her role in a plot to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had offended Muslims. Colleen LaRose, 47, helped foreign terror suspects intent on starting a holy war in Europe and South Asia, prosecutors said.

LaRose, who also was accused of using the online screen name "Fatima LaRose," has been in custody since October 2009 and faces a possible life sentence under the four charges to which she pleaded guilty.

Speaking clearly but quietly, LaRose said Tuesday she had never been treated for any mental health problems and was entering her plea freely. She whispered a few comments to her lawyers, some of them prompting a smile from public defender Mark T. Wilson.  Wilson declined to comment afterward.

"We'll have a lot to say at sentencing," he said.

LaRose and co-defendant Jamie Paulin-Ramirez of Leadville, Colo., are the rare U.S. women charged with terrorism. Paulin-Ramirez pleaded not guilty after being arrested in Ireland with other terror suspects.  The March 2010 indictment charged LaRose with conspiring with jihadist fighters and pledging to commit murder in the name of a Muslim holy war, or jihad. The indictment was announced hours after authorities arrested seven suspected terrorists in Ireland allegedly linked to LaRose.

In e-mails recovered by the FBI over 15 months, LaRose agreed to marry an online contact from South Asia so he could move to Europe. She also agreed to become a martyr, the indictment said.  The man she had agreed to marry told her in a March 2009 e-mail to go to Sweden to find the artist, Lars Vilks, who had depicted the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, the indictment said.

Vilks has questioned the sophistication of the plotters but said he is glad LaRose never got to him.  LaRose pleaded guilty Tuesday to four counts: conspiracy to support terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, lying to investigators and attempted identity theft.

LaRose and her co-conspirators discussed that her appearance and American citizenship would help her blend in while carrying out their plans, prosecutors said.

"Today's guilty plea, by a woman from suburban America who plotted with others to commit murder overseas and to provide material support to terrorists, underscores the evolving nature of the threat we face," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General David Kris.

Both LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez come from difficult backgrounds.  LaRose, born in Michigan, moved to Texas as a girl and had married twice by age 24. Her first marriage came at 16, to a man twice her age. Both unions were long over by the time she met Pennsylvanian Kurt Gorman in 2005.

LaRose lived with Gorman and his father in Pennsburg, caring for the older man while Gorman worked at his family's small business, Gorman said last year. He called her a "good-hearted person" who mostly stayed around the house.

But her online ties grew to a loose band of allegedly violent co-conspirators from around the world, prosecutors said. They found her after she posted a YouTube video in June 2008 saying she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said.  Despite Web images that show LaRose in a Muslim head covering, Gorman said he never picked up on any Muslim leanings. She did not attended religious services of any kind, he said. Gorman said he sensed nothing amiss in their five-year relationship — until LaRose fled days after his father's funeral.

LaRose had removed the hard drive from her computer and set off for Europe, according to the indictment. She had swiped Gorman's passport and planned to give it to the co-conspirator she had agreed to marry, the indictment said.  It's unclear how she was able to travel overseas, given that the FBI, presumably tipped to her online postings, had interviewed her in July 2009. According to the indictment, she then denied soliciting funds for any terrorist causes or making the postings ascribed to "JihadJane."

By Sept. 30, 2009, she wrote online that it would be "an honour & great pleasure to die or kill for" her intended spouse, the indictment said. "Only death will stop me here that I am so close to the target!" she is accused of writing.

She was arrested the following month upon her return to the U.S.  Among those LaRose allegedly recruited was Paulin-Ramirez, a single mother who also spent long hours on the Internet before moving to Ireland with her 6-year-old son and marrying a terror suspect from Algeria the day she arrived.  Paulin-Ramirez, who allegedly went by "Jihad Jamie," faces a maximum 15-year term if convicted of aiding terrorists.

A lawyer for her has not returned calls for comment this week on whether she too plans to plead guilty.


Pa. suspect: Caretaker by day, 'Jihad Jane' online
YAHOO
By MARYCLAIRE DALE, Associated Press Writer
Thu Mar 11, 8:11 am ET

PHILADELPHIA – Colleen LaRose spent long days caring for her boyfriend's father in a second-floor apartment in Pennsburg, a small town north of Philadelphia.

But online, federal authorities say, the devoted caretaker developed a daring alter ego, refashioning herself as "Jihad Jane" while helping recruit and finance Muslim terrorists — and eventually moving overseas to try to kill an artist she perceived as an enemy to Islam.

LaRose, 46, was charged Tuesday with conspiring with jihadist fighters and pledging to commit murder in the name of a Muslim holy war, or jihad. The indictment was announced hours after authorities arrested seven suspected terrorists in Ireland allegedly linked to LaRose, who has been in prison since her Oct. 15 arrest while returning to the United States.

In e-mails recovered by the FBI over 15 months, LaRose agreed to marry an online contact from South Asia so he could move to Europe. She also agreed to become a martyr, the indictment said.

But perhaps she felt like one already.

Born in Michigan, LaRose moved to Texas as a girl and had married twice by age 24. Her first marriage came at 16, to a man twice her age in Tarrant County, Texas, public records show. There are no records or reports of any children from either union, both of which were long over by the time she met Pennsylvanian Kurt Gorman in 2005.

LaRose lived with Gorman and his father in Pennsburg, caring for the older man while Gorman worked at his family's small business in another town, Gorman said this week.

"She was a good-hearted person," he said Wednesday. "She pretty much stayed around the house."

But online, she grew increasingly devoted to a loose band of what authorities say were violent co-conspirators from around the world. They found her after she posted a YouTube video in June 2008 saying she was "desperate to do something somehow to help" ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said.

She eventually agreed to try to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had angered Muslims by depicting the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog, according to a U.S. official who wasn't authorized to discuss details of the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Despite Web images that show LaRose in a Muslim head covering, Gorman said he never picked up on any Muslim leanings. She never attended religious services of any kind, he said. Gorman, 47, sensed nothing amiss in their five-year relationship until the day after his father's funeral last August.

"I came home and she was gone. It doesn't make any sense," he said Wednesday outside his firm in nearby Quakertown.

That same day, LaRose had removed the hard drive from her computer and set off for Europe — federal authorities won't specify where. She had swiped Gorman's passport and planned to give it to the co-conspirator she had agreed to marry, the indictment said.

It's unclear how she was able to travel overseas, given that the FBI, presumably tipped to her online postings, had interviewed her July 17. According to the indictment, she denied soliciting funds for any terrorist causes or making the postings ascribed to "JihadJane."

By Sept. 30, she wrote online that it would be "an honour & great pleasure to die or kill for" her intended spouse, the indictment said. "Only death will stop me here that I am so close to the target!" she is accused of writing.

Her federal public defenders, Mark T. Wilson and Ross Thompson, declined to on the case again Wednesday.

Irish police disclosed, though, that they had arrested two Algerians, two Libyans, a Palestinian, a Croatian and an American woman married to one of the Algerian suspects. They were not identified by name.

"I'm glad she didn't kill me," Vilks told The Associated Press on Wednesday, saying the suspects appeared to be "low-tech." He said he has built defense systems in his home to thwart would-be terrorists, including a safe room and electrified barbed wire.

LaRose is scheduled to appear in court March 18 on the indictment, which was returned March 4 and unsealed Tuesday. The document does not link her to any organized terrorist groups.

She is unusual in being one of just a handful of U.S. women ever charged with terrorism, the Justice Department said. And her online conversations suggest she knew that to be an advantage — as she thought her blond, American profile would help her move freely in Sweden to carry out the attack, the indictment said.

The case "shatters the conventional wisdom that somehow the U.S. is immune to the heady currents of radicalization that have affected citizens of other Western countries," said Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman, an international securities expert.

LaRose lived in a tidy red brick apartment building on Main Street, a busy roadway lined with porch-front houses, many decorated with American flags, and a post office.

"It's a great place. A quiet little town," said Pennsburg real estate agent Debbie Turner. "But you never know who your neighbors are. You have to be careful."

LaRose had a few minor convictions in Texas in the 1980s for trespassing and other misdemeanors, according to online records, which list her then as 4 feet 11 and 105 pounds. She was also twice arrested in Texas on misdemeanor public intoxication charges.

"For all intents and purposes, she's the neighbor next door," said Hoffman, noting that the Internet enables like minds around the world to meet up, for better or worse.

"You could get all the thrills of participation in an illegal clandestine act in the comfort of your own bedroom," he said. "This is someone who, I think, because of the communicative power of the Internet is able to ... enter into something that is larger than herself."


FACT CHECK:  Civilian police officers responded to the incident and a female police officer fired 4 shots into the suspected terrorist.
I-BBC - Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Sunday, 8 November 2009
Sentenced to death August 2013
US Senate may probe army shooting
flag flies at half mast in front of the Army"s III Corps headquarters at Fort Hood, Texas, Friday, Nov. 6, 2009
Flags at Fort Hood and the across the US are flying at half mast

Senior US Senator Joe Lieberman says he plans to open a congressional investigation into last week's deadly shooting at a Texas army base.

Mr Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, told Fox TV that he wanted to find out whether it was a terrorist attack.

Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim army major, is suspected of killing 13 people.

Mr Lieberman also said he hoped to determine whether the army missed signs that Maj Hasan harboured extreme views.

The 39-year-old army psychiatrist opened fire at the Fort Hood base on Thursday. Besides those killed, 29 people were wounded.

Maj Hasan was shot by a fellow soldier and remains in a coma.

'Rants'

Mr Lierberman said that if Maj Hasan had shown signs of becoming an Islamist radical, the army should have discharged him.

MAJOR NIDAL MALIK HASAN
US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan
Born in US to Palestinian parents
Joined the army and trained to be a psychiatrist
Treated soldiers returning from combat zones
Described as a devout Muslim
Said to have been unhappy about imminent overseas deployment

The Associated Press news agency reports that some of Maj Hasan's colleagues had expressed concern about his growing anger over the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another army psychiatrist, Val Finnell, told AP he had complained to army administrators about what he considered Maj Hasan's "anti-American" rants.

"In retrospect, I'm not surprised he did it," Mr Finnell said of the shootings.

Investigators are still looking into the motive of the attack.

But Army Chief of Staff George Casey warned against speculation.

He told ABC's This Week programme on Sunday that focusing on Maj Hasan's religion could "heighten the backlash" against all Muslims in the military.

Reports suggested that Maj Hasan, who was due to be sent to Afghanistan, had been increasingly unhappy in the army.

His cousin told US media last week that he had been opposed to his imminent deployment, describing it as his "worst nightmare".

Mr Hasan's cousin also said the gunman had been battling racial harassment because of his "Middle Eastern ethnicity."

Maj Hasan was born in the US of Palestinian parents and has been described as a devout Muslim.









Colo. Church Gunman Had Been Kicked Out
NYTIMES
By JUDITH KOHLER | Associated Press Writer
6:40 PM EST, December 10, 2007

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The gunman believed to have killed four people at a megachurch and a missionary training school had been thrown out of the school a few years ago and had been sending it hate mail, police said in court papers Monday.

The gunman was identified as Matthew Murray, 24, who was home-schooled in what a friend said was a deeply religious Christian household. Murray's father is a neurologist and a leading multiple-sclerosis researcher.

Five people -- including Murray -- were killed, and five others wounded Sunday in the two eruptions of violence 12 hours and 65 miles apart.

The first attack took place at Youth With a Mission, a training center for missionaries in the Denver suburb of Arvada; the other occurred at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, where Murray was shot to death by a security guard. The training center maintains an office at the 10,000-member church.

"Through both investigations it has been determined that most likely the suspect in both shootings are one in the same," police said in court papers.

Colorado Springs police said the "common denominator in both locations" was Youth With a Mission.

"It appears that the suspect had been kicked out of the program three years prior and during the past few weeks had sent different forms of hate mail to the program and-or its director," police said.

In a statement, the training center said health problems kept Murray from finishing the program. It did not elaborate. Murray did not complete the lecture phase or a field assignment as part of a 12-week program, Youth With a Mission said.

"The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to" finish, it said.

Police gave no immediate details on the hate mail. And the training center said that Murray left in 2002 -- five years ago, not three -- and that no one there can recall any visits or other communication from him since then.

Earlier Monday, a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity said it appeared Murray "hated Christians."

Investigators have not said whether Murray singled out his victims. But the two people killed at the church -- sisters Stephanie and Rachael Works, ages 18 and 16 -- frequented the training center, their uncle Mark Schaepe of Lincoln, Neb., told The Gazette of Colorado Springs.

Authorities searched the Murray house on a quiet street in Englewood on Monday for guns, ammunition and computers. No one was home when a reporter visited the split-level brick home early Monday. Murray's father, Ronald S. Murray, is chief executive of the Rocky Mountain Multiple Sclerosis Center in Englewood.

Matthew Murray lived there along with a brother, Christopher, 21, a student at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.

A neighbor, Cody Askeland, 19, said the brothers were home-schooled, describing the whole family as "very, very religious."

Christopher studied for a semester at Colorado Christian University before transferring to Oral Roberts, said Ronald Rex, dean of admissions and marketing at Colorado Christian. He said Matthew Murray had been in contact with school officials this summer about attending the school but decided he wasn't interested because he thought the school was too expensive.

Police said Murray's only previous brush with the law was a traffic ticket earlier this year.

Senior Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church said the gunman had no connection to the church. "We don't know this shooter," Boyd said. "He showed up on our property yesterday with a gun with the intention of hurting people, and he did."

The gunman opened fire at 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center. Witnesses said the man asked to spend the night there and opened fire with a handgun when he was turned down. They described him as a young man, perhaps 20, in a dark jacket and cap.

Later, at New Life Church, a gunman wearing a trench coat and carrying a high-powered rifle opened fire in the parking lot and later walked into the church as a service was letting out.

Jeanne Assam, a church member who volunteers as a security guard, shot and killed Murray, who was found with a rifle and two handguns, police said. The pastor called her "a real hero."

"When the shots were fired, she rushed toward the scene and encountered the attacker there in a hallway. He never got more than 50 feet inside our building," he said. "There could have been a great loss of life yesterday, and she probably saved over 100 lives."

Boyd said the gunman had a lot of ammunition and estimated that 40 rounds had been fired inside the church, leaving what looked like a "war scene."

Jessie Gingrich, who had left New Life and was in the parking lot getting into her car, saw the gunman get a rifle from his trunk and open fire on a van with people inside. Gingrich said she cowered in her vehicle, fumbling with the key.

"I was just expecting for the next gunshot to be coming through my car. Miraculously -- by the grace of God -- it did not," she told ABC's "Good Morning America."

About 7,000 people were in and around the church the time of the shooting, Boyd said. Security had been beefed up after the shootings hours earlier in Arvada, he said. The church had a total of 15 to 20 volunteer security officers inside at the time of the attack, he said.

Some members of the congregation reacted with compassion and forgiveness, in keeping with their faith.

Ashley Gibbs was getting into a car with David Harris when they heard the gunshots. They stayed in the vehicle.

"It was obvious that he was in some sort of pain and going through a lot," Gibbs told "Today." "I just prayed God would bring him peace."

New Life, with a largely upper middle-class membership, was founded by the Rev. Ted Haggard, who was dismissed last year after a former male prostitute alleged he had a three-year cash-for-sex relationship with him. Haggard admitted committing unspecified "sexual immorality."

The two people killed at the missionary center were identified as Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24.

Johnson, who grew up in Chisholm, Minn., loved working with children and wanted to see the world, said family friend Carla Macynski.

"Tiffany was a well-liked, easygoing 26-year-old. She was friendly, adventurous and a definite leader," Macynski said as she choked back tears. Johnson had traveled to Egypt, Libya and South Africa with the missionary group.

Crouse, of Alaska, was a former skinhead who went through a dramatic spiritual conversion at 18. He had helped build a foster home at a Crow Indian reservation in Montana, said Ronny Morris, who works with a Denver chapter of the mission.

"Whenever somebody asks me to give a specific situation where a kid's life has been changed or transformed, I always think of Phil, because he had such a radical transformation of life," said pastor Zach Chandler in Anchorage, Alaska.

Youth With a Mission was started in 1960 and now has 1,100 locations with 16,000 full-time staff, said Darv Smith, director of a Youth With a Mission center in Boulder.

The Colorado shootings came days after a 19-year-old gunman opened fire at a busy department store in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people and himself.




Site of Amish Schoolhouse Shooting Razed
DAY
By MARTHA RAFFAELE, Associated Press Writer
Oct 12, 8:18 AM EDT 

NICKEL MINES, Pa. (AP) -- Workers with heavy machinery rather than hand tools moved in before dawn Thursday and demolished the one-room Amish schoolhouse where a gunman fatally shot five girls and wounded five others.

Construction lights glared in the mist as a large backhoe tore into the overhang of the school's porch around 4:45 a.m., then knocked down the bell tower and toppled the walls. Within 15 minutes, the building was reduced to a pile of rubble. By 7:30 a.m., the debris was gone, leaving just a bare patch of earth.

The schoolhouse had been boarded up since the killings 10 days earlier, with classes moved to a nearby farm. The Amish planned to leave a quiet pasture where the schoolhouse stood.

"I think the Amish leaders made the right decision," Mike Hart, a spokesman for the Bart Fire Company, said as loaders lifted debris into dump trucks to be hauled away.
 
The Amish are known for constructing buildings by hand, without the aid of modern technology, but for this job they relied on an outside demolition crew to bring closure to a painful chapter for their peaceful community.

A group of 20 to 30 people, many of them in traditional Amish dress, gathered nearby to watch as the schoolhouse was leveled.

"It seems this is a type of closure for them," Hart said.

The destruction of the West Nickel Mines Amish School came a week after the solemn funerals of the five girls killed by gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV. Roberts came heavily armed and apparently prepared for a long standoff. He held the 10 girls hostage for about an hour before shooting them and killing himself as police closed in.
 
The five girls wounded in the Oct. 2 shooting are still believed to be hospitalized. The hospitals are no longer providing any information about the patients at the request of their families.

Hart, who has been coordinating activities with the Amish community and whose company will help provide security, said destroying the school is about trying to reach some closure.

Hart said private contractors were handling the demolition, and the debris would be hauled to a landfill.

He has said classes were expected to resume for the school this week at a makeshift schoolhouse in a garage on an Amish farm in the Nickel Mines area.  


What Good Looks Like
The lessons the world can learn from a community that rejects modern times.

By Day Staff Writer
Published on 10/9/2006
   
The 1985 movie “Witness” starring Harrison Ford presented a gripping view of the Amish culture, which attempts to isolate its members from the corrupting influences of modern civilization. The movie speculated about what can happen when modern-day evil penetrates that insular world.

Last week, the world saw the same plot in real life, when a gunman invaded an Amish one-room school in rural Pennsylvania and shot and killed five young girls. While the event shocked the community of the victims, the lessons about the nature of good and evil were ours to learn.

The most striking of these lessons had to do with the attitude of the Amish toward the murderer and his family. The assailant, who killed himself after his killing spree, had driven a milk truck serving the Amish dairy farmers. The Amish not only forgave him, but also offered to help his family cope with their sorrow. They've even set up a fund for the dead murderer's wife and three children.

This sounds incredible here in the outside world, where revenge is more commonplace and if that's not enough, is stirred up on television talk shows. In our world, children play electronic games about killing in which there is no pain or consequences. In place of meeting real people, many in our modern world meet and communicate over the Internet. It is possible to engage in the “global community” without coming into direct contact with a real person.

But, as we have seen in the barrage of news coverage following the killings, the Amish find out what's going on by meeting with one another, not through text-messaging or cell phone calls.

Their world eschews all modern conveniences, including automobiles. One of the news photographs from this past week's events showed an Amish horse and buggy passing a row of television vans with satellite dishes, vividly illustrating the contrast of cultures and values.

Simplicity seems to characterize everything Amish, from the simple tools and agricultural implements they use to the wooden caskets in which the five young girls were buried last week.

They have not escaped evil. They would be the first to admit that's not possible. But they have rejected the influences that implement it: cars that pollute the atmosphere and endanger life on earth and all the noisy electronic messaging that agitates our lives and provides a voice for bad influences as well as good. The Amish don't rail against that world, but choose not to live there. They aren't angry at the murderer who killed their children because they understand the world from which he came better than most of us.

Our world has benefits, too. Through the eyes of our cutting-edge electronic communications, we were able to watch this week as the Amish buried their dead with simplicity and grace and we saw, lest we forget, what good really looks like.

 

A pattern in rural school shootings: girls as targets;  Monday's deadly shooting in Nickel Mines, Pa., was the fourth such incident in five weeks.
By Gail Russell Chaddock and Mark Clayton | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor
Wednesday, 10/04/06

NICKEL MINES, PA., AND BOSTON – The scene Monday at the buff-colored, one-room schoolhouse in the gentle heart of Amish country was wrenching, but also distressingly familiar.  One of four fatal school shootings to beset rural America in just over a month, the rampage that killed five young girls raises anew a host of old concerns - about campus security in countryside settings, access to guns by unstable individuals, and "copycat" violence advanced by media attention.

They are startling incidents against the backdrop of declining numbers of school fatalities. But this premeditated attack, like another one five days earlier in which a drifter corraled teenage girls, killing one, at the high school in Bailey, Colo., have an unusual and disturbing feature: girls as targets.

"The predominant pattern in school shootings of the past three decades is that girls are the victims," says Katherine Newman, a Princeton University sociologist whose recent book examines the roots of "rampage" shootings in rural schools.

Dr. Newman has researched 21 school shootings since the 1970s. Though it's impossible to know whether girls were randomly victimized in those cases, she says, "in every case in the US since the early 1970s we do note this pattern" of girls being the majority of victims.

The two cases are reminiscent of a 1989 shooting in Canada, when a jobless hospital worker killed 14 female engineering students at the University of Montreal, accusing them of stealing jobs from men, says Martin Schwartz, an Ohio University sociologist and an expert on violence against women. He sees such incidents as related to a culture of violence against women, "a mutation - something beyond."

In Bailey, an armed drifter walked into Platte Canyon High School last Wednesday, ordering men out and sexually assaulting some of the six girls he held hostage, shooting one before killing himself. In this week's tragedy in Pennsylvania's bucolic Lancaster County, the gunman ordered boys and adults to leave, bound the 10 girls, and shot them, then himself.

Small towns are no safeguard

Another similarity between the Pennsylvania and Colorado cases - as well as two other recent school shootings in Vermont and Wisconsin - is their rural settings. It is rare for mass school shootings to occur in cities, Newman says. Despite their safe image, rural communities can be an especially fertile breeding ground for revenge, she and others agree.

"People think small towns are safer, but in a small community grievances can fester," says Cheryl Meyer, a professor of psychology at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, who has researched similarities of school shootings in rural and small towns. "It's so often about revenge. Even if something happened 20 years ago, it doesn't mean it is gone. People talk about it and everybody remembers. It just trails after you."

Such a motive may have factored into Monday's shootings in the tiny hamlet of Nickel Mines, Pa., police say.

Flanked by corn fields and a few white oaks, the Amish schoolhouse could have been lifted out of the 19th century. With no guards, chain-link fence, or "drug-free zone" signs - or even a telephone - it seemed a world apart.

The gunman, Charles Carl Roberts, lived just down the road with his family in a double-wide trailer. He hauled milk from Amish farms at night, usually before the next day's milking began about 4 a.m. A co-worker says he might never have met the farmers he serviced. Then, he would take his children to school.

On Monday, however, he left suicide notes for his family, then drove his pickup truck to a school he no doubt passed many times on late-night milk routes. He brought to the school a semi-automatic pistol, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a rifle - along with restraints, lumber to block the doors, and a change of clothing.  In a scene that seemed to echo the Bailey shooting, the gunman ordered boys and school aides out, then bound 10 girls ages 6 to 13. He called his wife on his cellphone.

Police arrived after a teacher ran for help to a nearby farm. They called him on his cellphone, but no answer. Then the gunman opened fire, and police stormed the barricaded building, breaking through windows.  Five of the girls died at the scene or at hospitals. At press time, officials said five remained in critical condition.

Law-enforcement officials, working to unearth Roberts's motive, said Tuesday that sexual assault seemed the most likely one. In a suicide note, they said, Roberts recalled an incident 20 years ago when he, a pre-teen at the time, molested younger children. The note indicated he had been haunted by dreams about molesting young girls, police said.

"I don't think it was an attack on the Amish community, but a target of opportunity," Col. Jeffrey Miller, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police, said Monday. "It was almost impenetrable," he said of the barricaded school. "His goal was to be in there for an extended period of time. He was hunkering down for a hostage-related siege."

'Copycat' concerns

The apparent similarities between the Bailey and Nickel Mines shootings - and their close proximity in time - raise experts' concerns about "copycat" attacks.

News media bear some responsibility for this phenomenon, says James Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston. This is especially the case when attackers' personalities and grudges are exposed to high-profile public analysis - as when two teenage attackers in the Columbine attack were featured on the cover of a news magazine, he says.

"We've seen with school shootings and postal shootings that the shooters can become role models for others," Dr. Fox says. "While most sympathize with the victims, others empathize with the shooters. It's the publicity they get that turns the shooter into a celebrity that spawns more of them."

Some see in the latest school shootings echoes of the 1980s, when there was a spate of carefully planned attacks on students by adults from outside the schools.

Between 1988 to 1989, there were nine premeditated attacks by adults targeting schoolchildren, says Fox. In those cases, however, there was no pattern of girls being targets - a new wrinkle. To him, that year stands out for its "contagion of adults who got even with society by killing its most beloved members - schoolchildren."

While national crime statistics show a steady drop in the murder rate, including violent school fatalities, there seems to be fewer incidents but "more spectacular stuff going on," Dr. Schwartz says. "Splashy violence is what's going up, even though crime as a whole going down. The only thing not going down is fear engendered by these types of high-profile events."

In Nickel Mines, the news media showed up almost as promptly as police - within minutes jamming the narrow streets and nearby fields with satellite trucks, television crews, and crane-high lights.

For grieving Amish families, driving past the crime scene late into the night or talking quietly in small groups nearby, the fierce media glare came as a shock to a community that resolutely avoids the spotlight.

"I was irate when I first heard about the school, then the hurt started," says an Amish fireman, who helped maintain a security perimeter around the school late Monday night. He says local firemen and policemen had expected a crush of news media, because of the intense public interest in school shootings. But, he adds, "we never expected to have to deal with it here."

"It's unbelievable. We never expected that anything like this would happen," says Ruth, a Mennonite neighbor who wanted to give only her first name.

"I don't understand it, but it's not from God," says Fannie Beiler, another Mennonite. "He wants us to love one another."

There are scores of such schools in the quiet farming communities around Lancaster County, a center for the Old Order Amish in the United States. An estimated 28,000 Amish live in the area - of about 200,000 nationwide.

Amish families live simply - no cars, electricity, cellphones, or iPods - and grieve quietly. A keystone of their faith is pacifism. When a young Amish boy in the next town of Bart was killed on his way to help a neighbor with the milking by a hit-and-run driver two weeks ago, there was no talk of lawsuits. Nor did Amish families join their "English" neighbors in calling for a new sign cautioning drivers to slow down.

In Bart, Paula Flinn set up a hand-painted sign on her front lawn for their Amish neighbors, who drove past the house in closed, black buggies at a rate of 50 an hour, some late into the night, after the shooting. Her sign reads: "Our prayers and thoughts are with you."


5 Girls Dead in Amish School Shooting;  Police: Gunman at Amish School Heavily Armed
By MARK SCOLFORO Associated Press Writer
Article Launched: 10/03/2006 08:16:00 AM EDT

  
NICKEL MINES, Pa. (AP) -- Two more children died Tuesday morning of wounds from the shootings at an Amish schoolhouse, raising the death toll to five girls plus the gunman who apparently was spurred by a two-decades-old grudge.

The toll from the nation's third deadly school shooting in less than a week rose twice within a matter of hours Tuesday with the deaths of a 9-year-old girl at Christiana Hospital in Delaware and a 7-year-old girl at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey.

Five additional girls were hospitalized.

The Bush administration on Monday called for a school violence summit to be held next week with education and law enforcement officials to discuss possible federal action to help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath.  State police spokeswoman Linette Quinn said the two girls who died early Tuesday had suffered "very severe injuries, but the other ones are coming along very well."

"Her parents were with her," hospital spokeswoman Amy Buehler Stranges said of the 7-year-old. "She was taken off life support and she passed away shortly after."

Authorities said the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, wrote what authorities described as suicide notes, took guns and ammunition and went to a nearby one-room schoolhouse, where he opened fire on several girls and took his own life, authorities said.  Roberts, a father of three from nearby Bart Township and was not Amish, did not appear to be targeting the Amish and apparently chose the school because he was bent on killing young girls as a way of "acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago," said state police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller.

"This is a horrendous, horrific incident for the Amish community. They're solid citizens in the community. They're good people. They don't deserve ... no one deserves this," Miller said.

The names of the dead were not immediately released.

Of the injured, a 6-year-old girl remained in critical condition and a 13-year-old girl was in serious condition at Penn State Children's Hospital, spokeswoman Buehler Stranges said. She said the names of the children were not being released.  Three girls, ages 8, 10 and 12, were flown to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where they were out of surgery but remained in critical condition, spokeswoman Peggy Flynn said.

Roberts brought with him supplies necessary for a lengthy siege, including three guns, a stun gun, two knives, a pile of wood and a bag with 600 rounds of ammunition, police said. He also had a change of clothing, toilet paper, bolts and hardware and rolls of clear tape.

He released about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three women with infants, barred the doors with desks and wood and secured them with nails, bolts and flexible plastic ties. He then made the girls line up along a blackboard and tied their feet together.  The teacher and another adult fled to a nearby farmhouse, and authorities were called at about 10:30 a.m. Miller said

Roberts apparently called his wife from a cell phone at around 11 a.m., saying he was taking revenge for an old grudge. Miller declined to say what the grudge could have been.

"It seems as though he wanted to attack young, female victims," Miller said.

Miller told NBC's "Today" that Roberts lost a daughter "approximately three years ago" and that that may have been a factor in the shooting.  He said a teacher had to run to a farm house to call police because there wasn't one at the school, in keeping with Amish custom.  Parents refused to fly in planes - again in keeping with Amish tradition - and had to be driven to see their children at hospitals, Miller told "Today." Some were taken to the wrong hospitals in the confusion, Miller said.

From the suicide notes and telephone calls, it was clear Roberts was "angry at life, he was angry at God," and co-workers said his mood had darkened in recent days, Miller said.

In a statement released to reporters, the gunman's wife, Marie Roberts, called her husband "loving, supportive and thoughtful."

"He was an exceptional father," she said. "He took the kids to soccer practice and games, played ball in the backyard and took our 7-year-old daughter shopping. He never said no when I asked him to change a diaper."

"Our hearts are broken, our lives are shattered, and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today," she said. "Above all, please pray for the families who lost children and please pray too for our family and children."

The attack bore similarities to a deadly school shooting last week in Bailey, Colo., but Miller said he believed the Pennsylvania attack was not a copycat crime. "I really believe this was about this individual and what was going on inside his head," he said.  On Friday, a school principal was shot to death in Cazenovia, Wis. A 15-year-old student, described as upset over a reprimand, was charged with murder. 


Milk Man Kills Girls at Pa. Amish School
DAY
By MARK SCOLFORO; Associated Press Writer
Oct 2, 3:36 PM EDT


NICKEL MINES, Pa. (AP) -- A 32-year-old milk truck driver took about a dozen girls hostage in a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, barricaded the doors with boards and killed at least three girls and apparently himself, authorities said.

It was the nation's third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and similar to an attack just days earlier at a school in Colorado.

The gunman, identified as Charles Carl Roberts IV, was inside for over half an hour and had barred the doors with 2x4s with the girls inside, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. By the time officers broke windows to get in, three girls and the gunman were dead, Miller said. Seven others were taken to hospitals, three in critical condition.

"It appears that when he began shooting these victims, the victims were shot execution style in the head," Miller said. 
 
Roberts had walked into the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School with a shotgun and handgun, then released about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three other women with infants before barring the doors with the girls inside, Miller said.

The girls were lined up along a blackboard, Miller said. "He had wire ties with him and flex ties, and he began to tie the girls' feet together," Miller said.

A teacher was able to call police around 10:30 a.m. and reported that a gunman was holding students hostage.

About 11 a.m., Roberts apparently called his wife from a cell phone, saying he was "acting out in revenge for something that happened 20 years ago," Miller said. "It seems as though he wanted to attack young, female victims."

Moments later, Roberts told a dispatcher he would open fire on the children if police didn't back away from the building. Troopers heard gunfire in the building seconds later.  The school has about 25 to 30 students in all, ages 6 to 13.

"It seems as though he wanted to attack young, female victims," Miller said. He released no further details about that what the grudge Roberts mentioned could have involved.

Lancaster County Coroner G. Gary Kirchner initially said six people were killed, but later said he wasn't certain about that number.

At least seven people were taken to hospitals, including at least three girls, ages 6-12, who were admitted to Lancaster General Hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds, spokesman John Lines said.  The small school, surrounded by a white board fence, sits among farmlands just outside Nickel Mines, a tiny village about 55 miles west of Philadelphia.

Hours after the attack, about three dozen people in traditional Amish clothing, broad-brimmed hats and bonnets stood near the small schoolhouse as investigators walked in a line through fields searching for evidence.

The shootings were disturbingly similar to an attack last week at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., where a man took several girls hostage in a school classroom and then killed one of them and himself. Authorities said the man sexually molested the girls.

"If this is some kind of a copycat, it's horrible and of concern to everybody, all law enforcement," said Monte Gore, undersheriff of Park County, Colo.

"On behalf of Park County and our citizens and our sheriff's office, our hearts go out to that school and the community," he said.

Nationwide, the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., remains the deadliest school shooting, claiming the lives of 15 people, including the two teenage gunmen. On Friday, a school principal was gunned down in Cazenovia, Wis. A 15-year-old student, described as upset over a reprimand, was charged with murder in the killing.

   

Several killed in Pennsylvania school attack
October 2, 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A gunman attacked an Amish school in Pennsylvania on Monday, shooting and killing a number of people including an unknown number of students before he was captured or killed, police said.

"There are a number dead. The exact number I am not sure at this point. There are also a number of wounded. And the shooter is not at large," said state police Corporal Ralph Striebig of rural Lancaster County.

"There are multiple injuries. There are multiple casualties. I cannot give any names or numbers. It's a horrible, horrible tragedy," Lancaster County Coroner Gary Kirchner told Reuters.

A local hospital said that three girls including one aged 11 were in critical condition with gunshot wounds.

The hostage-taker was either killed or captured at the scene. "One or the other, but he's not at large," Striebig said.

The incident, the third school shooting in a week in the United States, happened at Georgetown Amish School in Bart Township.

"The three that are here are in a critical condition, they will be airlifted from our hospital to pediatric hospitals in the region," said Lancaster General Hospital spokesman John Lines. "They arrived here suffering from gunshot wounds."

A spokeswoman at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center said it was also receiving patients from the school, but gave no information yet on how many.

Amish schools typically group students from the first through eighth grade -- aged about six to 14 -- in the same schoolhouse, so the victims were likely "teens or pre-teens. They're all in one school from first grade up," Striebig said.

The Amish people dress and live simply in Lancaster County farm country, shunning modern machines and vehicles including cars, and cultivating their land using old-fashioned traditions.

The shooting was a shock to a community that one resident called almost crime-free.

Aaron Meyer, owner of a local buggy company, told CNN: "In this township of about 30,000 people, we have no police. Because there's just virtually no crime. Many of these townships here have no police at all."

The shooting in Pennsylvania followed reports earlier on Monday of lockdowns at two Las Vegas area schools as police searched for an armed youth, local television reported.

Last Friday a 15-year-old student killed his school's principal in western Wisconsin.

Last Wednesday a drifter took six female high school students hostage, molested them and then shot one to death and killed himself as police closed in.

Coroner: 6 Dead in Amish School Shooting
By MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press Writer
1:58 PM EDT, October 2, 2006


NICKEL MINES, Pa. -- A gunman killed six people at a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday morning in Pennsylvania's bucolic Lancaster County, and several others were taken to hospitals with injuries, authorities said.

"So far, six confirmed dead, and the helicopters are pulling into (Lancaster General Hospital) like crazy," Coroner G. Gary Kirchner said.

It was unclear if the shooter was among the six. State Police Cpl. Ralph Striebig said earlier that the shooter was dead.

Three girls, all in critical condition with gunshot wounds, were admitted to Lancaster General Hospital, spokesman John Lines told WGAL-TV. Officials at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center confirmed that victims also were being admitted there. A spokeswoman said the hospital anticipated more than one patient.

Police surrounded the one-room school in southeast Lancaster County late Monday morning, and the Lancaster County 911 Web site reported that dozens of emergency units were dispatched to a "medical emergency" at 10:45 a.m.

Three dozen people in traditional Amish clothing, broad-brimmed hats and bonnets stood near the small school building, surrounded by a low white fence, speaking to one another and authorities. Others gathered with a group of children at a nearby farm while investigators stretched out in a line across a field searching for evidence.

The school is situated among farmlands just outside Nickel Mines, a tiny village about 55 miles west of Philadelphia.

Gun Reported at North Las Vegas School
Hartford Courant
By Associated Press
12:14 PM EDT, October 2, 2006

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Two schools were locked down Monday while police searched for a teenager who had been spotted on a high school campus with a gun, authorities said.

No students were hurt, and police said there was no initial indication that the teenager, who they said was not a student, had threatened anyone with the weapon, said Sean Walker, a North Las Vegas police spokesman.
 
The teen ran from the school after being confronted by campus police as students were arriving at Mojave High School, Walker said.

A handgun was found behind a nearby church, and both the high school and nearby Elizondo Elementary School were locked down while police searched the surrounding neighborhoods for the teen, Walker said.

School districts across the country have been especially sensitive to threats after deadly shootings last week at schools in Wisconsin and Colorado.

On Friday, a school principal was gunned down in Cazenovia, Wis., and a 15-year-old student, described as upset over a reprimand, was charged with murder. Just two days earlier, an adult gunman held six girls hostage in a school at Bailey, Colo., before killing a 16-year-old girl and then himself.

On Sept. 21, three high school seniors in Green Bay, Wis., were charged with conspiracy to commit homicide for allegedly planning to attack a school with guns and bombs.

 


School Safety Back Under Scrutiny

Hartford Courant
By JON SARCHE, Associated Press Writer
7:02 PM EDT, October 1, 2006

DENVER -- A bearded drifter walks into a Colorado school and fatally shoots a student before taking his own life. Wisconsin authorities charge three boys with plotting a bomb attack on their high school and, two weeks later, a student in a rural school allegedly shoots his principal. A gunman bursts into a Vermont elementary school looking for his ex-girlfriend and guns down a teacher.

All of this in the past month alone.

Since the 1999 Columbine massacre that left 15 people dead, there has been a determined effort among administrators, principals and teachers to improve school safety. Law enforcement officers across the nation and around the world have added training specifically intended to address school violence.

But experts say there is simply no way to guarantee that a stranger or student won't be able to injure or kill on school grounds.

"There's no perfect security, from the White House to the schoolhouse," said Kenneth Trump, president of the National School Safety and Security Services consulting firm in Cleveland.

Since Columbine, school officials have gotten better at preventing student violence, he said, but authorities can't prepare for every problem.

"When you factor in unpredictable outsiders, when you have a roaming monster walking into the schools, we have to be realistic," Trump said. "There are some incidents you're not going to be able to prevent."

Trump's firm counts 17 nonfatal school shootings so far this school year, beginning Aug. 1. There were 85 the previous school year and 52 in the 2004-2005 school year.

Since Columbine in 1999, the number of fatal school shootings in a school year has ranged from three (2002-03) to 24 (2004-05), according to National School Safety and Security Services. The firm does not track cases before Columbine.

Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener was among the law enforcement officials who eagerly applied for federal aid to beef up security at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, the site of last week's attack in which a man held six girls hostage before killing one and himself.

A deputy was assigned to be the school's resource officer -- essentially, its security guard. But that guard was called away on sheriff's business last Wednesday and gunman Duane Morrison walked inside with two handguns. He reportedly sat in the school parking lot and wandered the hallways for as long as 35 minutes before the siege began.

Despite the death of 16-year-old Emily Keyes, things could have been worse, authorities said.

"Basically, the tragedy of Columbine taught law enforcement and educators how to avoid future tragedies," Gov. Bill Owens said. "In a couple of significant ways, the tragedy of Columbine may have helped prevent an even worse tragedy (here)."

He said educators had been instructed in August on what to do. The school was also designed using concept learned from the Columbine attacks, which helped authorities keep the gunman in one room.

Ever since Columbine, school officials have been taught to write emergency response plans and practice them, to lock down schools and evacuate when it appears safe. That seemed to work well in Bailey as hundreds of students were whisked to safety.

Law enforcement officers who once were taught to set up a perimeter and wait for SWAT teams to show up are now trained in "active shooter" programs that call for the first officers on the scene to enter the building and work as quickly as possible to locate the gunman, Trump said.

"That's why we were able to isolate it to just one room and get everybody else out," Wegener said. "Still, you can't prepare for something like this. You do the best you can."

Student Zach Barnes, 16, also said students last year practiced drills for emergencies including a gunman in the school. Students were told to remain calm, taught where to go and how to leave the school. Still, there appeared to be at least one glitch Wednesday.

"We were sitting there in math class and over the intercom they said, `Students and teachers, we have a code white, repeat code white,' and nobody really knew what a code white was," Barnes said.

He said his teacher pulled a sheet of paper from her desk, checked it and then herded her students into a nearby classroom that had a solid door. After about 25 minutes, a police officer led them into the hallway and out of the school.

Colorado has left decisions on providing security in schools up to some 172 school boards, but state lawmakers said they will look at training and other issues following the Bailey attack.

Providing security guards at every entrance to every school would be difficult, said Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, but others said video cameras and security systems could help fill the gap.

"If we could plug in some technology, that would help," said George Voorheis, superintendent of Colorado's largely rural Montrose & Olathe Schools District RE1J.


.Gunman's Friendly Exterior Masked Past
NYTIMES
By ASHLEY M. HEHER and CARYN ROUSSEAU | Associated Press Writers
9:42 AM EST, February 16, 2008

DEKALB, Ill. - Steven Kazmierczak's quiet, dependable and fun-loving exterior masked troubling details from his past that emerged as a stunned community struggled to understand what caused the 27-year-old to open fire on a class at Northern Illinois University, leaving six people dead.

A former employee at a Chicago psychiatric treatment center said Kazmierczak was placed there after high school by his parents. She said he used to cut himself, and had resisted taking his medications.

He also had a short-lived stint as a prison guard that ended abruptly when he didn't show up for work. He was in the Army for about six months in 2001-02, but he told a friend he'd gotten a psychological discharge.
Exactly what set Kazmierczak off -- and why he picked his former university and that particular lecture hall -- remained a mystery.

On Thursday, Kazmierczak, armed with three handguns and a pump-action shotgun, stepped from behind a screen on the lecture hall's stage and opened fire on a geology class. He killed five students before committing suicide.

University Police Chief Donald Grady said Friday that Kazmierczak had become erratic in the past two weeks after he stopped taking his medication.

Kazmierczak spent more than a year at the Thresholds-Mary Hill House in the late 1990s, former house manager Louise Gbadamashi told The Associated Press. His parents placed him there after high school because he had become "unruly" at home, she said.

Gbadamashi said she couldn't remember any instances of him being violent.

"He never wanted to identify with being mentally ill," she said. "That was part of the problem."

The attack was baffling to many of those who knew him.

"Steve was the most gentle, quiet guy in the world. ... He had a passion for helping people," said Jim Thomas, an emeritus professor of sociology and criminology at Northern Illinois who taught Kazmierczak, promoted him to a teacher's aide and became his friend.

Kazmierczak once told Thomas about getting a discharge from the Army.

"It was no major deal, a kind of incompatibility discharge -- for a state of mind, not for any behavior," Thomas said. "He was concerned that that on his record might be a stigma."

Kazmierczak enlisted in September 2001, but was discharged in February 2002 for an "unspecified" reason, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said.

He worked from Sept. 24 to Oct. 9 as a corrections officer at the Rockville Correctional Facility, a medium-security prison in Rockville, Ind. His tenure there ended when "he just didn't show up one day," Indiana prisons spokesman Doug Garrison said.

Authorities were searching for a woman who police believe may have been Kazmierczak's girlfriend. According to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation, authorities were looking into whether Kazmierczak and the woman recently broke up.

On Feb. 9, Kazmierczak walked into a Champaign gun store and picked up two guns -- a Remington shotgun and a Glock 9mm handgun. He bought the two other handguns at the same shop -- a Hi-Point .380 on Dec. 30 and a Sig Sauer on Aug. 6.

All four guns were bought legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer, said Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. At least one criminal background check was performed -- Kazmierczak had no criminal record.

Kazmierczak had a State Police-issued FOID, or firearms owners identification card, which is required in Illinois to own a gun, authorities said. Such cards are rarely issued to those with recent mental health problems.

NIU President John Peters said Kazmierczak compiled "a very good academic record, no record of trouble" at the 25,000-student campus in DeKalb. He won at least two awards and served as an officer in two student groups dedicated to promoting understanding of the criminal justice system.

Kazmierczak (pronounced kaz-MUR-chek) grew up in the Chicago suburb of Elk Grove Village. He was a B student at Elk Grove High School, where school district spokeswoman Venetia Miles said he was active in band and took Japanese before graduating in 1998. He was also in the chess club.

A statement posted on the door on the Urbana home of Kazmierczak's sister, Susan, said: "We are both shocked and saddened. In addition to the loss of innocent lives, Steven was a member of our family. We are grieving his loss as well as the loss of life resulting from his actions."

At NIU, six white crosses were placed on a snow-covered hill around the center of campus, which was closed Friday. They included the names of four victims -- Daniel Parmenter, Ryanne Mace, Julianna Gehant, Catalina Garcia. The two other crosses were blank, though officials have identified Kazmierczak's final victim as Gayle Dubowski.

By Friday night, dozens of candles flickered in packed snow at makeshift memorials around campus as hundreds of students, mostly wearing the school colors of red and black, packed a memorial service.

"It's kind of overwhelming. It feels strong, it feels like we're all in this together," said Carlee Siggeman, 18, a freshman from Genoa who attended the vigil with friends.

___

Associated Press writers Don Babwin, Deanna Bellandi, Dave Carpenter, Tamara Starks, Carla K. Johnson, Lindsey Tanner, David Mercer, Nguyen Huy Vu, Michael Tarm and Mike Robinson in Chicago, Anthony McCartney in Lakeland, Fla., and Matt Apuzzo and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report, along with the AP News Research Center in New York.


A graduate student:
NIU Gunman Stopped Taking Medication
NYTIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: February 15, 2008

Filed at 1:58 p.m. ET

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) -- The man who gunned down five people at Northern Illinois University in a suicidal rampage became erratic after halting his medication and carried a shotgun to campus inside a guitar case, police said Friday.

The man, 27-year-old former student Stephen Kazmierczak, was also wielding three handguns during Thursday's ambush inside a lecture hall.

Two of the weapons -- the pump-action Remington shotgun and a Glock 9mm handgun -- were purchased legally less than a week ago, on Feb. 9, authorities said. They were purchased in Champaign, where Kazmierczak was enrolled at the University of Illinois.

A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said the other two guns were also traced to the Champaign gun shop, but the ATF was still determining when Kazmierczak picked them up.

Kazmierczak had a valid Firearm Owner's Identification Card, which is required for all Illinois residents who buy or possess firearms, authorities said.

The gunman's father, Robert Kazmierczak, briefly came out of his single-story house in Lakeland, Fla., to talk to reporters.

''Please leave me alone. I have no statement to make and no comment. OK? I'd appreciate that. This is a very hard time. I'm a diabetic and I don't want to go into a relapse,'' he said before breaking down crying.

He then went back inside his house, which has a sign on the front door that says ''Illini fans live here.''

President Bush talked by telephone with NIU President John Peters and said people will be praying for the families of the victims and for the Northern Illinois University community.

Campus Police Chief Donald Grady said investigators recovered 48 shell casings and six shotgun shells following the attack in Cole Hall. The gunman paused to reload his shotgun after opening fire on a crowd of terrified students in a geology class, sending them running and crawling toward the exits. He shot himself to death on the stage of the hall.

Kazmierczak, whose first name was earlier listed as Steven, was taking some kind of medication, Grady said.

''He had stopped taking medication and become somewhat erratic in the last couple of weeks,'' Grady said, declining to name the drug or provide other details.

Correcting information his office released earlier Friday, DeKalb County Coroner Dennis J. Miller said five students, not six, were killed in the rampage, in addition to the gunman. Miller said the higher victim total was the result of confusion over the fate of a patient taken to another county for treatment.

''There was a miscommunication,'' Miller said.

The motive of the killer, who graduated from NIU in 2006 but was a student there as recently as last year, was still not known. Grady said Kazmierczak was an ''outstanding'' student while at NIU and authorities were still trying to determine why he would kill. There was no known suicide note.

''We were dealing with a disturbed individual who intended to do harm on this campus,'' Peters said.

Witnesses said the gunman, dressed in black and wearing a stocking cap, emerged from behind a screen on the stage of 200-seat Cole Hall and opened fire just as the class was about to end around 3 p.m. Officials said 162 students were registered for the class but it was unknown how many were there Thursday.

John Giovanni, 20, of Des Plaines said the gunman calmly fired at the greatest concentration of students.

''He was shooting from the hip. He was just shooting,'' said Giovanni, who turned and ran so fast that he lost a shoe. ''I was running but I was hurtling over people in the fetal position.''

Peters said four people died at the scene, including three students and the gunman. The other died at a hospital. The teacher, a graduate student, was wounded but was expected to recover.

Miller released the identities of four victims: Daniel Parmenter, 20, of Westchester; Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero; Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville; and Julianna Gehant, 32, of Meridan.

Another victim, Gayle Dubowski, a 20-year-old sophomore from Carol Stream, died at a Rockford hospital, Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said.

The killer had been a graduate student in sociology at Northern Illinois as recently as spring 2007, Peters said. He also said the suspect had no record of police contact or an arrest record while attending Northern Illinois, a campus with 25,000 students about 65 miles west of Chicago.

The gunman was a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Chancellor Richard Herman said. The university is about 140 miles south of Chicago.

Lauren Carr said she was sitting in the third row when she saw the shooter walk through a door on the right-hand side of the stage, pointing a gun straight ahead.

''I personally Army-crawled halfway up the aisle,'' said Carr, a 20-year-old sophomore. ''I said I could get up and run or I could die here.''

She said a student in front of her was bleeding, ''but he just kept running.''

''I heard this girl scream, 'Run, he's reloading the gun!'''

More than a hundred students cried and hugged as they gathered outside the Phi Kappa Alpha house early Friday to remember Parmenter. Flowers, candles and small notes were left in the snow near Cole Hall. Flags were flying at half-staff. At a house across the street, a hand-drawn banner made out of a sheet said: 'NIU We Pray 4 U'

The campus was closed on Friday. Students were urged to call their parents and were offered counseling at any residence hall, according to the school Web site.

The school was closed for one day during final exam week in December after campus police found threats, including racial slurs and references to shootings earlier in the year at Virginia Tech, scrawled on a bathroom wall in a dormitory. Police determined after an investigation that there was no imminent threat and the campus was reopened. Peters said he knew of no connection between that incident and Thursday's attack.

------

Associated Press writers Carla K. Johnson, Michael Tarm, David Mercer, Martha Irvine, Nguyen Huy Vu, Sarah Rafi, Mike Robinson, Anthony McCartney in Lakeland, Fla., and photographer Charles Rex Arbogast contributed to this report.




Glock pistols.  The extra long clip that Congress opposes;  Mr. Himes illustrates karate chop alternative.
Who cares about politics?  Putting bread on the table is prioty #1.  Center, the extra-long gun clip that may be outlawed by Congress..

Himes promotes legislation banning high-capacity ammo clips
Greenwich TIME
Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Published: 10:31 p.m., Friday, January 21, 2011

Silent for the most part on gun control during his first two years in Congress, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said he can see no reason for civilians to have high-capacity gun magazines like the one that was used in this month's shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that left six people dead and wounded 14 others, including his House colleague Gabrielle Giffords.  Himes is an original co-sponsor of a bill introduced this week by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., seeking to ban the production and transfer of gun magazines holding more than 10 bullets.

McCarthy's husband was murdered and her son was severely wounded by gunman Colin Ferguson during the 1993 Long Island Rail Road shooting rampage.

"I've never heard a good argument why hunters, target shooters or people interested in self-defense need to fire more than 10 rounds," Himes said.

All 57 sponsors of McCarthy's bill, which endeavors to restore a restriction that was part of the federal assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004, are Democrats.

"In the wake of the attack on Gabby on others, I just realized the debate shouldn't be pro-gun and anti-gun," Himes said. "It should be how do we keep guns out of the hands of madmen and how do we restrict technology that produces massacres."

Bob Montlick, 74, a self-described independent who said he voted for Himes in 2008 and owns Bob's Gun Exchange in Darien, called the legislation misguided.

"The magazine ban is totally useless," Montlick said. "What they're doing of course is knee-jerk-type response."

Montlick recommended that politicians focus on the types of individuals who can obtain a gun, which he said is a lethal weapon irrespective of the number of bullets fired from it.

"So the capacity has nothing to do with the intent of the user," said Montlick, a Norwalk resident. "A legal gun owner is not the problem, and the high-capacity gun is not the problem."

Montlick's shop sells the Glock 19, the same semi-automatic model used by Tucson gunman Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old with an apparent history of mental illness.  Retailing for $529 at Montlick's shop, the Glock 19 comes with a standard capacity magazine that holds 15 rounds. Optional magazines are available that hold 17, 19 and 33 bullets.

Among the gun-control groups supporting the ban is the Washington, D.C.-based Violence Policy Center, which noted that high-capacity ammunition magazines have been used in 10 of the nation's deadliest shootings.

"The Arizona attack joins a long list of mass shootings made possible by the easy availability of ammunition magazines that can hold up to 100 rounds: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Luby's, Wedgewood Baptist Church, Stockton, and all too many others," Kristen Rand, the group's legislative director said in a statement posted on the organization's website. "High-capacity ammunition magazines facilitate mass shootings by giving attackers the ability to fire numerous rounds without reloading," Rand said. "An effective ban on high-capacity magazines will help prevent tragedies like the one that claimed six lives and wounded numerous others (Jan. 8). We can save lives in the future with this simple, effective proposal."

Himes said that the only reason that Loughner was subdued was because he stopped to reload.

"They hit him with a chair when he stopped to reload," Himes said.

Himes insisted that he is not trying to encroach on the Second Amendment rights of citizens.

"I like shooting. I really enjoy shooting," Himes said. "I have no interest in taking away guns from people who are going to use them responsibly."

Messages seeking comment from the National Rifle Association were left with the group's media affairs office on Friday.  Himes also pointed out that existing high-capacity clips would be grandfathered under the bill.

"If you own a high-capacity clip, it's not going to get taken away from you," Himes said. "Possession is not a crime. You just can't transfer it."

Montlick said that it's unfair to blame gun manufacturers for incidents such as the one in Tucson, however.

"Some people say, `Let's blame Glock for this,'" Montlick said. "That's no different than saying, `Let's blame General Motors when someone gets killed in a Chevrolet.'"

Monltick disputed whether a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips would even be effective.

"You shove the next one in and you keep shooting," Montlick said of reloading. "It's a matter of one or two seconds. If (Himes) wants to come in the store, I'll be glad to show him."


Insanity plea likely in Arizona shootings, experts say
New Haven REGISTER
By Angela Carter, Register Staff, acarter@nhregister.com
Monday, January 17, 2011

In the wake of Jared Lee Loughner’s attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the legal community finds it plausible that his defense attorney will use the so-called insanity plea.

“There is no other defense. He did it in front of hundreds of people,” said high-profile New Haven defense attorney Hugh Keefe, who has argued that a client was not guilty by reason of insanity in many cases, and taught about its standards at the University of Connecticut last semester.  Loughner’s court-appointed lawyer, Judy Clarke, is known for serving on the defense team that convinced a jury to spare the life of Susan Smith, a mother who drowned her two sons, ages 3 and 14 months.

Keefe said it would not be a surprise if Clark used the insanity defense, not just to avoid the death penalty, but to make sure Loughner gets treatment during his sentence if he is convicted but found to be mentally ill.

Loughner, 22, is accused of opening fire and unleashing 31 shots in Tucson Jan 8, where Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet with constituents she calls “Congress on Your Corner.” Authorities charged him with multiple counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and attempting to kill a member of Congress.  He could face state charges as well in the wounding of 13 others and the deaths of six people, including one of Giffords’ staff persons; 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was born the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and Arizona’s chief federal judge, John M. Roll.

Keefe said he defended a man who attempted to rape a woman in Milford at midday and in front of witnesses, claiming he believed Jesus wanted him to impregnate her. The client was found guilty and committed to Whiting Forensic Institute.  In Connecticut, he said the question that forensic psychologists must answer is not whether the killer knew right from wrong. Examiners must establish whether the act was committed as a result of some mental disease or defect and therefore the defendant could not appreciate the wrongfulness of the act; or, whether the defendant could not control his or her behavior because of paranoia or delusions, for example.

“It’s used very infrequently,” he said. “You’re essentially looking for a place where the guy who has a mental problem can get some treatment.”

Keefe and Clint David, an attorney, nationally known legal expert and managing shareholder with David, Goodman & Madole in Dallas, both said the insanity defense is unpopular with juries.

“Whenever anybody does anything like this, the first reaction is the person must be crazy,” David said. But crime investigators look into whether the accused took steps to cover up their actions or evade police, which can make it difficult to prove that at the time of the offense, the person was unable to distinguish right from wrong.

“People are cynical. Jurors are cynical,” Keefe said, counting in the media as well.

According to a timeline made public by the Pima County Sheriff’s department, Loughner was out the entire night before the 10:10 a.m. shooting. He took 35mm film to Walgreens to be developed, shopped at Circle K convenience store and booked a room at Motel 6.

He tried twice to buy ammunition and was able to make a purchase the second time at a Super Walmart. Loughner’s final message to friends via his MySpace account was “goodbye.” He flashes a smirk in his arrest mugshot.

A “battle of the experts,” takes off in the court room, David said, between the prosecution and defense teams, with prosecutors having an advantage when it comes to influencing the jury.

“You’ve kind of got the jury on your side already because they’re going: Yeah, right,” in response to mental impairment arguments from the defense, David said.  Four state have banned the use of the insanity plea: Idaho, Kansas, Montana and Utah.  Congress made it harder to apply insanity claims after John Hinckley Jr. was found not guilty by reason of insanity in his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. Hinckley remains confined at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Among the murderers who were unsuccessful in using the insanity plea were David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz, Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson and Jack Ruby, who fatally shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

The insanity defense is not reserved for those who kill. Lorena Bobbitt argued she was insane at the moment she cut off her husband’s penis. She was set free after three months of psychiatric treatment.

The most common instance of mass murder occurs in families, with someone shooting all the family members and them himself or herself, said James Cassidy, associate professor and coordinator of Criminal Justice Graduate Programs, director of the center for Forensic Psychology and chair of the Criminal Justice Department at the University of New Haven.

Loughner’s case, one where a perpetrator assaults strangers, is more rare.  Typically, there are warning signs, Cassidy said, in a person’s remarks or claims of hearing voices or seeing things. There may be a history of arrests, assaults or even bomb-making.  Cassidy said that in a study of criminal cases across eight states, only one percent of defendants used the insanity plea, and of them, only 25 percent were acquitted on those grounds.

Keefe said it is a misperception that defendants “get off” free and clear. They serve out their sentence in a hospitalized setting but receive as much time — or more — as they would without claiming insanity.  In 2006, the Supreme Court upheld restrictions that Arizona places on the admission of mental health evidence.

Assistant House Democratic Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson, said there has not been any talk in the Arizona legislature since the shootings about introducing legislation related to using or banning the insanity plea.

“I’m not a big proponent of rushing through any legislation based on what we’re feeling now,” said Farley, who was with Giffords’ family in the hours following the shooting. “I doubt we can stop this type of thing by legislation. The best thing we can do is to fully fund out mental health programs. We need to prevent people who are mentally ill from having guns and make sure they’re getting access to treatment.”

Farley’s campaign manager, Daniel Hernandez, rushed to Gifford’s side and applied pressure to her wounds. Hernandez is credited with saving Giffords’ life, has been heralded as a hero and sat beside President Barack Obama during a televised memorial last week.

“I’m so proud of him. He and his sisters are part of our family. I love him like a son,” Farley said.



Officers stopped suspect on day of Ariz. shooting
YAHOO
By AMANDA LEE MYERS and JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press
12 Ja nuary 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. – A wildlife officer pulled over the suspect in the assassination attempt against an Arizona congresswoman less than three hours before the deadly attack, authorities said Wednesday as they pieced together more details of a frenzied morning.  Jared Lougher ran a red light but was let off with a warning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said. The officer took Loughner's driver's license and vehicle registration information but found no outstanding warrants on Loughner or his vehicle.

Wildlife officers don't usually make traffic stops unless public safety is at risk, such as running a red light, the department said in a news release, which didn't say where the stop took place.  It's the latest evidence of Loughner's busy morning before police say he shot and killed six and wounded more than a dozen at a Tucson grocery store.  Also that morning, Loughner, 22, ran into the desert from his angry father, who was chasing his son after seeing him remove a black bag from the trunk of a family car, said Rick Kastigar, chief of the department's investigations bureau. Investigators are still searching for the bag.

The sheriff's deputies who swarmed the Loughners' house removed what they describe as evidence Loughner was targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who doctors said Tuesday was breathing on her own for the first time after taking a bullet to the forehead. Among the handwritten notes was one with the words "Die, bitch," which authorities told The Associated Press they believe was a reference to Giffords.

Investigators with the Pima County Sheriff's Department previously said they found handwritten notes in Loughner's safe reading "I planned ahead," "My assassination" and "Giffords." Capt. Chris Nanos said all the writings were either in an envelope or on a form letter Giffords' office sent him in 2007 after he signed in at one of her "Congress on Your Corner" events — the same kind of gathering where the massacre occurred.

Meanwhile, this city held a tribute to victims the eve of a presidential visit.

On Tuesday night, several hundred mourners filled a Tucson church for a public Mass to remember the slain and pray for the injured. As people filed in, nine young girls sang "Amazing Grace." The youngest victim of the attack, 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, was a member of that choir.

"I know she is singing with us tonight," said Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who presided over the service.

President Barack Obama visits Arizona Wednesday and will honor the victims in a speech to a rattled state and nation.  In one apparent reaction to the shooting, the FBI said background checks for handgun sales jumped in Arizona following the shootings, though the agency cautioned that the number of checks doesn't equate to the number of handguns sold.  Still, there were 263 background checks in Arizona on Monday, up from 164 for the same day a year ago — a 60 percent rise. Nationally, the increase was more modest: from 7,522 last year to 7,906 Monday, a 5 percent jump.

Loughner's parents, silent and holed up in their home since the shooting spree, issued a statement Tuesday, expressing remorse over the shooting.

"There are no words that can possibly express how we feel," Randy and Amy Loughner wrote in a statement handed to reporters waiting outside their house. "We wish that there were, so we could make you feel better. We don't understand why this happened.

"We care very deeply about the victims and their families. We are so very sorry for their loss."

Sheriff's deputies had been to the Loughner home at least once before the attack, spokesman Jason Ogan said. He didn't know why or when the visit occurred, and said department lawyers were reviewing the paperwork and expected to release it Wednesday.  The visits were for nonviolent incidents, including a report by Jared Loughner of identity theft, a noise complaint and Amy Loughner's claim that someone had stolen her license plate sticker, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to the new details about the hours before the shooting, interviews with those who knew Loughner or his family painted a picture of a young loner who tried to fit in.   Before everything fell apart, he went through the motions as many young men do nowadays: Living at home with his parents, working low-wage jobs at big brand stores and volunteering time doing things he liked.  None of it worked. His relationship with his parents was strained. He clashed with co-workers and police. And he couldn't follow the rules at an animal shelter where he spent some time.

One close high school friend who requested anonymity to avoid the publicity surrounding the case said he would wait outside 10 minutes for Jared to leave the house when they were going out. When Jared would get into the car, he'd say that it took so long because his parents were hassling him.  The parents of another close friend recalled how Loughner's parents showed up at their doorstep in 2008 looking for their son, who had left home about a week before and broken off contact.

While the friend, Zach Osler, didn't want to talk with the AP, his parents Roxanne and George Osler IV did.  With the Loughners at their house, Zach Osler told them the name of the place where their only child was staying, Zach's father said.  Loughner was arrested in October 2008 on a vandalism charge near Tucson after admitting he scrawled the letters "C" and "X" on a road sign in a reference to what he said was Christianity. His address listed on the police report was an apartment near his home.

Loughner eventually moved back in with his parents.  Even when Loughner tried to do good, it didn't work out.  A year ago, he volunteered walking dogs at the county animal shelter, said Kim Janes, manager of the Pima Animal Care Center. He liked dogs; neighbors remember him as the kid they would see walking his own.  But at the shelter, staff became concerned: He was allowing dogs to play in an area that was being disinfected after one had contracted a potentially deadly disease, the parvovirus.

"He didn't think the disease was that threatening and when we tried to explain how dangerous some of the diseases are, he didn't get it," Janes said.

Loughner wouldn't agree to keep dogs from the restricted area, and was asked to come back when he would. He never returned.  Loughner also jumped from paid job to job because he couldn't get along with co-workers, according to the close high school friend who requested anonymity. Employers included a Quiznos sandwich shop and Banana Republic, the friend said.  On his application at the animal shelter, he listed customer service work at Eddie Bauer.

Loughner grew up on an unremarkable Tucson block of low-slung homes with palm trees and cactus gardens out front. Fittingly, it's called Soledad Avenue — Spanish for solitude.  Solitude found Loughner, even when he tried to escape it. He had buddies but always fell out of touch, typically severing the friendship with a text message. Zach Osler was one such friend.  Loughner's father moved into the house as a bachelor, and eventually got married, longtime next-door neighbor George Gayan said. Property records show Randy Loughner has lived there since 1977.

Gayan said he and Randy Loughner had "differences of opinion but nothing where it was radical or violent." He declined to provide specifics. "As time went on, they indicated they wanted privacy," Gayan said.

Unlike other homes on the block, the Loughners' is obscured by plants. It was assessed in 2010 at $137,842.  Randy Loughner apparently has not worked for years — at least outside his home.

Amy Loughner got a job with the county parks and recreation department just before Jared was born, and since at least 2002 has been the supervisor for Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park on the outskirts of the city. She earns $25.70 an hour, according to Gwyn Hatcher, Pima County's human resources director.

Linda McKinley, 62, has lived down the street from the Loughner family for decades and said the parents could not be nicer — but that she had misgivings about Jared as he got older.

"As a parent, my heart aches for them," she said.

She added that when she was outside watering her plants she would see Jared riding down the street on his bike, often talking to himself or yelling out randomly to no one.  McKinley recalled that once he yelled to some children on the street: "I'm coming to get you!"


Majority doesn't blame rhetoric for Giffords shooting
YAHOO
11 January 2011


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A majority of Americans reject the view that heated political rhetoric was a factor in the weekend shootings in Arizona which killed six and critically wounded a congresswoman, a CBS News said on Tuesday.

Since the Saturday incident in which Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot at point-blank range, various politicians and commentators have said a climate in which strong language and ideological polarization is common may have contributed to the attack.

Some of the analysts cited anti-government statements from the man arrested in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, as support for that view.

But CBS said its nationwide telephone poll found that, "57 percent of respondents said the harsh political tone had nothing to do with the shooting, compared to 32 percent who felt it did."

Rejection of a link was strongest among Republicans, 69 percent of whom felt harsh rhetoric was not related to the attack, while 19 percent thought it played a part.

Among Democrats 49 percent placed no blame on the heated political tone against 42 percent who did. Among independents the split was 56 percent to 33 percent, CBS said.

It said its poll of 673 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.



Community College drop out
VIDEO: Ariz. rampage suspect may seek Unabomber lawyer

Associated Press
Article published Jan 10, 2011

PHOENIX (AP) — A 22-year-old man described as a social outcast with wild beliefs steeped in mistrust faces a federal court hearing on charges he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead.

Public defenders are asking that the attorney who defended Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski defend Jared Loughner, who makes his first court appearance Monday at 2 p.m. MST (4 p.m. EST).

The hearing in Phoenix comes just a few hours after President Barack Obama leads a shocked and saddened nation in a moment of silence for the victims and their families. Obama will observe the moment of silence at 11 a.m. EST with White House staff on the South Lawn.

As authorities filed the charges against Loughner Sunday, they alleged he scrawled on an envelope the words "my assassination" and "Giffords" sometime before he took a cab to a shopping center where the congresswoman was meeting with constituents Saturday morning.

A federal judge, a congressional aide and a young girl were among the six people killed, while Giffords and 13 others were injured in the bursts of gunfire outside a Tucson supermarket.

Giffords, 40, lay in intensive care at a Tucson hospital, after being shot in the head at close range. Doctors said she had responded repeatedly to commands to stick out her two fingers, giving them hope she may survive.

About 200 people gathered outside Giffords' Tucson office Sunday evening for a candlelight vigil. Earlier in the day, people crammed the synagogue where Giffords has been a member, as well as the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ, which lost one member in the attack and saw another one wounded.

"I don't know how to grieve. This morning I don't have the magic pill, I don't have the Scripture... I can't wrap my head around this," said the church's Rev. Mike Nowak, his strong preacher's voice wavering.

Authorities weren't saying late Sunday where Loughner was being held, and officials were working to appoint an attorney for him. Heather Williams, the first assistant federal public defender in Arizona, said they're asking that San Diego attorney Judy Clarke be appointed.

Clarke, a former federal public defender in San Diego and Spokane, Wash., served on teams that defended McVeigh, Kaczynski and Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman who drowned her two sons in 1994.

Loughner is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. More charges are expected.

Discoveries at Loughner's home in southern Arizona, where he lived with his parents in a middle-class neighborhood lined with desert landscaping and palm trees, have provided few answers to what motivated him.

Court papers filed with the charges said he had previous contact with Giffords. The documents said he had received a letter from the Democratic lawmaker in which she thanked him for attending a "Congress on your Corner" event at a mall in Tucson in 2007.

Investigators carrying out a search warrant at his parents' home in a middle-class neighborhood found an envelope in a safe with the words "I planned ahead," ''My assassination" and the name "Giffords" next to what appears to be his signature.

Neighbors said Loughner kept to himself and was often seen walking his dog, almost always wearing a hooded sweat shirt and listening to his iPod.

Comments from friends and and former classmates bolstered by Loughner's own Internet postings have painted a picture of a social outcast with almost indecipherable beliefs steeped in mistrust and paranoia.

"If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem," he wrote Dec. 15 in a wide-ranging posting.

Two high school friends said they had fallen out of touch with Loughner and last spoke to him around March, when one of them was going to set up some bottles in the desert for target practice and Loughner suggested he might come along. It was unusual — Loughner hadn't expressed an interest in guns before — and his increasingly confrontational behavior was pushing them apart. He would send bizarre text messages, but also break off contact for weeks on end.

"We just started getting sketched out about him," the friend said.

Around the same time, Loughner's behavior also began to worry officials at Pima Community College, where Loughner began attending classes in 2005, the school said in a release.

Between February and September, Loughner "had five contacts with PCC police for classroom and library disruptions," the statement said. He was suspended in September after college police discovered a YouTube video in which Loughner claimed the college was illegal according to the U.S. Constitution.

He withdrew voluntarily the following month, and was told he could return only if, among other things, a mental health professional agreed he did not present a danger, the school said.

Police said he purchased the Glock pistol used in the attack at Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson in November.

An official familiar with the shooting investigation said Sunday that local authorities were looking at a possible connection between Loughner and an online group known for white supremacist, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation, said local authorities were examining the American Renaissance website for possible motives.

The group's leaders said in a posting on their website that Loughner never subscribed to their magazine, registered for any of the group's conferences or visited their Internet site.

Giffords, a conservative Democrat re-elected in November, faced threats and heckling over her support for immigration reform and the health care overhaul. Her office was vandalized the day the House approved the landmark health care measure.

It was not clear whether those issues motivated the shooter to fire on the crowd gathered to meet Giffords.

The six killed included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and was featured in a book called "Faces of Hope" that chronicled one baby from each state born on the day terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people.

The author, Christine Naman, said: "Tragedy seems to have happened again."

Green was recently elected as a student council member and went to the morning's event because of her interest in government.

Others killed were Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79.




In the matter of the Virginia Tech disaster...

Twists Multiply in Alabama Shooting Case
NYTIMES
By SHAILA DEWAN and KATIE ZEZIMA
February 15, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — On Friday, this city of rocket scientists and brainy inventors was stunned when a neuroscientist with a Harvard Ph.D. was arrested in the shooting deaths of three of her colleagues after she was denied tenure.

But that was only the first surprise in the tale of the neuroscientist, Amy Bishop, who was regarded as fiercely intelligent and had seemed to have a promising career in biotechnology. Every day since has produced a new revelation from Dr. Bishop’s past, each more bizarre than the last.

On Saturday, the police in Braintree, Mass., said that she had fatally shot her brother in 1986 and questioned whether the decision to dismiss the case as an accident had been the right one.

On Sunday, a law enforcement official in Boston said she and her husband, James Anderson, had been questioned in a 1993 case in which a pipe bomb was sent to a colleague of Dr. Bishop’s at Children’s Hospital Boston.  The bomb did not go off, no one was ever charged in the case, and no proof ever emerged connecting the couple to the bomb plot.  On Sunday, Mr. Anderson firmly defended his wife in an interview at their home in Huntsville, saying that she had been completely cleared in the pipe bomb case and that her brother’s death had been accidental.

“That’s incorrect,” he said about reports linking him and his wife to the bomb plot. “We were not suspects. They questioned everybody that ever knew this guy.”

The target of the mail bomb was Dr. Paul Rosenberg, according to The Boston Globe, which first reported that the couple had been questioned in the case. After returning home from a vacation, Dr. Rosenberg opened a package that contained two 6-inch pipe bombs connected to two nine-volt batteries, The Globe reported. The doctor and his wife fled and called the police.

Officials said that Dr. Bishop was concerned that Dr. Rosenberg would give her a negative evaluation on her doctorate work, the newspaper wrote, and that they were concerned about the incident involving her brother. The authorities in Boston searched Dr. Bishop’s computer at the time and found a novel she was working on about a scientist who killed her brother and atoned by excelling at her work, The Globe reported.

Though he firmly protested his wife’s innocence in the earlier cases, Mr. Anderson said he remained mystified over Friday’s shootings, which left three professors dead and three other people wounded after a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama, Huntsville.  Dr. Bishop was charged with capital murder; three charges of attempted murder were added on Sunday. Mr. Anderson said he did not know of any specific incident that could have led to the shooting, and did not know that his wife allegedly had a gun when she went to the meeting.

“I had no idea,” he said. “We don’t own one.”

Those killed were Gopi Podila, 52, the chairman of the biology department; Maria Ragland Davis, 50, a professor who studied plant pathogens; and Adriel Johnson, 52, a cell biologist who also taught Boy Scouts about science.  Two of the wounded were Joseph Leahy, 50, a microbiologist, and Stephanie Monticciolo, 62, a staff assistant, both of whom were in critical condition. The third was Luis Cruz-Vera, 40, a molecular biologist, who was released from the hospital on Saturday.

Mr. Anderson said that months ago, the university administration overruled a successful appeal of the decision to deny Dr. Bishop tenure in spring 2009.

“She won her appeal,” he said, “and the provost canned it.”

The university has declined to elaborate on the details of Dr. Bishop’s tenure application, saying only that she was denied last spring and that she could stay at the university only until the end of this academic year. Even if a faculty member successfully appeals a tenure denial, the final decision rests with the administration. 

But Dr. Bishop had continued to fight, appealing to two members of the University of Alabama System’s Board of Trustees for help and hiring a lawyer, who was “finding one problem after another with the process,” Mr. Anderson said. One issue was a dispute over whether two of her papers had been published in time to count toward tenure, he said.

“She exceeded the qualifications for tenure,” Mr. Anderson said. “The review board said, ‘Grant it or go through the process again.’ ”

Mr. Anderson said that his wife’s research was generating millions of dollars for the university, that she had published numerous papers and that she was a good teacher.

But that estimate of her financial benefit to the university seems likely to be premature. One of her innovations, an automated system for producing cell cultures that the couple developed together, has attracted $1.25 million in financing but has not yet reached the market. Another, a potential treatment for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, is in the process of being licensed from the university. Typically, universities share the proceeds from such licenses with the scientists responsible.

The police said Saturday that Dr. Bishop was 45, but her birth date on a university Web site indicated that she was 44.

Mr. Anderson said he could not gain access to his wife’s e-mail account and did not know if she had received any news that might have set off the shooting. The police, he said, had taken a thick binder documenting her tenure battle, her computer and the family van. At least one of the trustees had recently told her that he could not help reverse the tenure decision, a family friend said.

Mr. Anderson said he had already told the Huntsville police that they might come across the Boston pipe bomb incident during their investigation.

Sylvia Fluckiger, who worked as a laboratory technician at Children’s Hospital when Dr. Bishop and Dr. Rosenberg were working there, said Dr. Bishop had acknowledged that she was questioned by the police about the pipe bomb incident.

“She was visited by the police,” Ms. Fluckiger said. “What she said is they asked her if she had ever used a stamp, taken it off an envelope and put it somewhere else.”

Ms. Fluckiger said Dr. Bishop “had a smirk on her face” when asked about the incident. “I don’t know why she was smirking,” she said. “It was a funny expression on her face.”

“We did know that there was a dispute between Paul Rosenberg and her,” Ms. Fluckiger said, adding that she could not recall the details.

On Saturday, the police in Braintree said they were considering reopening the case of the shooting death of her brother, Seth Bishop, 18. Although a state police report said investigators determined that the shooting was an accident, Police Chief Paul Frazier said other officers remember that it came after an argument and questioned why local police documents could not be found.

On Sunday, Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan of Braintree, a Boston suburb, issued a statement saying the town would conduct a “full and thorough review” of its records for any material relating to Seth Bishop’s death. But he noted that records from 1986 were created and maintained manually, which would complicate their retrieval.

Standing at his door after church on Sunday, Mr. Anderson confirmed the existence of the novel reported in The Globe, as well as two others his wife worked on in her spare time. The couple has four children, ranging from grade-school to college age. Mr. Anderson said that somewhere in his files he had a letter sent by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after the bomb investigation, saying: “You are hereby cleared in this incident. You are no longer a subject of the investigation.”

“This is one thing from the past I hoped would not be dredged up,” he said.

Shaila Dewan reported from Huntsville, and Katie Zezima from Boston.


Denied tenure, kills three at Biology Dept. at U. of Alabama.
Accused Alabama prof shot, killed brother in 1986
DAY
By KRISTIN M. HALL and DESIREE HUNTER, Associated Press Writer
Feb 13, 2010 (?) 9:15 PM EST

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) -- The professor accused of killing three colleagues during a faculty meeting was a Harvard-educated neurobiologist, inventor and mother whose life had been marred by a violent episode in her distant past.

More than two decades ago, police said Amy Bishop fatally shot her teenage brother at their Massachusetts home in what officers at the time logged as an accident - though authorities said Saturday that records of the shooting are missing.

Bishop had just months left teaching at the University of Alabama in Huntsville when police said she opened fire with a handgun Friday in a room filled with a dozen of her colleagues from the school's biology department. Bishop, a rare woman suspected in a workplace shooting, was to leave after this semester because she had been denied tenure.

Police say she is 42, but the university's Web site lists her as 44.

Some have said she was upset after being denied the job-for-life security afforded tenured academics, and the husband of one victim and one of Bishop's students said they were told the shooting stemmed from the school's refusal to grant her such status. Authorities have refused to discuss a motive, and school spokesman Ray Garner said the faculty meeting wasn't called to discuss tenure.

William Setzer, chairman of chemistry department at UAH, said Bishop was appealing the decision made last year.

"Politics and personalities" always play a role in the tenure process, he said. "In a close department it's more so. If you have any lone wolves or bizarre personalities, it's a problem and I'm thinking that certainly came into play here."

The three killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and two other faculty members, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson. The wounded were still recovering in hospitals early Saturday. Luis Cruz-Vera was in fair condition; Joseph Leahy in critical condition; and staffer Stephanie Monticciolo also was in critical condition.

Descriptions of Bishop from students and colleagues were mixed. Some saw a strange woman who had difficulty relating to her students, while others described a witty, intelligent teacher.

Students and colleagues described Bishop as intelligent, but someone who often had difficulty explaining difficult concepts.

Bishop was well-known in the research community, appearing on the cover of the winter 2009 issue of "The Huntsville R&D Report," a local magazine focusing on engineering, space and genetics. However, it was unclear how many of her colleagues and students knew about a more tragic part of her past.

She shot her brother, an 18-year-old accomplished violinist, in the chest in 1986, said Paul Frazier, the police chief in Braintree, Mass., where the shooting occurred. Bishop fired at least three shots, hitting her brother once and hitting her bedroom wall before police took her into custody at gunpoint, he said.

Frazier said the police chief at the time told officers to release Bishop to her mother before she could be booked. It was logged as an accident.

But Frazier's account was disputed by former police Chief John Polio, who told The Associated Press he didn't call officers to tell them to release Bishop. "There's no cover-up, no missing records," he said.

Attempts by AP to track down addresses and phone numbers for Bishop's family in the Braintree area weren't immediately successful Saturday. The current police chief said he believed her family had moved away.

After being educated at Harvard University, Bishop moved to Huntsville and in 2003 became an associate professor at the University of Alabama's campus there. The school, with about 7,500 students, has close ties with NASA and is known for its engineering and science programs.

Setzer, the chemistry chairman, said he was not aware of the incident with Bishop's brother.

Bishop and her husband placed third in a statewide university business plan competition in July 2007, presenting a portable cell incubator they had invented. They won $25,000 to help start a company to market the device.

Her husband, James Anderson, was detained and questioned by police but has not been charged. Police said Bishop was quickly caught after Friday's shooting. A 9-millimeter handgun was found in the bathroom of the building where the shootings occurred, and Huntsville police spokesman Sgt. Mark Roberts said Bishop did not have a permit for it.

Bishop was in custody and it wasn't immediately known if she has an attorney. No one was home at the couple's house.

Several experts said campus shootings commonly occur because the shooter has some kind of festering grievance that university officials haven't addressed, and the granting of tenure can be a polarizing and politicized process for many academics.

"Universities tend to string it out without resolution, tolerate too much and to have a cumbersome decision process that endangers the comfort of many and the safety of some," said Dr. Park Dietz, who is president of Threat Assessment Group Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based violence prevention firm.

Tenure, which makes firing and other discipline difficult if not impossible, can seem generous to outsiders. But the job protection gives professors the freedom to express ideas and conduct studies without fear of reprisal. The system typically emphasizes research over teaching, and tenured professors typically are paid more.

While it's rare for the stresses of the tenure process to incur violence, what's even rarer is for a woman to be accused in such an incident like the one Friday that also left three of Bishop's colleagues injured, two critically.

"Workplace shootings of that kind are overwhelmingly male," said Franklin E. Zimring, a law professor and director of violence prevention at the University of California, Berkeley. "Going postal was essentially a monopoly position of the XY chromosome."

---

Associated Press Writers Jay Lindsay in Braintree, Mass., and Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Troubling portrait emerges of Fort Hood suspect (now, in August 2013, convicts and sentences to death)
YAHOO
By BRETT J. BLACKLEDGE, Associated Press Writer
November 6, 2009

WASHINGTON – His name appears on radical Internet postings. A fellow officer says he fought his deployment to Iraq and argued with soldiers who supported U.S. wars. He required counseling as a medical student because of problems with patients.

There are many unknowns about Nidal Malik Hasan, the man authorities say is responsible for the worst mass killing on a U.S. military base. Most of all, his motive.

For six years before reporting for duty at Fort Hood, Texas, in July, the 39-year-old Army major worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center pursuing his career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and, last year, a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical degree from the military's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001.

While an intern at Walter Reed, Hasan had some "difficulties" that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time.  Grieger said privacy laws prevented him from going into details but noted that the problems had to do with Hasan's interactions with patients. He recalled Hasan as a "mostly very quiet" person who never spoke ill of the military or his country.

"He swore an oath of loyalty to the military," Grieger said. "I didn't hear anything contrary to those oaths."

But, more recently, federal agents grew suspicious.

At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.  They had not determined for certain whether Hasan is the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Hasan's aunt, Noel Hasan of Falls Church, Va., said he had been harassed about being a Muslim in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and he wanted out of the Army.

"Some people can take it and some people cannot," she said. "He had listened to all of that and he wanted out of the military."

She said he had sought a discharge from the military for several years, and even offered to repay the cost of his medical training.

A military official told The Associated Press that Hasan was in the preparation stage of deployment, which can take months. The official said Hasan had indicated he didn't want to go to Iraq but was willing to serve in Afghanistan. The official did not have authorization to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A second military official said Hasan's family has Palestinian roots. There have been reports that he was harassed for his Muslim religion, but the official says there is no indication Hasan filed a complaint within the military about that.  Terrorism task force agents plan to interview several of Hasan's relatives Friday, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the case.

Noel Hasan said her nephew "did not make many friends" and would say "they military was his life."

A cousin, Nader Hasan, told The New York Times that after counseling soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder, Hasan knew war firsthand.

"He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy," Nader Hasan said. "He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there."

Federal law-enforcement agents ordered an evacuation of the apartment complex where Hasan lived in Killeen, Texas, Thursday night and conducted a search of his home, said Hilary Shine, director of public information for the city. She didn't say what was found during the search.  Officials said earlier that federal search warrants were being drawn up to authorize the seizure of his computer.

Retired Army Col. Terry Lee, who said he worked with Hasan, told Fox News that Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Lee said Hasan got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars, and had tried hard to prevent his pending deployment.  Hasan attended prayers regularly when he lived outside Washington, often in his Army uniform, said Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque Hasan attended in Silver Spring, Md. He said Hasan was a lifelong Muslim.

"I got the impression that he was a committed soldier," Khan said. He spoke often with Hasan about Hasan's desire for a wife.

On a form filled out by those seeking spouses through a program at the mosque, Hasan listed his birthplace as Arlington, Va., but his nationality as Palestinian, Khan said.

"I don't know why he listed Palestinian," Khan said, "He was not born in Palestine."

Nothing stood out about Hasan as radical or extremist, Khan said.

"We hardly ever got to discussing politics," Khan said. "Mostly we were discussing religious matters, nothing too controversial, nothing like an extremist."

Hasan earned his rank of major in April 2008, according to a July 2008 Army Times article.  He served eight years as an enlisted soldier.

He also served in the ROTC as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry there in 1997.



New Tech Gunman Records Fail to Predict Bloodshed
NYTIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

August 19, 2009 (Filed at 5:53 p.m. ET)


ROANOKE, Va. (AP) -- Recently discovered mental health records released on Wednesday contain no obvious indications that the Virginia Tech gunman was a year and a half away from committing the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

The records contain previously unseen handwritten notes from the counselors who talked to Seung-Hui Cho in 2005, and in one report Cho denied having any suicidal or homicidal thoughts. On April 16, 2007, Cho killed 32 students and faculty members on the Blacksburg, Va., campus and took his own life.  The counselors' notes indicate they were concerned for the troubled student, but the records don't contain any evidence that they saw serious warning signs to believe Cho would commit violence.

The missing files were released almost five weeks after they were discovered at the home of the former director of the university's counseling center.

University officials have said Cho talked to two different therapists during 45-minute telephone triage sessions in the fall, then made one court-ordered 45-minute in-person visit that December.  Cho denied the homicidal thoughts in the telephone sessions and in the in-person meeting with counselor Sherry Lynch Conrad on Dec. 14, 2005. Cho met with Conrad at Cook Counseling Center after being detained in a mental hospital overnight because he had expressed thoughts of suicide.

''He denies suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts. Said the comment he made was a joke. Says he has no reason to harm self and would never do it,'' Conrad wrote.

That was Cho's last contact with the counseling center. The counselor wrote that she gave him emergency contact numbers and encouraged him to return the next semester in January, but he didn't make an appointment.  Edward J. McNelis, an attorney for Conrad and the counselors who spoke with Cho by phone, said he had advised them not to comment because they are named in civil lawsuits filed by two of the victims' families.

A telephone message left for Conrad was not immediately returned.

The files first turned up July 16, when former Cook Counseling Center director Robert C. Miller found them in his home while preparing for those civil suits, which name him as a defendant.  Miller said in a court filing that the Cho records were in a manila folder along with several others, and he packed it up with his personal documents in late February or early March 2006 when he transferred from the center to another position at the university.  The files were released by Virginia Tech following the approval of Cho's family. It was their decision whether to release them because of privacy laws.

''My mother, father and I all agree that it is the correct thing to do to release the newly discovered medical records of my brother,'' Cho's sister, Sun Cho, said in a letter authorizing the release.

University spokesman Mark Owczarski said with the release of the records the school was seeking to provide the victims' families ''with as much information as is known about Cho's interactions with the mental health system.''

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said in a statement he was pleased that the Cho family wanted the records released and that his administration remained committed to openness about events surrounding the mass shootings.

''We will never fully comprehend what led Seung-Hui Cho to carry out his assault on his fellow students and instructors,'' Kaine said. ''His actions were by nature inexplicable, and I don't expect the questions surrounding the tragedy will ever really end.''

Robert Hall, attorney for the families who have sued, noted that the file contained no mention of discussions former English Department Chairwoman Lucinda Roy had with Miller about Cho. She consulted the counseling center director when she was trying to tutor Cho that fall after his disturbing writings and bizarre behavior got him kicked out of class.

''It's like there are parallel universes,'' he said, one in which the faculty is concerned and tries to get help for a seriously disturbed student and another in which the school therapists appeared to know little about Cho's troubles.

Relatives of victims said the files showed that Cho slipped through the cracks despite red flags.

''They definitely weren't paying attention, and that's what led to April 16th,'' said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin was wounded but survived.

''It just sounded like he was going through a McDonald's,'' said Michael Pohle, whose son Michael Pohle Jr. was killed. ''It just looked like he was passed through from one person to another person and there was no collaboration going on.''

Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily Haas was injured, said she was more concerned about the circumstances under which the records were found more than two years after the shootings.

''I'm just suspicious of the manner in which information has been dribbled out,'' she said.

Roger O'Dell, whose son Derek O'Dell was injured, said he hoped the records could be helpful in altering treatment of troubled individuals.

''There are lessons to be learned,'' he said.

------

Associated Press Writer Steve Szkotak in Richmond contributed to this report.


Va. Tech Families Want Shooting Probe Reopened
NYTIMES
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

July 28, 2009, Filed at 11:22 a.m. ET

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) -- Families of the Virginia Tech shooting victims asked Gov. Tim Kaine on Tuesday to reopen a state commission's investigation of the 2007 mass killings in which 32 people died.

A group of parents of many of those killed and injured in the rampage by student gunman Seung-Hui Cho issued a statement urging Kaine to reopen the review because of inaccuracies in the report.

The families' statement followed disclosure last week that the former director of the university's counseling center recently found missing mental health records for Cho at his home.

Cho committed suicide after killing students and faculty members in a dormitory and classroom building on the Blacksburg campus on April 16, 2007 -- the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

''We still suffer emotional pain dealing with the impenetrable layers of bureaucracy in our simple quest for answers,'' the statement said. ''An accurate, complete and thorough accounting of what happened before, during and after April 16th, 2007 is the legacy we seek on behalf of those who died and those who survived.''

The families said they want more information about the discovery of Cho's records at the home of Dr. Robert C. Miller. Miller has said he inadvertently took the files as he left his job as director of Cook Counseling Center more than a year before the shootings.

Kaine said in response to a caller's question on his monthly radio show on Washington's WTOP that the professional staff who investigated and wrote the Virginia Tech Review Panel report is already investigating Miller's possession of Cho's records.

Reconvening the appointed members of the panel, including former State Police Superintendent Gerald Massengill and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, would be a problem because all were volunteer members when they served.

''These records are critical. They never should have been removed from the counseling center. I want to know why,'' Kaine said.

Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was wounded but survived, said she and other family members who have conducted their own investigation of the events of that day have found other errors in the report.

''With the revelation that Dr. Miller has discovered the missing records, it just raises whole new questions of what else is out there that we're unaware of,'' she said.

The review panel issued its report four months after the shootings, in August of 2007. A separate criminal investigation into the shootings is ongoing.  A telephone message left for Massengill was not immediately returned.


Va. Tech Gunman’s Mental Health Records Found
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:08 p.m. ET
July 22, 2009

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Mental health records for Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho that were missing for more than two years have been discovered in the home of the university clinic's former director, according to a state memo sent to victims' family members.

Cho killed 32 people on April 16, 2007, then committed suicide as police closed in. His mental health treatment has been a major issue in the vast investigation of the shootings, yet the records' location had eluded authorities until they were uncovered by attorneys for some families of Cho's victims.

A memo from Gov. Tim Kaine's chief legal counsel to victims' family members says Cho's records and those of several other Virginia Tech students were found last week in the home of Dr. Robert C. Miller. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The memo said Cho's records were removed from the Cook Counseling Center on the Virginia Tech campus more than a year before the shootings, when Miller transferred from his position at the clinic. Records for several other students were also at his home, the memo said.

''I appreciate your call, but I'm not making comment at this time,'' Miller said when reached at a number for his private practice.

Kaine said a Virginia State Police criminal investigation was under way into how the records disappeared from the center where Cho was ordered to undergo counseling. Removing records from the center is illegal, he said.  Kaine said he was dismayed that it took two years before they were found by the attorneys.

''That is part of the investigation that I am very interested in and, of course, I'm very concerned about that,'' Kaine said.

The medical records are protected under state privacy laws. The state planned to release the records publicly as soon as possible, either by consent from Cho's estate or through a subpoena.  The discovery calls into question the thoroughness of the criminal probe two years ago and the findings of a commission Kaine appointed to review the catastrophe, one victim's relative said.

''Deception comes to my mind in my first response,'' said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was injured in the shootings.

''To say it doesn't make sense is an injustice,'' she said. ''It gives me the impression: 'What else are they hiding?'''

She praised Kaine's willingness to investigate the disappearance of the records and have them released.

''Until we get all the answers to what happened on that day and days prior, there's no sense of closure,'' Grimes said.

Andrew Goddard, whose son, Colin, survived four gunshots, welcomed the new information.

''We're not looking to hang people. We're looking for more of the truth about what happened,'' he said.

While a large part of the shooting investigation focused on how university officials and law enforcement responded following the first reports of deaths in a Virginia Tech dormitory, family members of victims have also inquired how the troubled Cho slipped through the cracks at university counseling.

In April, on the second anniversary of the shootings, families of two slain students sued the state, the school and its counseling center, several top university officials and a local mental health agency, claiming gross negligence in the chain of events that allowed Cho to commit his killing spree.  The lawsuits also claim the local health center where Cho had gone to say he felt suicidal did not adequately treat or monitor him.

The discovery shakes up that lawsuit, an attorney for the two families said.

''Why would he (Miller) take any student mental health records to his home at any time, and why that student?'' Robert T. Hall said.

''It certainly is a question of whether there is more to the Seung-Hui Cho mental health history than we've been told,'' Hall said in a telephone interview from vacation in Vermont.

Goddard, who was appointed last year to the state board of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, said he wasn't sure how helpful the records would be.

But he said if they showed Cho was ''anything other than this mildly upset student,'' that needed to come out.


Internet Key in Probe of Va. Tech Gunman
Hartford Courant
By ADAM GELLER and CHRIS KAHN, Associated Press Writers 
6:20 AM EDT, April 22, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Computer forensics are playing a key role in the probe of the Virginia Tech gunman, with investigators revealing he bought ammunition clips on eBay designed for one of two handguns used to kill 32 people and himself.

The eBay account and other Internet activities provided insight Saturday into how Seung-Hui Cho may have plotted for the rampage, including the purchase of two empty ammo clips about three weeks before the attack.

EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the purchase of the clips from a Web vendor based in Idaho was legal and that the company has cooperated with authorities. Attempts to reach the Idaho dealer were unsuccessful.

"Within 24 hours, after Cho's identity was made public, we had reached out to law enforcement to offer our assistance in any investigation," Durzy said.

Authorities are also examining the personal computers found in Cho's dorm room and seeking his cell-phone records.

Cho, 23, also used the eBay account to sell items ranging from Hokies football tickets to horror-themed books, some of which were assigned in one of his classes.

A search warrant affidavit filed Friday stated that investigators wanted to search Cho's e-mail accounts, including the address Blazers5505@hotmail.com. Durzy confirmed Cho used the same blazers5505 handle on eBay.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said investigators are "aware of the eBay activity that mirrors" the Hotmail account.

One question investigators hope to answer is whether Cho had any e-mail contact with Emily Hilscher, one of the first two victims. Investigators plan to search her Virginia Tech e-mail account.

Experts say that when the subject of an investigation is a loner like Cho, his computers and cell phone can be a rich source of information. Authorities say Cho had a history of sending menacing text messages and other communications -- written and electronic.

On March 22, Cho bought two 10-round magazines for the Walther P22. A day later, he made a purchase from a vendor named "oneclickshooting," which sells gun accessories and other items. Details on the purchase were unclear, and the seller could not be reached for comment.

Cho sold tickets to Virginia Tech sporting events, including last year's Peach Bowl. He sold a Texas Instruments graphics calculator that contained several games, most of them with mild themes.

"The calculator was used for less than one semester then I dropped the class," Cho wrote on the site.

He also sold many books about violence, death and mayhem. Several of those books were used in his English classes, meaning Cho simply could have been selling used books at the end of the semester.

His eBay rating was superb -- 98.5 percent. That means he received one negative rating from people he dealt with on eBay, compared with 65 positive.

"great ebayer. very flexible," the buyer said of his Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets, which went for $182.50.

Andy Koch, Cho's roommate from 2005-06, said he never saw Cho receive or send a package, although he didn't have much interaction with the shooter. Students can sign up for a free lottery on a game-by-game basis, and the tickets are free.

"We took him to one football game," he said. "We told him to sign up for the lottery, and he went and he left like in the third quarter, and that was it. He never went again. He never went to another game."

Cho sold the books on the eBay-affiliated site half.com. They include "Men, Women, and Chainsaws" by Carol J. Clover, a book that explores gender in the modern horror film. Others include "The Best of H.P. Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre"; and "The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense" by Joyce Carol Oates -- a book in which the publisher writes: "In these and other gripping and disturbing tales, women are confronted by the evil around them and surprised by the evil they find within themselves."

Books by those three authors were taught in his Contemporary Horror class.

Experts say things like eBay transactions can be hugely valuable in trying to figure out the motivation behind crimes.

An examination of a computer is "very revealing, particularly for a person like this," said Mark Rasch of FTI Consulting, a computer and electronic investigation firm. "What we find ... particularly with people who are very uncommunicative in person, is that they may be much more communicative and free to express themselves with the anonymity that computers and the Internet give you."

Cho's computer could hold a record of just about anything he has done, even of activities or communications he may have tried to erase. But Rasch said that likely will not be a problem, noting the way the gunman created a record of his thinking in videos, photos and documents.

"This guy wanted to leave a trail. He wasn't trying to conceal what he did," Rasch said.



AP: Va. gunman's family feels hopeless
By ALLEN G. BREED and AARON BEARD, Associated Press Writer
April 20, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. - The family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho told The Associated Press on Friday that they feel "hopeless, helpless and lost," and "never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence."

"He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare," said a statement issued by Cho's sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, on the family's behalf.

It was the Chos' first public comment since the 23-year-old student killed 32 people and committed suicide Monday in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

Raleigh, N.C., lawyer Wade Smith provided the statement to the AP after the Cho family reached out to him. Smith said the family would not answer any questions, and neither would he.

"Our family is so very sorry for my brother's unspeakable actions. It is a terrible tragedy for all of us," said Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 Princeton University graduate who works as a contractor for a State Department office that oversees American aid for        Iraq.

"We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced," she said. "Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act."

The Chos' whereabouts are unclear. But Virginia State Police said they are under law enforcement protection.

The statement was issued during a statewide day of mourning for the victims. Silence fell across the Virginia Tech campus at noon and bells tolled in churches nationwide in memory of the victims.

"We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost. This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn't know this person," Cho's sister said. "We have always been a close, peaceful and loving family. My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in. We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence."

She said her family will cooperate fully and "do whatever we can to help authorities understand why these senseless acts happened. We have many unanswered questions as well."

Wendy Adams, whose niece, Leslie Sherman, was killed in the massacre, said of the family's statement: "I'm not so generous to be able to forgive him for what he did. But I do feel for the family. I do feel sorry for them."

"I do believe they're living a nightmare," she added.

Robert Jeffers of Idaho Falls, Idaho, a friend of slain 25-year-old student Brian R. Bluhm, said: "I hope people can see that the right action to take from all of this is love, not hate."

"Based on this sorrowful statement, it is apparent that the family grieves with everyone in the world," Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Cho's name was given as "Cho Seung-Hui" by police and school officials earlier this week. But the the South Korean immigrant family said their preference was "Seung-Hui Cho." Many Asian immigrant families Americanize their names by reversing them and putting their surnames last.

While Cho clearly was seething and had been taken to a psychiatric hospital more than a year as threat to himself, investigators are still trying to establish exactly what set him off, why he chose a dormitory and a classroom building for the rampage, and how he selected his victims.

"The why and the how are the crux of the investigation," Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said. "The why may never be determined because the person responsible is deceased."

During the campus memorial, hundreds of somber students and area residents, most wearing the school's maroon and orange, stood with heads bowed on the parade ground in front of Norris Hall, the classrooom building where all but two of the victims died. Along with the bouquets and candles was a sign reading, "Never forgotten."

"It's good to feel the love of people around you," said Alice Lo, a Virginia Tech graduate and friend of Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, a French instructor killed in the rampage. "With this evil, there is still goodness."

The mourners gathered in front of stone memorials, each adorned with a basket of tulips and an American flag. There were 33 stones — one for each victim and Cho.

"His family is suffering just as much as the other families," said Elizabeth Lineberry, who will be a freshman at Virginia Tech in the fall.

       President Bush wore an orange and maroon tie in a show of support. The White House said he also asked top officials at the Justice, Health and Human Services and Education Departments to travel the country, talk to educators, mental health experts and others, and compile a report on how to prevent similar tragedies.

Seven people hurt in the rampage remained hospitalized, at least one in serious condition.


Va. Tech stunned by images of gunman
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
April 19, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Two days after the worst killing spree in modern U.S. history, videos and photographs of an armed Cho Seung-Hui stunned the university community where he killed 32 people before committing suicide Monday.
 
In the photos and recordings mailed to NBC midway through his rampage, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui delivered a snarling, profanity-laced tirade about rich "brats" and their "hedonistic needs."

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," he says in a harsh monotone. "But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

NBC said the package contained a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos. Several of the photos showed him aiming handguns at the camera.

The package arrived at NBC headquarters in New York on Tuesday and was opened Wednesday. It bore a Postal Service time stamp showing that it had been mailed at a Blacksburg post office at 9:01 a.m. Monday, about an hour and 45 minutes after Cho first opened fire.

"I saw his picture on TV and when I did I just got chills," said Kristy Venning, a junior from Franklin County, Va. "There's really no words. It shows he put so much thought into this and I think it's sick."

The package helped explain one of the biggest mysteries about the massacre: where the gunman was and what he did during that two-hour window between the first burst of gunfire, at a high-rise dorm, and the second attack, at a classroom building.

"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," says Cho, a South Korean immigrant whose parents work at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."

Earlier in the day, authorities disclosed that more than a year before the massacre, Cho was accused of sending unwanted messages to two women and was taken to a psychiatric hospital on a magistrate's orders and was pronounced a danger to himself. But he was released with orders to undergo outpatient treatment.

The disclosure added to the rapidly growing list of warning signs that appeared well before the student opened fire. Among other things, Cho's twisted, violence-filled writings and sullen, vacant-eyed demeanor had disturbed professors and students so much that he was removed from one English class and was repeatedly urged to get counseling.

Some of the pictures in the video package show him smiling; others show him frowning and snarling. Some depict him brandishing two weapons at a time, one in each hand. He wears a khaki-colored military-style vest, fingerless gloves, a black T-shirt, a backpack and a backward, black baseball cap. Another photo shows him swinging a hammer two-fisted. Another shows an angry-looking Cho holding a gun to his temple.

He refers to "martyrs like Eric and Dylan" — a reference to the teenage killers in the Columbine High School massacre.

NBC News President Steve Capus said the package arrived in Tuesday afternoon's mail, but was not opened until Wednesday morning. It was sent by overnight delivery and apparently had the wrong ZIP code, NBC said.

An alert postal employee brought the package to NBC's attention after noticing the Blacksburg return address and a name similar to the words reportedly found scrawled in red ink on Cho's arm after the bloodbath, "Ismail Ax," NBC said.

Capus said that the network notified the        FBI around noon, but held off reporting on it at the FBI's request, so that the bureau could look at it first. NBC finally broke the story just before police announced the development at 4:30 p.m.

It was clear Cho videotaped himself, Capus said, because he could be seen leaning in to shut off the camera.

State Police Spokeswoman Corinne Geller cautioned that, while the package was mailed between the two shootings, police have not inspected the footage and have yet to establish exactly when the images were made.

Cho repeatedly suggests he was picked on or otherwise hurt.

"You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience," he says, apparently reading from his manifesto. "You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."

A law enforcement official said Cho's letter also refers in the same sentence to        President Bush and John Mark Karr, who falsely confessed last year to having killed child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media.

Earlier Wednesday, authorities disclosed that in November and December 2005, two women complained to campus police that they had received calls and computer messages from Cho. But the women considered the messages "annoying," not threatening, and neither pressed charges, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

Neither woman was among the victims in the massacre, police said.

After the second complaint about Cho's behavior, the university obtained a temporary detention order and took Cho away because an acquaintance reported he might be suicidal, authorities said. Police did not identify the acquaintance.

On Dec. 13, 2005, a magistrate ordered Cho to undergo an evaluation at Carilion St. Albans, a private psychiatric hospital. The magistrate signed the order after an initial evaluation found probable cause that Cho was a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness.

The next day, according to court records, doctors at Carilion conducted further examination and a special justice, Paul M. Barnett, approved outpatient treatment.

A medical examination conducted Dec. 14 reported that that Cho's "affect is flat. ... He denies suicidal ideations. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal."

The court papers indicate that Barnett checked a box that said Cho "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." Barnett did not check the box that would indicate a danger to others.

It is unclear how long Cho stayed at Carilion, though court papers indicate he was free to leave as of Dec. 14. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said Cho had been continually enrolled at Tech and never took a leave of absence.

A spokesman for Carilion St. Albans would not comment.

Though the incidents with the two women did not result in criminal charges, police referred Cho to the university's disciplinary system, Flinchum said. But Ed Spencer, assistant vice president of student affairs, would not comment on any disciplinary proceedings, saying federal law protects students' medical privacy even after death.

Some students refused to second-guess the university.

"Who would've woken up in the morning and said, `Maybe this student who's just troubled is really going to do something this horrific?'" said Elizabeth Hart, a communications major and a spokeswoman for the student government.

One of the first Virginia Tech officials to recognize Cho's problems was award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni, who kicked him out of her introduction to creative writing class in late 2005.

Students in Giovanni's class had told their professor that Cho was taking photographs of their legs and knees under the desks with his cell phone. Female students refused to come to class. She said she considered him "mean" and "a bully."

Lucinda Roy, professor of English at Virginia Tech, said that she, too, relayed her concerns to campus police and various other college units after Cho displayed antisocial behavior in her class and handed in disturbing writing assignments.

But she said authorities "hit a wall" in terms of what they could do "with a student on campus unless he'd made a very overt threat to himself or others." Cho resisted her repeated suggestion that he undergo counseling, Roy said.

Questions lingered over whether campus police should have issued an immediate campus-wide warning of a killer on the loose and locked down the campus after the first burst of gunfire.

Police said that after the first shooting, in which two students were killed, they believed that it was a domestic dispute, and that the gunman had fled the campus. Police went looking for a young man, Karl David Thornhill, who had once shot guns at a firing range with the roommate of one of the victims. But police said Thornhill is no longer under suspicion.

___

Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, Vicki Smith, Sue Lindsey and Justin Pope in Blacksburg, Va., Matt Barakat in Richmond, Va., Colleen Long and Tom Hays in New York, and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.



Va. gunman sent videos and photos to NBC
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writer
April 18, 2007
 
BLACKSBURG, Va. - Midway through his murderous rampage, the Virginia Tech gunman went to the post office and mailed NBC a package containing photos and videos of him brandishing guns and delivering a snarling, profanity-laced tirade about rich "brats" and their "hedonistic needs."
 
"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui says in a harsh monotone. "But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

NBC said the package contained a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos. Several of the photos showed him aiming handguns at the camera.

The package arrived at NBC headquarters in New York on Tuesday and was opened Wednesday, two days after Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide in the deadliest one-man shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. It bore a Postal Service time stamp showing that it had been mailed at a Blacksburg post office at 9:01 a.m. Monday, about an hour and 45 minutes after Cho first opened fire.

That would help explain one of the biggest mysteries about the massacre: where the gunman was and what he did during that two-hour window between the first burst of gunfire, at a high-rise dorm, and the second fusillade, at a classroom building.

"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," says Cho, a South Korean immigrant whose parents work at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."

Earlier in the day, authorities disclosed that more than a year before the massacre, Cho was accused of sending unwanted messages to two women and was taken to a psychiatric hospital on a magistrate's orders and was pronounced a danger to himself. But he was released with orders to undergo outpatient treatment.

The disclosure added to the rapidly growing list of warning signs that appeared well before the student opened fire. Among other things, Cho's twisted, violence-filled writings and sullen, vacant-eyed demeanor had disturbed professors and students so much that he was removed from one English class and was repeatedly urged to get counseling.

Some of the pictures in the video package show him smiling; others show him frowning and snarling. Some depict him brandishing two weapons at a time, one in each hand. He wears a khaki-colored military-style vest, fingerless gloves, a black T-shirt, a backpack and a backward, black baseball cap. Another photo shows him swinging a hammer two-fisted. Another shows an angry-looking Cho holding a gun to his temple.

He refers to "martyrs like Eric and Dylan" — a reference to the teenage killers in the Columbine High massacre.

NBC News President Steve Capus said the package arrived in Tuesday afternoon's mail, but was not opened until Wednesday morning. It was sent by overnight delivery and apparently had the wrong ZIP code, NBC said.

An alert postal employee brought the package to NBC's attention after noticing the Blacksburg return address and a name similar to the words reportedly found scrawled in red ink on Cho's arm after the bloodbath, "Ismail Ax," NBC said.

Capus said that the network notified the        FBI around noon, but held off reporting on it at the FBI's request, so that the bureau could look at it first. NBC finally broke the story just before police announced the development at 4:30 p.m.

It was clear Cho videotaped himself, Capus said, because he could be seen leaning in to shut off the camera.

State Police Spokeswoman Corinne Geller cautioned that, while the package was mailed between the two shootings, police have not inspected the footage and have yet to establish exactly when the images were made.

Cho repeatedly suggests he was picked on or otherwise hurt.

"You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience," he says, apparently reading from his manifesto. "You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people."

A law enforcement official said Cho's letter also refers in the same sentence to        President Bush and John Mark Karr, who falsely confessed last year to having killed child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media.

Earlier Wednesday, authorities disclosed that in November and December 2005, two women complained to campus police that they had received calls and computer messages from Cho. But the women considered the messages "annoying," not threatening, and neither pressed charges, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

Neither woman was among the victims in the massacre, police said.

After the second complaint about Cho's behavior, the university obtained a temporary detention order and took Cho away because an acquaintance reported he might be suicidal, authorities said. Police did not identify the acquaintance.

On Dec. 13, 2005, a magistrate ordered Cho to undergo an evaluation at Carilion St. Albans, a private psychiatric hospital. The magistrate signed the order after an initial evaluation found probable cause that Cho was a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness.

The next day, according to court records, doctors at Carilion conducted further examination and a special justice, Paul M. Barnett, approved outpatient treatment.

A medical examination conducted Dec. 14 reported that that Cho's "affect is flat. ... He denies suicidal ideations. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal."

The court papers indicate that Barnett checked a box that said Cho "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." Barnett did not check the box that would indicate a danger to others.

It is unclear how long Cho stayed at Carilion, though court papers indicate he was free to leave as of Dec. 14. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said Cho had been continually enrolled at Tech and never took a leave of absence.

A spokesman for Carilion St. Albans would not comment.

Though the incidents with the two women did not result in criminal charges, police referred Cho to the university's disciplinary system, Flinchum said. But Ed Spencer, assistant vice president of student affairs, would not comment on any disciplinary proceedings, saying federal law protects students' medical privacy even after death.

Some students refused to second-guess the university.

"Who would've woken up in the morning and said, `Maybe this student who's just troubled is really going to do something this horrific?'" said Elizabeth Hart, a communications major and a spokeswoman for the student government.

One of the first Virginia Tech officials to recognize Cho's problems was award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni, who kicked him out of her introduction to creative writing class in late 2005.

Students in Giovanni's class had told their professor that Cho was taking photographs of their legs and knees under the desks with his cell phone. Female students refused to come to class. She said she considered him "mean" and "a bully."

Lucinda Roy, professor of English at Virginia Tech, said that she, too, relayed her concerns to campus police and various other college units after Cho displayed antisocial behavior in her class and handed in disturbing writing assignments.

But she said authorities "hit a wall" in terms of what they could do "with a student on campus unless he'd made a very overt threat to himself or others." Cho resisted her repeated suggestion that he undergo counseling, Roy said.

Questions lingered over whether campus police should have issued an immediate campus-wide warning of a killer on the loose and locked down the campus after the first burst of gunfire.

Police said that after the first shooting, in which two students were killed, they believed that it was a domestic dispute, and that the gunman had fled the campus. Police went looking for a young man, Karl David Thornhill, who had once shot guns at a firing range with the roommate of one of the victims. But police said Thornhill is no longer under suspicion.



Va. Tech gunman had mental problems: police
By Andrea Hopkins and Patricia Zengerle

April 18, 2007 12 noon

BLACKSBURG, Virginia (Reuters) - The gunman who went on a rampage at Virginia Tech had been confronted by university police in 2005 over complaints he was bothering women students and was sent to a mental health facility because of worries he was suicidal, police said on Wednesday.

The new details added to a chilling portrait of Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean student who massacred 32 people and then took his own life at the university on Monday in the deadliest shooting spree in modern U.S. history.  Fellow students and teachers have described a troubled loner whose writings for his English degree were so laced with violence and disillusionment that they alarmed some of those around him.


University Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said his officers approached Cho in late 2005 when two women students complained of "annoying" phone calls and instant messages from him.

"I'm not saying they were threats; I'm saying they were annoying. That's the way the victims characterized them, as annoying messages," Flinchum told a news conference.

After the second incident Cho's roommate told police he "might be suicidal," prompting them to issue a "temporary detention order" and send him to a mental health facility for evaluation, Flinchum said.  Authorities would not say how long Cho was evaluated.

"We did not have any contact with him after December 2005 that I'm aware of at this time," Flinchum said.

Cho, who immigrated to the United States 15 years ago with his family and was raised in suburban Washington, D.C., chained doors closed to prevent escape and worked his way through classrooms, shooting his victims one by one. He later killed himself.  Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine said he would appoint W. Gerald Massengill, who headed the Virginia State Police during the September 11 attacks and the killing spree of a sniper pair in 2002, to head a panel to review the university's response to the shootings. The review had been requested by the university.

Neighbors, roommates and teachers described Cho as a withdrawn person who rarely spoke. Two students who said they were Cho's roommates said he had harassed several female students and once told them he wanted to kill himself, which prompted the roommates to report their concerns to the police.  Cho used two handguns, which police confirmed he had purchased legally, and stopped only to reload. Police have stopped short of saying he was responsible for the shooting deaths of two other people two hours earlier at a dormitory but said tests showed the same gun was used in both incidents.



In His Words And His Silence, Hints Of Anger And Isolation 
Cho's eruption of violence, in which 32 victims and himself were killed on the Virginia Tech campus here in a rampage of gunfire, was never directly signaled by his actions or words, several of his acquaintances said Tuesday. But those acquaintances were frequently disturbed by his isolation from the world and his barely concealed anger. 
By Manny Fernandez , Marc Santora , New York Times News Service  
Published on 4/18/2007
 
Blacksburg, Va. — Cho Seung-Hui rarely spoke to his own dormitory roommate. His teachers were so disturbed by some of his writing that they referred him to counseling. And when Cho finally and horrifyingly came to the world's attention on Monday, he did so after writing a note that bitterly lashed out at his fellow students for what he deemed their moral decline.

Cho's eruption of violence, in which 32 victims and himself were killed on the Virginia Tech campus here in a rampage of gunfire, was never directly signaled by his actions or words, several of his acquaintances said Tuesday. But those acquaintances were frequently disturbed by his isolation from the world and his barely concealed anger.

Joe Aust, who shared Room 2121 at Harper Hall with him, said he had spoken to Cho often but had received only one-word replies. Later, Aust said, Cho stopped talking to him entirely. Aust would sometimes enter the room and find Cho sitting at his desk, staring into nothingness.

“He was always really, really quiet and kind of weird, keeping to himself all the time,” said Aust, a 19-year-old sophomore, who, though finding Cho strange, had not thought him menacing.

Yet there were signs that Cho's behavior was more than just bizarre.

Lucinda Roy, who taught Cho in a poetry workshop in the fall of 2005, said that in October of that year he submitted a piece of writing that was so disturbing that she contacted the campus police, counseling services, student affairs and officials in her department. She described the writing as a “veiled threat rather than something explicit.”

University officials said he could be excused from the class unless she wanted to tutor him individually, which she agreed to do three times from October to December 2005. During those sessions, she said in an interview, he always wore sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled low.

“He seemed to be crying behind his sunglasses,” she said.

Roy said she had been so nervous about taking him on as an individual student that she worked out a code with her assistant: If she mentioned the name of a dead professor, her assistant would know it was time to call security.

In another writing class, Cho submitted two profoundly violent and profane plays. Ian MacFarlane, a classmate who now works for America Online, posted the plays on the company's Web site Tuesday, saying they had horrified the rest of the students.

“When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare,” MacFarlane wrote. “The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of.”

As a result of them, MacFarlane added, “we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter.”

In one play, called “Richard McBeef,” Cho wrote of a teenage boy who accuses his stepfather of murdering the boy's father and of trying to molest the boy himself.

“I hate him,” the boy says of the stepfather in a copy of the play on the Web site. “Must kill Dick. Must kill Dick. Dick must die.”

Though the level of anger was clear to those who knew Cho, there remains no indication of the precise motive for Monday's events.

“What was this kid thinking about? There are no indications,” said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There were just the snippets of a lonely young life: prescription medicines, ominous words and two newly bought handguns, the first of which was purchased on March 13.

Cho was a 23-year-old senior, skinny and boyish-looking, his hair cut in a short, military-style fashion. He was a native of South Korea who grew up in Centreville, Va., a suburb of Washington, where his family owns a dry-cleaning business. He moved with his family to the United States at age 8, in 1992, according to federal immigration authorities, and was a legal permanent resident, not a citizen.

In the suite in Harper Hall where he lived with five other students, he was known as a loner, almost a stranger, amid a student body of 26,000. He ate his meals alone in a dining hall. Karan Grewal, 21, another student in the suite of rooms where he lived, recalled that when a candidate for student council visited the suite this year to pass out candy and ask for votes, Cho refused even to make eye contact.

On Tuesday afternoon, investigators were examining a note Cho had left behind in his dorm room, a rambling and bitter list of the moral laxity he found among what he considered the more privileged students on campus.

Cho went to bed early by college standards, about 9 p.m. He often rose early, but in recent weeks he had been rising even earlier, frequently before dawn, said Aust. Such was the case Monday.

Cho awoke before 5 a.m., then sat down to work on his computer and awakened his roommate in the process. Grewal, who shares a room in the same suite, saw Cho in the bathroom shortly after 5 a.m.

As usual, Cho did not say anything to Grewal. No good morning, no hello, Grewal said. Cho stood in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, wetting his contact lenses and applying a moisturizer. He also took a prescription medicine, though neither Aust nor Grewal knew what the medication was for. Prescription medications said to be related to the treatment of psychological problems were found among his effects, officials said.

 

Sources: Virginia Tech gunman left note.  ‘Horrible coincidence’ of two shooters
Hartford Couranr
By Aamer Madhani, Tribune national correspondent 
4:54 PM EDT, April 17, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The suspected gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, Cho Seung-Hui, was a troubled 23-year-old senior from South Korea who investigators believe left an invective-filled note in his dorm room, sources say.

The note included a rambling list of grievances, according to sources. They said Cho also died with the words "Ismail Ax" in red ink on one of his arms.

Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.

A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.

Cho was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service, the Associated Press reported.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."

"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was.

Cho, from Centreville, Va., a rapidly growing suburb of Washington, D.C., came to the United States in 1992, an investigative source said. He was a legal permanent resident.  His family runs a dry cleaning business and he has a sister who attended Princeton University, according to the source.

Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression. They are examining Cho's computer for more evidence.  The gunman's family lived in an off-white, two-story town house in Centreville.

"He was very quiet, always by himself," neighbor Abdul Shash said of the gunman. Shash said the gunman spent a lot of his free time playing basketball, and wouldn't respond if someone greeted him. He described the family as quiet.

Marshall Main, who lives across the street, said the family had lived in the townhouse for several years.

According to court records, Virginia Tech Police issued a speeding ticket to Cho on April 7 for going 44 mph in a 25 mph zone, and he had a court date set for May 23.

Cho was found among the 31 dead found in an engineering hall. Police said the victims laid over four classrooms and a stairwell.

"He was a loner," said Larry Hincker, a university spokesman, who added that investigators are having some difficulty unearthing information about him.

A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced, said Cho was carrying a backpack that contained receipts for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol.  Ballistics tests by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms showed that one gun was used in Monday's two separate campus attacks that were two hours apart.

As a permanent legal resident of the United States, Cho was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of any felony criminal charges, a federal immigration official said.

Police said Cho killed 30 people in a Virginia Tech engineering building Monday morning and then killed himself.  Another two students were shot to death two hours earlier in a dorm room on the opposite side of the university's sprawling 2,600-acre campus, bringing the day's death toll to 33.
 
Students at Harper Hall, the campus dormitory where Cho lived, said they had little interaction with him and no insight into what might have motivated the attack.  Officials said the same gun was used in the attack in the dorm room and the larger-scale classroom killings.

"At this time, the evidence does not conclusively identify Cho as the gunman at both locations," said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of Virginia State Police.

All classes at Virginia Tech will be closed for the remainder of the week, said school President Charles Steger.

'Horrible coincidence' of two gunmen

Fairfax County, Va., police investigators said today that Cho was a 2003 graduate of the same high school attended by an 18-year-old who went on a shooting rampage last year at a Virginia police station, killing two officers.

Michael Kennedy, armed with an AK-47, fired more than 70 rounds in the parking lot of the Sully District police station on May 8, killing Det. Vicky Armel and Master Police Officer Michael Garbarino. Kennedy was shot to death by police.

Cho and Kennedy lived in Centreville and graduated from Westfield High School, said Officer Courtney Thibault of the Fairfax County Police Department. She said Cho graduated four years ahead of Kennedy.

Once Cho's identify was released by police in Blacksburg, Thibault said Fairfax County police launched an investigation to determine if there was any connection between the two shooters. She said they found nothing tying the two young men together.

"It's just a horrible coincidence," she said. "It's hard to believe."

Kennedy's father, Brian Kennedy, was charged earlier this month with helping his son obtain the AK-47 used in the rampage. Federal prosecutors claim he was illegally in possession of a small arsenal of weapons, including rifles, shotguns, handguns and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition.

Campus holds convocation

The new details were revealed as the university underwent a day of mourning.

Thousands of people gathered in the basketball arena, and when it filled up, thousands more filed into the football stadium, for a memorial service for the victims. President Bush and the first lady attended.

"Laura and I have come to Blacksburg today with hearts full of sorrow," he said in six-minute remarks. "This is a day of mourning for the Virginia Tech community and it is a day of sadness for our entire nation.

Steger received a 30-second standing ovation, despite bitter complaints from parents and students that the university should have locked down the campus immediately after the first burst of gunfire. Steger expressed hope that "we will awaken from this horrible nightmare."

Many students showed up for the memorial service hours ahead of time, some in tears or carrying flowers. There was already an overflow crowd at the arena by early afternoon, and many people arriving were turned away.

Some victims' names released
 
Among the dead was a professor, Liviu Librescu. Students who were in Librescu's engineering class at Norris Hall told the Tribune late Monday that the professor tried to protect the students in his class when they realized a gunmen was loose in the building.

Alec Calhoun was in Librescu's solid mechanics engineering class when gunfire erupted in the room next door. He said Librescu, went to the door and pushed himself against it in case the shooter tried to come in.

Librescu, an Israeli, was born in Romania and was known internationally for his research in aeronautical engineering.

Also killed were:

- Ross Abdallah Alameddine, 20, of Saugus, Mass., according to his mother, Lynnette Alameddine.

- Christopher James Bishop, 35, according to Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany, where he helped run an exchange program.

- Ryan Clark, 22, of Martinez, Ga., biology and English major, according to Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins.

- Jocelyn Couture-Nowak, a French instructor, according to her husband, Jerzy Nowak, the head of the horticulture department at Virginia Tech.

- Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, killed in his French class, according to his mother, Betty Cueva, of Peru.

- Kevin Granata, age unknown, engineering science and mechanics professor, according to Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.

- Caitlin Hammaren, 19, of Westtown, N.Y., a sophomore majoring in international studies and French, according to Minisink Valley, N.Y., school officials who spoke with Hammaren's family.

- Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, of Bellefonte, Pa., according to Penn State University, his alma mater and his father's employer.

- Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old freshman from Woodville, according to Rappahannock County Administrator John W. McCarthy, a family friend.

- Jarrett L. Lane, 22, of Narrows, Va., according to Riffe's Funeral Service Inc. in Narrows, Va.

- Matthew J. La Porte, 20, a freshman from Dumont, N.J., according to Dumont Police Chief Brian Venezio.

- G.V. Loganathan, 51, civil and environmental engineering professor, according to his brother G.V. Palanivel.

- Daniel O'Neil, 22, according to close friend Steve Craveiro and according to Eric Cardenas of Connecticut College, where O'Neil's father, Bill, is director of major gifts.

- Juan Ramon Ortiz, a 26-year-old graduate student in engineering from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, according to his wife, Liselle Vega Cortes.

- Mary Karen Read, 19, of Annandale, Va. according to her aunt, Karen Kuppinger, of Rochester, N.Y.

- Reema J. Samaha, 18, a freshman from Centreville, Va., according to her family.


Tribune staff reporters E.A. Torriero and Rex W. Huppke, the Tribune's Washington bureau and the Associated Press contributed.


Va. Tech Gunman Writings Raised Concerns
Hartford Courant
By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer
4:41 PM EDT, April 17, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead was described Tuesday as a sullen loner whose creative writing in English class was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service.

News reports also said that he may have been taking medication for depression, that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic, and that he left a note in his dorm in which he railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old senior majoring in English, arrived in the United States as boy from South Korea in 1992 and was raised in suburban Washington, D.C., officials said. He was living on campus in a different dorm from the one where Monday's bloodbath began.  Police and university officials offered no clues as to exactly what set him off on the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

"He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him," school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

On Tuesday afternoon, thousands of people gathered in the basketball arena, and when it filled up, thousands more filed into the football stadium, for a memorial service for the victims. President Bush and the first lady attended.  Virginia Tech President Charles Steger received a 30-second standing ovation, despite bitter complaints from parents and students that the university should have locked down the campus immediately after the first burst of gunfire. Steger expressed hope that "we will awaken from this horrible nightmare."

"As you draw closer to your families in the coming days, I ask you to reach out to those who ache for sons and daughters who are never coming home," Bush said.

A vast portrait of the victims began to emerge, among them: Christopher James Bishop, 35, who taught German at Virginia Tech and helped oversee an exchange program with a German university; Ryan "Stack" Clark, a 22-year-old student from Martinez, Ga., who was in the marching band and was working toward degrees in biology and English; Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old freshman from Woodville, Va., who was majoring in animal and poultry sciences and, naturally, loved animals; and Liviu Librescu, an Israeli engineering and math lecturer who was said to have protected his students' lives by blocking the doorway of his classroom from the approaching gunman.

Meanwhile, a chilling portrait of the gunman as a misfit began to emerge.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not know Cho. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."

"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was. Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.  The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that he left a note in his dorm room that included a rambling list of grievances. Citing unidentified sources, the Tribune said he had recently shown troubling signs, including setting a fire in a dorm room and stalking some women.

ABC, citing law enforcement sources, reported that the note, several pages long, explains Cho's actions and says, "You caused me to do this."

Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression, the Tribune reported.  Classmates said that on the first day of an introduction to British literature class last year, the 30 or so English students went around and introduced themselves. When it was Cho's turn, he didn't speak.

The professor looked at the sign-in sheet and, where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. "Is your name, `Question mark?'" classmate Julie Poole recalled the professor asking. The young man offered little response.

Cho spent much of that class sitting in the back of the room, wearing a hat and seldom participating. In a small department, Cho distinguished himself for being anonymous. "He didn't reach out to anyone. He never talked," Poole said.

"We just really knew him as the question mark kid," Poole said.

The rampage consisted of two attacks, more than two hours apart -- first at a dormitory, where two people were killed, then inside a classroom building, where 31 people, including Cho, died after being locked inside, Virginia State Police said. Cho committed suicide; two handguns -- a 9 mm and a .22-caliber -- were found in the classroom building.

One law enforcement official said Cho's backpack contained a receipt for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol. Cho held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident, federal officials said. That meant he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell said his shop sold the Glock and a box of practice ammo to Cho 36 days ago for $571.

"He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won't sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious," Markell said. Markell said it is not unusual for college kids to make purchases at his shop as long as they are old enough.

"To find out the gun came from my shop is just terrible," Markell said.

Investigators stopped short of saying Cho carried out both attacks. But ballistics tests show one gun was used in both, Virginia State Police said.

And two law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced, said Cho's fingerprints were found on both guns. The serial numbers on the two weapons had been filed off, the officials said.

Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said it was reasonable to assume that Cho was the shooter in both attacks but that the link was not yet definitive. "There's no evidence of any accomplice at either event, but we're exploring the possibility," he said.

Officials said Cho graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, Va., in 2003. His family lived in an off-white, two-story townhouse in Centreville, Va.

Two of those killed in the shooting rampage, Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson, graduated from Westfield High in 2006, school officials said. But there was no immediate word from authorities on whether Cho knew the two young women and singled them out.

"He was very quiet, always by himself," neighbor Abdul Shash said. Shash said Cho spent a lot of his free time playing basketball and would not respond if someone greeted him. He described the family as quiet.

South Korea expressed its condolences, and said it hoped that the tragedy would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation." "We are in shock beyond description," said Cho Byung-se, a Foreign Ministry official handling North American affairs.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the week. Norris Hall, the classroom building, will be closed for the rest of the semester.  Many students were leaving town quickly, lugging pillows, sleeping bags and backpacks down the sidewalks.

Jessie Ferguson, 19, a freshman from Arlington, left Newman Hall and headed for her car with tears streaming down her red cheeks.

"I'm still kind of shaky," she said. "I had to pump myself up just to kind of come out of the building. I was going to come out, but it took a little bit of 'OK, it's going to be all right. There's lots of cops around.'"

Although she wanted to be with friends, she wanted her family more. "I just don't want to be on campus," she said.

Until Monday, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard plowed his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.


Mall shooter's suicide note: Now I'll be famous
Dec. 6, 2007

OMAHA, Nebraska (CNN) -- A 19-year-old gunman who police said killed eight people and then himself at a Nebraska mall left a suicide note predicting the shootings would make him famous, his landlord said.

Five other people were injured, and two of them were in critical condition, hospital officials said.

The shootings inside the Von Maur department store at the popular Westroads Mall in Omaha sent panicked holiday shoppers fleeing for cover.

"It was just so loud, and then it was silence," said witness Jennifer Kramer, who hid behind a clothing rack. "I was scared to death he'd be walking around looking for someone else."

Police identified the gunman as Robert A. Hawkins of Bellvue, Nebraska.

Chief Thomas Warren of the Omaha Police Department called the shooting "premeditated," but said it "appears to be very random and without provocation."

Debora Maruca Kovac, Hawkins' landlord, said she found the suicide note after getting a phone call from Hawkins about 1 p.m., just minutes before the shootings. Video Watch landlord describe phone call from shooter »

"He basically said how sorry he was for everything," Maruca Kovac said of the note. "He didn't want to be a burden to people and that he was a piece of s--- all of his life and that now he'd be famous."

She said Hawkins was a friend of her sons and "reminded me of a lost puppy that nobody wanted." He came to live with her about a year and a half ago, telling her he could not stay with his own family because of "some issues with his stepmother."

She described Hawkins as well-behaved, although "he had a lot of emotional problems, obviously."

Maruca Kovac told the Omaha World-Herald that Hawkins showed her an SKS semiautomatic Russian military rifle the night before the rampage, but she wasn't alarmed.

The shootings began about 1:42 p.m. (2:42 p.m. ET).

Seven people were found dead at the scene by officers who arrived six minutes later; two others, a male and a female, died after being transported to Creighton University Medical Center, said Fire Chief Robert Dahlquist.

A Creighton spokeswoman said a second female underwent surgery and was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon.

Three other people were taken to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

One, a 61-year-old man who sustained a chest wound after being shot in the armpit, had surgery and remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit Wednesday night, said hospital spokeswoman Maggie O'Brien.

The other two -- a 34-year-old man who was shot in the arm, and a 55-year-old man who fell and struck a clothing rack as he was trying to escape -- were treated and released, she said.

Warren said Hawkins was armed with an SKS assault rifle. His body, and the weapon, were found on the store's third floor, he said.

Maruca Kovac told CNN that Hawkins left the house Wednesday about 11 a.m., and called the house about two hours later, sounding upset.

"He just said he wanted to thank me for everything I'd done for him ... and he was sorry," Maruca Kovac said. He told her he had gotten fired from his job at a McDonald's restaurant, she said.

"I said, 'Come home and we'll talk about it,' " she recounted. "He said, 'It's too late.' He said he'd left a note explaining everything."

Kramer told CNN she heard at least 25 shots. Video Watch witnesses describe the ordeal »

"I looked at my mom and said, 'We need to get out of here. Those are gunshots,' " Kramer said. "I just grabbed my mom and we ran to the back of the men's department and hid in some pants racks."

"He just kept firing," she said. She said she called 911 on her cell phone, whispering into it out of fear of being heard. A dispatcher told her other calls had been received and help was on the way, but she said it seemed to take "a long time" for them to arrive.

She said as she was being escorted out by police, she saw a man lying injured by the escalator where she had been previously.

Mall employee Charissa Tatoon said a man by an escalator near her was heard saying he was calling 911. See a map of where the shooting took place »

"Immediately after that, the shooter shot down from the third floor and shot him on the second floor," she said.

"All of us were slightly confused because we didn't know what it was," Tatoon said. "Immediately after that, there was a series of maybe 20 to 25 more shots up on the third floor."

Warren, the police chief, said the victims included five females and three males, not including Hawkins. The shooting appeared to be contained in the Von Maur store, he said.

"We believe there was one shooter, and one shooter only," he said. Video Watch police talk about the shooting »

Maruca Kovac said Hawkins' mental state seemed to be improving but he had been through a rough patch recently.

"When he first came to live with us, he was in the fetal position and chewed his fingernails all the time," she said. But she said she thought he was improving, as he had gotten a job, a haircut and a girlfriend.

However, she said Hawkins and his girlfriend had broken up in the last couple of weeks, and he had taken it hard. Then he got fired from McDonald's on Wednesday.

She said late Wednesday that authorities were searching her house for evidence.

"My kids are devastated," she said. "We're all in shock."

A school district spokeswoman said he attended Papillion-La Vista High School until he withdrew in March 2006. The World-Herald said he later earned his GED.

President Bush had visited Omaha on Wednesday before the shooting.

"The president is deeply saddened by the shootings in Omaha," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "His thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families."

The shooting was at least the fourth at a mall or shopping center so far this year, following incidents in Salt Lake City, Utah; Kansas City, Missouri; and Douglasville, Georgia.


Gun rampage US teen 'wanted fame' 
I-BBC
6 Dec 2007


A teenager who shot dead eight people in a US shopping centre before killing himself wrote in a suicide note that he wanted to be famous.
Robert Hawkins, 19, from Bellevue, Nebraska, opened fire at the Westroads Mall in Omaha on Wednesday.

A woman who took him in after he left home said he left a note saying he was sorry for everything and did not want to be a burden to anybody.

Police have confirmed the existence of the note, but not its contents.

Hawkins struck as the centre was crowded with Christmas shoppers, and witnesses spoke of people screaming and scrambling to find safe shelter.

Five people were wounded, two of them critically.

In a statement, President George W Bush - who visited Omaha earlier in the day for a fundraiser - said he was "deeply saddened" by the shootings.

Hiding

The shooting took place inside the upmarket Von Maur department store at the Westroads Mall.

Police were called at about 1400 local time (2000 GMT), after receiving a call from inside, said Sgt Teresa Negron.

 Witnesses said the gunman fired down on shoppers from a balcony on the third floor of the Von Maur store, using what police said was an SKS rifle to shoot at random.

By the time police arrived at the scene six minutes later, the shooting was over, she said.

Jeff Schaffart was shot in the arm as he spent his lunch break shopping with his wife, Reuters news agency reported. He said he hid in a Von Maur women's bathroom, using his tie as a tourniquet to slow the bleeding.

"I was obviously very fortunate. Not a lot of people were so fortunate today," said Mr Schaffart.

Chuck Wright was working at the mall when he heard a "pop pop" sound.

"A lady that I work with on the same floor, she happened to walk over to the [central atrium] and she was standing there and a gentleman walked up, and the shooter reached over the top on the third floor and shot the guy in the head."

Another woman also described seeing the gunman on the attack.

"I went around and then I saw the guy in the children's department," she said.

"Big tall guy, real tall and he just stood there with his arm like this, his hand straight up in the air, shooting. And then I turned and ran."
 
Witnesses spoke of trying to hide as they waited for police

Seven people were found dead at the scene, and another two died after being taken to a local hospital.

In an e-mail to the BBC, one Omaha resident, called Julie, said that she had been in a restaurant next door to Von Maur department store when the shooting began.

"Someone came in to the restaurant and advised that someone was shooting in the mall and to get out. Everyone started to run out of the small doors in Panera [the restaurant], so we were able to get out very quickly.

"I heard screaming and loud shots being fired somewhere close by. I got out of the mall before the local police department arrived."

'Lost puppy'

Hawkins is said to have suffered from depression in the past, and recently lost his job at McDonald's and broke up with his girlfriend.

He was living with a friend's family in Bellevue, an Omaha suburb.

His friend's mother, Debora Maruca Kovac, told the Associated Press news agency that when he first came to live with them, "he was introverted, a troubled young man who was like a lost pound puppy that nobody wanted".

She said he phoned her about 1300 on Wednesday, telling her that he had left a note for her in his bedroom. She tried to get him to explain.

"He said, 'It's too late'," and then hung up, she told CNN.

In the note, she said, Hawkins had written that "he was sorry for everything, that he didn't want to be a burden to anybody, he loved his family, he loved all of his friends".

The note went on to say he wanted to be famous, she said.

Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren said the shooting appeared to be "very random and without provocation".

"We do have a [suicide] note. I can't describe the contents of that note, but it does appear this incident was premeditated," he added.

The incident is the latest in a series of mass shootings in the US, which have reignited the debate in the US about gun ownership.

The Supreme Court will consider Americans' right to bear arms early next year for the first time in nearly 70 years. 

--------------------------

 US MASS SHOOTINGS IN 2007
Oct: Asa H Coon, 14, shoots four people, injuring them, at his school in Cleveland, Ohio, before killing himself.
April: Cho Seung-hui , 23, shoots 32 people dead on campus of Virginia Tech university, Virginia, then kills himself.
Feb: Sulejman Talovic, 18, shoots dead five people and injures four at a mall in Salt Lake City, Utah, before being killed by police.

Full story with pictures here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7130504.stm 


The Red and the Black
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (2-15-08)

Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black) is a novel by Stendhal, published in 1830. The title has been translated into English variously as Scarlet and Black, Red and Black, and The Red and the Black. It is set in 1830, and relates a young man's attempts to rise above his plebeian birth through a combination of talent, hard work, deception and hypocrisy, only to find himself betrayed by his own passions.

Like Stendhal's later novel The Charterhouse of Parma (La Chartreuse de Parme), Le Rouge et le Noir is a Bildungsroman. The protagonist, Julien Sorel, is a driven and intelligent man, but equally fails to understand much about the ways of the world he sets out to conquer. He harbours many romantic illusions, and becomes little more than a pawn in the political machinations of the influential and ruthless people who surround him. Stendhal uses his flawed hero to satirize French society of the time, particularly the hypocrisy and materialism of its aristocracy and the Roman Catholic Church, and to foretell a radical change in French society that will remove both of those forces from their positions of power.

The most common and most likely explanation of the title is that red and black are the contrasting colors of the army uniform of the times and of the robes of priests, respectively. Julien Sorel observes early on in the novel that, under the Bourbon restoration it is impossible for a man of his class to distinguish himself in the army (as he might have done under Napoleon); now, only a career in the Church offers social advancement and glory. Alternative explanations are possible, however: for example, red might stand for love and black for death and mourning; or the colours might refer to those of a roulette wheel, and may indicate the unexpected changes in the hero's career.

The novel ends with Stendhal's standard closing quote, "To the Happy Few." This is often interpreted as a dedication to the few who could understand his writing, or a sardonic reference to the happy few who are born into prosperity (the latter interpretation is supported by the likely source of the quotation, Canto 11 of Byron's Don Juan, a frequent reference in the novel, which refers to 'the thousand happy few' who enjoy high society)...


Prof. charged in 3 fatal shootings on Ala. campus
YAHOO
By KRISTIN M. HALL, Associated Press Writer
Feb. 13, 2010

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who authorities say opened fire at a faculty meeting is facing a murder charge after the shooting spree that left three dead and three wounded.

Amy Bishop, 42, was charged Friday night with one count of capital murder, which means she could face the death penalty if convicted. Three of Bishop's fellow biology professors were killed and three other university employees were wounded. No students were harmed in the shooting, which happened in a community known for its space and technology industries.

The husband of one of the victims said he was told those at the meeting were discussing tenure for Bishop, who had been an assistant professor since 2003. Authorities have not discussed a motive.

UAH student Andrew Cole was in Bishop's anatomy class Friday morning and said she seemed perfectly normal.

"She's understanding, and was concerned about students," he said. "I would have never thought it was her."

Bishop, a neurobiologist who studied at Harvard University, was taken Friday night in handcuffs from a police precinct to the county jail and could be heard saying, "It didn't happen. There's no way. ... They are still alive."

Police said they were also interviewing a man as "a person of interest."

University spokesman Ray Garner said the three killed were Gopi K. Podila, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences, and two other faculty members, Maria Ragland Davis and Adriel Johnson.

Three others were wounded, two critically, in the gunfire, which Davis' husband, Sammie Lee Davis, said occurred at a meeting over a tenure issue. The wounded were identified as department members Luis Cruz-Vera, who was listed in fair condition, and Joseph Leahy, in critical condition in intensive care, and staffer Stephanie Monticello, also in critical condition in intensive care.

Sammie Lee Davis said his wife was a researcher who had tenure at the university.

In a brief phone interview, he said he was told his wife was at a meeting to discuss the tenure status of another faculty member who got angry and started shooting. He said his wife had mentioned the suspect before, describing the woman as "not being able to deal with reality" and "not as good as she thought she was."

Bishop and her husband placed third in a statewide university business plan competition in July 2007, presenting a portable cell incubator they had invented. They won $25,000 to help start a company to market the device.

Biology major Julia Hollis was among the students who gathered to support each other and try to make sense of the news.

"When someone told me it was a staff person and it was faculty I was in complete denial," said Hollis, 23, who had taken classes with two of the instructors who were killed. "It took me a bit for it to sink in."

Students offered varying assessments of Bishop.

Andrea Bennett, a sophomore majoring in nursing, described Bishop as being "very weird" and "a really big nerd."

"She's well-known on campus, but I wouldn't say she's a good teacher. I've heard a lot of complaints," Bennett said. "She's a genius, but she really just can't explain things."

Bennett, an athlete at UAH, said her coach told her team Bishop had been denied tenure and that may have led to the shooting.

Amanda Tucker, a junior nursing major from Alabaster, Ala., had Bishop for anatomy class about a year ago. Tucker said a group of students complained to a dean about Bishop's performance in the classroom.

"When it came down to tests, and people asked her what was the best way to study, she'd just tell you, `Read the book.' When the test came, there were just ridiculous questions. No one even knew what she was asking," said Tucker.

But Nick Lawton, 25, described Bishop as funny and accommodating with students.

"She lectured from the textbook, mostly stuck to the subject matter at hand," Nick Lawton said. "She seemed like a nice enough professor."

Sophomore Erin Johnson told The Huntsville Times a biology faculty meeting was under way when she heard screams coming from a conference room.

University police secured the building and students were cleared from it. There was still a heavy police presence on campus Friday night, with police tape cordoning off the main entrance to the university.

The Huntsville campus has about 7,500 students in northern Alabama, not far from the Tennessee line. The university is known for its scientific and engineering programs and often works closely with NASA.

The space agency has a research center on the school's campus, where many scientists and engineers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center perform Earth and space science research and development.

The university will remain closed next week and all athletic events were canceled to give students and staff time to grieve. Counselors were available to speak with students.

It's the second shooting in a week on an area campus. On Feb. 5, a 14-year-old student was killed in a middle school hallway in nearby Madison, allegedly by a fellow student.

Mass shootings are rarely carried out by women, said Dr. Park Dietz, who is president of Threat Assessment Group Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based violence prevention firm.

A notable exception was a 1985 rampage at a Springfield, Pa., mall in which three people were killed. In June 1986, Sylvia Seegrist was deemed guilty but mentally ill on three counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder in the shooting spree.

Dietz, who interviewed Seegrist after her arrest, said it was possible the suspect in Friday's shooting had a long-standing grudge against colleagues or superiors and felt complaints had not been dealt with fairly.

Gregg McCrary, a retired FBI agent and private criminal profiler based in Fredericksburg, Va., said there is no typical outline of a mass shooter but noted they often share a sense of paranoia, depression or a feeling that they are not appreciated.



Columbine, Colorado tens years out.


School librarian was gunman's target; 
Colorado student had been disciplined; teen bought shotgun week before shooting
DAY
By DAN ELLIOTT and P. SOLOMON BANDA , Associated Press
Article published Dec 15, 2013

Centennial, Colo. - A teenager who wounded a fellow student before killing himself at a suburban Denver high school entered the building with a shotgun, a machete, three Molotov cocktails and ammunition strapped to his body, likely intending to track down a librarian who had disciplined him, authorities said Saturday.

After firing a round down a hallway, Karl Pierson, 18, shot a fellow student who just happened to be sitting nearby with a friend as he headed toward the library. Claire Davis, 17, was shot in the head at point-blank range and remained hospitalized Saturday in critical condition.

Pierson set off one of the devices, but killed himself just one minute and 20 seconds after entering the building because he knew a sheriff's deputy assigned to the school was closing in, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said at a news conference.

Pierson's original target was believed to be a librarian who coached the school's speech and debate team. The librarian, whose name was not released, had disciplined the teen in September for reasons that haven't been disclosed.

The librarian was able to escape the school unharmed, Robinson said...full story here.