Friday, May 30, 2008

NEAT's President in the Adult Ed Newsletter



An Adult Ed Success Story

(reprinted from the Middletown Adult Ed Newsletter, April, 2008)
Maritza Quinones has always held education as a priority in her life. Though born in Puerto Rico, she has lived in Middletown for the past twenty-seven years. Her long-term goal has been to receive her high school diploma, go on to college, and receive a degree in social work.

Over the years, Maritza put her own education in the background in order to be sure her four children would receive the best education possible. She has three adult children who have successful careers, and a fourteen year old who is a semi-professional dancer. She plans to send him for an Arts degree to the University of Connecticut or Wesleyan University.

In addition to her devotion to her children, Maritza has immersed herself in the improvement of our community. For eighteen years, she was the First Cook at Lake Grove Juvenile Behavioral and Handicap Facility. She is the president of NEAT (North End Action Team) an organization to develop and improve the North End. She has recently been appointed to the Middletown Adult Education Student Advisory Board. Maritza also volunteers each afternoon at the Green Street Arts Center, where she is a leader for the after school program for children between ages seven and eighteen. Her selflessness, energy, commitment and good humor have gained her great respect from all in Middletown who know her.

Finally, Maritza’s personal educational dreams are about to become a reality. She is currently a student in the Adult Basic Education program at Middletown Adult Education. Within the near future, she will receive her high school diploma through completion of the External Diploma Program. She plans to go on to college to receive her degree in social work to be able to continue to help children in our community.

Development In North End Impresses Donor

Friday, May 23, 2008

Parents Alarmed That Middletown's Macdonough School May Close

By CHARLES PROCTOR

Courant Staff Writer

May 13, 2008

MIDDLETOWN

— With one hand pressing her 3-month-old baby to her chest and her other handing out fliers to passing parents, Izzi Greenberg waged a battle to keep the doors of Macdonough Elementary School open Monday.

"Are you coming to the council meeting tomorrow?" Greenberg, executive director of the North End Action Team, asked a parent in front of the Spring Street school Monday afternoon. "Here, did you get one?" she asked, thrusting a flier at another woman with a kid in tow.

Activists like Greenberg and parents have grown increasingly alarmed at talk that the board of education might shutter Macdonough because of the city's budget crunch. It's a move they said would deal a blow to the North End and guillotine a campus that serves some of the city's most disadvantaged children.

Closing Macdonough is one of three options the board of education is weighing as it faces a possible $3.2 million gap between what the superintendent requested in funding and the $69.3 million Mayor Sebastian Giuliano allotted the district in his March budget proposal, said Ted Raczka, the board's chairman.

The other two options are closing the sixth-grade-only Keigwin Annex, layoffs and cost-cutting across the district.

The board will know more after tonight, when the common council sets a city and school budget. Raczka said the district could save $1 million a year by closing Macdonough, which he said was singled out because, with an enrollment of 224 students, it's the smallest school in the district.

"Do I want to close any school? No. Closing schools is not what I got involved with the school board to do," said Raczka, who praised Macdonough but said there was a 60 percent chance it would close.

"But I'm almost $3.2 million short, and something is going to have to be done. So what's the least detrimental to the district as a whole?"

That does not satisfy parents, activists, or even Giuliano, who mentors Macdonough students and said the board should mothball Keigwin before it considers closing Macdonough.

He said it would be "irresponsible" to take "the most disadvantaged kids in the system and bus them all over town, instead of going to a neighborhood school that provides them with the services they need."

Macdonough has long been a point of pride for North End residents. Housed in a two-story brick building with a stone archway that proclaims it was built in 1924, it is one of the city's last true neighborhood schools, where parents still stroll down the block to pick up their kids.

The school also serves a high number of minorities and low-income students. This year, 68 percent of the student body are minorities and 77 percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.

That makes having a school that's close by of paramount importance to neighborhood parents, said Greenberg of NEAT. "Low-income people may not have access to transportation," she said, "so it's important that we have a school that's walkable and accessible."

Its neighborhood appeal aside, though, Macdonough is also one of the district's lowest-performing schools. Last year, it tested at or near the bottom in the district on the Connecticut Mastery Test in math, reading and writing.

Given that, Macdonough supporters like Greenberg acknowledge that some parents might support closing the school and busing students to higher-performing campuses.

But they also argue that Macdonough is on the cusp of a turnaround. They praised Jon Romeo, the principal hired this year, as high energy and innovative, and they said the board of education should lend the school support.

"They should be devising a plan to improve the school," said Ed Corvo, a parent who has twin sons who attend Macdonough. "Not walk away from it."

Ariel Santos echoed similar sentiments as he waited outside Macdonough Monday afternoon for his son and daughter to emerge. A repairman in Hartford, Santos recently moved to a house across the street from the campus.

As he clutched Greenberg's flyer, which proclaimed "The Future of Macdonough School is in Danger!", Santos reflected on how his kids had learned more at Macdonough in eight months than they had in Hartford schools over the course of years.

"They've been good to my kids," said Santos of the school's teachers. "I don't want to see the school close."

The common council meets tonight at 6 in the council chambers at city hall.

Contact Charles Proctor at cwproctor@courant.com.

Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant

SteveSongs: Special offer for NEAT members

Saturday, May 24 at 3pm
Performance at Crowell Concert Hall (Wyllys Avenue, Middletown) Followed by a milk & cookies reception, sponsored by Bon App├ętit.
***Special Offer for North End Residents and Friends of the North End Action Team: call the Green Street Arts Center, identify yourself as a friend of NEAT and receive FREE admission**
Regular Admission: $15 per child or adult, children age 2 and younger are free

Steve Roslonek, a rising star on the national kids’ music scene, has become a perennial favorite at venues across the country with his music, sense of humor and playful energy. Starting on May 19, 2008, Steve will also appear daily on national TV as the new co-host of the PBS KIDS morning block.

Donations are welcome. Proceeds benefit the scholarship fund for the Afterschool Program at the Green Street Arts Center.

YMCA Camp Ingersoll Scholarships

Once again the YMCA has made 15 camperships available to NEAT to send North End kids for the first session of camp. All applications must be in to NEAT by 6/15 with accompanying health form and a $25 application fee. If your child has had a physical during the last three years that is enough for the health info. This is a great deal and everyone who attended last year was thrilled. Please call Izzi or Rohanna at NEAT (346-4845) or more details today. Kids must bring their own lunch or pay for the Y's lunch. Free transpsortation is provided by the Y at a convenient North End site.

Residents angry, in disbelief at notion of closing school

MiddletownPress.com: "Friday, May 23, 2008
Posted on Tue, May 20, 2008 Zoom + | Zoom -
By CRISTINA D. JOHNSON

MIDDLETOWN — MacDonough school isn’t going anywhere.

Parents, faculty members, staff and city officials squeezed into doorways and library aisles, some sitting in the media room adjoining the library and spilling out into hallways at Middletown High School last night to express everything from support and encouragement to the board of education on the “tough job they have” to anger and disbelief over the notion of closing MacDonough Elementary School.

Amy Natale was among those who stood in the back of the room, stuffed into the doorway, straining to hear what was being said regarding the school her 9-year-old son, Thomas, attends.

“I don’t think it’s right,” she said. “Thomas has gotten a good education and he’s happy at that school.”
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Natale said her mother and father both attended MacDonough and said — as her son sat in the audience with his beloved kindergarten teacher — “About 230 kids would be very upset.”

Although the suggestion of closing the 80-year-old North End sch"