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History Lesson @Smartr2

Am I smarter too?

 

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I spent Tuesday of this week learning a little about the Manchester Public Schools.  I attended two meetings about the schools so there will be two posts.  I have not kept up with the school happenings in Manchester the way I did in Hartford while working for the Hartford Public Schools.  So, I have spent the past few days taking pictures and doing a little research online.

On Tuesday afternoon, the senior center staff hosted a discussion about the School Modernization and Reinvestment Team Revisited – Phase 2 or SMARTR2.  It is interesting to attend a meeting with people who have lived in town for a long time.  One attendee talked about the benefits of this type of presentation and discussion in a transparent and inclusive democracy.  He reminded us that schools have closed in the past and he remembered one year when five schools closed.  Most have been put to good use.  That is why I drove around and took pictures.  I used the Manchester Historical Society website to learn more about previous school buildings in town.

The meeting was attended by less than a dozen seniors,.  There were also school administrators and some members of the board of education and board of directors present.  Matt Geary, superintendent of schools, presented a powerpoint on SMARTR2 and then there was time for questions and comments from the audience.  There was a tremendous amount of information in a fast moving presentation.  In addition to the history lesson on previous school closings an audience member stressed that design for net zero energy use is the best way to go.  Another person reminded Matt Geary that we not only have the best students in Manchester we all have the best teachers and school staff.

Phase 1 of SMARTR has begun and included the following:

  • Grade 5 students moving to a brand new Bennet Academy
  • Waddell School renovation
  • Verplanck School renovation
  • Close Washington School
  • Close Robertson School

There are five additional elementary schools in Manchester.  A decision needs to be made on renovating and/or closing some of the remaining schools keeping in mind the plan strives to:

  • Meet state requirements for racial balance
  • Address aging and inefficient buildings
  • Achieve socio-economic balance
  • Achieve parity of facilities and school size
  • Maximize state reimbursement
  • Keep neighborhood structure

I will not go into detail here about the options.  It is better if people attend a meeting and ask questions.  As we all learned in school, the more citizens participate the closer we come to a true participatory democracy.  You will be impacted by the final decision whether you have children in school or not. Please consider attending one of the following meetings:

  • Oct 15 at 6:30 p.m.     Martin Elementary School PTA, 140 Dartmouth Rd
  • Oct 16 at 6:30 p.m.     EastSide Neighborhood Resource Center, 153 Spruce St
  • Nov 8 at 6:30 p.m.      Buckley Elementary School PTA, 250 Vernon St
  • Nov 13 at 6:00 p.m.    Keeney Elementary School PTA, 179 Keeney St
  • Nov 15 at 6:30 p.m.    Bowers Elementary School PTA, 141 Princeton St
  • Nov 27 at 6:00 p.m.    Waddell Elementary School PTA, 163 Broad Street
  • Nov 28 at 8:00 a.m.    Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, 20 Hartford Road

 

 

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Manchester Police Department

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I have joined the Manchester Government Academy for the last few weeks of the class.  My husband and I  took it a few years ago and if you live or work in town I highly recommend it.  The way the class works is that on Thursday nights you travel to a town owned building to find out how the department is run.  You might be at the fire department one week and then the water plant or the senior center or the library the next week.

This past Thursday the meeting was at the Police Department. The Manchester Police Department, according to Sergeant Ryan Shea, is one of the top departments in the state of Connecticut.  To become a police officer in Manchester one must be 21 years old, have 60 college credits or 2 years of active military service, pass a polygraph test, a written test, an oral test, a physical fitness test and a mental health exam.  Once hired the candidate trains for 22 weeks at a police academy in Meriden, Hartford, Bridgeport or New Haven followed by 17 weeks of field training.

The top crime problem in Manchester is larceny especially by Buckland Hills Mall and includes shop lifting and motor vehicle thefts.  When there is a major incident the department has a chaplain for support and mutual aid agreements with police departments in surrounding towns.  Also, the chaplain is available for support after any stressful situation an officer encounters.

Officer Jason Moss spoke to the class about the specialized traffic unit.  Traffic violations are the #1 complaint received by all police departments.  The violations include DUI, speeding, distracted driving and accidents.  Some members of the MPD are part of a regional team for serious and fatal accidents.  Using drones, mathematical formulas, accident scene photos, interviews with witnesses, vehicle damage, sobriety tests and knowledge of the weather and road conditions the officers are able to reconstruct with good accuracy what happened.  The report can take up to 6 months to complete.  Another part of the traffic unit is a motor unit which provides escorts and security during special events using motorcycles and ATVs.

The class was led on a tour of the police department.  The dispatch room and the training room were quit impressive.  The most senior dispatcher showed us the equipment used and how officers are directed to calls and tracked during a shift.  Each car on patrol shows up on a screen at all times.  The training room allowed for comprehensive and adaptive training using interactive video to allow officers to practice de-escalation of stressful situations verbally or if needed with minimal and appropriate use of force..

I also learned that there is a Citizen’s Police Academy which is a ten week program that runs every fall.  It has already begun for this year.  Maybe next year?

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New Police Chief for Manchester

A meeting at Whiton Library in the north end of Manchester was held last night.  The meeting’s purpose was to seek input from the community on the hiring of a new police chief for Manchester.  After a week of feeling as if the seething, hyper-partisan fury in national politics might be insurmountable it was refreshing to sit around a table with a small group of citizens, politicians and town officials sharing concerns and ideas about local issues.  The group, consisting of four politicians and about a dozen residents was thoughtful, considerate and focused. Board of Directors members in attendance were Yolando Castillo, Pamela Floyd-Cranford along with Mayor Jay Moran and Deputy Mayor Margaret Hackett.  Special thanks to Scott Shanley, General Manager and DeDe Moore, Director of Administrative Services for organizing and Whiton Library staff for hosting.

These three questions were posed to the group:

  • What are the top three law enforcement challenges in Manchester?
  • What should the new Chief’s highest priority be?
  • What traits are best in a candidate for Chief of Police?

Traffic safety, car vandalism and visibility of cops were top concerns.  The issues facing pedestrians like texting drivers and people ignoring ‘no right turn on red’ signs were on the minds of most attendees.  Also, there are some issues with poorly lit streets and people double-parking and blocking fire lanes and traffic at grocery stores.

The group thought that the highest priority for the new chief should be to get to know Manchester and it’s people and to demonstrate benevolent leadership to the rank and file.  There are currently 110 officers in Manchester with funding for 117.  The field training for officers is intense and stringent and creates one of the best forces around.  The town is a diverse community with students coming into our schools speaking 69 languages besides English.  There was consensus that the new chief should gain public trust by being visible to residents and instill in the department the best qualities of community policing.

Traits desirable in a police chief include calmness, good judgement and passion for the town of Manchester.  Also, excellent communication skills, with both the community and the police officers under his or her command, are mandatory.  Additionally, the ability to speak another language, and if not a member of a minority group him or herself, then be open and sensitive to issues facing people of color.  The chief should have qualities above and beyond the norm.

The search continues.  More meetings are scheduled for community input tomorrow night at the Senior Center and Thursday night at the Eastside Community Resource Center.  Both meetings begin at 7:00 pm.

 

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Abdullah Al-Mubeen

Abdullah Al-Mubeen has lived in Manchester for most of his young life.  He was born in New York City and also travelled to Bangladesh and lived there for a short time.  He is the youngest of five children.  He has attended school at Washington, Verplank, Bennet and Illing.  He went to Manchester High School for a short time but currently attends Sport & Medical Sciences Academy (SMSA) which is a magnet school in Hartford.  I met Abdullah at the Silk City Cafe on Main St. for this interview.

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Abdullah is a senior at SMSA and plans to enroll at  Manchester Community College next year to study engineering.  His favorite course at SMSA was a marketing course taught by Ms. Anne Nguyen.  He credits this course with helping him overcome his shyness and fear of public speaking.  Another favorite teacher has been Ms. Cindy Petrillo who was his math teacher.  He thought she was an excellent teacher and he liked the way she explained math concepts and assigned creative projects to help the students learn.

For his senior capstone project Abdullah would like to raise money for diabetes research.  His family has been impacted by the disease.  He has contacted the Diabetes Foundation and with their assistance is considering holding a walk-a-thon in Hartford.

Abdullah loves living in Manchester.  It’s quiet here and is a good place to grow up. He hangs out at the mall or the movie theater. In elementary and middle school he played at the playground at Verplank School.  He enjoys skateboarding which he learned last year. He likes to skate board around his neighborhood and near Cheney Tech.

The T-Mobile on Main St hired Abdullah in July.  He loves this job but not the servers which crash sometimes.  He likes talking to people and explaining the cell phone plans.  He likes technology and picks things up easy.

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He is also interested in Japan and has always wanted to visit.

 

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Best Decision Ever!!! Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY

Last Thursday some friends and I took a ride to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. We originally  planned to go in the spring but for various reasons had to postpone the trip to September 13.  As we watched the weather channel on September 12, we talked about postponing again since a hurricane was scheduled to hit the Carolinas that evening and it was pouring rain outside.  We agreed to hold off on our decision until 8 the next morning.  Best decision ever.  We will go.

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We met in Hartford and drove on 91 South to the Merritt Parkway and then to the Hutchison River Parkway.  After going through Westchester County for a short time we drove through the Bronx and across the Throgs Neck Bridge into Queens and finally into Brooklyn.  We drove up Ocean Parkway past Abraham Lincoln High School to Brighton Beach Avenue.  We took a left on Brighton Beach Ave and drove up and down numbered side streets (Brighton 1, Brighton 2, etc.) until we found a parking spot.  We put some money in the meter and then walked right down to the beach.

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Laurette, Sue and Vicki

It’s just another world when you get there.  The main street, Brighton Beach Avenue, has an elevated train running above it and some really interesting shops.  Produce stands line the street.  Walk one block south and you’re on this huge beautiful white sand beach.  It’s just amazing!!

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Apartment Buildings along Brighton Beach

Some of the apartments on and near the beach are large enough to be their own voting district! Between the beach and Brighton Beach Avenue are many older apartment buildings in a variety of architectural styles.  North of the avenue there were single family homes with tiny little driveways that you have to be careful not to block when parking.

We walked around the beach filling our senses with ocean smells and the cool water on our feet and legs and the sounds of sea birds and crashing waves.  Only a few brave souls were swimming but the boardwalk had a lot of pedestrian traffic.  People were walking, biking, roller blading or sitting on the benches up and down the board walk, alone or in pairs.  They were talking to each other or reading or people-watching or looking at the ocean.  We didn’t see many cell phones and nobody seemed to be in a rush.

Then we found a spot on the boardwalk, Tatiana Grill to have some lunch.

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Lunch at Tatiana Grille
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View from our table
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Another view from our table

After lunch we walked back to Brighton Beach Avenue for a little shopping.  It was an overcast day with a nice breeze coming off the ocean.  Just a perfect day to make a trip like this.  Imagine that you can take the subway to get here!

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Laurette, me, Sue and Vicki

Vicki and I stopped to get henna tattoos while Sue and Laurette went on a hunt for candy cordials; especially ones filled with peach brandy.

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There are many little grocery stores, bakeries, specialty clothing stores, produce stands and restaurants up and down the avenue.  Once our tattoos were finished we joined them on the hunt and also stopped to buy fruit and veggies. Although many thousands of people live and work in this neighborhood of the “Big Apple” there was a peacefulness to the flurry of activity generated by the crowds.  Our 4 hours of parking were coming to a close so we headed back to the car.

Sue grew up in Brooklyn and it’s always better to visit a new place with a local as a tour guide.  She took us on a tour of Coney Island where we saw Nathan’s and all of the rides, Brooklyn College, Bedford Ave, past Midwood High School where Sue and 2000 other students graduated one June not too many years ago.  We went through some beautiful neighborhoods and stopped to look at the apartment building that Sue lived in as a child.

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Childhood Home for Sue

Sue told us a story about growing up on the fifth floor of this apartment building in Brooklyn.  She and her friends used to play outside in the summer.  When they heard the bells for the ice cream truck they would shout up to their mothers sitting near the apartment windows, “Mom, the ice cream man is here!”  A few seconds later little pieces of white tissue paper wrapped around 15¢would come flying out different windows of the apartment building.

As we drove through the various parts of Brooklyn we noticed middle school students in uniforms walking home from school in groups laughing and talking.  We didn’t see any of them with cell phones.  They all seemed to be enjoying themselves on the busy city streets.

After our tour of Brooklyn we headed up Flatbush Ave and began our trip home.

There are occasions in our lives when we experience the wonder and beauty of the great outdoors and the warmth of humanity all at the same time.  These times for me have been rare: a Bruce Springsteen Concert at Rentschler Field,  sitting by an outdoor fire in our driveway on Halloween with our wonderful Manchester neighbors distributing candy while watching a movie, a Red Sox game at Fenway Park shortly after 9-11 where the Sox fans sang “New York, New York” during the 7th inning stretch.  The Brighton Beach trip was spectacular and fascinating and serene and definitely one for this list.

 

 

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Cosmic Omelet

Sunday we walked down to Cosmic Omelet for breakfast.  One of the great things about Manchester is that many neighborhoods have a local shopping area with restaurants and stores that are an easy walk from home.  We live near the shopping area that has Cosmic Omelet, Westown Pharmacy, Bamba Restaurant and a few others.  IMG_2839Cosmic Omelet is known for it’s creative and delicious breakfast choices and otherworldly decor.  It frequently is named the “Best Breakfast” in the Hartford Magazine poll.  This year it came in #2.

A young couple discusses the menu choices.

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Rose and Xavier at Cosmic Omelet
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Rose making a decision.