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Oct 18

CREC Discovery Academy's Butterfly Garden Recognized by National Wildlife Foundation

(Wethersfield, Conn.) Students and staff at CREC Discovery Academy in Wethersfield successfully created a Certified Schoolyard Habitat® in the butterfly garden outside their school. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, approved the recognition through their Garden for Wildlife program, officially on October 8. Discovery Academy joins over 5,000 schools nationwide that have transformed their schoolyards into thriving wildlife habitats that provide essential elements needed by all wildlife – natural food sources, clean water, cover and places to raise young. The habitat, part of the school’s Bioswale (rain garden) installed in spring 2019, also serves as an outdoor education site where students can engage in cross-curricular learning in a hands-on way. Certification also makes the NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat® part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitats for pollinators. “We are excited to have another school join our growing list of more than 5,000 certified Schoolyard Habitats,” said Liz Soper, Director of K-12 Programs for National Wildlife Federation. “Kids can now personally experience nature through hands-on learning in an outdoor environment,” Discovery Academy’s Bioswale is used for scientific plant observations with students. In the spring each year, PreK students release butterflies they hatch in the classroom. The goal was to get the area certified as a wildlife habitat with the National Wildlife Federation. In March, the school’s STEM Coach, Clare Neseralla, applied for and received a $400 mini-grant from the Connecticut Ornithological Association to add more bird and butterfly friendly features to attract wildlife. She also included student-made binoculars and birdhouses. “I saw the butterfly garden as an opportunity to teach the students about native plants and learn more about the environment,” said Neseralla, an avid gardener who also supports the school’s rooftop garden and PreK garden beds. “The observations of wildlife through binoculars opens up a whole new world of nature. Now that the garden is certified we can promote more gardens in Connecticut by sharing this project and placing the NWF signs in the garden.”The butterfly garden is a true homegrown project. A Discovery Academy grandfather, Jim Woodworth, helped select and plant the bird and butterfly-friendly plants. All plants purchased are native to Connecticut from the Connecticut Conservancy annual plant sale at Auer Farm in Bloomfield. Students in Kindergarten and parents helped clear a corner of the bioswale for the butterfly garden.According to NWF, “the Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive… It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discouraging chemical pesticide use. Each of the nearly 200,000 certified locations provides food, water, cover and places to raise young. This makes yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms and other community-based landscapes into wildlife sanctuaries.” CREC Discovery Academy’s website is http://da.crecschools.org ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changing needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Aug 19

Over 3000 Members of Hartford Community Celebrate 5th Annual CREC Back to School Block Party

(Hartford, CT) Hundreds of families from Hartford and surrounding towns attended the Fifth Annual CREC Back to School Block Party on Wednesday, August 14, a free community event hosted by the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) and CREC Foundation, to celebrate the upcoming school year and prepare students for class with a backpack and school supplies giveaway. This year the lead sponsor was Owens Realty, who provided the largest financial contribution to the event. To commemorate the fifth anniversary, CREC closed a portion of Charter Oak Avenue to make extra space for the event. “I’ve always said it’s my favorite event of the year. It’s so important to give back to the region and to make sure kids are ready to go back to school and feel ready to go back to school,” said CREC Executive Director Greg Florio.Hartford Fire and Police departments, Our Piece of the Pie, The Governor’s Prevention Partnership, Access Health CT, Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, and Girl Scouts of CT were among more than 30 local organizations that offered information and resources to parents throughout the event. The block party kicked off at 3 p.m. with free balloons, snacks, and activities that included a “Hope Line” where children wrote their hope for the school year. Over 75 free haircuts provided by Puerto Pelo by Mary and Connecti-Cuts, a fitness workout led by Sudor Taino, raffles, field games, origami tutorials, a puppet show, and ice cream provided by Ice Cream for a Dream were among the event’s attractions. The Back-to-School Block Party’s main event was the giveaway, with 1,200 backpacks filled with school supplies given to children from the Hartford area. Hot 93.7 broadcasted live from the Block Party.“No matter what school a child attends, we are committed to helping them start the school year in a positive way,” said Superintendent of CREC Schools Tim Sullivan. “It’s our number one goal.”El Bori and Rolling Dish food trucks were stationed on the closed street offering affordable, $5 prix fixe menus to the attendees.In addition to Owens, contributions from sponsors, including Aetna, Voya Financial, the Ryan T. Lee Foundation, Global Atlantic Financial, Air Temp, Downes Construction, Friar Architecture, and from CREC employees, were used to purchase the backpacks and school supplies. Members of the community also dropped off donations of school supplies at the CREC “Fill-A-Van” event at the Rocky Hill Walmart on July 25 and 26. The event was free and open to anyone from the Greater Hartford area.###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changings needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 16 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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May 1

CREC receives state approval for new Teacher Residency Program

(Hartford, Conn.) On, Wednesday, May 1, CREC’s new Teacher Residency Program was approved as an item on the consent agenda at the Connecticut State Board of Education meeting. The CREC Teacher Residency Program is an alternate route to elementary certification program that embraces a different approach to attract and retain minority teacher candidates. Ten residents chosen from the applicant pool will be assigned to ten master teachers in CREC schools to begin their 14-month road to certification starting in June 2019. Residents are each paid $32,000 per year with benefits to be mentored by their master teacher for one year. Residents are then guaranteed a full-time classroom teaching position in the second school year upon completion of the certification requirements. “For far too long we have been trying to simply recruit more teachers of color, and what we decided is that we need to certify more teachers of color,” said Tim Sullivan, Superintendent of CREC Magnet Schools. “So this program is designed to help overcome some of the obstacles that have kept people from getting certified and give them an opportunity to get certification and work in the schools. We are most excited for the opportunity to create teachers from our own schools, instead of trying to recruit them from elsewhere.”Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, and preference will be given to applicants of color who graduated from Hartford Public Schools, CREC Magnet Schools, or the Hartford Region Open Choice Program.CREC’s idea is to prioritize minority candidates’ potential to work with diverse students and minimizes barriers to traditional certification program admission.“I thought to myself, ‘Yes! Someone understands the financial obstacle and time constraint many people of color face while pursuing graduate school,’” said Cyemone Douglas, one of the initial applicants and an Associate Instructor at CREC Montessori Magnet School, about her reaction to learning about the program. “I always had a passion to teach, but time and financial constraints prevented me from pursuing my certification.”Coursework will be required of the residents in the summer, after school hours, and on weekends. Courses were designed and will be delivered by practicing CREC educators and administrators, prioritizing skills necessary to be successful in a diverse classroom.“I am very proud to have been an active participant in the development of the CREC Teacher Residency Program,” said Lisa Cordova, president of the CREC Education Association, CREC’s teachers union. “Along with district administrators, CREC teachers, and support from the Connecticut Education Association, we spent close to two years developing this comprehensive program we have before us that addresses the continuing need to have teachers of color instructing CREC students. “ Application and rolling admissions for the program are open now until June 21, 2019. More information and the application link can be found at http://www.crecschools.org/careers/c_r_e_c_teacher_residency_program. ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changing needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Apr 24

CREC Athletics Receives $100,000 Donation from Vistra Energy to Fund Middle School Sports Program

(Windsor, Conn.) On Wednesday, April 24, Pete Ziegler, vice president of plant operations for Vistra Energy, a national energy company, presented the Capitol Region Educational Council’s (CREC) athletics program with a check for $100,000 at a ceremony at CREC Academy of Aerospace and Engineering. This is the fourth consecutive year that the company has made the generous donation to support the continuation of middle school sports at four participating CREC schools for the 2019-2020 academic year. “Vistra Energy is dedicated to strengthening the communities where our employees and customers live, work, and, serve. As part of this commitment, we’re honored to continue our support for CREC Athletics and its numerous youth development programs,” said Ziegler. “At Vistra Energy, we understand the value of working together as a team to achieve a common goal. The programs offered by CREC Athletics teach critical skills – including teamwork, self-confidence, and leadership – among countless other life lessons that students can use in the workforce and as leaders in their communities.”During the donation ceremony, Ziegler met student athletes, listened to essays read by four award-winning student athletes, and participated in a ceremonial check presentation.“Youth sports in our country continue to move towards privatization, and more and more, family finances are now deciding which children will or will not have opportunities to participate,” said Jonathan Winer, CREC Athletic Director. “This further emphasizes the importance of the generosity of Vistra Energy as they allow our CREC athletic program to provide opportunities for all students through school-based, cost-free middle school sports.”Funds from the donation are also being used to continue the Vistra Energy Citizen-Athlete Scholarship Award for graduating seniors. Desaray Chapman, a three-sport athlete from CREC Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, is this year’s winner and will receive a $1,000 scholarship for each of the next four years. Chapman will attend Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Mass. in the fall.The other senior scholarship finalists to present their essays were Colby Gray of CREC Academy of Science and Innovation, Samuel Agyei of CREC Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies, and Samuel Darko of CREC Civic Leadership High School. They were selected for their ability to meet challenges both on and off the playing field. Vistra Energy is a premier, integrated power company based in Irving, Texas, combining an innovative, customer-centric approach to retail electricity with a focus on safe, reliable, and efficient power generation. Through its retail and generation businesses which include TXU Energy, Homefield Energy, Dynegy, and Luminant, Vistra operates in 12 states and six of the seven competitive markets in the U.S., with about 5,400 employees. Vistra's retail brands serve approximately 2.9 million residential, commercial, and industrial customers across five top retail states, and its generation fleet totals approximately 41,000 megawatts of highly efficient generation capacity, with a diverse portfolio of natural gas, nuclear, coal, solar, and battery storage facilities. The company is currently developing the largest battery energy storage system of its kind in the world – a 300-MW/1,200-MWh system in Moss Landing, California.Also, Vistra’s power generation subsidiary, Luminant, operates two power plants in the area: Lake Road Power Plant in Dayville and Milford Power Plant in Milford.CREC offers eight different middle school sports for grades six-eight at CREC Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, CREC Academy of Science and Innovation, CREC Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies, CREC Civic Leadership High School, and CREC Two Rivers Magnet Middle School. Middle school athletes and their mascots with Jonathan Winer, Pete Ziegler, and CREC Schools Superintendent Tim Sullivan.2019 Vistra Energy Citizen-Athlete Scholarship Award Winner Desaray Chapman reads their essay.Vistra’s Pete Ziegler offers his admiration for CREC Athletics.###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changing needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Apr 16

CREC holds groundbreaking ceremony for new Ana Grace Academy of the Arts School Building

(Bloomfield, Conn.) On, Tuesday, April 16, CREC held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new school building in Bloomfield. The state-of-the-art facility will eventually house the CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts, a Pre-Kindergarten to eighth-grade school that will combine two current CREC schools – CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School and CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle School. Presently, CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School is located in Avon and is Pre-Kindergarten through fifth-grade, CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle School is in the Colt Building in Hartford, and is grades six through eight.CREC renamed the Academy of the Arts Elementary School in 2014 to honor Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, daughter of CREC alumni and former teachers Nelba Marquez-Greene and Jimmy Greene, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. “As proud alumni and former employees of CREC, who deeply value arts education, it is a very fitting tribute to Ana Grace and all children to have a permanent and dedicated school for arts excellence in the early and middle years,” said Nelba Marquez-Greene. “May this day and every day forward on these grounds be ones of joy, peace, and beauty-making.  May every staff, every family, and every child feel safe; and know that love wins within its walls. We are so thankful to CREC for this dedication.”Members of the school community, the Bloomfield Board of Education and Town Council, the State Department of Education, CREC leadership, former and current students and parents, and special guests were in attendance. The ceremony, emceed by CREC Deputy Executive Director Sandy Cruz-Serrano, featured remarks by the school’s Principals Patricia Phelan and Bo Ryan, CREC Executive Director Greg Florio, Superintendent of CREC Schools Tim Sullivan, Chair of the Bloomfield Board of Education Don Harris, and Ana Grace’s brother Isaiah Marquez-Greene. Over 40 students from the Elementary School came from Avon to perform three songs for the crowd as well. “The construction of the Ana Grace Academy of the Arts has been a long process over many years,” said Florio, “and the only part that was missing was a permanent home, and today we begin that process.”“We began with 20 teachers and 150 pre-K and Kindergartners seven years ago,” said Phelan, “since then our school has grown to over 475 students from Pre-K to fifth-grade, and nearly 80 educators. Today it is thrilling to realize our dream of a new school, one that is being specially designed for us.”“My wish for the families and students attending this school is that they truly value what an education in the arts can do. That they have fun and share their learning,” said Isaiah Marquez-Greene. “That they listen to their teachers. That they dream big. That they use what they learn to prepare them for a world that they might never imagine.”“Bringing kids together, to learn together, is going to make our society better,” said Sullivan during his closing remarks. “[The new building] is a down payment on our future so that our society when I get old, and [the students present] are the ones at the microphone, will be a better place.”The new building is slated to open in August 2021 on the 29-acre site. Plans call for more than 157,000 square feet of space, to accommodate 876 students. The bus loop will be lined with painted steel walkway canopies with photovoltaic panels, which will also serve as a roof covering. The East portion of the site will host a grass playfield, while the West portion will host playscapes, adjacent to the elementary school program. Plans also include middle school science labs, magnet-themed classrooms, and a combined lobby and art gallery space, which will surround a Black Box Theater for student performances.CREC Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School’s website is http://agaaems.crecschools.org. CREC Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Middle School’s website is http://haams.crecschools.org. Members of the Marquez-Greene Family and CREC Executive LeadershipStudents with Nelba Marquez-Greene, Greg Florio, Tim Sullivan, Patti Phelan, and Bruce DouglasAn architectural rendering of the exterior of the building###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changing needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Apr 9

CREC Soundbridge’s New Director Updating Program’s Service Delivery and Vision

(Wethersfield, Conn.) CREC Soundbridge, a leader in teaching children with hearing loss to listen and talk, is under new guidance. Kelly O’Connell assumed the Director position on December 1st, replacing Dr. Elizabeth Cole who was the Director of Soundbridge for the past 16 years.Soundbridge is a state-wide program that provides specialized expertise and technology to promote listening and speaking in children with hearing loss. Currently serving over 700 students throughout Connecticut, Soundbridge delivers a full continuum of services designed to meet the varied needs of children with hearing loss from birth to 21.O’Connell’s qualifications for the position are myriad. She has a bachelor’s in Public Relations from Northern Arizona University, a master’s in Education of the Deaf from Smith College, and a Sixth Year Administrative Certificate from the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education. She previously worked as a Teacher of the Deaf at Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Mass. and Teacher of the Hearing Impaired at Soundbridge. She was the Soundbridge Teacher of the Year in 2010 and assumed her prior role as a supervisor at Soundbridge in 2013. “We feel fortunate to have someone with Kelly’s expertise to take on the director position at Soundbridge,” said Deborah Richards, CREC Director of Student Services, the district leader to whom O’Connell reports. ”Kelly has worked over the past few years developing our capacity to serve students in their home districts so she really understands the work that needs to be done.” O’Connell hit the ground running as the new director, and anticipates many exciting updates to Soundbridge’s offerings. She is in the early stages of working with CREC and the Soundbridge staff on refreshing the program’s mission, vision, and branding. “While we are making programmatic changes, our focus will continue to be on developing the speaking needs of children with hearing loss through current research and technology,” said O’Connell. “Through compassion, collaboration, and expertise in auditory access, we serve as the bridge between listening and talking for students with hearing loss.” One change that will affect a small portion of Soundbridge students being serviced is the dissolution of the Soundbridge Elementary and Middle School Academy programs. In the 2018-2019 school year, the Academy program consisted of only twelve students in total, representing 2% of the students with hearing loss serviced by Soundbridge across the state. The changes in the Academy, once considered Soundbridge’s its flagship program, are a result of advancements in newborn hearing screening, advances in listening technology, parent preference toward in-district services, and the educational trends towards integrated classroom environments.“We look forward to continued growth in the provision of services from our consulting teachers of the deaf and audiology services to our districts,” said Richards. “Due to the large volume of students that we serve, Soundbridge is on the cutting edge of changes in technology. Hearing loss is such a low incidence disability, that it is difficult for districts to have the expertise when they may only have a few students with hearing loss at any point in time. ” In response to changes in the field, Soundbridge has placed emphasis on its audiological, birth-to-three, and consulting teacher programs which have all seen tremendous growth over the last decade. Soundbridge will also continue to run their center-based Early Learning Center at the Wethersfield location. The Early Learning Center is an integrated preschool program for children with and without hearing loss. CREC Soundbridge’s website is www.crec.org/soundbridge.   ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changing needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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Mar 7

CREC Discovery Academy Fifth-Graders Plan for Future with New STEM Project

(Wethersfield, Conn.) Starting in March, fifth-graders at CREC Discovery Academy will take inventory of their current life and map out where their future will lead with a new project titled “Future Quest,” which incorporates real-life decision making, and uses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), writing, and research together to motivate students.The project, part of a new STEM special class that runs from March 11 to April 26, integrates the new International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards, recently adopted by the State of Connecticut.This is the second year the school has added the STEM special for students, with each grade taking on a unique, integrated project. Clare Neseralla, theme coach at the school, will teach the STEM Special courses. Once a week, students will go to the Science Lab to work on their project. Additionally, the project will be integrated into weekly art classes to teach students about photography and graphic design basics (pictured below).The ISTE Standards “are designed to empower student voice and ensure that learning is a student-driven process,” according to iste.org. Students will look to the future to learn about professional salaries for full and part-time jobs, and the cost of homes, cars, insurance, and taxes. To incorporate writing, and to examine higher education, students will write business letters requesting information from trade schools or colleges, and researching how education can qualify them for different careers.As part of the project, engineers from the Interstate 84 reconstruction project will come and talk to the students about all the engineering fields that have been hired to make their project a success.Neseralla previously taught Future Quest as a teacher in West Hartford and said it was a favorite of her past students.“I am thrilled to be able to duplicate this project with the students at CREC Discovery Academy,” said Neseralla. “It is never too early to inspire a student about a career and let them know about how the adult world works.”Future Quest integrates all the ISTE Student Standards which empower Discovery’s fifth-grade students to become:Empowered Learners - students will take an active role demonstrating technology competency through incorporating Google Drive, spreadsheets, digital photography, and graphic design. Digital Citizens - students will research their future choices and give credit for material they incorporate in their projects. Knowledge Constructors - students use a variety of resources using digital tools to produce a personal, creative presentation.Innovative Designers - students will incorporate photography and graphic design in their personal, creative presentation.Computational Thinkers - students will use electronic spreadsheets to compute the financial results of their future choices.Creative Communicators - students will present this current and future life digitally through art, photography, and graphics. Global Collaborators - students complete interest profiles online and reach out to professionals in their field. They will conduct interviews through email, blogging, forms, phone calls, or in-person meetings.The CREC Discovery Academy’s website is http://da.crecschools.org ###The Capitol Region Education Council was established in 1966. Working with and for its member districts, CREC has developed a wide array of cost-effective and high-quality programs and services to meet the educational needs of children and adults in the region. CREC brings nearly five decades of experience in education, regional collaboration, and operations to provide innovative strategies and products that address the changing needs of school districts and their students, corporations, non-profits, and individual professions. CREC regularly serves 36 towns in Greater Hartford, offering more than 120 programs to more than 150,000 students annually. CREC manages more than 35 facilities throughout the area, including 17 interdistrict magnet schools. More information about CREC and CREC’s award-winning schools is available at www.crec.org....

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