Diane Orson

Managing Editor/Host

Diane Orson is WNPR's local host for Morning Edition.  She's also a reporter and managing editor for WNPR, as well as a contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories are heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now.  Diane began at WBUR in Boston and came to Connecticut in 1988 as a co-producer for Open Air New England.  She shared a Peabody Award with Faith Middleton for their piece of radio nostalgia about New Haven's Shubert Theater.  Her reporting has  been recognized by the Connecticut Society for Professional Journalists and the Associated Press, including the Ellen Abrams Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism and the Walt Dibble Award for Overall Excellence.

Diane is also an active professional musician. She lives in Hamden with her husband and two children.

Senator Ed Meyer introduced a bill on Tuesday to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut. He says the future of capital punishment in the state may depend on two key lawmakers.

Last year – just as Connecticut was poised to repeal the death penalty, and as jury selection was underway in the Cheshire triple murder case  -  Senator Ed Meyer received a phone call from his son. 

A spokesman for the New Haven Public Schools is leaving his post following an incident in which he grabbed a reporter’s camera while she was on assignment and insisted that she stop filming. More and more school districts are employing public relations professionals. We take a look at the field, at a time when people want more information about what’s going on in their local schools.

Diane Orson

Parents packed into an elementary school gymnasium in Middletown last night to hear from local education officials, and to voice their concerns over so-called “scream rooms.” Teachers at the school use a time-out room to discipline disruptive students.

Diane Orson

Homicides in New Haven reached a near-record high in 2011. The city’s new police chief spoke to WNPR about what it will take to stop the violence.

There were 34 homicides in New Haven last year. Police Chief Dean Esserman says the face of violence in the city reflects other cities across the nation.  

"This country of ours is not at war on the streets of America. Providence kills Providence. Hartford, Hartford. New Haven, New Haven. These are our own children killing each other. And it needs to stop."

Diane Orson

Connecticut’s largest teachers union added its voice on Tuesday to a growing chorus of proposals for school reform.  The union’s plan addresses the controversial issue of teacher tenure.

Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine says teachers are proposing to replace tenure with a streamlined dismissal process, "...to remove underperforming teachers and also allow for due process. We want teachers to be evaluated."

But she says, a teacher’s performance should not be judged solely by test scores.

A program that serves families in a distressed, low-income neighborhood in Meriden has been awarded federal money to expand. The Meriden Family Zone ties together services and supports to improve the lives of families and young children.

Families who are part of the Meriden Family Zone tend be disconnected from life in the larger city, says David Radcliffe, director of Meriden Children First.  

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor describes new figures on high school graduation rates in Connecticut as “unacceptable”. Students in poverty and students are color are far less likely to finish high school in four years.

Overall, nearly one in five Connecticut students fails to graduate high school in four years according to new data from the State Department of Education. But for kids who live at or below the poverty level, are Hispanic or black, in special ed or are English language learners -  it's one in three.

A lawyer representing the town of East Haven says findings in a federal racial profiling investigation must still be substantiated. He’s cautioning against a quick rush to judgment.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights’ Division found that East Haven Police intentionally target Latinos for traffic stops, and use excessive force against those taken into custody.  

"Charges like these are easily made. They’re not so easily proven."

Hugh Keefe is a trial lawyer for the town of East Haven.

Diane Orson

A U.S. Department of Justice investigation finds that police in East Haven engage in a pattern of discrimination against Latinos. The DOJ's Office for Civil Rights launched its investigation in 2009 after Latinos described a pattern of race-based violence, harassment and intimidation by East Haven police. 

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin announced the probe’s findings.  

Bridgeport’s Board of Education has appointed Paul Vallas, interim superintendent, part of the state’s takeover of the struggling school system. Vallas is a nationally recognized education reformer who’s spearheaded turnaround efforts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans. 

Departing Bridgeport superintendent John Ramos joined a panel of school leaders earlier this month to talk about the effect of inadequate education funding on disadvantaged students. 

Diane Orson

Think college music program in Connecticut and the Hartt School of Music springs to mind. There’s the Yale School of Music and Wesleyan’s ethnomusicology program. Now, a report on the quiet transformation of Southern Connecticut State University’s Music Department – thanks to the generosity of a state resident.

SCSU student Andrew Pinto sings a song he composed. Pinto, a music theory major, says he’s benefited from free private singing lessons at Southern.  

A new report calls for a closer look at the role of race in Connecticut’s persistent achievement gap. The study finds that male students of color do not have the same educational opportunities as their white counterparts. 

Many male students of color are struggling in school for reasons that have nothing to do with their socio-economic status, family background or perceived level of ability or motivation, says Jeremy Bond, spokesperson for the State Education Resource Center or SERC, which released the new report.  

A man credited with galvanizing tens of thousands of people to protest Saturday against suspected parliamentary election fraud in Russia is a Yale University World Fellow.  Alexei Navalny was arrested last week.

35-year old political activist Alexei Navalny has used his internet blog to expose corruption in Russia. He coined the phrase “the party of swindlers and thieves” to describe Vladimir Putin’s political party, United Russia.  The New York Times describes him as “the man most responsible for the extraordinary burst of anti-government activism” in Russia. 

Advocates for early childhood education are calling on the state to withdraw its latest motion in a major school funding lawsuit. The state wants to exclude preschool programs from the case. 

Governor Malloy is seen as a champion of preschool education, says Maggie Adair, director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.  

"He did not cut anything in early care and education or early childhood funding for that matter in the last session. He’s proposed 1,000 new preschool slots over the next couple of years"

Yale

Yale University Press unveiled its online “Stalin Digital Archive” today. The archive contains newly declassified documents, including Stalin’s personal papers, and communications with heads of state during the Great Purges.

Several years ago, Yale University Press director John Donatich traveled to Russia. Men in white lab coats escorted him deep into Stalin’s archive, where he was handed Stalin’s personal copy of  Lenin’s book:  'The State and Revolution'.

Governor Malloy’s “E-C-S Task Force” meets today.  The panel will hear testimony from a researcher at Connecticut Voices for Children on how to improve state financing of local public schools.

The Education Cost Sharing, or ECS, grant is the single most important source of funding for education from the state to local towns.  The amount that a town receives is determined by a complex formula, which most educators and legislators agree needs to be reformed.  Earlier this year, Governor Malloy established a task force to look into the formula. 

State lawmakers and policy leaders met in Hartford on Tuesday to outline challenges facing Connecticut’s children.   Some of the key issues may come up in the 2012 legislative session.

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Jewell Mullen listed several areas of particular concern.  "They include the disproportionate incidence of infant mortality, particularly in New Haven, but in our urban areas and increasingly in our smaller cities; the rising prevalence of childhood obesity;  also, needing to put a new focus on preventing violence and injury."

School superintendents say the public education system in Connecticut needs an overhaul. The superintendents have unveiled a bold plan to transform schooling in the state.

It's not enough anymore to give kids an opportunity to learn, says Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the CT Association of Public School Superintendents. He says schools have to insure that all kids achieve at high levels.

The first round of applications for relief from the federal No Child Left Behind Act are due on Monday. But Connecticut will wait until the next year to apply.

School closures due last weekend’s snowstorm have created a scheduling headache for education leaders.  We visited the town of Cheshire on Thursday, where students have already missed five days of classes, and winter hasn’t even begun.

"Grades were supposed to close this week, so this is one of the critical weeks in school."

Diane Orson

Many Connecticut towns remain in the dark after last weekend’s early snowstorm knocked out power to a record number of state residents. WNPR’s Diane Orson reports that in the town of Seymour, stores are closed and people are heading to shelters to stay warm.

Drive through Seymour and you see businesses locked up, one after the other. Then you reach the Shop Smart Convenience Store.

The door is wide open and customers move in and out, though its pretty dark inside. Clerk Mohammed Aquel says a generator is keeping things operating.

More than 50,000 people have signed an e-petition to stop a British terror suspect from being extradited to the U.S.  Babar Ahmad is accused of raising funds for terrorists through a Connecticut-based internet service provider.

Computer expert Babar Ahmad has been fighting extradition to the US since his arrest in 2004.  He is Britain’s longest-held prisoner detained without trial. He's been held there under a controversial 2003 treaty between the United States and the U.K.

The Connecticut Supreme Court heard arguments on Thursday challenging the state’s takeover of Bridgeport’s troubled public schools.  Much of the debate centered on whether officials followed proper steps before replacing local school board members with state appointees.

The Connecticut Supreme Court will hear arguments on Thursday challenging the state’s takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education. The plaintiffs argue that the state cannot deny residents the right to vote for their local school board.

Last summer, most of the members of Bridgeport’s Board of Ed, along with the city’s superintendent and mayor asked the State Board to intervene in the city’s schools.  Within weeks, Connecticut’s Acting Education Commissioner had replaced Bridgeport’s elected school board with a state-appointed panel. 

Lawmakers in Washington are considering a bill to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act.   Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal plans to introduce an amendment that raises similar concerns as his 2005 lawsuit over the education reform law.

Connecticut submits its third bid for Race to the Top federal education grants on Wednesday.  The focus this time around is early learning. 

Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grants are targeted to states that want to better coordinate their early care and education systems. Right now, Connecticut has a patchwork of programs for young children overseen by five different state agencies.

First Niagara Bank has announced a $1.3 million donation to Manchester Community College and the town of Manchester. The funds will be used to support the college’s expansion into downtown.

A merger between New Alliance and First Niagara Banks led to the layoff of more than 90 workers in downtown Manchester earlier this year. At the same time, Manchester Community College needed to expand. First Niagara’s $1.3 million donation includes the value of a downtown building for the college, and a cash donation to the foundation that will operate the facility. 

Bridgeport officials will conduct a national search for the city’s next school superintendent.  A state-appointed Board of Education has fired Bridgeport’s current superintendent as part of its takeover of the troubled school system.

Bridgeport’s state-appointed board of education will part ways with Superintendent John Ramos at the end of December.   An interim superintendent will come in to serve while education officials conduct a national search for the city’s next school leader. 

Eleven teachers involved in a cheating scandal at a Waterbury elementary school returned to work on Tuesday. The teachers will lose 20 days of pay and must perform community service as after-school tutors.

Diane Orson

The International Center for the Study of Machu Picchu and Inca Culture opened yesterday in the city of Cusco, Peru. The event marks the end of a long-running dispute over a collection of antiquities taken from Machu Picchu by Yale explorer Hiram Bingham nearly 100 years ago. It's also the beginning of a collaborative partnership between Yale and the National University of San Antonio Abad del Cusco .  

Speaking to reporters in Cusco, Yale researcher Lucy Salazar explained that museum is housed in a historic Inca palace called the Casa Concha.  

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