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.

Diane Orson

Connecticut lawmakers joined civil rights groups at the capitol Monday to call for an overhaul of the state’s racial profiling law.

This follows a federal investigation into discriminatory policing in East Haven, and a separate racial profiling report by the Hartford Courant.

TicketNetwork has pulled out of Connecticut’s First Five economic development program.  The news comes after the recent arrest of Don Vaccaro, CEO of the South Windsor-based company. Vaccaro has been charged with a hate crime and has taken an indefinite leave from TicketNetwork.

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection has just submitted to lawmakers its analysis of the ticket sales industry, and its view on a controversial proposal to change ticket sale laws in the state. 

Connecticut education officials are finalizing the state’s waiver application for relief from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Applications for the second round of waivers are due on Tuesday.

Chion Wolf

The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many of the nation’s fastest-growing and highest paid jobs require training in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as the STEM fields. But in Connecticut,  an estimated 1,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled because applicants lack the skills they need. 

Many middle and high school students seem to lose interest in studying STEM subjects. For our second report in a week-long series, we explore why.

16-year old Charlotte Harrison says she’s always liked math.  

A Connecticut nun, chosen to lead a wide-ranging Vatican investigation of women’s religious orders in the United States, has submitted her final report to Church officials.  

Mother Mary Clare Millea, Superior General of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden, was appointed in 2008 to oversee the probe, called an “Apostolic Visitation”. The goal of this first-ever inquiry by the Vatican of American religious sisters was to evaluate their quality of life and learn why the numbers of women entering religious life have declined so dramatically.

In his State of the State address, Governor Dannel Malloy called on legislators to take bold steps to reform Connecticut’s public schools. He addressed the highly-charged issue of teacher tenure, and called for an overhaul of the system.

"Today tenure is too easy to get and too hard to take away."

Governor Malloy outlined six principles for education reform, but devoted the most time to teacher tenure. 

Diane Orson

The number of Chinese students at American colleges and universities jumped 43% in 2011 over 2010, according to the Institute of International Education. And now, more and more Chinese students are enrolling in American high schools. The trend is helping to stabilize Connecticut's private schools that have been grappling with declining enrollment in a weak economy.

When Christian Heritage School in Trumbull first starting accepting foreign students, Director of Admissions Martha Olson says most were from South Korea.  

Diane Orson

Qualified students in a New Haven engineering and science magnet school will be able to attend the University of New Haven for half price or free, under a program announced on Monday. The goal is to encourage students to pursue serious study in the “STEM” areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Speaking at Monday’s announcement, UNH President Steven Kaplan said America is lagging behind other developed nations in math and science.  

Sheff And School Reform

Jan 23, 2012

Members of the Sheff Movement Coalition are calling on Governor Malloy to make school diversity a core educational priority for the state. 

Philip Tegeler, a member of the coalition and one of the original lawyers in Connecticut’s landmark Sheff vs. O’Neill school desegregation case, says more attention should be paid to integrating the state’s schools.

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.

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