Interim School Superintendent John Reed knows there is a natural tendency for residents to believe rapidly declining local school enrollment in recent years translates into expectations of downtrending across all aspects of local school district operations. But in the months prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy, and especially in the months since 12/14, Dr Reed has been seeing an alarming increase in crisis interventions within the district, as well as referrals to an emergency mobile psychiatric team for all Newtown youths age 18 and under. He told The Newtown Bee in a recent interview that in the 12 months following the Sandy Hook shootings, emergency calls for psychiatric response from Wellmore, Inc — a regional mental health agency serving Newtown — has increased 80 percent.
On Wednesday, March 5, Facebook announced a series of new educational and enforcement efforts for people discussing the private sale of regulated items. Offers posted on Facebook that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law, including private sellers of firearms in the US specifying no background check required will be prohibited. Wednesday's announcement also included the company's concern with facing "a difficult challenge balancing individuals' desires to express themselves ... and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere." A number of groups responded quickly to the announcement, including Sandy Hook Promise, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Moms Demand Actions, and National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Newtown Permanent Memorial Commission Chairman Kyle Lyddy and 11 members of the commission met Thursday evening, February 27, with Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and 9/11 Memorial Project Manager Abigail Mullins for what Mr Lyddy called a continuation of the information gathering process. During the meeting, Mr Daniels told the group that the input they solicit will be extremely important, especially the various perspectives and emotional relationships to the event itself. He also addressed the commission's concerns on fundraising. The meeting, said Mr Lyddy, was incredibly productive.
Every hour of March 7 could prove to be beneficial for area non-profits. Residents can support more than 300 organizations, including a number of Newtown-based groups, just by browsing the web and getting involved in Fairfield County Giving Day, which runs for 24 hours on Friday, March 7. The online fundraising initiative was launched by the Fairfield County Community Foundation in collaboration with Bank of America. Fairfield County Community Foundation Communications Manager Jeff Yates explained that Giving Days “have been successful in galvanizing the community into supporting non-profits.” Held elsewhere in the state and country in past years, this is the first Fairfield County Giving Day. The 24-hour donation window “gets the community to focus on supporting non profits,” he said. Ten Newtown non-profits have registered for in the event.
Newtown residents and visitors to Sandy Hook have undoubtedly noticed recent improvements in the village center. Phase II of the new streetscape, with sidewalks, pedestrian-oriented lighting and amenities, was recently completed, enhancing the visual impression and creating a more enjoyable and walkable environment. Events and activities, such as Passport to Sandy Hook, The Great Pootatuck Duck Race, and the Sandy Hook Tree Lighting have been successful in bringing people to the village to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. A new branding and marketing program has been developed for Sandy Hook Village, and the community is gearing up to launch new promotional material that will benefit small businesses with the impending hire of a brand steward. Now, the village is working on the nuts and bolts of creating a strategic action plan, and the public is invited to participate. A Sandy Hook Action Planning Workshop will be held on Wednesday, March 12, at Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Company's main station. Hosted by Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity, the community is invited to attend and help craft the plan.
Gun violence touches all ethnicities and socioeconomic group. The push for more sensible gun safety legislation has helped to unify communities that would appear to have little in common. On Saturday, March 8, at 8 am, a group of cyclists known as Team 26 will embark on a 400-mile journey — the 2nd Annual Sandy Hook Ride On Washington (SHROW) — departing from Edmond Town Hall to show how diverse communities across the nation have one common goal: make streets safer and put an end to the gun-violence epidemic. Originally scheduled to take place at Reed Intermediate School, the kick-off rally has been moved to the front steps and courtyard at 45 Main Street. The four-day “rolling rally” will include events in Ridgefield and Greenwich, Harlem, N.Y., Doylestown, Penn., Baltimore and College Park, Md., and Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., before ending at the steps of the US Capitol Building.
Responding to a call from The Newtown Bee, the operators of Newtown’s independently owned RadioShack store said on March 4 they will remain open even as its corporate owners are announcing the closure of about 1,100 other company-owned stores across the country. RadioShack Corporation announced on Tuesday that it plans to close about a fifth of its US locations. The news came as the retailer reported a wider quarterly loss after a disappointing holiday season. Long known as a destination for batteries and obscure electronic parts, RadioShack has sought to remake itself as a specialist in wireless devices and accessories. But growth in the wireless business is slowing, as more people have smartphones and see fewer reasons to upgrade. In addition to slashing costs and shuffling management, RadioShack has been renovating its stores with a more modern look. The company said that the stores targeted for closings are being selected based on location, area demographics, lease duration, and financial performance.
First Selectman Pat Llodra told the Board of Finance during a budget meeting February 27 that she is planning to budget a contingent of nine armed, retired police officers who will serve as armed school security officers (SSOs) in local schools beginning this September. Under the suggested plan, the school district will continue to employ a security director, and eight unarmed guards who will be distributed throughout the local network of facilities. The first selectman said that the long-term plan was to devise a model for the entire community for safe schools, and that it will be a shared commitment and structure between the town and district. The town will continue utilizing two additional local police officers who are trained as school resource officers (SROs) and one additional youth officer.