Monthly Archives: January 2013

Strong Winds Lead To School Closings

by Categorized: Police, Schools Date:

Anyone else had trouble sleeping with the howling winds this morning?

Downed trees led to power outages around the state and in Hartford, where Annie Fisher STEM and Montessori schools on Plainfield Street, Breakthrough II Magnet and Upper M.D. Fox on Lyme Street, and Weaver High — all in the city’s North End — were closed today because of no electricity in their buildings.

Weaver’s Culinary Arts and Journalism and Media academies suspended classes at 9:30 a.m., schools spokesman David Medina said in a statement.

Police also reported a car crash that closed Prospect Street by Elizabeth Park. As of 10 a.m., Connecticut Light & Power was indicating that 1,864 Hartford households, or 3 percent of the utility’s city customers, remained without electricity.

Unsolved Homicides: Some Facts And Figures

by Categorized: Crime, James Rovella, Neighborhoods, Police Date:

It probably isn’t much consolation to the families who are dealing with the unsolved murder of a loved one, but city police told me before last night’s forum that Hartford’s homicide clearance rate is getting better. Markedly better.

In 2007, the clearance rate was 36 percent. In 2008, 39 percent. In 2009, 30 percent. And in 2010, 32 percent.

Then in the summer of 2011, the Hartford Shooting Task Force was established, and the clearance rate for that year rose to 41 percent. In 2012, it jumped to 61 percent.

The task force also boasts a cold case unit dedicated to unresolved homicide and shooting cases.

“As a new endeavor, the HSTF has a new, much larger cold case homicide concept built into [its] operation,” Police Chief James Rovella wrote in his spring/summer/fall initiative last year. “Again, major case detectives paired with police officers (state and local) lead by prosecutors, will delve into the city’s unsolved homicides. It’s a natural fit for both units to collaborate side by side to address violent offenders and as importantly, provide resolution to the families of those victims.”

The city, however, still has 226 unsolved homicides, some dating as far back as 1988. Many families are still suffering from a lack of closure.

At the forum Tuesday, organized by a group of local preachers, family members asked how they could get more updates on their loved ones’ unresolved cases, and if their child or sibling’s picture could be added to the state’s unsolved homicide playing cards. (Two years ago, the Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice, the Department of Correction and law enforcement agencies created a deck of playing cards that feature unsolved homicides, missing persons and cases of unidentified remains from throughout the state. The cards were distributed to DOC inmates with the hope of generating tips.)

Police — including the head of major crimes and members of the shooting task force’s cold case unit — not only attended the forum but stayed after to speak with those families seeking answers. They encouraged them not to give up and to contact the department regularly.

If the forums continue, it could be another step in improving upon a familiar issue: a disconnect between police and the community.

Cafe Colt: The Gateway’s First Retail Tenant

by Categorized: Development, Neighborhoods Date:

Anyone who has driven down Huyshope Avenue in recent years has probably noticed the transformation of the Colt Gateway.

There are dozens of apartments almost fully occupied and more units to come. One of the complex’s major tenants is the Capitol Region Education Council, which operates the relatively new Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Magnet Middle School at 140 Huyshope. Even the blue dome, a Hartford landmark, looks pristine.

Now there is Cafe Colt, the South Armory’s first retail tenant, offering breakfast, lunch and catered events.

Our colleague Ken Gosselin was there Monday for the cafe’s opening reception, which drew Mayor Pedro Segarra and others.

Gosselin writes:

Cafe Colt, on the ground floor of the South Armory, is the first retail lease for the complex, known for its iconic blue onion dome. In redeveloping areas, shops and restaurants typically follow the leasing of apartments and office space.

“This is going to have a huge impact on the project,” Larry Dooley, of developer CG Management, told me Monday during a reception celebrating the opening of the cafe. “It’s the first food service here, since the days of the artists living here.”

Check out Gosselin’s post about the Colt Cafe here and past coverage of the Colt complex, which developers, city officials and Connecticut legislators hope will be designated a national park. Photographer Patrick Raycraft took pictures of Monday’s event.

(Full disclosure: I lived in one of the Colt Gateway apartments for a year and miss the view of the blue dome.)

Cafe Colt, the new space for breakfast and lunch in the South Armory, includes a sixth-floor room for events and catered meetings.

Cafe Colt, the new breakfast and lunch spot in Colt Gateway’s South Armory, includes a sixth-floor room for events and catered meetings. Photo by PATRICK RAYCRAFT.

Unsolved Homicides Forum Is Tuesday

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

The Rev. Henry Brown and Mothers United Against Violence will host an unsolved homicides community forum on Tuesday. Panelists include Brown, city Police Chief James Rovella Hartford police Lt. Brian Foley, head of the major crimes division, and Hartford State’s Attorney Gail P. Hardy.

The forum will highlight what police are doing to solve homicides, what the community and elected officials can do to help and what resources are available for grieving families.

“We’re asking the public to come and bring a voice for the call to action,” Brown said Monday. “We want them to question the police chief and the state’s attorney to see what they can do to bring about change.”

Tuesday’s forum runs from 5 to 7 p.m. at 2550 Main St.

City Schools Dismiss Early; University High School Closed

by Categorized: Schools Date:

City schools have started to release students early today as snowflakes fall in Hartford.

And at the University High School of Science and Engineering, there were no classes Monday because a broken water pipe flooded parts of the building. A custodian discovered the flooded floors when he entered the magnet school at 6 a.m., spokesman David Medina said.

“They’re working on it now,” Medina said. “They’re very confident they’ll reopen school tomorrow.”

Twenty-one Hartford schools in Tier 1 were scheduled to dismiss students at 11:15 a.m. because of the wintry weather. In the school system’s Tier 2, there are 16 schools to be dismissed at noon. The final wave of schools — 24 of them in Tier 3 — will release students at 12:45 p.m.

Parents are told which tier their child’s school belongs to, according to Medina.

Hartford Teacher Wins $25,000 Milken Educator Award

by Categorized: Christina Kishimoto, Pedro Segarra, Schools Date:

As a kid growing up in Hartford, Tamika Knight attended Milner, Quirk Middle and graduated from Hartford Public High School in 1995. She then played basketball on scholarship at Central Connecticut State University, where she received her degree in education.

For the past 12 years, Knight has taught in the Hartford school system. Her fifth-grade students at Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School know that it’s not just about academics with Knight, but about being good people.

On Friday morning, in a surprise announcement two hours ago in the Annie Fisher gymnasium, Knight was honored as one of the best in her profession.

The 35-year-old received the Milken Educator Award, a national honor that comes with a $25,000 prize. Knight is the only teacher in Connecticut to receive the award this year. (Click here for video of Knight’s reaction: priceless.)

Jane Foley, senior vice president for the Milken Educator Awards, told students and teachers gathered in the gym that she traveled from California to give what she called the “Oscars of teaching.” After drawing out the suspense, Foley announced the winner.

“She turned around and she said, ‘Tamika!’ And I’m like, who?” Knight recounted later. “I’m in awe. It’s so surreal for me.”

Tamika Knight holds a ceremonial check after being named a Milken Educator. She is standing with Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor (center), school board Chairman Matthew Poland (far right), Milken Family Foundation's Jane Foley, two former Connecticut winners and Mayor Pedro Segarra (far left). Photo by Vanessa de la Torre.

Tamika Knight holds a ceremonial check after being named a Milken Educator. She stands with Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor (center), school board Chairman Matthew Poland (far right), Milken Family Foundation’s Jane Foley in red, two former Connecticut winners and Mayor Pedro Segarra (far left). Photo by Vanessa de la Torre.

After the event, I spoke with Deveria Barry, a 1991 Milken winner from her time teaching kindergarten and first grade at M.L. King School in Hartford.

“It’s wonderful as an educator to be appreciated and recognized,” said Barry, who is retired but continues to work part-time as a reading tutor. “It’s not even about the money. It’s about being thanked for doing something we love.”

UPDATE: The full story on Knight’s Milken award is here.

Profile: Hartford Artist Anne Cubberly

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:
Anne Cubberly creates an ear-to-ear smile in her Hartford studio. Photo by RICK HARTFORD.

Anne Cubberly creates an ear-to-ear smile in her Hartford studio. Photo by RICK HARTFORD.

Owen McNally has profiled Anne Cubberly, the Hartford visual artist whose work has been featured over the years at places such as Real Art Ways, Hartford City Hall and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Read the full story here.

Cubberly works out of the Dirt Salon artists’ space in the Parkville neighborhood, and “she loves to resurrect what most people would call junk,” McNally wrote.

In Cubberly’s own words:

Ever since I was very small, anything that was used had more value to me than something that was new. New things were almost a little intimidating. Recycled material has had a little bit of life before you even get to it, and that makes it more valuable to me. It’s not trash to me. It’s a tool, a toy — something to create with.

Check out her website at www.annecubberly.com.

Malloy Nominates Hope Seeley For Superior Court

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

This just in: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has nominated prominent Hartford criminal defense attorney Hope Seeley to serve as a Superior Court judge. Seeley is one of 15 nominees to fill 30 vacancies on the court.

As you may know, Seeley represented former Mayor Eddie Perez in his trial on corruption charges and the subsequent appeal. (Perez is due before a three-judge panel Feb. 19.)

“I am honored to be nominated by Governor Malloy to be a judge of the Superior Court and to have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Connecticut,” Seeley, a Coventry resident, said in a statement released through the governor’s office. She is a partner with Santos & Seeley, P.C. on Russ Street in Hartford.

Malloy also nominated Judge Christine Keller, who until last year was the chief administrative judge of juvenile matters, to serve on the state Appellate Court. Keller has also been a high-profile, legal figure in the city, serving in Superior Court since 1993. She is the wife of former House Speaker Tom Ritter and mother of State Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford.

From the governor’s office:

Prior to becoming a judge, Keller served as a family support magistrate from 1989 to 1993, worked in private practice from 1987 to 1989, served as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Hartford from 1984 to 1987, and was a staff attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services in Hartford from 1977 to 1984. …

Judge Keller’s nomination will fill the vacancy being left by the Honorable Carmen Espinosa, who has been nominated to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court.  The nomination is conditioned on the General Assembly acting favorably on the nomination of Judge Espinosa.

UPDATE: Here’s a full story on Malloy’s court nominations.

Photo: The Tracks of a Hartford Winterfest

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:
The skating ice at Bushnell Park at the conclusion of Hartford Winterfest. Photo by RICK HARTFORD.

The skating ice at Bushnell Park at the conclusion of Winterfest. Photo by RICK HARTFORD.

This photo from Rick Hartford reminded me of a planet’s surface. In fact, this was the ice at the public skating rink in Bushnell Park on Monday, the final day of Hartford Winterfest. Director Bob Crawford estimated that upwards of 60,000 visitors skated on the rink over the festival’s two-month period.

‘The Hartford Promise Is Real Now’

by Categorized: Christina Kishimoto, Schools Date:

So it’s official: Starting in 2016, the Hartford Promise will dole out $5,000 annual scholarships to city graduates attending four-year colleges, and $2,500 a year for students enrolled in two-year colleges.

This year’s high school freshmen are the first to be eligible — and need to keep up their grades and attendance for a chance at up to $20,000 over four years. Here’s the story I wrote today.

As I mentioned last week, the scholarship fund has received about $4 million in donations. School officials said Tuesday that six corporations and philanthropists gave $4.1 million, to be exact, including $2 million from the Travelers Foundation, the Hartford school system’s top corporate donor in general, and $1 million from Hartford Hospital.

More millions will be needed to fully fund the program through the Class of 2023, and so the school system has lined up “Hartford Promise Champions” who will be advocates and fundraisers, including Ramani Ayer, the former chairman and CEO of The Hartford. (Ramani also donated $300,000 himself).

This scholarship program has been a pet project of sorts for Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. She mentioned the idea the first time I interviewed her two years ago, when Kishimoto was an assistant superintendent openly seeking to replace her then-boss, the retiring Steven Adamowski.

“The Hartford Promise is real now,” Kishimoto said in a statement released this week.