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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    The Buzz: Heidi Simmons honored for teaching career

    From left, state Rep. Greg Howard, Heidi Simmons, state Sen. Heather Somers and state Rep. Aundre Bumgardner. Photo submitted
    Pictured (L-R) Representatives of the Preston PTO Jacqueline Lima, Kayla Thompson, Johanna Thibdeau, and Allison Thayer with Michael Alberts, Jewett City Savings Bank President and CEO, and Darlene DeLaura, Preston Branch Manager.
    Hale YMCA Youth & Family Center in Putnam received a $1,500 grant from the Jewett City Savings Bank to help fund their Race4Chase Youth Triathlon Program. Pictured are triathlon participants. Photo submitted
    Franck Iglesias
    Matthew Lynch has been named the new Old Lyme Harbormaster. Photo submitted
    Davis-Standard’s headquarters in Pawcatuck. Photo submitted

    Edith P. “Heidi” Simmons was recently honored at a reception commending her for her many years of service as a public-school teacher and as an elected member of the Stonington Board of Education from 2019 to 2023.

    State Reps.Greg Howard, R-Stonington, and Aundre Bumgardner, D-Groton, as well as state Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, presented Simmons with an official citation from the Connecticut General Assembly signed by the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House and Secretary of the State.

    Over the years, Simmons taught in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Taiwan and most recently at the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London. In 1993, the New England Press Association presented Simmons’ “Junior Viewpoint” school page in The Day newspaper its First Place Award for community involvement in the paper.

    While Literacy Coach at the Magnet School Simmons received a 1999 Recognition Award from the Elementary and Middle School Principals’ Association of Connecticut for her “Ink Spillers Magazine’ and was RMMS Teacher of the year in 2007. Thereafter she published two books on children’s literacy.

    On the Board of Education, Simmons took a leading role in addressing the decade-long sexual harassment of high school girls by a male teacher, and worked to ensure that such behavior would never be replicated in the future.

    People & Places

    Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has appointed Matthew B. Lynch as the Harbor Master for the harbors and navigable waterways of the Town of Old Lyme. Lynch succeeds Harry Plaut, who served as Old Lyme’s Harbor Master for over eight years.

    A native of Waterford, Lynch is a seasoned mariner who now resides in Old Lyme. He is a senior manager for Towboat US in Old Saybrook, and an owner of Waterside Transit Services LLC. Additionally, he holds a U.S. Coast Guard 200-ton Inland Masters License, is a National Safe Boating Council Instructor, and a Member of the Niantic Bay Yacht Club.

    Lynch begins his appointment immediately with his term ending on June 30, 2026.

    Davis-Standard is demonstrating its commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability in its operations. The Pawcatuck-based manufacturer of extrusion and converting technology has achieved ISO 14001 certification, a milestone that fits with company-wide plans to have all of its sites worldwide to achieve the same certification status by 2025.

    The company's Pawcatuck facility joins its locations in Fulton, N.Y., Vantaa, Finland, Dusseldorf, Germany, and Ecublens, Switzerland, which are already ISO 14001 certified. The designation is an internationally recognized standard for environmental management systems, emphasizing a systematic approach to managing environmental impact.

    In addition to achieving ISO 14001 certification, Davis-Standard is actively pursuing initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint as it relates to the use of carbon pollution-free electricity at our facilities. This commitment is evident not only in certifications but also in the design and manufacturing of equipment that addresses environmental concerns.

    Foxwoods Resort Casino’s executive pastry chef Franck Iglesias has earned the prestigious Pastry Chef of the Year title at the 2023 CRAzies. This annual awards ceremony, presented by the Connecticut Restaurant Association, recognizes outstanding achievements in the region's culinary industry.

    Iglesias, executive pastry chef at Foxwoods since 2009, is renowned for his signature traditional cakes and pastries, including truffles, macaroons, and cookies.

    On Dec. 4, during the CRAZies Award Ceremony Gala at Foxwoods, winners were named across more than 20 award categories spanning accolades such as Chef of the Year, Bartender of the Year, Hospitality Hall of Fame, and more. About 1,400 industry professionals were on hand. For more information, visit foxwoods.com.

    Norwich Public Utilities was one of 66 public energy providers in the United States recognized as a Smart Energy Provider by the American Public Power Association for demonstrating commitment to and proficiency in energy efficiency, distributed energy resources, and environmental initiatives.

    The Smart Energy Provider designation provides national recognition of utility efforts to incorporate efficiencies and sustainability while providing affordable electric service. The program also helps utilities benchmark and evaluate their work on these topics against a set of industry best practices.

    Chamber news

    The Eastern CT Chamber of Commerce Foundation will hold its 38th Annual Holiday Gala in person on Friday, Dec. 15, rom 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the festively decorated Uncas Ballroom at Mohegan Sun and will raise funds for the foundation's scholarship and grant program.

    The foundation has donated to 35 programs this year addressing education, economic development, food insecurity, and essential needs in the region, totaling nearly $90,000. Additionally, the foundation awarded six 2023 high school graduates with $9,000 in scholarships.

    Education & Learning

    A recent survey by Intelligent.com showed that 45 percent of companies plan to eliminate bachelor’s degree requirements for some positions in 2024. Conversely, 39 percent of employers say they will not eliminate bachelor’s degree requirements in 2024, and 16 percent are unsure.

    This year, 55 percent of companies removed bachelor’s degree requirements for some roles. Seventy percent removed it for entry-level roles, 61 percent for mid-level roles, and 45 percent for senior-level roles. These employers chose to eliminate degree requirements this year because they wanted ‘to create a more diverse workforce,’ wanted ‘to increase the number of applicants,’ or believed ‘there are other ways to gain skills.’

    Survey results also highlight that 80 percent of employers are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to favor work experience over education when assessing job candidates’ applications. Likewise, 81 percent say it is important for recent college graduates to have work experience. In fact, 75 percent of employers agree that certificate programs have value, while 68 percent say the same for associate degrees and 61 percent for online degrees and apprenticeships. Additionally, to determine a candidate’s fit for a job, 68 percent of employers give candidates test assignments and 64 percent give personality tests.

    To view the complete report, visit https://www.intelligent.com/nearly-half-of-companies-plan-to-eliminate-bachelors-degreerequirements-in-2024/.

    The 2023 National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools, issued by The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt., gave Connecticut an F for financial literacy education.

    States with failing grades offer virtually no personal finance instruction. But John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy, says that by 2028, up to 23 states are projected to have an A grade, including Connecticut.

    “Connecticut has come a long way,” says Pelletier. “In July, the state passed a bill requiring a semester-long, standalone personal finance course, effective with the Class of 2027.” Pelletier says state policymakers are responding to families without financial safety nets during the pandemic, as well as to advocacy by educators, administrators, parents and students.

    An interactive national map with information on the 50 states and the District of Columbia and a downloadable copy of the full National Report Card is available at https://financialliteracy.champlain.edu/report-cards/2023-national-report-card-on-high-school-financial-literacy/.

    The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is seeking arts writers and critics for its annual National Critics Institute program, an intensive professional development opportunity offered each summer. Applications will be accepted until Monday, Dec. 18.

    Tthe National Critics Institute from July 2-14, 2024, is led by Director Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune and Associate Director Naveen Kumar, contributor for publications including The New York Times and Variety.

    Accepted applicants will participate in workshops led by a faculty composed of leading arts and cultural writers; recent members have included Tejal Rao, Sarah Kaufman, Peter Marks, Wesley Morris, and Sam Sifton. Participants will write about performances viewed both on and off the O’Neill’s campus, and will receive in-depth writing critiques and individualized feedback on their work.

    Admissions decisions are expected to be made by Feb. 15, 2024. Applications can be submitted at https://bit.ly/nciapp24. More information about the National Critics Institute is available at www.theoneill.org/nci.

    Scams & Warnings

    Connecticut Department of Labor Commissioner Danté Bartolomeo is urging residents to be aware of a new scam targeting job seekers. Criminals are soliciting banking and other information by calling residents and claiming to be an employer registered with CTHires, the state’s job bank.

    The attempts to steal personal data through this scam include callers asking for Social Security, bank account, and credit card numbers as well as telling residents they must pay a fee to have their application reviewed for employment. Residents who received calls from employers registered with CTHires that involved the caller asking for banking or credit card information, Social Security numbers or other personal data should report this to their local American Job Center.

    Grants & Awards

    Owners of a small business with a physical location in New London are invited to apply for a Business Improvement Grant of up to $10,000 to help them sustain their business and remain resilient in the face of unforeseen challenges and during off-peak seasons.

    The Small Business Improvement Grants Program, or Small BIG, is administered through the New London Office of Economic Development and Planning with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. This program is for small businesses that have existed in New London for at least one year and are in good standing with all local, state, and federal regulations and tax departments.

    The minimum award is $2,000 and the maximum award is $10,000. The deadline to submit applications is the last day of every month, and applicants will be notified of an award on the 15th of the following month.

    Applications are available online at the City’s Economic Development Portal at https://newlondonct.civicserve.com/applicant/178927/new-application/details/0.. Business owners will need to register to gain access to the online application. Preference will be given to businesses owned by veterans, women, or minority communities.

    The Stewardship Council of Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed’s Wild and Scenic Rivers has announced a new round of community grants intended to address needs in the 12 towns of the watershed, including Stonington, Voluntown, North Stonington, Sterling and Westerly. The application window ends Dec. 29, and grants of up to $12,000 are available.

    Chair of the projects committee Elaine Calderone said the last round funded eight different proposals from a variety of towns. The projects included such activities as invasive species removal, construction of interpretive signage, and elementary school outreach programs.

    The Westerly Land Trust used its funding to pay for water quality monitoring, as well as an interpretive sign for the Mastuxet Brook. Their grant also paid for flow monitors to keep track of the amount and speed of the water. Other tasks include “… identifying point-sources of pollution along the Mastuxet Brook, which will help enhance water quality downstream in the Lower Pawcatuck River.

    Non-profit organizations, municipalities, state agencies, tribal nations, individual educators, schools and other educational institutions are eligible to appy. Organizations interested in getting help on filing an application can contact Wild and Scenic Rivers Acting Coordinator Casey Merkle at wpwildrivers.org.

    The Stonington Garden Club has announced it is accepting applications for its 2024 grants cycle. The deadline for applications is Feb. 15.

    Grants will be awarded to eligible local nonprofits with projects serving Mystic, Stonington or Pawcatuck that are best aligned with the Stonington Garden Club’s mission and purpose “to educate and encourage interest in the environment, conservation, and community projects, and to stimulate the knowledge and love of gardening.”

    Grant applications will be considered between $250 and $1,000. The grants are made possible through the club’s fundraising projects, including its popular Gardens by the Sea garden tour.

    For more information, visit www.stoningtongardenclub.org/grants-scholarships-gifts.

    The Jewett City Savings Bank Foundation has awarded $25,492 to 11 local organizations dedicated to supporting education, arts, culture, and youth services within the communities served by the Bank.

    Receiving a $10,000 grant was the Quinebaug Valley Community College Foundation of Danielson, in support of the college’s Dr. Robert E. Miller Education Advancement Fund. $2,000 was granted to St. James School of Danielson in recognition of Jewett City Savings Bank’s former Director, Phillip Tetreault.

    Grants of $1,500 were awarded to the Aldrich Free Public Library in Moosup to help offset the cost of phase one of their historic building restoration project, and to the Hale YMCA Youth & Family Center in Putnam to help fund their Race4Chase Youth Triathlon Program. The Northeast Opportunities for Wellness, Inc. in Putnam was granted $1,000 to support their Mind, Music, and Movement program. The Slater Library in Jewett City and Opera New England of Northeastern Connecticut, Inc. in Pomfret also received grants of $1,000 for annual support.

    Another grant for $1,873 went to the Preston Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) in celebration of the Bank’s 150th anniversary. The grant will be used to support the PTO in funding their annual family fun event, Preston Palooza.

    Get in The Buzz by emailing releases to businessbriefs@theday.com. Business editor Lee Howard compiles briefs on a weekly basis. Go online to access links to each of the websites and emails mentioned.

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