Tuesday, May 24, 2022

This Week at The Buttonwood Tree: May 26-29, 2022


The Buttonwood Tree 
605 Main Street, in Middletown

May 2022
The Buttonwood Tree Presents:

Event descriptions are excerpted from The Buttonwood Tree online calendar. Click on event links in text for more information. 




MAY 26

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Bob Gotta's Acoustic Open Mic (ZOOM)


MAY 28

 10:30 am - 12:15 pm

Align with Source Workshop: 2022 ~ Supreme Consciousness at Work




  8:00 pm - 10:00 pm  

Ryan Sands

Stellar drummer and musical tutor, this artist from New Haven tours often with Christian Sands in the US and through out Europe and Asia. Jazz Standards & originals.


MAY 29 

6:30 pm - 9:30 pm

Weekly Improv Workshop

For more information on Buttonwood programs, please see our calendar here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Grad Dash 5K/10K


Break out your running shoes for the annual Middlesex Community College Foundation GRAD DASH. The 5K/10K run/walk takes place on Saturday, May 21, 2022, at 9 a.m., along the beautiful tree-lined roads near the Middletown campus, located at 100 Training Hill Road. Taking part in the Grad Dash helps the Foundation support student success through scholarships, program development, and more.

Online registration ends at midnight on May 17. You may still register in person before 9 a.m. on race day.


Adult Entry fees: 
5K • $25
10K • $35
Student rate • $20

Overall champions (M, F, and nonbinary) and top finishers in each division will receive medals. Winners will be announced after the race.

For more information, please contact Stacey Burgess at 860-343-5789 or email sburgess@mxcc.edu. Visit our website at mxcc.edu/run.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Superintendent Responds - Conner: I Am Unequivocally and Completely Innocent of the Alleged Allegations

  An Open Letter from Dr. Michael T. Conner, Ed.D.

Today, May 16, the summary report from the seven-month investigation into the anonymous allegations against me were released.

Let me be clear I am unequivocally and completely innocent of the alleged accusations.

Evidence was shared with investigators and the BOE that these false allegations were intentionally fabricated as part of a plan to remove me from the Office of the Superintendent. This evidence was ignored.

Of the most serious allegation, the summary report uses the term “more likely than not.” This is not a definitive charge, but another character-damaging insinuation based on a one-sided, anonymous, and I repeat, false accusation.

As stated in the report I declined to be interviewed. My decision not to testify to investigators was based on information, communicated to me by my attorney, after conversations with the BOE attorney, that I would not be given the chance to address specific allegations or provide witnesses to support my claim that I was innocent of these charges . How could I defend myself without the testimony of collaborative witnesses and evidence, especially exculpatory information?

Most of the remaining charges against me were dismissed by the investigators outright.

Add to that the insulting accusations that my use of “big words” was deemed unprofessional. Any Black man will tell you that this is inherently racist. The “accusation” of “being articulate” is clearly one of many microaggressions Black people endure daily. As this report makes clear, anonymous accusers claimed to use my intelligence as intimidation. This speaks to the absurdity of the claims and the troubling, targeted motivation of the accusers.

The Middletown Board of Education has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on a law firm that took over five months to produce a baseless report while distracting the BOE and school staff from the task of handling students and schools in the critical post-pandemic period.

Additionally, in November 2021, we were told that the investigation would last 30 to 45 days. Instead, the Board of Education allowed an out-of-state law firm to open the investigation to further grievances (now, as it appears, mostly baseless) that were beyond the original scope of the false and anonymous allegations.

My family, the taxpayers, and the students in Middletown deserved better.

On March 3, 2022, I resigned as the Superintendent of Middletown Public Schools. In my resignation letter, I stated that my resignation was predicated not on the spurious allegations against me, or the unfocused investigation conducted by the Board of Education, but on my need to reevaluate my family’s priorities in the face of threats to our safety - threats that were a direct result of the baseless allegations. My goal was to move on from my time as the Superintendent in Middletown, hopefully leaving the students and staff of Middletown Public Schools better off than when I came and focusing on healing with my family as I move on in my career.

During the course of my four years as superintendent, the school system made significant quantitative and programmatic educational and equity progress. I am proud of the collaborative work we achieved on behalf of families and students of Middletown.

Our adoption of two strategic operating plans (Middletown 2021 and Middletown 2024) supported innovative initiatives to prepare students for a competitive global economy.

 - Our strategic endeavors led to the expansion of PreK classrooms
including full-day options for families, the Bridge to Brilliance Initiative that provided every three/four-year old in Middletown a digital solution to close the preparation gap entering Middletown Public Schools.

 - Increased standardized and accountability scores, improved graduation rates to 97%, closing of the secondary achievement gap at the middle school level.

 - Developing the first STEM/Choice School at Macdonough.

 - And soon be launching the 13th International Baccalaureate Program in Connecticut at Lawrence School.
Moreover, we successfully opened Beman Middle School with the
Innovation Lab so students can experience project-based learning activities focused on the areas of aerospace, manufacturing, robotics, drone development, engineering, and computer science. Our collaborative work creating the nationally recognized Aerospace/Manufacturing Program 
expanded opportunities and access with technical skill development in critical areas of economic demand.

- For the first time ever, Middletown High School was recognized as a top high school in the 
country by the US News and Report.

- At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, we successfully transitioned our education system
to ensure ALL students were not compromised of their basic democratic right access to aquality education.

- During the height of the pandemic,
ALL students were provided technology devices, 
hotspots for internet connectivity, and over 153,000 meals from March 2020 through June 2020 were distributed for ALL members of the Middletown community.

- Our schools were safe during the ambiguous time of COVID
mitigation strategies that 
included desk shields for ALL students, thermoscans at all schools, COVID tracker for community transparency, and the first district in the state of Connecticut to pilot rapid testing for ALL staff and students.

All of our state and national accomplishments as well as other milestones could not have happened without the work of teachers, administrators, parents, and students with collaboration, ideas, and love for Middletown’s schools. I hope Middletown can continue to improve the educational environment and foundation we set and continue to provide a first-class education to ALL students. It is time to get the focus in the Middletown Public Schools back on education.

I’ll end with a quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “The time is right to do what is right.” Middletown students will always be close to my heart. Let’s do right by them.

I wish you all continued success.

Michael T. Conner, Ed.D.  

Board of Education Releases Investigative Report

Monday afternoon the Board of Education released findings of a seven-month probe into allegations of harassment in the school district.

The report comments on a number of allegations, dismissing some.  The investigators concluded that although not always with definitive proof, some alleged incidents occurred "more likely than not."

The report concludes: "In sum, Thompson Hine (ed. note: investigative attorneys) substantiated separate and distinct instances of misconduct by three Central Office Administrators. Although not always definitive, the findings of fact highlight areas of deficiency in the administration and operation of the school district which are generally consistent with many of the allegations presented to the Board in the fall of 2021. In light of this information, the Board will take corrective action, as appropriate. "

There is no indication in the report about what actions the BOE will take.

This Week at The Buttonwood Tree: May 16-22, 2022


The Buttonwood Tree 
605 Main Street, in Middletown

May 2022
The Buttonwood Tree Presents:

Event descriptions are excerpted from The Buttonwood Tree online calendar. Click on event links in text for more information. 



MAY 16

7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Anything Goes Open Mic (Host: Terri & Rob Duo)


MAY 17

7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Laughter Yoga with Mylene


MAY 19

6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Drum Circle

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Bob Gotta's Acoustic Open Mic (ZOOM) 

MAY 20

 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

      Dina DiMarco & Mike Gaboardi: Jazz Duo

A constantly renewing repertoire incorporating American songbook standards, folk, rock, R&B, pop hits from the 1960s – present, and much more.





MAY 21

 10:30 am - 12:15 pm

Align with Source Workshop




  8:00 pm - 10:00 pm  

Don White

Equal parts storyteller-comedian-author-troubadour-folk singer-songwriter, Don has been bringing audiences to laughter and tears for 30 years.


MAY 22 

10:00 am - 3:30 pm

Reiki Level 1 Class with Eileen Anderson RN (2/2)

7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Weekly Improv Workshop

For more information on Buttonwood programs, please see our calendar here.

Ifs, Mays, Cans, and Musts: City Administration Tries to Freeze Economic Development Commission Out Of Land Give-away

click to enlarge
The Common Council at its May meeting voted 8 - 4 to gift city-owned land to a private soccer club,
Middletown Youth Soccer, to use for its Sporting CT elite soccer program.  

Now several councilmen have written to Mayor Ben Florsheim and General Counsel Brig Smith that the gift of the land violated city ordinances, and urged their fellow council members to rescind the vote. 

The issue will be discussed at the Economic Development Commission meeting, tomorrow via WebEx (agenda).  Attend the meeting (virtually) HERE.

The soccer fields at 395 Country Club Road are part of the city's open space inventory, which is intended to provide passive and active recreation for city residents. Sporting CT schedules it for games between elite teams from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, and occasionally for the volunteer-run, and city-specific youth soccer program. 

Three of the councilmen who voted no on the gift, Vinnie Loffredo, Ed McKeon, and Grady Faulkner, pointed to several sections of the ordinances were not followed. According to the charter (excerpts):

  • The Economic Development Committee may initiate a process to divest itself of property it has in its inventory." 
  • The Economic Development Committee will carry out Determination of fair market value. 
  • The Economic Development Committee shall request a C.G.S. § 8-24 review from the Planning and Zoning Commission to determine compliance with the City plan of conservation and development. 
  • The Economic Development Committee will determine that the property or properties in question are indeed surplus and will not be needed by the City in the future (surplus property).
  • The [Economic Development] Committee will hold a public hearing to hear comments from the public and to see if any other interested parties are interested in the property.
  • The Economic Development Committee may, at its discretion and/or if there is more than one interested buyer, decide to pursue the selection of a buyer via a competitive process, including sealed offers and development proposals. 
  • The Economic Development Committee may, at its discretion, judge the prospective buyer(s) by any criteria it sees fit.
General Counsel Smith responded to the first point above, with a riff on the "may" in the first point above (bold and underline in the original):
Section 232-6(A) states that the “Economic Development Committee may initiate a process to divest itself of property it has in its inventory” and subsection (B) provides that a “private entity may approach the city via the Economic Development Committee and request to purchase property….”  Pursuant to the ordinance, if the EDC initiates a process to explore divesting city property, or if the EDC is approached by a private entity to purchase city property, then the EDC must follow the procedures set forth in Sections 232-7 through 232-14.  The ordinance, which provides for a procedure that the city may follow, cannot be read to provide a procedure that the city must follow, let alone the only one that the city can follow.  Nowhere in the ordinance does it state that this procedure is the sole one that can be followed for every transaction, or that failing to follow the procedures set forth in the ordinance would render any divestment of city property void.  
Loffredo and McKeon responded today, "We respectfully disagree." They point out that there is specific language in the Code of Ordinances that allows the requirements to be waived, "Except to the extent prohibited by law, the requirements described in this article can be waived by a vote of the Common Council if, in the opinion of the Economic Development Committee, such waiver is in the best interest of the City of Middletown."

 The Economic Development Commission consists of 5 Council Members, in addition to Loffredo and McKeon, they are Anthony Gennaro, Jeanette Blackwell, and Philip Pessina. The EDC meets tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7PM, the meeting is virtual on WebEx (HERE), there is a public session at the beginning of the meeting. 

"The Greeks": Euripides at Oddfellows Playhouse


The Teen Repertory Company at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown is taking on two epic tragedies by

Euripides this spring - Iphigenia at Aulis and The Trojan Women. It promises to be one exciting

evening of dramatic theater.

The Greeks, created in 1979 for the Royal Shakespeare Company by director John Barton and playwright/translator Kenneth Cavander, will be performed at Oddfellows Playhouse on May 19 - 21 and 27 -28 at 7 pm. Tickets are available at www.oddfellows.org.

This is one of the most ambitious projects which the Teen Repertory Company - made up of 21 actors between the ages of 14 and 20 - has taken on in recent years. The two hour show starts with the Greek fleet assembling at Aulis to rescue Helen from Troy, only to be stymied when the Greek general Agamemnon is required by the Goddess Artemis to sacrifice his eldest daughter Iphigenia if the fleet wants to get the wind to set sail. The second half (The Trojan Women) takes place ten years later, when Troy has been ravaged and the royal women of Troy are being claimed by the Greeks as slaves and concubines.

“This play is deep and dark and ancient, yet it resonates with images that we see daily coming from Ukraine and other war-torn places”, says director Dic Wheeler, also Oddfellows’ Artistic Director. “It addresses love, loyalty, sacrifice, cruelty, family - deep human issues that are as real today as they were in 408 B.C.”

ARTFARM Artistic Director Marcella Trowbridge, who is co-director and choreographer for  The Greeks, adds “Young people right now are dealing with a lot of trauma, a lot of grief. While we chose a comedy in the fall to help them feel comfortable coming together again after nearly two years of pandemic, this spring we felt that The Greeks could provide a powerful vessel for all the grief they are experiencing. They have been doing amazing and inspiring emotional work with this material.”

Scenic Design for The Greeks is by Tina Hurlbert. Lighting Design by J-P LaRocco. Costume Design by Daniel Schmidt. Sound Design and original music by Banning Eyre of Afropop Worldwide, and Properties Design is by Caleb Warner. Technical Direction by Myke Halpin.

Oddfellows Playhouse, founded in 1975, is Connecticut’s oldest and largest theater for young people. The Playhouse is located at 128 Washington Street in Middletown. For information about this production and other Playhouse programs, call (860) 347-6143, email info@oddfellows.org, or go to www.oddfellows.org

Tickets for The Greeks are $18 for adults and $10 for students, and may be purchased at https://oddfellowsplayhouse.ticketleap.com/the-greeks/dates. The Thursday, May 19 performance is a “Pay-What-You-Can” preview. Seating is limited and reservations are strongly recommended. The play contains violence and cruelty and is not recommended for young children.

This Teen Repertory Company production is made possible by a grant from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, with additional support from the Middletown Commission on the Arts; Connecticut Office of the Arts/DECD; The Fund for Greater Hartford; American Savings Foundation; State of Connecticut Judicial Branch (Youth Violence Prevention); Middletown Youth Services Bureau; City of Middletown; Maximilian E. & Marion O. Hoffman Foundation; Thomas J. Atkins Memorial Trust Fund; Middlesex United Way; CHEFA Cultural Relief Grant; New England Foundation for the Arts/New England Arts Resilience Fund; George & Grace Long Foundation; many generous individual donors; and you, supporting youth arts in Connecticut by purchasing a ticket for this performance.

An Environmental Opinion: More and Less

One Way to Do More for the Environment: Do Less With Your Yard

One Way to Do More for the Environment: Do Less With Your Yard

The creator of a "meadow" in her front yard, the author points out that this minimalist approach can "encourage biodiversity and mitigate the damage caused by climate change." It also avoids the use of "chemical fertilizers ... insecticides or herbicides." As nature abhors a vacuum, she says she lets "nature fill the void."  

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Meet a Builder with Big Ideas: Could Connecticut Make the Grade?

 From The Guardian, 5.14.2022

Nigel Hugill: the man building houses for the work-from-home revolution

The head of Urban&Civic transformed east London for the Olympics. Now he is aiming to create homes in huge numbers beyond the capital

Interview with Nigel Hull

Nigel Hugill of Urban&Civic buys only brownfield sites in key commuter locations


The "I Nuri" Carry & Parade The Statue Of Saint Sebastian On City Streets During The Final Day Of The Feast.  Photo By Frank LoGiudice



"It will happen," stated Tri-Chairman Dr. Gene Nocera at the opening of the "Century of Devotion" exhibit at the Middlesex County Historical Society last December 9, 2021 regarding the 2022 Saint Sebastian's Church Festival. Nocera stands by his earlier comments he made and believes this year's festival is 100% guaranteed despite the Omicron Subvariant BA.2. Nocera stated ¨We see no indication that the Omicron will affect the feast. I don´t see that it will happen.¨  


The 2nd Tri-Chairman Sal Nesci agrees with Nocera’s 100% assessment that the feast will happen. Nesci commented “Ït seems like the pandemic situation is well under control. The numbers are very low and manageable¨ and he is asking residents “to use prudence and good judgment regarding their health.”  Nesci pointed out that the church “will have masks available to make people feel comfortable if they want to wear it.” Nocera noted that wearing a mask inside the church will be voluntary. Plus, there will be hand sanitizing stations available during the feast both inside and outside according to Nesci. 


Friday, May 13, 2022

Reader submitted: City-Owned Country-Club Road Soccer Fields and Open Space to be Given Away for $1.00

Submitted by Krishna Winston

Dear Friend of Honest Government in Middletown,

Mayor Florsheim is poised to sign an agreement to essentially give away 35 acres of City property on Country Club Road. We must appeal to him by Tuesday 5/17 to prevent this from happening!

Please ask the Mayor to stop this 35-acre Country Club Road property “giveaway,” require Middletown Youth Soccer/Sporting CT to pay for their own field maintenance at this site, and make this Open Space truly accessible to the public as it was supposed to be.

In 2005 the City of Middletown spent $400,000 to purchase from Middletown Youth Soccer (MYS) a parcel of open space ($200,00 for 18 acres and $200,000 for construction of 4 soccer fields). This property, at 395 Country Club Road, was adjacent to a 17-acre parcel that the City already owned. The two parcels appear on the City’s 2018 listing of open space.

MYS is a private 501(c)(3) (non-profit) organization established in 1985 that provides reasonably priced soccer programming for Middletown youth. MYS also operates Sporting CT, an elite soccer club established in 2012 by the retired Middletown tax assessor who serves as its president (he is also vice president of MYS). Sporting CT offers multiple programs for young people and adults— from both Middletown and other towns—who can afford the hefty participation fees. 

After the purchase, the City leased the land (originally a gift to MYS) back to the organization, along with the adjacent parcel, while continuing to provide about $78,000 in annual maintenance services and additional funds for upgrades to the property. At least part of that funding was earmarked for Middletown open space. But MYS has fenced off the property, barring the general public from accessing it for passive recreation.

Now the Common Council has voted to “sell” the entire 35 acres back to MYS. I ask you: is it proper for Middletown-owned space, maintained for 17 years by the City, including with open-space funds, to be quietly given away—for $1.00—to the same private entity from which the City purchased it in the first place? Is it right to have property categorized as open space not accessible to the public? And why has the City been pouring money into maintaining these parcels when MYS/Sporting CT has had the exclusive use of them?

If you think all of this is wrong, please communicate your objections to the members of the Common Council, the Mayor, and the City’s General Counsel by Tuesday 5/17!


Krishna Winston, Middletown resident

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

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Disclaimer: This is a notice, not a recommendation.
Signatories' due diligence required. 

 End the school year with a bang by joining Anansi the Trickster, and after-school mini-production based on West African folk tales. Open to kids in grades 1 through 8, and transportation direct from school is available for Middletown elementary and middle school students. 

Open to new or returning students, this two week special program marks the end of the 2022-23 Oddbridge season at Oddfellows Playhouse. Contact info@oddfellows.org for more info or to register.

Monday, May 9, 2022

This Week at The Buttonwood Tree: May 9-15, 2022


The Buttonwood Tree 
605 Main Street, in Middletown

May 2022
The Buttonwood Tree Presents:

Event descriptions are excerpted from The Buttonwood Tree online calendar. Click on event links in text for more information. 





7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Anything Goes Open Mic (Host: Rob Santos)

MAY 12

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Bob Gotta's Acoustic Open Mic (IN-PERSON)



MAY 13

 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

      Kaya Nicole: Moody Sessions

With her capricious curls and city savor-faire, Kaya is a queer coquette with a deep love for the groove.






MAY 14

 10:30 am - 12:15 pm

Align with Source Workshop





 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm  

The Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs

What do you get when you mix Appalachian folk, The Grateful Dead, and Tom Waits? The Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs. 
This husband and wife duo from North Carolina perform an eclectic mix of original music that is sure to keep your toes tappin’ all evening.


MAY 15 

10:00 am - 3:30 pm

Reiki Level 1 Class with Eileen Anderson RN

The Weekly Improv Workshop will be cancelled for this week.

For more information on Buttonwood programs, please see our calendar here.