Looking back at 2013, Part 2

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Thu., Dec. 26, 2013
Building Committee member Richard Stromberg talks about why the Ellington Senior Center project hit a small snag. File photos.
Building Committee member Richard Stromberg talks about why the Ellington Senior Center project hit a small snag. File photos.

Spring brought its usual dose of optimism, and the Vernon Department of Economic Development kept that rolling by holding an event for the businesses in town to tout what's been going well. The Business Recognition Event was held on March 28, and officials said it was a successful kick-off for a better way of bringing local businesses together. Economic Development Coordinator Shaun Gately said he hopes to have several more like events on a regular basis. The commission also debuted a new slogan – “Vernon On the Move.”

“It was a great event, and a step in the right direction,” Gately said.

Seniors in Ellington became more optimistic about the new senior center (scheduled to open in January of 2014), after overcoming a small snag. The bidding for the project had come in at $400,000 more than the orignial referendum-approved budget. “There is some speculation that natural disasters have bumped the cost of some building materials,” Blanchette said. “Regardless of how we got here, that's where we are now.” Thankfully, a second referendum for the additional funding passed on April 2.

The student body at Vernon Center Middle School took part in a large-scale humanitarian project that was also educational and fun. For the Soars for Hunger event, the school partnered with Feeding Children Everywhere, and the school's goal was to raise $5,000, which would create 20,000 meals for an orphanage in Uganda, as well as locally.

Teacher Regina Lee said the students embraced the project, holding several fundraisers over the past several months, and exceeded the goals by raising nearly $5,800 to purchase the ingredients for about 23,000 meals.

Feeding Children Everywhere's northeast co-director, Kevin Yoreo, said the Vernon students did a great job. “They've been amazing,” he said. “They raised above and beyond their goal. The kids and teachers really embraced it. It was awesome to see.”

Rockville High School inducted four new members into its Wall of Honor, at a ceremony on May 9. Robert Flynn of the class of 1969, 1980 alum Stephen Heaney, 1974 alum Frank Macri, and Dr. Glenn Stambo of the class of ’82 were each inducted.

“The background that I received at Rockville High School is what enabled me to achieve the goals that I have achieved in my life. I can’t say how thankful I am for the education and all-around experience I got here,” Flynn said.

Eventually, Vernon voters approved a budget for 2013-14. The spending plan went to referendum three times before passing. After the second round of voting, Councilman Tom DiDio said he believed the budget vote failed because residents are unhappy with the cuts to the Board of Education portion of the budget. “What struck me most is that people said they wanted more money toward education, so they were going to vote 'no' on the budget,” DiDio said.

After $1 million was restored to the schools' budget, the referendum on June 4 passed. “By supporting this historic increase in funding education, we have made a statement that we will not stand for mediocrity but expect the very best from our schools,” DiDio said.

Student athletes at area high schools again excelled. Ellington and Tolland's baseball teams reached their respective state tournaments, but each fell in the first round.

Rockville's softball team looked like it was going to repeat its 2012 Class L title, but hit some bad luck in the quarterfinals vs. Berlin. Ellington's softball team also got as far as the quarterfinals, in Class M, where Tolland lost a first round game. Tolland's boys' lacrosse team lost a heartbreaker, 14-12, to Morgan, in the Class S quarterfinals. Tolland's girls' outdoor track team took away the Class M title at the meet on May 29, with an impressive 91 points (second place Plainfield had 71).

While all three area High Schools graduated the class of 2014, so did the Vernon Regional Adult-based Education, at the VRABE commencement on June 13.

"Our future starts today," said student speaker Angela Dow, who became emotional while sharing her story. "Obtaining my high school diploma is my way of showing my children that education is the most important key to being successful in life."

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