Cinderella loves bureaucratic literature almost as much as she loves nerds! They are flat and dull on the surface, but full of juicy, interesting numbers, data and mistakes you may not find anywhere else.
Don’t let its turgid name put you off! It’s like a baklava, a multi-layered delight of crispy crunchables.
On page 85 is our quarry: District 97, the Newtown, Connecticut public school district. Newtown, alert readers will remember, was the location of the Sandy Hook Elementary School event on December 14, 2012.
The first bit of weirdness is the inflated number of students listed as attending Sandy Hook Elementary. Our source lists the number as “672.” Odd. According to the State of Connecticut’s final report on Sandy Hook, the enrollment on the day before the alleged massacre was 489.
And there was a more recent (Nov. 2014) report completed for Newtown due to concerns about declining enrollments. It said students were migrating out of, not into the school (see pp. 23 & 29). It makes sense, given what is supposed to have happened there.
The attributed date for the newer “672” enrollment number is today: 2-03-16! How can Sandy Hook Elementary have gained nearly 200 students – during an enrollment decline?
Funny numbers are commonly encountered in the Sandy Hook story. So let’s put this one aside for now and focus instead on the Nova of Nuance at the bottom of the page.
A lone STARR. Once again, go here and scroll down to the bottom of page 85. You’ll see an entry for a school named “STARR” with public information I’ve reproduced below:
- Principal: Dr. Sharon Epple
- Address: 3 Trades Lane, Newtown
- Phone: (203) 270-4880
- Fax: (203) 270-4899
- Grade: K-12
- Enrolled: 4
A K-12 school in Newtown with only four students whose principal has the honorific of a doctor or professor.
Searching for other “STARR” schools in Connecticut, I found none in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in Connecticut, Institutional Code 11.
So Newtown’s STARR appears to be a loner.
Could STARR be an acting school? Cinderella doesn’t think so – despite the preponderance of actors in Newtown!
A school within a school. STARR shares an address with Reed Intermediate School: 3 Trades Lane in Newtown. Here’s an aerial screen shot:
Note how it’s in the backyard of Fairfield Hills, the shut-down mental hospital that now houses Newtown’s town hall, Board of Education and the enterprising and hospitable Newtown Youth Academy. Something to bear in mind, because it may become important in a future Cinderella post.
Principal Who? Please note that the principal of Reed is listed as “Donna Denniston” on page 85 of our favorite bureaucratic book.
Is this the same “Donna Deniston” who, in 2014, directed The Education Connection-School Age Program at 94 Boggs Hill Road in Newtown – the of address Head O’Meadow School? (See comments on that by “Anne B.” in a July 10, 2014 Memory Hole blogpost here.)
The program received a bad review from “Melinda R” in the same comments section: “Although it is extremely convenient for my son to have been a part of this program, I do not recommend it as a positive enriching environment for children. The staff on site at Hawley Elementary School use control oriented punishments such as isolation and intimidation with the children.”
(Horrors. How could this be?)
A year later, in a March 2015 Memory Hole blogpost, the same Anne B. provided a link to that interesting program here, and wrote: “The owner at the time was Donna Denniston whose husband had been indicted on a million dollar fraud. Links are in the comments referred to above. It may be a good idea to follow up on this, although a million dollar [sic] these days in Sandy Hook is pocket change.” Thank you, Anne B., for that!
You can find the entire FBI report on Garrett L. Denniston’s financial shenanigans here, which reveals that Denniston ran a fraudulent investment scheme, from 2005-2012. Even the Newtown Bee ran a story on the “Former Newtowner” here, in which his name is linked to Donna Denniston.
Further investigation pegs Donna Denniston as Reed’s principal for 6-7 years, from 2003-2009.
Funny thing: the website for Reed school doesn’t list a principal the way other Newtown schools do. Cinderella called the Reed number, (203) 270-4880, and asked who the principal is. The nice person who answered said it was “Anne Uberti.” This is her second year, according to the nice person.
The eye of Horus. Before moving on, let’s take a closer look at the Reed Intermediate school, whose address STARR shares:
Note the little triangle within, like an eye of Horus. Note the smooth beauty of its roofs; not a scar on them, not a sign of mold or mildew or dilapidation or caving. A far cry from baby sister school, the original Sandy Hook Elementary! You can find pics of its shabby roof – and much more – here.
Dialing STARR. I did a White Pages reverse search on STARR’s phone number: (203) 270-4880, and learned that it’s associated with two Newtown schools: Reed, of course. And the Hawley Elementary School. Cinderella has devoted time and space to Hawley here.
Cinderella called the number and asked to speak with “Karen Eckleston.” The nice person on the other end was confused. She told me I had reached the Reed school.
A STARR in the neighborhood. I searched for STARR on Neighborhood Scout, a website that helps conscientious parents vet schools. I found it here, where it’s classified as a “special education” school. (But what sort of “special”?)
From this page, Cinderella learned:
- The four STARR students include one 9th grader, one 10th grader and two 11th graders.
- All four of the STARR students are White.
- None of their test scores is available.
- None receives a free or reduced lunch; none is economically disadvantaged.
A different kind of high school. Public School Review classifies STARR as a “high school” that is also categorized as “special education.” See here.
It tells us that, “The student population of 4 students has stayed relatively flat over five years.” And so has the population of one teacher.
The demographic is still all White, with no one needing a free lunch, but the ages are different: one 8th grader, one 11th grader and two 12th graders.
We also learn that:
- The district revenue/student of $15,581 is less than the state average of $17,550. The district revenue/student has grown by 25% over four years. But …
- The district spending/student of $19,446 is higher than the state average of $15,389. The district spending/student has grown by 64% over four years.
Cinderella looked around at similar spending statistics for other school districts in Connecticut. The Newtown numbers are simply wacko by comparison. Wacko. Perhaps it has something to do with all of the boodle Newtown received to build the new Sandy Hook Elementary School. Perhaps there is more to it than that. Cinderella simply doesn’t know.
Hunting for STARR on the main Special Ed page and various links (including all of the of bureaucratic sleepers listed) yielded nothing. No STARR school.
Likewise, the drop-down box at the top of the website fails to include STARR.
Yes, it’s small. But, with a name like STARR? Well. It just has to be an acronym for something.
But an acronym for what? Cinderella is pretty certain that STARR, with its extraneous “R,” is an acronym. But, for what? Newtown isn’t telling.
A site that demystifies acronyms gives us several possibilities. One I hope we can rule out is: Stapled Transanal Rectal Resection. Well.
But there are others that fit neatly into categories:
- Information technology: Stealth Activity Recorder and Reporter ; and Scanning, Tracking, and Records Retrieval
- Military & government: Supply Tracking and Repairable Return; and Substance Treatment and Recidivism Reduction (Durham, NC)
- Organizations & schools: Substance Treatment and Recidivism Reduction (Durham, NC)
- Business & finance: Stealth Activity Recorder and Reporter (software)
The two links above are to a program that helps prison inmates wean themselves from drugs in North Carolina to reduce repeat offenses. I don’t see how it could possibly have a place in a Newtown, CT intermediate school. So, for the time being, I’m ruling it out.*
And, to be honest, I’ve no idea if the others have any place in this mystery. But someone else does.
A mystery principal. The principal of STARR is “Dr. Sharon Epple.” Who is she?
Dr. Epple was once the principal of Reed Intermediate School (where STARR is located). She apparently served for three years. Her last day there was August 21, 2012, then she immediately moved on, according to a Newtown Patch article, to a “K-6 elementary school in East Hartford.”
And it seems to check out. The website for an elementary school in East Hartford, Langford School, lists Dr. Epple as its principal. You can see her smiling face many times here. She vaguely reminds Cinderella of someone.
Her LinkedIn profile lists her experience as principal of Langford School in East Hartford since 2012 (4 years).
But there’s no mention of her experience at Reed Intermediate School in Newtown.
Likewise, no mention of her position at STARR School.
And, just as baffling, Public Elementary and Secondary Schools in Connecticut lists “Greg Fox” as principal of Langford School in East Hartford. (See page 32.)
So many changes, so little time. I called Langford School to clear up the mystery and was told that Mr. Fox “retired a while back.” The current principal is “Dr. Epple.”
So there are mistakes in our favorite bureaucratic book. They must have forgotten – for four long years – to update the names of certain principals. Well, schools have been busy with things like Common Core.
Sandy Hook remembers. Just like Pepperidge Farm, Sandy Hook remembers Dr. Epple. In fact, a web search Cinderella conducted brought up her name in an old Sandy Hook publication, dated March 29, 2012, titled The Sandy Hook Connection. See it for yourself, here.
On the second page, you’ll find Dr. Epple (still the principal of Reed) credited with having read to a fourth grade class at Sandy Hook during an occasion known as “One School, One Read.” [my BF]
Nowhere in the carefree publication is there mention of Dickinson Drive or any other address ordinarily associated with Sandy Hook Elementary. On the contrary!
In fact, on the first page, in an article titled “Come to the SHS Sockhop” we find something very intriguing. Cinderella has provided a screenshot with a red arrow pointing to one tiny but possibly crucial detail.
The Sandy Hook Sock Hop of April 27, 2012 wasn’t held at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was held at Reed Intermediate School. Why? Good question.
So what is being taught to four children by one teacher (?) at STARR? And are these students special in some way? Disabled? Gifted? Emotionally scarred? Mentally challenged? Talented? Autistic?
Cinderella is leaving those questions to the capable minds of her readers.
Oops! Almost forgot: One School, One Read. What exactly does “One School, One Read” mean? (The title of the event described in The Sandy Hook Connection.) Is it a pun on Reed School? Cinderella loves puns and double entendres! Could it be that Sandy Hook School and Reed Intermediate were once … ONE school? ONE REED? Hm.
UPDATE: The STARR mystery has been partly solved! Click here.