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State Releases Preliminary Results of First Statewide SAT


The Connecticut Department of Education released preliminary results from the first statewide administration of the SAT, according to a press release.

The data showed that 65 percent of students are proficient in English language arts (ELA), but just 39.3 percent are meeting expectations in mathematics.

Officials said these numbers can’t be compared to previous years because the SAT is redesigned and it was the first year the test was administered to all public school students. These numbers will be used as guidelines to measure future growth.

Last year, Connecticut won federal approval to replace the 11th grade Smarter Balanced assessment (SBAC) exam with the SAT. The switch was made to cut down on the amount of standardized testing given to public school students and also gave all public school students access to the SAT free of charge.

The newly released data shows that the majority of Connecticut students are struggling with math. It also revealed the achievement gaps – with only 36.4 percent of black students and 39 percent of Hispanic students meeting standards in ELA versus 77.4 percent of their white counterparts. In math 12.4 percent of black students and 15.5 percent of Hispanic students met the standard versus 49.9 percent of white students. There were also disparities among high need populations, such as English language learners, students with disabilities, and students with low income families.

“With the State Board of Education’s adoption of a five-year strategic plan focused on creating high quality education for all students, we remain fiercely committed to the work of supporting all districts — and especially our highest need districts — in their efforts to improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps,” Education Commissioner Wentzell said.

To view the results, click here. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/File

Shark Sightings at Martha's Vineyard Beach


Swimmers were ordered out of the water on Martha's Vineyard's South Beach after a reported shark sighting on Wednesday afternoon.

Lifeguards and swimmers said they spotted a fin off shore around 2 p.m.

Two shark sightings were reported on Wednesday within hours of each other, but it isn't clear if it might have been the same shark.

Swimmers were allowed back into the water around 3 p.m. The U.S. Coast Guard is continuing to monitor the situation.

The Vineyard Gazette is reporting that the shark that was spotted was an 8-foot-long hammerhead.

Tony LaCasse of the New England Aquarium said hammerhead sharks are spotted off the Massachusetts coast every summer in small numbers.

Photo Credit: necn/Abbey Niezgoda

Police Departments Cracking Down on Distracted Driving


For the next two weeks police departments are out in force to discipline distracted drivers.

Police departments across the state are participating in the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” initiative now through August 16. The campaign is ongoing and part of a larger operation sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

On North Main Street near Oakland Street in Manchester, police set up a checkpoint on the first afternoon of the crackdown to catch distracted drivers.

"Cellphones have become a big part of our lives but the reality is when we're looking at our cellphones, we're taking our eyes off the road. For every second that our eyes are off the road, that's time when a hazard could come up, and it reduces our ability to stop and maneuver around that hazard," said Manchester police Sgt. Steve Bresciano.

If the science doesn't convince drivers to keep their hands and eyes off their phones maybe the fines will. The first violation is $150, the second violation is $300, and a further violation is $500.

"We wrote about a half dozen $500 tickets in April," said Bresciano.

In April state and local police departments joined up in a previous statewide crackdown. Manchester is using a plainclothes officer drivers just won't notice.

"He's gonna be set up out there basically to spot violations and look for people who are actively using their cellphone or other electronic device while they're driving, and it's taking their attention away from the road."

Cops at the checkpoint take it from there, pulling the distracted driver over to, as Bresciano put it, "address the violation."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

2016 Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am Kicks Off Festivities


The Travelers Championship tees off in Cromwell Thursday, and Wednesday saw the traditional Celebrity Pro-Am.

One of the big professional names was South African Ernie Els.

Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie took a swing. With UConn Husky Kevin Ollie watching, some of the celebrity college coaches did too.

Jayden Showerda was collecting autographs. "Um Kevin Ollie, um, I forgot all the names!"

Women's basketball assistant coach Chris Dailey signed too and a small group of fans helped her off the short tee box.

"Yes she is the only woman playing," said Jo Leboeuf of Longmeadow, Mass. "I would like to see more women playing in this event for sure - that's why we're here to support Chris Dailey."

Her friend Michelle Boudreau said, "It's great to see strong women play and just represent!"

The golf course is boasting $3.5 million-worth of improvements, including a longer, wider bunker on the ninth hole.

Kerry Johnson lives along the course in Cromwell and knows how it plays.

"It now comes into play for the pros, because the pros will off the tee box, their drive? It'll probably catch the end of the bunker, where last year it didn't," she said.

Many of the amateurs had to work their way out of the longer, wider bunker. Golf fans will see other improvements too. This year at the Metro Hartford Alliance Fan Zone, there's green grass on the ground.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Changes Expected at Annual Plainville Balloon Fest


Hot air balloons will be glowing above Plainville later this month for the town’s 32nd Annual Balloon Fest.

There are major changes when it comes to safety and traffic this year.

The event will be at Norton Park in Plainville on August 26-28 and is hosted by the Plainville Fire Company.

“It’s really an amazing sight watching them rise up and really float away,” said retired fire chief David Laurie.

But with the event comes potential safety concerns, especially after 16 people died in Lockhart, Texas last week when a hot air balloon caught fire and crashed into a pasture.

The Plainville Fire Company is hosting the event, and officials say each balloonist has been checked to confirm they are legitimate.

“They’re all licensed they’re all experienced and their baskets are more like six or eight people maximum,” Laurie said.

There will also be fire, police and medics on hand. Extra training will also be provided to public safety.

“We have a training session Monday night with some balloonists coming in and taking re-going over the safety of the propane tanks and the balloon baskets and so forth,” said Plainville Fire Marshal Larry Southerland.

Traffic is also a safety concern and some revelers say congestion has been a big problem in previous years.

“It’s taken maybe an hour or so just to get down the street both ways going down so it doesn’t matter which direction you’re going,” said Plainville resident Kaitlin Helaire.

This year, traffic planning and bus routes have been developed with the help of several town departments. There will be no public parking allowed in Norton Park with the exception of Handicap Parking, motorcycles, vender and crafter parking and event staff parking.

Parking will be available from Robertson Airport, Carlingswitch, GE and the Plainville High School at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Parking will be available from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Saturday August 27 at all four locations.

This year the amount of portable restrooms has increased and food service has been expanded.

Hot air balloons will be in flight at 6 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday. While the event is free, there is a fee and application to hop on a balloon. To sign up as a rider, balloonist, a craft vendor or event volunteer go to Plainvillefireco.com.

Photo Credit: Scott Whalen

Supreme Court Blocks Transgender Bathroom Ruling


A federal judge’s order on the use of bathrooms by transgender students was put on hold Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court, NBC News reported. 

The school board in Gloucester County, Virginia, is challenging a decision by a federal appeals court that ruled it must allow a student, who was born a girl but now identifies as a male, to use the boys’ restroom in the coming school year. 

The board asked the Supreme Court to block the lower court order as it prepared to appeal the decision. 

Wednesday’s order means the student, Gavin Grimm, cannot use the restroom of his choice when school starts.

In April, the court ruled that refusing to allow students to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity violates Title IX, which bans sex discrimination by schools that receive federal funding. 

Photo Credit: Steve Helber/AP

Waterbury Tax Preparer Sentenced for Falsifying Returns


A Waterbury tax preparer was sentenced to federal prison after being convicted of filing hundreds of false tax returns, according to the US Attorney’s office.

Marcus Fox, 42, of Waterbury, was sentenced to 12 months in prison and one year of supervised release Wednesday. On March 31, Fox had plead guilty to two counts of aiding and assisting the filing of a false tax return.

According to court documents and statements, Fox prepared more than 900 tax returns for clients from 2009 to 2012. Some of those returns had fake information, including fake claims to childcare credits, education credits, American opportunity credits, and itemized deductions.

Officials said many of his clients were associated with his church and community. Based on the false tax returns his clients received substantially higher refunds then they were owed.

According to officials, Fox also prepared returns to get himself a larger cut than he was entitled. Investigators believe he did this without his client’s knowledge and presented them with a second prepared return to hide his actions.

Fox’s scheme cost the government more than $2.2 million, prosecutors said.

Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Haven Survivorship Clinic Benefits From Charity Bike Ride


Diagnosed with testicular cancer in his last year of graduate school for physical therapy, Scott Capozza is a 17-year survivor.

"It was complete blindside when that happened," Capozza said. "So, I used exercise to help me get through my treatments."

Capozza was already a runner. He added cycling to his exercise routine.

"So I really equate cycling as part of my comeback from cancer," he said.

Now, Capozza works as a physical therapist at the Yale Cancer Center’s Survivorship Clinic, one of a few in the nation offering a multi-disciplinary approach to rehabilitation.

"The needs of survivors is wide ranging," Capozza said.

At the clinic, doctors, dietitians, social workers and physical therapists empower patients to have healthy lives after cancer treatment.

"Without the (Closer To Free) ride it would be impossible to offer the Survivorship Clinic," said Dr. Tara Sanft, the clinic’s director.

Both Sanft and Capozza encourage survivors to sign up for Closer to Free.

"It's great to be able to actually be out there riding alongside some of the survivors who’ve come through our clinic," Capozza said. "Because it really has shown they are taking the next step."

This year Capozza will be wearing an orange jersey as a bike marshal during Closer to Free.

Bike marshals ride alongside the cyclists to help them with everything from changing a flat tire to stopping traffic.

Two years ago, Sanft recalls a former patient in her 30s riding the most challenging 100 mile distance.

"She wanted to finish so badly that two ride marshals helped push her," Sanft said. "Literally get her and her bike over the finish line so she could complete that day."

Her determination will inspire Sanft as she rides with hundreds of cyclists striving to make our world closer to cancer free.

"She recently passed away from her cancer," Dr. Sanft said. "This year is going to be particularly emotional for me as her doctor."

This year there is a new 10 mile route in addition to the 25, 62.5 and 100 mile rides. Organizers are hoping this shorter distance appeals to families with children and encourages recent cancer survivors to ride.

NBC Connecticut is a proud sponsor of Closer to Free on Saturday September 10.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Biden Honored With Award in Philly


Vice President Joe Biden will accept an award in Philadelphia Wednesday night honoring his work in coordinating the federal government's cancer research initiative.

The World Affairs Council of Philadelphia will celebrate Biden at a ceremony at the Bellevue at 6:30 p.m.

Biden is heading up the National Cancer Moonshot, an acceleration program to eliminate cancer. An estimated 600,000 Americans die from cancer every year, according to The White House.

The moonshot is providing new funding for research and fostering coordination between different research centers to attack the diseases.

Beau Biden, the vice president's son and former Delaware Attorney General, died last year after a battle with brain cancer.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Officials Tour Dunkin' Donuts Park, Discuss Next Steps


A group toured Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford on Wednesday.

Recently the city paid an architecture firm, Pendulum, nearly a quarter-million dollars to investigate the yet to be completed baseball stadium.

“I would estimate that it’s still 95 percent done, completed. So they would actually put together a proposal, a plan what needs to be completed,” says Council President TJ Clarke.

There are questions of who would pay for the work and who would do it.

Construction stopped there nearly two months ago after the city fired the developer, Centerplan.

Now an insurance company and the courts are involved.

Centerplan says the arrival of the architect removed a serious road block.

In a statement, it wrote in part:

“There are many hurdles left to jump over but for now, as a tentative target, the goal is that construction can recommence in September, after Labor Day. Centerplan is doing everything possible to meet that goal.”

Some city leaders are cautiously optimistic baseball will be played there next summer.

But there’s still a lot to be worked out.

“I would hope so that there will be a plan put together so that the stadium could be completed, the residents and taxpayers can have a stadium to enjoy baseball. The baseball team will have a home and then we can fight everything out in court hopefully,” says Clarke.

We also reached out to the Yard Goats. But we were told they had no comment at this point.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Lifestar Responds to Accident on I-95 in Old Lyme

Kaine Ties Pence to Controversial NC Bathroom Bill


Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine hit his Republican counterpart on Wednesday, tying him to a piece of North Carolina legislation that tried to regulate which bathrooms transgender people could use, NBC News reported.

North Carolina's law caused backlash, including a boycott of the state by people, businesses and events. Pence faced similar backlash last year after signing a "religious freedom" bill, which many critics said would legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. 

"The vice presidential nominee on the Republican side Mike Pence did something like the North Carolina bill," Kaine said. "Found that immediately, discriminating against LGBT people immediately companies started to pull out. You're seeing those announcements in North Carolina too, whether it's the all-star game or PayPal. Same thing happened in Indiana and he had to kind of do a U-turn."        

It was the first time Kaine publicly took on Pence since he was chosen by Hillary Clinton as her running mate.  

Photo Credit: AP

Phoenix Serial Killer Strikes Ninth Time: Police


Police believe a serial killer in Phoenix may have added a ninth shooting on July 11, in which the gunman fired at a man and a 4-year-old boy sitting in a car, NBC News reported. 

The new incident means the shooter tried to kill again, even after police put the city on alert. The man and boy were not injured. 

Based on witness statements, police believe the suspect has access to several cars, including a white Cadillac or Lincoln, and a late 1990s or early 2000s 5 series BMW. Investigators have looked into whether he works as a mechanic or on a used car lot. 

Officials thought the gunman’s spree ended in mid-June when he ambushed and fatally shot two women and a 12-year-old girl in their driveway.

Photo Credit: Phoenix Police Department

Man Arrested After 2 Ga. Teens Fatally Shot


Georgia police arrested a man Wednesday in connection with the killings of two teens found behind a grocery store, NBC News reported. 

Jeffrey A. Hazelwood, 20, was arrested and will be charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Natalie Henderson and Cater Davis, both 17, according to Roswell police. Both teens were shot in the head. 

Roswell Police Chief Rusty Grant would not disclose a motive in the killings, and would not say what relationship, if any, Hazelwood had with the victims. He said in a statement that video and other evidence led police to Hazelwood. 

A delivery driver found Henderson and Davis behind a Publix grocery store shortly before 6 a.m. Monday.

Photo Credit: Roswell Police Department

Trump Allies Plot Candidate Intervention


Republicans close to Donald Trump are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential party voices to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the party.

Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign, sources tell NBC News.

The group of GOP heavyweights hopes to enlist the help of Trump's children to help rescue his candidacy. Trump's family is considered to have by far the most influence over his thinking at what could be a make-or-break moment for his campaign.

Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said Wednesday he had heard nothing of such a meeting and disputed that it would be necessary, saying on FOX News that "the only need we have for an intervention is with some media types who keep saying things that aren't true."

"The candidate's in control of his own campaign," he said.

Photo Credit: AP
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Tolland 6-Year-Old Heads to Rio for 2016 Olympics


Six-year-old Quinn Ostergren, of Tolland, has been battling a brain tumor since she was diagnosed at 2 years old. Over the last four years, she’s gone through a series of chemotherapy treatments.

During that time, the Olympics has played a big part in her life. She was born during the 2010 Winter Olympics. After her diagnosis, she spent much of her time in the hospital watching the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Another milestone in her life comes with the 2016 Rio Olympics – her health. Quinn’s tumor is now stable and she has completed her chemotherapy treatments.

Going to the Olympics is opportunity of a lifetime for anyone to go. It’s Quinn’s wish to go there.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation made that wish a reality.

Quinn and her family packed their bags and hopped into a limousine Wednesday morning to head to Rio de Janiero.

Quinn had never been in a limo before. She and some of her closest friends jumped in with excitement, checking out all the gadgets inside. Meanwhile, her parents watched with emotion, listening to their little girl’s giggles.

A motorcade of Hartford Police officers surprised Quinn to lead her family part of the way to JFK Airport. She high-fived all the officers – an excited 6-year-old saying thank you.

Alissa Ostergren, Quinn’s mother, thanked the police officers and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and it’s unfortunate we had to go through what we went through and she deserves this, she deserves this, you know, it’s been a long road,” she said in tears.

Quinn will get the chance to watch the opening ceremony and attend other events, such as the table tennis competition.

August 6 will be four years since Quinn’s diagnosis – the same day the 2016 Rio Olympics begin.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Obama: It's Important Sasha and Malia's Dad Is a Feminist


President Barack Obama is urging men to fight sexism and work to change a culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes.

"We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear," he wrote in a Glamour magazine essay. "We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs."

The essay, published online Thursday, reiterates remarks he made about feminism and gender equality during the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women in June, and provides a personal look at his own experiences with the negative effects of gender stereotyping.

"I've seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family," Obama wrote. "Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would question my choices."

Titled "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like," Obama's essay reflects on past century's progress in closing the gender inequality gap, which he said "has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers."

The president called living in the White House a perk because the "45 second commute" has allowed him to watch Sasha and Malia Obama grow up into "smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women."

"That isn’t always easy, either — watching them prepare to leave the nest," he wrote. "But one thing that makes me optimistic for them is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman."

But, he noted, there's still a lot of work to do in order to improve the prospects of women and girls around the world.

"As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave," he argued. "We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy."

Obama acknowledged that the most important people in his life have been women, which has shaped his own feminism. He said it's important that Sasha and Malia's "dad is a feminist because now that’s what they expect of all men."

The president said he and the first lady have always urged their daughters to speak up if they feel unfairly judged based on gender, and to encourage others to do the same.

As America inches closer to a "historic election," Obama said, voters have the chance to make a statement about what 21st Century feminism looks like: "the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free."

A print version of the essay will be available in the September issue of "Glamour."

Photo Credit: Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images

Danielson Man Assaulted Customer at Walmart: Police


State police arrested a man accused of assaulting another man at the Putnam Walmart.

Police said Serge Deronsle, 39, of Danielson, faces breach of peace and criminal mischief charges. The charges stem from an incident that occurred around midnight Thursday.

According to police, they responded to the Putnam Walmart at 625 School Street on a report that a customer attacked another patron. Police said video surveillance shows the suspect, Deronsle, attempted to punch a male victim, shoved him into a shopping cart and smashed his phone, then left the store.

Deronsle was arrested without incident and released on a $1,000 bond. He was scheduled a court date of August 18.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Fire Destroys Camper at Stafford Springs Campground


Fire destroyed a camper at the Sun Valley Resort Campground in Stafford Springs overnight. 

It's not clear if anyone was inside at the time or if anyone is hurt and the official cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Credit: Submitted

US Activists Interrogated, Deported From Israel


Israeli officials detained, interrogated and deported five Americans trying to enter the country to "observe the conditions under which Palestinians live," according to a U.S. rights group.

The activists with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which describes itself as a national coalition working for Palestinian rights, say they were trying to "gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground," NBC News reported.

"Upon their arrival [on July 17], a U.S. campaign staffer and four other members of the group — all carrying U.S. passports — were interrogated by Israeli border police about their backgrounds and political involvement," a statement issued by the organization Tuesday said.

A spokesman for Israel's Interior Ministry said three of the five campaigners were denied entry for "security reasons" but did not elaborate on what those reasons were.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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