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State May Change Teacher Certification Requirements


School districts across Connecticut are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill multiple teaching positions.

It’s why the state Board of Education is looking to pull back on requirements for teaching certifications. The hope is to create less traditional routes into the classroom and fill a high number of teaching vacancies.

"It’s kind of a balance. We want to make sure have a good number of candidates, but we also want to make sure that the quality is maintained," Dr. Michael Graner, superintendent of Groton Public Schools, said.

Graner wants to hear more about the Board of Education’s plan before passing judgment. He said Groton usually has a healthy applicant pool but he has been part of Connecticut communities where there wasn’t.

"There were literally times where we had no candidates. For example, I remember we had a physics job," he said.

A representative for the board confirmed science, math, bilingual and special education are the four teaching areas that districts have had trouble filling for years. They’re looking at ways to attract candidates of diverse race, ethnicity, and language.

"What is the type of student that we want to really have at the very end? And backward design," Dr. Jose Ortiz, principal at C.B. Jennings Dual Language and International Elementary Magnet in New London, said.

Ortiz said he struggles to find people qualified to teach a dual language curriculum. Some of his students are taught in Spanish and English to become, what he calls "dual literate" and make them better-rounded. He agrees there needs to be a change and wants to weigh in with the board.

"We need to really look outside of the box," Ortiz said.

Some parents want to see their children with more individualized classroom time.

Rebekah Morales, a mom of a New London junior and senior, said she’d be on board with a certification overhaul "as long as (the teachers are) qualified and they’re able to be able to teach our children."

Mary Kay Rendock is a math instructional coach at Bloomfield Public Schools where she’s taught for more than three decades. She’s also a member of the Connecticut Education Association and a former state teacher of the year. She said the current certifications are there for a reason.

"We’re raising the bar and increasing our expectations for the students. It would make sense that we would keep the rigorous expectations we have for potential teachers as they are, if not, even raise them," Rendock said.

A representative with the state Board of Education confirmed this would likely require legislative changes.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Dad Pinned Down While Teaching 11-Year-Old to Drive: Police


A father was pinned between a car and a tree in New Haven while teaching his 11-year-old how to drive, police said.

Police were called to the scene on James Street at 5:15 p.m. where a 25-year-old man was allegedly teaching his daughter how to drive.

The car was reversing towards the house, so the dad jumped out of the vehicle to try and stop it. He was unsuccessful in stopping the moving car and pinned between the car and a tree, police said. 

The car crashed through a chain-linked fence and struck a gas line to the house. The fire department and gas company called for a leak and people within several nearby homes were evacuated.

The dad was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he is listed in critical condition.

THe daughter was not harmed.

No other information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Willimantic Man Badly Injured in Motorcycle Crash


A 30-year-old Willimantic man was badly injured in a motorcycle crash Wednesday night.

Police said Jesus Jimenez lost control of his motorcycle after going over a speed bump, slid and hit a parked car on Jeffrey Road in Windham at 7:46 p.m.

Jimenez sustained serious injuries and was taken to Windham Hospital. LifeStar then flew him to Hartford Hospital.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Mother 'Devastated' After Son Dies in Car Seat at Sitter's


Megan Norris, the Texas mother of an infant who suffocated to death after being left by his caretaker to sleep in a car seat in a closet, spoke publicly about her son Wednesday afternoon.

Norris continually fought back tears as she spoke of her baby, John Norris. She described him as a sweet child who laughed and smiled a lot, noting he'd just begun crawling on Sunday, two days before he would have turned 9 months old.

"His smiles, giggles and coos lit up my life, every single day that God blessed me with him," Norris said. "I'm so thankful for every moment I had with him. I am devastated without my precious baby."

Investigators said the boy was one of nearly a dozen children being cared for Monday night at an unlicensed day care inside a home on the 600 block of Woodpecker Lane in Northwest Fort Worth. Investigators determined the caretaker, whose name has not been released, placed the child in the car seat, and then inside a walk-in closet, so that he could sleep. When the caretaker later checked on the boy, he was deceased. [[439492173,R]]

Police said it appears Norris died in his sleep after sliding down in the car seat and suffocating. They believe he was not strapped in correctly, and the Tarrant County Medical Examiner ruled the boy's death an accident.

"I couldn't have been more blessed with another child. He changed my life, he really did," said Norris. "He made me a better person, without a doubt. He changed my life in so many ways and to completely backtrack on how far I have come over this would not be fair to him. So, I am living, still, for him and trying to get through every day trying not to completely fall apart."

Norris is a single mother who works nights in the food service industry, while also continuing her education. She said her hours meant traditional daycare was not an option. Norris chose to speak to the media Wednesday to share a word of warning for busy, single parents in need of after-hours care.

"I do not want what happened to John to happen to any other child. I am a single mom and there are a lot of other young parents out there just like me," Norris said, before recommending parents use only licensed caregivers or, at the very least, conduct in-depth investigations of those with whom they leave their children.


Norris said she found the babysitter after placing an ad on Facebook. She said the woman responded and they first met at her mother's law office where she interviewed her extensively. After that, Norris said she visited the woman's home, and she began taking care of John in January or February.

Norris said she typically dropped off her son in the afternoon and picked him up after midnight. She added that she never noticed any other children or saw any other parents coming and going. She said there were no red flags, no bruises, scratches or any other indication that her son was being neglected. She said she didn't know if it was a common practice for her son to be placed in a closet to sleep, but that if she'd known that was happening she wouldn't have kept bringing him there.

When asked about the reports that there were as many as a dozen children in the home, Norris said when the woman first began babysitting for her she was led to believe she was only watching her son and another child and that they were getting the woman's full attention. Norris said the woman later told them that her older niece and nephew were being placed with her and that she'd be taking care of them as well. [[439509993,L,275,311]]

"Upon finding out that the Tarrant County Department of Family and Protective Services placed children in her home, that added an extra measure of comfort because, being an attorney in family law, and her, of course, being my daughter, we know the checks that the department puts in place. So they should not have placed children there if there were any red flags; that reaffirmed her belief that she had a quality person watching her child," said Lisa Crow, Megan's mother.

Marissa Gonzales, with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said Wednesday afternoon there is no county DFPS agency and that the state DFPS did not place any children with the caretaker.

Norris said she was notified at about 10:30 p.m. Monday that she needed to leave work and get to the babysitter's house. She said investigators would only tell her so much, and wouldn't let her in the home after she'd learned of her son's death.

"His passing is the most devastating thing any parent could ever endure," Norris said.

Megan's mother, fighting back tears for her child and grandchild, thanked first responders for doing what they could for her daughter as she learned of the tragedy.

"I would like to thank the first responders, the MedStar team. There were three of them that showed up. They stayed with her [Megan] nonstop for three hours," Crow said. "For the officers and investigators that were on the scene on Monday night, they were gracious, they were professional, and they made sure that she was taken care of and that she had what she needed."

Investigators said they do not believe there was any foul play, but that criminal charges may still be filed. The investigation into the child's death is ongoing and is being conducted by a number of law enforcement and state agencies.

The babysitter is not allowed to care for any other children while the investigation is underway. Child Protective Services is also looking into the safety of the children who live with her. CPS says they have had contact with the caretaker's family before, but won't say why.

NBC5's Alice Barr contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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Son of Sam, 40 Years Later: A Look at His NYC Year of Terror


Dramatic archive photos capture one of the most terrifying years in New York City history, and the legacy of one of America's most notorious serial killers.

Photo Credit: AP

How Your Phone Can Detect Card Skimmers


Card skimmers at gas pumps and ATMs are a growing problem, but did you know your cell phone can protect you?

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller made a video explaining a few tips to remember when filling up your gas tank.


First, avoid pumps at the end of gas stations. They're often too far for the store clerk to have a clear view of the pump.

Next, leave your debit card in your wallet. It's all too easy for a thief to skim your debit card's magnetic strip. If they catch your pin number, you can bet your bank account is up for grabs.

Have a look around the pump. Look for tampering, a loose credit card reader or a broken seal on the pump's cabinet.[[439445773,R,300,329]]

The best way to check for skimmer devices is using your phone, Miller said. Thieves often use Bluetooth technology to transmit card and pin information. Just turn on Bluetooth and search for a device. If you see a long string of numbers trying to connect, that's a bad sign.

As NBC Responds in DFW reported in April, law enforcement across the U.S. have seen a spike in skimming cases this year, and it's expected to keep rising. More credit and debit cards are using chip technology, making it increasingly difficult for thieves to skim your information.

Miller also noted to always print a receipt. You'll need the receipt to file a claim with the gas station's insurance in case you pump bad fuel, or if your identity is stolen.

If it looks like a pump or ATM has been tampered with, move to another pump or pay inside. If you notice suspicious charges on your account, contact your financial institution immediately, the TDA said.

Photo Credit: Texas Department of Agriculture
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New Haven Fire Department to Introduce Animal Respirators


The New Haven Fire Department will now provide animal respirators as a part of their life-saving fire equipment kits.

Like the human respirators, these specialized respirators can save the lives of pets that suffer from smoke or heat inhalation.

Specially designed to fit over the snout of dogs, cats, and other similar animals, the masks will further the New Haven Fire Department’s aim to save as many lives as possible -- be it human or pet, according to the mayor's office.

The New Haven Fire Department recently received its first shipment and will soon make the masks available in firehouses across the city.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Lakewood Beach in Waterbury Closed Due to Bacteria

13-Year-Old with Cystic Fibrosis Made a Star for the Day


The Make-a-Wish of Connecticut Foundation made 13-year-old Brynn Hennessey’s dream of becoming famous come true by giving her a star-studded treatment in West Hartford.

On Wednesday, police officers escorted the Portland teen’s limo through the streets of West Hartford as crowds of people cheered her on. Hennessey even got to sign a couple autographs.

“Literally, I’m like having butterflies in my stomach. It’s crazy,” Hennessey said.

Brynn Hennessey was just weeks old when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and makes it difficult to breath.

She has always wanted to become a star and Make A Wish made her dream come true Wednesday.

And her dream is not over yet. Hennessey will now travel to Los Angeles to make her acting debut in a TV commercial.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Mom Accused of Trying to Kill 3-Year-Old to Face Judge


A Massachusetts woman will face a judge Thursday after she allegedly took her 3-year-old daughter and tried to kill both herself and the child.

The Worcester District Attorney's Office said 38-year-old Leeann Rickheit will be arraigned at Dudley District Court on multiple charges, including attempted murder.

Rickheit, who is accused of taking her daughter Ella Abbott from a Worcester home Wednesday night after making threats to harm the girl, was found with her child inside a running car with a tailpipe that had been stuffed with clothing, blocking the exhaust, around 2:45 a.m. Thursday in a wooded area in Charlton.

After seeing the two of them either sleeping or unconscious in the car, a state police trooper smashed a window, allowing troopers to remove Ella and Rickheit from the car.

Police said they had developed a lead indicating Rickheit frequently visited the wooded area where she and her daughter were found.

Both were taken to nearby hospitals for examination. Abbott was taken to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, while Rickheit was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital in Worcester under police guard. 

The child is doing well, but it is unknown if she is still at the hospital or has been released.

It's unclear if Rickheit has an attorney.

Photo Credit: Worcester Police

NBA Player Zach Randolph Arrested in LA Altercation


Two people, including NBA player Zach Randolph, were arrested following a massive police response after an "officer needs help" call Wednesday night at the Nickerson Gardens housing apartment complex in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

Randolph, of the Sacramento Kings, was arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. He formerly played for Portland, Memphis and, briefly, with the LA Clippers and New York Knicks.

Randolph, 36, is a two-time NBA All-Star who was drafted by the Trail Blazers in 2001. He signed with the Kings in July after a successful run that began in 2009 with the Grizzlies.

His bail was set at $20,000. Lawyer information for him was not immediately clear.  

The initial call was reported around 10:30 p.m. after an officer requested help with controlling a large crowd at 1590 East 114th Street, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. LAPD officers first responded to the scene and were met by 100 people tossing rocks and bottles at them after they attempted to get into an apartment.

It was not immediately clear what led to the altercation at Nickerson Gardens, a large public housing apartment complex about 12 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

Authorities were able to clear the scene by 12:45 a.m. Numerous police vehicles were vandalized, according to officials. Aerial video showed at least one patrol car with a smashed back window.

No officers were hurt and no other injuries have been reported.

The second individual in custody was identified as a 43-year-old man arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Photo Credit: AP Images

Coast Guard Suspends Search in Long Island Sound


The Coast Guard was searching for a possible missing boat in Madison after flares were shot off Wednesday night but it has suspended the search after 10 hours.

The only vessels located are two empty kayaks found in the water, but the Coast Guard does not think they are connected to the flares.

The Coast Guard said people saw two flares shot off over Long Island Sound about two minutes apart around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday. 

“I really thought it was a firework, so I really didn’t give it a second thought, but it seemed rather close because you could see the light pretty significantly,” Madelaina Baker, of Madison, said.

It is believed a boat could have been off the coast of Middle Beach.

The Coast Guard has received no reports of a missing boat and they are trying to figure out who the blue kayak and the yellow kayak found floating in the Sound belong to.

The tide was unusually high last night and the kayaks could have been pulled into the water from the shore, officials said.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Stolen Car Lands in Water in Enfield


A stolen car ended up in the water in Enfield Thursday morning and police are trying to figure out who did it. 

The car was found this morning near the King Island boat launch on Parsons road. 

Police have not arrested anyone.

CT Insurance Warns Residents of Phone Calling Scam


A caller posing as a staff member of the Connecticut Insurance Department has been trying to steal people's insurance information, according to the department. Two such incidents have occurred this week.

The Connecticut Insurance Department does not make unsolicited calls for insurance information and Insurance Commissioner Katherine L. Wade cautions individuals to be wary of these calls. 

“Always be safe and never give out personal or financial information without verifying who the caller is,” Wade said in a statement. “If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the department or your local law enforcement agency.” 

For further information, go to the Connecticut Insurance Department website or call their number at 800-203-3447.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Sean Gallup)

Missing Llama Found in Granby


Granby police have an unusual missing pet case and they are trying to get the animal back home.

The llama was found wandering in the area of Notch Road around 8:30 a.m. Thursday. 

A veterinarian checked the animal and a resident with expertise in llamas is taking care of it until police can find the owner.

Anyone with information is asked to call Granby Police at 860-844-5335.  

Photo Credit: Granby Police
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Boil Water Advisory Issued for Parts of Coventry


Some Coventry residents are being urged to boil their water before consuming it after a contractor damaged a water main.

The Connecticut Water Company has issued a warning to customers of the Pilgrim Hills public water system, which serves Grant Hill Road, Mill Race Drive, Appian Way, Wolf Hill Road, Carnic Alps Road, MaryAnn Drive, Mark Drive, Alice Drive, Mark Road and Harriet Drive. 

Officials from the water company said a contractor damaged the water main and caused water pressure to drop below 20 pounds per square inch.

As a precaution, Connecticut Water is advising customers to boil their tap water before drinking it or using it for cooking, food preparation, reconstituting baby

formula or other purposes in which it will be consumed. 

As an alternative, customers can use bottled water for these purposes.

Tap water does not need to be boiled for bathing, cleaning, sanitation or other purposes where the water is not consumed.

Once service has been restored, Connecticut Water will collect water quality samples to verify that bacteria did not get into the water when the pressure dropped.

Customers might experience air and sediment in the water, which is normal and should dissipate after running the tap for a few moments.

Customers with questions should call the Connecticut Water Company at 1-800-286-5700.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Man Sexually Assaulted Bookstore Employees in Winsted: PD


A 24-year-old man has been arrested and charged with sexual assault after he attacked two employees of a bookstore in Winchester, according to police.

Police said 24-year-old Aaron Bugbee went into the Community Bookstore at 414 Main St. in Winsted around 4 p.m. Monday and attacked two women in their 60s. Both women fought back and their injuries are not life-threatening.

Police said they reviewed video surveillance and obtained a warrant charging Bugbee with criminal attempt to commit sexual assault in the first degree, sexual assault in the third degree, assault in the second-degree on persons over 60 and breach of peace. They located him in Torrington today and bond was set at $75,000.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/moodboard RF

3 State Swimming Areas Closed


Gardner Lake State Park in Salem, Gay City State Park in Hebron and Kettletown State Park in Southbury are closed because of water quality, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

Indian Well State Park in Shelton is open, but warnings are posted because of blue-green algae. 

The DEEP has reopened Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middlefield after getting results of water quality tests. 

Test results are due Friday for Gardner Lake and Gay City. 

More information about the closures can be found on the DEEP website by calling the DEEP at 866-287-2757.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Key Spy Agencies Agree on Korea Nuke Assessment: Officials


The CIA and other key U.S. intelligence agencies agree with the Defense Intelligence Agency's previously reported assessment that North Korea is now able to miniaturize a nuclear weapon so it can be placed atop a ballistic missile, U.S. officials told NBC News.

Soon after the news that North Korea passed the milestone toward achieving a nuclear-armed ICBM broke Tuesday in The Washington Post, President Donald Trump said the U.S. would respond to new threats with "fire and fury." North Korea has continued to make threats, specifically about attacking the U.S. territory of Guam

It had been unclear whether other agencies had signed onto the Defense Intelligence Agency's determination earlier this week, and some observers noted that the Pentagon-based analysts have in the past generously estimated the capacity of some opposing militaries.

But U.S. officials tell NBC News that other agencies, including the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, agree with the assessment.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File

Officer Injured in Crash in Bloomfield


A police officer was injured and has been released from the hospital after getting into a crash with an SUV and a construction vehicle in Bloomfield this morning, police said. 

The driver and two children who were in the SUV were evaluated and did not appear to be injured, police said. 

The officer was responding to a report of a male and a female involved in a fight at 8:07 a.m., and had the lights and sirens on while passing a Toyota Highlander at Tunxis Avenue and Mills Lane, according to the police. 

The SUV turned left to go east on Mills Lane, the officer’s cruiser collided with it. Both vehicles sustained substantial damage and went off the road, police said. The cruiser kept going until it hit a construction backhoe/loader and the support wires of a utility pole, police said. 

The cruiser flipped over onto the passenger side during the crash and an ambulance transported the officer to Saint Francis Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. 

After treatment, the officer was released. 

The driver of the Toyota was transported to Hartford Hospital to be evaluated and police said the person had no visible signs of physical injuries. 

Two children who were in car seats in the back seat of the Toyota were transported to Connecticut Children's Medical Center to be evaluated. Police said they did not appear to be hurt. 

The North Central Municipal Accident Reconstruction Squad is investigating and Tunxis Avenue is closed to traffic from Terry Plains Road to Geissler’s Supermarket. Mills Lane is closed from Brown Street to Wyndemere Road until around 2 p.m. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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