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Daily News

HADLEY — The UMass Donahue Institute has been awarded a five-year,
$6 million per-year cooperative agreement to direct the Head Start
National Center on Program Management and Fiscal Operations
(NCPMFO). This new cooperative agreement has been awarded in
collaboration with the institute’s partners, Family Health International 360,
Zero to Three and UCLA Anderson School of Management.

The NCPMFO will disseminate clear, consistent messages on Office of
Head Start priorities for the development and implementation of sound
management systems and strong internal controls with each Head Start
funding grantee. The center’s work will include, but is not limited to,
topics such as risk management; governance; data collection and analysis;
budgeting; management of multiple funding sources; and leadership
development including the Head Start Management Fellows Program
conducted at UCLA.

The work of the National Centers will reach approximately 1,700 grantees
of Early Head Start and Head Start programs through enhanced networks
of grantee specialists that can work directly with Early Head Start and
Head Start grantees located in all states including American Indian and
Alaska Native tribes and Migrant and Seasonal. The NCPMFO is one of
six national center cooperative agreements recently awarded. The other
centers cover early childhood development, teaching, and learning; early
childhood health and wellness; early childhood quality assurance; parent,
family, and community engagement; and afterschool and summer
enrichment.

“After many years as a leader in providing Head Start training and
technical assistance in the New England region, UMass, and the Donahue
Institute have clearly earned this award as one of the Head Start National
Centers,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “Along with other
National Centers and our partners we look forward to providing quality
services in leadership, governance, management, and fiscal systems across
the country.” Said Dr. J. Lynn Griesemer, Executive Director of UMass Donahue
Institute, “we are honored by the award of the NCPMFO by the Office of
Head Start. Having provided national and significant regional services to
Head Start and Early Head Start for the past 12 years including the recent
award of the Region 1 (New England) Training and Technical Assistance
5-year contract, the award of this national center builds upon our
reputation for providing quality service in support of children and their
families.”

The University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute is the public service,
outreach, and economic development group of the University of
Massachusetts President’s Office. Established in 1971, the Institute strives
to connect the Commonwealth with the resources of the University,
bridging theory and innovation with real world public and private sector
applications.

Daily News

AMHERST — The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst
will present Magic, Color, Flair: the world of Mary Blair. On view from
Nov. 10 to Feb. 21, this comprehensive exhibition explores the artistic
process and development of one of Walt Disney’s most original and
influential designers and art directors, Mary Blair (1911–1978).

Blair’s joyful creativity ― her appealing designs and exuberant color
palette ― endure in numerous media, including the classic Disney
animated films Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan, as well as
theme park attractions at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World
Resort, most notably “It’s a small world.”

Magic, Color, Flair: the world of Mary Blair is organized by The Walt
Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

John Canemaker — an Academy Award, Emmy Award, and Peabody
Award-winning animator, historian, teacher, and author — organized the
exhibition to reflect the arc of Blair’s remarkable career before, during,
and after her years at The Walt Disney Studios. He relays her story
through original artwork, photographs, and ephemera.

Magic, Color, Flair: the world of Mary Blair explores her boldly colored,
stylized concept paintings for classic Disney animated features during the
1940s and 1950s, and her successful freelance career in New York where
she became a popular illustrator for national advertisements and magazine
articles, as well as a designer of clothing, window displays, theatrical sets,
and children’s books.

The exhibition showcases The Walt Disney Family Museum’s extensive
collection of Blair’s conceptual artwork in gouache and watercolor —
some of which have never been displayed outside of California. Also
featured are original illustrations from Blair’s five beloved Golden Books,
including I Can Fly (1951) and The Up and Down Book (1964).

An imaginative colorist and designer, Blair helped introduce a modernist
style to Walt Disney and his studio, and for nearly 30 years, he touted her
inspirational work for his films and theme parks alike. Animator Marc
Davis, who equates Blair’s exciting use of color with Henri Matisse,
recalls, “She brought modern art to Walt in a way that no one else did. He
was so excited about her work.”

Disney played a significant role in Blair’s creative growth. His overall
vision of the world and values (optimism, humor, love of tradition,
families, and an avid interest in technology) were interpreted and
complimented by her creative contributions. He continually championed
her in his male-dominated studio, giving her free rein to explore concepts,
colors, characters, and designs that were outside of The Walt Disney
Studios’ mainstream animation style.

Daily News

AGAWAM — The newly renovated Agawam Cinemas has announced that
its grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Nov. 6, the
same day the cinema will open with two first-run movies, The Peanuts
Movie and Spectre.

“We have something very special arranged for our ribbon cutting
ceremony,” said cinema owner Kimberly Wheeler, noting that
through several months of detective work, she was able to locate relatives
of Vic Baker to perform the honorary ribbon cutting. Baker was the man
credited with building and owning the Agawam location’s original Jerry
Lewis Cinema, and without him the cinema would not exist.

“When I first contacted his daughter, who now lives in California, she was
elated to hear we were rejuvenating her father’s legacy and is looking
forward to cutting our ribbon at the ceremony,” said Wheeler.

Patrons interested in looking up movie times can now find that information
on the Internet via the cinema’s new website: AgawamCinemas.Org. The
website was created by students in the UMass Amherst Business
Technology Program. “Working with those four students was such a
unique experience. I’m so thankful to have had their creativity and brilliant
young enthusiasm poured into our project,” said Wheeler.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony that will take place before Nov. 6’s first
show times at 1:00pm in front of the cinema located at 866 Suffield St. in
Agawam.

Wheeler also mentioned that the cinema has recently secured the rights to
showcase the upcoming box office hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens and
expects to begin online ticket pre sales within the next week.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Regional Chamber will hold its annual Government Reception on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Carriage House at Storrowton Tavern, 1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield.

Sponsored by Baystate Health and Comcast with support from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and Westfield State University, the reception provides business and community leaders with the opportunity to meet socially with local, state, and federal officials following the end of the formal legislative session. Last year, more than 200 people attended the event, including members of area select boards and city councils, as well as state representatives and senators.

Reservations for the event are $50 for chamber members and $70 for general admission. To reserve a spot, visit www.springfieldregionalchamber.com or e-mail Sarah Mazzaferro at [email protected].

Daily News

BOSTON — The New England Information Office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has released New England unemployment numbers for September, gleaned from data supplied by the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program.

The New England unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.6% in September, lower than the national rate of 5.1%. One year ago, the New England jobless rate was 5.7%. Three New England states posted jobless rates that were significantly different from the U.S. rate of 5.1% — New Hampshire (3.4%), Vermont (3.7%), and Maine (4.4%).

Over the past year, all six New England states recorded statistically significant unemployment-rate decreases, with declines ranging from 1.8% in Rhode Island to 0.5% in Vermont. In fact, Rhode Island posted the largest jobless-rate decline nationwide between September 2014 and September 2015.

Daily News

AGAWAM — The Employers Assoc. of the NorthEast announced its findings from the 2015-16 Salary & Budget Survey, with close to 100 companies participating from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

The survey results include numerous breakout reports to meet employers’ diverse data requirements for compensation planning, including salary and pay increases based on industry segment, job category, and more. The survey addresses salary increases for the period of July 2014 to June 2015, and also forecasts salary changes for July 2015 to June 2016.

Overall, manufacturing employers participating in the survey indicated employees received, on average, a 2.7% increase for 2014-15, while non-manufacturing participants averaged a 3.0% increase. Both categories are holding steady with the forecast for pay raises. Manufacturing participants projected an overall 2.8% increase for 2016, while the non-manufacturing group forecasted a 2.6% increase, on average. Factored into the data are companies that reported there would be no increase or decrease.

“Given the multitude of other factors competing for funds — from healthcare and other benefit costs to capital investments — it is not surprising to see limited increases,” said Mark Adams, director of HR Solutions for the Employers Assoc. “That said, we know that employers want to give raises to keep top talent.”

For a full summary of results, visit eane.org/salary-budget-survey-results.

Daily News

AGAWAM — Chris Martin recently joined Ayre Real Estate Co. Inc. as a licensed sales associate. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Western New England University, served in active duty for eight years in the Army, and is now a current member of the U.S. Army Reserve. He has a strong background in investment properties, formerly working as a senior partner in a real-estate investment group in Memphis.

In addition, Tom Roberts has joined Ayre Real Estate as a full-time real-estate sales associate. An Agawam native who started his real-estate career in 2003, he moved to the Myrtle Beach, S.C. area before returning to Western Mass.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Transgender identity and gender transition have taken center stage in the media in recent weeks, but the rights of transgender individuals in the workplace are still unclear to many. Several federal agencies — including the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) — have created or revised policies to protect transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace. These policies set forth what business owners must know to protect themselves and their employees, according to local employment law attorney, Marylou Fabbo.

A partner at Springfield-based Skoler, Abbott & Presser, P.C., attorney Fabbo has been selected to discuss transgender discrimination in the workplace during the 20th annual Advanced Employment Issues Symposium (AEIS) in November.

“Employers are required to provide equal opportunity to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT),” said Fabbo.” There is absolutely no excuse for not treating transgender employees with dignity and respect. It is especially important with the recent stance of various federal agencies that employers take proactive measures to insure that employees transitioning and those who have transitioned are treated in the same manner as all other employees. Human resource management should draft transition policies and educate employees accordingly.”

Just days after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published “A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers” to advise employers on ways to accommodate transgender employees, four federal government agencies with roles in ensuring fairness in the federal workplace — the Office of Personnel Management, the EEOC, the Office of Special Counsel, and the Merit Systems Protection Board — released a guide on the rights of employees who allege sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. The guide, which was reissued after more than a decade, has been substantially revised to reflect major recent developments in the law.

“The guide from OSHA addresses a very specific area of the workplace: the restroom,” said Fabbo. “Among the concerns of employers are the reactions of coworkers regarding a transitioning employee’s restroom use. The core principle of the OSHA guide is that transgender employees should have access that corresponds to their gender identity. Restroom access for transgender individuals has generated controversy — especially in recent weeks — and led to claims of discrimination.”

Employers that don’t respect a transgender worker’s restroom choice, for example, could run the risk of potential liability under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Among the best practices for providing restroom access for transgender employees are:
• Single-occupancy gender-neutral (unisex) facilities, and
• Use of multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single-occupant stalls.

According to a 2013 study by Fenway Health, 65% of Massachusetts’ transgender population have experienced discrimination in public settings — including being denied access to public restrooms. On July 11, during Boston Pride Week, a celebration of the LGBT population, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed an executive order to immediately establish gender-neutral restrooms outside his office in Boston City Hall.

“State and federal agencies are speaking out and changing policies,” said Fabbo. “OSHA has stated that failure to provide appropriate restrooms for transgender employees might be an OSHA violation because it is a health and safety hazard. In the past five years – and especially within the last few months – the topic of transgender equality has been steadily on the rise and employers should be prepared to address it.”

The Advanced Employment Issues Symposium will be held Nov. 4-6 in Las Vegas, bringing together employment law attorneys and human resource experts to deliver compliance guidance and strategic HR solutions. Fabbo will present Gender Identity and Expression: Accommodations and Conversations Related to Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Employees at the symposium Nov. 6. The presentation will highlight the proactive approach employers should take to ensure policies and practices related to dress, use of bathroom facilities and other issues are handled in a legally compliant and respectful manner.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) is now accepting applications for the 2016 VVM Accelerator. The Accelerator is designed to help participating startups and early stage companies speed up the growth and success of their businesses.

The deadline to apply is Nov. 15.

Participants engage in a four-month commitment, featuring three-day weekend boot camps in Springfield. These sessions include intense training and “lovingly critical support.” Startups must have at least one member at all four sessions and commit one member to working at least 20+hours per week on the business. Participating startups must have earned less than $250,000 during the past 12 months and be passionately committed to growing their business.

“The Accelerator is an intense, immersive experience designed to empower startups to strategically grow their business fueled by the powerful VVM network of mentors, industry experts and fellow entrepreneurs,” said VVM General Manager Liz Roberts. “In addition to training and network access, startups are awarded up to $50,000 in equity-free, no-strings-attached funding for their ventures. The VVM Accelerator structure is designed to go beyond the pitch, giving startups the opportunity to create real relationships with a diverse set of deep pocketed investors.”

There are only 30 spots available. Qualified startups can apply online at http://www.vvmaccelerator.com.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — The Dowd Insurance Agencies today announced that its chairman of the board, Robert Gilbert Jr., has been appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker as the new chair of the Holyoke Community College (HCC) Board of Trustees.

Gilbert has served on the HCC Board of Trustees in various capacities since April 2011. Most recently, he served as chair of the Audit Committee and member of the Finance Committee. Gilbert has long been active in other community and civic groups, including the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, on whose board he has served as past chairman.
“With his background in the insurance industry, Bob will prove to be an asset to the Holyoke Community College Board of Trustees,” said President and CEO of The Dowd Agencies, John E. Dowd, Jr. “We congratulate him on his well-deserved appointment.”

Said HCC president Bill Messner, “Bob has been an integral member and an important voice on the HCC board for the past four years. His many years’ experience in the insurance industry, particularly his expertise in the area of risk management, have served HCC very well, and we look forward to his stewardship as chair.”

Gilbert succeeds Helen Caulton-Harris as chair of the board. Caulton-Harris, commissioner of the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services, had been a member of the board since 2006 and the chair since 2012.