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Champions solve world competition

| Monday, June 10, 2002

The Carlynton Junior High Future Problem Solvers team has silenced its critics in a big way with a first-place finish at the international competition held over the weekend.

Michale Herrmann, public relations spokeswoman for the school district comprising of Carnegie, Crafton and Rosslyn Farms, found a message on her answering machine early Sunday afternoon from Naomi Muraco, gifted program facilitator.

"I'm calling from the middle of the dome at the University of Connecticut, and we just took first place in the junior high division," the cellular phone message from Muraco stated. "We are the international champions."

Although there was some controversy over whether the district could afford it, Carlynton School District paid the $3,800 expense to send four students and Muraco to the Future Problem Solvers International Conference, which ended yesterday at UConn.

"I had a message Saturday from one of the parents, saying that they had made it to the final round," Herrmann added. "Needless to say, everyone sounded very excited."

The four-member team consisted of ninth-graders Carolyn Baloh, Katie Dunmyer and Dan Perkey and eighth-grader Jeana Hickling, who are all in the district's gifted program.

The team was accompanied by Muraco, her husband, four parents of team members, and one alternate, Robert Perkey, Dan's brother.

Muraco said about 200,000 students participate in Future Problem Solvers competitions, and only 1 percent of them are invited to the international contest.

The Future Problem Solvers program involves discussions and suggestions for change on an array of topics, such as prison reform and natural disasters. After much research, teams of four work together to reach a futuristic scenario that asks them to solve one major problem related to the topic. This year, the students had to research everything they could about virtual corporations to prepare for the contest.

This was Carlynton's first time beating other area school districts for the coveted slot in the international competition.

After much debate, the district paid for the costs of registration, plane fare, lodging and meals to attend the competition.

Early last month, the school board informed Muraco the district wasn't able to fund the trip due to the district's longtime financial woes. Then, after being pushed by angry parents, the district realized it was legally obligated — by its individualized education program — to send the students on the trip.

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