Alliance District funding hinges on approval of Norwich plan

Norwich - Education reform efforts at the John B. Stanton School are taking shape, with full-day kindergarten, longer school days and family outreach, and now school administrators are putting the finishing touches on a five-year reform plan under the state designation as an Alliance District.

Norwich is one of 30 state-designated Alliance Districts, eligible for $1.2 million per year for five years in additional education funding for an extensive reform plan. The state must approve Norwich's first-year plan before the city can receive the funding.

Curriculum Director Joe Stefon outlined the draft Tuesday for the Board of Education. Stefon and other administrators met last week with state Department of Education officials, and they asked for revisions. Stefon said the plan seemed too broad, with too many proposed initiatives.

State officials suggested concentrating on improving reading instruction in kindergarten through third grade, but Stefon said he will extend that to the upper grades as well. The plan at first will concentrate on two so-called focus schools, the John M. Moriarty and Veterans' Memorial schools, and two designated review schools, Wequonnoc and Uncas schools.

Education department spokesman James Polites said the state Board of Education has approved three Alliance District plans for Ansonia, Windsor Locks and Naugatuck. New London submitted its plan, but it has not yet been approved. New London qualifies for $809,000 per year for five years.

Revamping literacy education in Norwich eventually will include a new curriculum, Stefon said, but he first wants to concentrate on providing additional reading supports in the classroom, defining quality reading education techniques and training teachers in those techniques.

The Alliance District plan also will focus on what the state calls wraparound services - outreach to families to improve parental participation in their children's education.

Stefon said the long-range Alliance District plan likely would borrow some concepts from the Stanton School plan, including a longer school day and parental outreach programs.

Several programs already are under way at Stanton to provide experience to the rest of the district. Two full-day kindergarten classes are in operation, and teachers are staying for one hour of professional development after school from now through October. Come November, that hour will be for a longer school day for the 400 Stanton students.

Parental outreach is integral to the Stanton Network School reform plan, Principal Christine Gilluly told the school board Tuesday.

Stanton will hold an open house for families on Sept. 19 and for the first time will provide buses to district neighborhoods to offer rides to families who have no transportation. The buses will stop at the Adult Education Center on Hickory Street and two other Greeneville neighborhoods.

In addition to the network grant of $1.5 million per year for three years, Stanton received $100,000 from the state Department of Education for wraparound services with Stanton families, including English classes for immigrant families at Stanton, Gilluly said. Stanton staff members have started holding office hours Friday mornings at the Adult Education Center to meet with families there who have students at Stanton.

About 100 Stanton students live in Greeneville neighborhoods, and many do not have transportation to reach the school, which is several miles away.

c.bessette@theday.com

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