New London board weighs all-magnet school future

New London - The school district's special master had a "frank conversation" with members of the Board of Education on Thursday, telling them that if they have a better alternative for the city's future than the all-magnet school district, they needed to propose it.

"If you want to explore another opportunity, we need to know what that is now," Steven Adamowski said.

As the board works to complete its Strategic Operating Plan - a condition of state intervention in the school district - it must first decide which direction to take the district in. New London is the only school district in the state with the legislative authority to create an all-magnet school district.

"This is a decision that only you can make in order for the Strategic Operating Plan to go forward and be complete," Adamowski said. "If we dance around these issues and we're not specific about them from the start, we're going to have all kinds of problems in our strategies and implementation steps."

An all-magnet school district promises additional funding to the city in the form of about $9 million from the state, and Adamowski said he was confident in the state's ability to make good on the funding promise.

But board members continued to ask what their other options are.

"We have to look at all the other possible avenues. We need to consider what's going to affect the students," board member Delanna Muse said.

Board member Barbara Major said she would like to know what kind of magnet school would be the best model for the city.

The city currently has two magnet schools - the Science and Technology Magnet High School and Winthrop Magnet Elementary School - both of which have a science, technology, engineering and math emphasis.

The new Nathan Hale School is scheduled to open next year.

Jennings Elementary School has a dual-language and foreign-language theme but is not currently a designated magnet school.

An all-magnet school district could affect the grade configurations at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, currently a sixth- through eighth-grade school. Adamowski said the middle school could also be converted into three middle school academies that link to magnet school themes at the elementary and high school levels.

There are three kinds of schools allowed by law in Connecticut, Adamowski said: charter schools, magnet schools and district-operated schools, which is the city's current model.

"We're looking for an alternative that will stabilize the financial support of the schools, and frankly, an alternative that will create a greater state share in financing the New London schools," Adamowski said.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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