Students, founder make pitch for Renzulli Academy in New London

New London - Dr. Joseph S. Renzulli, founder of a gifted-and-talented academy in Hartford, presented his vision Thursday to the Board of Education to bring a similar school to New London.

But four young students who attend the Hartford school stole the show.

"Education to me means I go to school, I learn something, and I have fun every day,'' said Michelle Blake, who began Renzulli in fifth grade and is now in eighth grade and wants to study forensic science.

Jasmine Davis, a 10-year-old who has been at Renzulli for two years, said she was bored at the school she attended in Hartford before being accepted to Renzulli.

"At my previous school, I didn't really learn anything. I would learn 2 plus 2 and then sit there and watch other kids learn it," she said. At Renzulli, she is taking a college-level online class in psychology and wants to get a doctorate in psychology.

"My life goal is to get a job, get a good life and go to college,'' she said. "I can't imagine my life without college."

Students who spoke said they wanted to study music and medicine. One wants to go to Stanford University to become an entrepreneur.

New London is one of three school districts in the state selected to open an academy named for Renzulli's pioneering model for educating gifted and talented students. The city would receive grant money to train its existing teachers.

There would be no extra cost to New London because the school district spends a certain amount of money on each student regardless of what school they attend.

The New London school board has not yet voted to accept the offer.

Andrew Blake, father of one of the students, got involved with the school when it opened four years ago and heartily continues to support it.

"As a parent, I remain dedicated to that school and all the students there," he said.

In the New London Renzulli Academy, about 50 students - 25 in fourth grade and 25 in fifth grade - would attend in the fall, according to New London Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer.

Admission requirements could include teacher recommendations and Connecticut Mastery Test scores, but final admissions requirements haven't been established yet. He said the district is hoping to house the program in Harbor School, but that depends on the availability of the building.

The Hartford Renzulli Academy, which is one of Hartford's public schools, serves 115 gifted-and-talented students in kindergarten and fourth through ninth grades. It was founded four years ago.

The schoolwide enrichment model is a learning approach developed by Renzulli, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut and director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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