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Designation takes Stanton School turnaround mostly out of Board of Education's control

By Claire Bessette

Publication: The Day

Published July 18. 2012 4:00AM

Norwich - The John B. Stanton School's designation as one of four Network Schools across the state to be the focus of intense reform efforts will take control of the school's turnaround out of the hands of the local Board of Education.

In June, the Stanton School was invited to become a Network School as designated by the state Department of Education. An extensive, so-called "turnaround plan" to be written by a designated Turnaround Committee must be submitted to the state by July 26.

The three-year plan must address low performance on test scores and will focus on academic improvements, school climate, "effective leadership" and improved family involvement. Norwich's scores on standardized tests rank ninth from the bottom statewide.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver told the school board Tuesday during a special meeting that the committee has been established and is working on the plan. A state-funded internal audit was conducted last week that will concentrate on the school's weaknesses.

The turnaround committee doesn't have the full audit yet, Dolliver said, and addressing those weaknesses will be part of the turnaround plan.

The school board's role throughout the process - including implementing changes at Stanton - will be minimal, Dolliver said. The turnaround committee will write the transformation plan, submit it to the state Department of Education for approval and oversee implementation of the plan.

Dolliver said she could not discuss detailed changes yet because the plan is not yet completed. But possibilities could include extending the school day. Dolliver already has implemented one change, moving a bilingual education program from the Uncas School back to Stanton, where it had been located previously. To make room, a citywide special education program was moved from Stanton to Uncas.

"The state and the turnaround committee make all the decisions," board Chairwoman Yvette Jacaruso said.

"We're out of the loop," member Cora Lee Boulware added.

But Dolliver said she would keep the school board informed. She considers the Stanton transformation a model for the rest of the school district.

The turnaround committee includes Steven Adamowski as the state Department of Education's designated ex-officio member. Adamowski was recently appointed as the "special master" overseeing the state takeover of the New London Board of Education in an effort to improve student performance in that school district.

Dolliver said Adamowski stressed he is not the "special master for Norwich," and that this was not a state takeover of the Norwich school system. The committee also includes Dolliver as an ex-officio member, parents Beth Hanlon and Jerry Browning, teachers Bill Linski and Tom St. George and school administrator Alexandria Lazzari, recently named principal of Teachers Memorial Middle School.

The board Tuesday also discussed Norwich's designation as a state Alliance District through the state education reform law. In that program, the city school system can apply for $1.02 million in additional education funding for program improvements that must be approved by the state education department.

Dolliver said while school officials are working on those plans, due in August, they must first concentrate on the Stanton plan due next week.

c.bessette@theday.com

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