Lyme-Old Lyme educator becomes principal of NFA transitional high

Norwich - Norwich Free Academy alum and current Lyme-Old Lyme Guidance Director Kathleen Gravel Cote was named Monday as principal of NFA's new transitional high school program to be housed in a Sachem Street office building undergoing renovations.

Cote will start next week and will earn $120,000 per year.

"This is my dream job," Cote said. "I love the challenge of working with high school students and I love NFA. The NFA faculty and staff are phenomenal educators and I am thrilled to be a member of the team."

NFA Head of School David Klein said an open house will be scheduled later this summer for students in the new transitional program to meet Cote and school staff.

"Kathy is an exceptional person and a highly skilled educator with a proven track record of success throughout her career," Klein said. "She is the right person for this important leadership position. We are all fortunate to have Kathy Cote coming back home to NFA as the principal of our new transition program."

The transitional program will open Aug. 29 for 62 Norwich students and initially will replace the former Thames River Academy transitional high school. The program is expected to expand to about 100 students in NFA's other seven partner districts and private tuition students from throughout the region.

Cote, a Norwich native and resident, graduated from NFA in 1992. She earned her bachelor's degree at Holy Cross College, a master's degree in counseling at Fairfield University and educational leadership credentials from Sacred Heart University.

Cote began her career as a Title I teacher at an alternative high school in Mesa, Ariz. She later worked in the Greenwich school system. Cote also worked with students at Weston High School and at both Housatonic Community Technical College in Bridgeport and Mitchell College in New London, before going to Old Lyme where she developed The Learning Center, a tutoring and intervention center.

Klein said the staff at the new transitional program includes a combination of NFA educators and new faculty. Veteran English teacher Jaime McNamara, social studies teacher Erik Flaucher, special education teacher Sarah Edmond, guidance counselor Jessica St. George, school psychologist Cori Allard, and campus safety liaison Daniel Martin have been named as staff of the transitional program.

Lena Collins, a 2003 NFA graduate, has been hired to teach science. Interviews are being done this week for math, physical education/health, and art teachers. An administrative assistant and several paraprofessionals will be hired as well.

Klein said he is pleased at how the new program is coming together in so short a time. NFA officials had planned to propose a new transitional program to begin a year from now, but when a state-funded program audit was highly critical of the Thames River Academy, NFA officials proposed starting the program a year early for Norwich students only.

The Norwich Board of Education approved joining the new program June 12, and the NFA Board of Trustees voted the next morning to launch the program and renovate the Sachem Street building. Tuition for the program will be $25,000 per student.

Klein met with Norwich school officials two weeks ago to review the list of students who attended TRA and to identify eighth-graders who might be suited for the program. Klein sent letters to parents of the incoming transitional program students last week identifying the faculty selected to date.

c.bessette@theday.com

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