New London school board looks at plan for Winthrop school, STEM Academy

New London - As a continuation of the science, technology, engineering and math program at the district's magnet elementary school, students would matriculate into a STEM academy at the city's middle school, according to the district's school operations plan.

The Board of Education reviewed the operations plan for Winthrop Elementary STEM Magnet School and The STEM Academy at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School at its workshop on Thursday evening.

Members are expected to approve the operations plan for Winthrop and Bennie Dover Jackson prior to submitting it to the State Board of Education for approval.

Chief Academic Officer Kate Ericson said that state guidelines for magnet school operating plans have evolved and that the school district needed to realign the plan it had for Winthrop and outline a plan for the STEM Academy at Bennie Dover.

"We're trying to tell the state what curriculum we'll have, how the building will be used to facilitate the theme, how the building will function, how we'll run the lottery system and the advisory boards," Ericson said. "This document is something that is going to evolve. These schools should not look the same from year to year, not totally shift, but get better."

As New London shifts toward its goal of becoming an all-magnet school district in the next five years, operating plans like the one the school board reviewed on Thursday will become necessary to provide the State Board of Education with information on how the school district plans to operate each school.

Magnet school pathways, like a STEM academy at Bennie Dover, is one way to continue the STEM theme from the district's magnet elementary schools into the middle school level.

Ericson said she has already started working on the operating plan for the new Nathan Hale Magnet Elementary School for Performing and Visual Arts.

Currently, only intradistrict and magnet schools need to establish School Operations Plans. New London High School, for example, doesn't have a School Operations Plan but has a School Improvement Plan.

Ericson said the crafting of the operations plan for Winthrop and Bennie Dover took nearly four months and involved time spent on the weekends with principals and staff from each school contributing. Melony Brady, principal of Hartford's Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School (EDITORS NOTE: THIS CORRECTS AN EARLIER VERSION), also helped New London school staff work on the plan.

"As often as we can, we want to see cohesiveness between the pathways so there is a sense of curriculum alignment but also various opportunities for students to interact with STEM," Ericson said.

j.hanckel@theday.com

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