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New London - A new communications manager will start working for the school district Monday, just days after the Board of Education approved a strategic plan that eventually will turn the city into a magnet-school district intended to attract students from throughout the region.
It is one of three positions, at a cost of more than $285,000, approved by the board last month to implement the Strategic Plan of Development, which is designed to create a range of schools focused on arts, math and science and foreign languages.
Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said interviews are ongoing for the new positions of arts dean and supervisor of professional development and career management. The board also approved an expanded role for the current magnet high school director and a new part-time administrator in that school.
Although school board Chairwoman Margaret Curtin said Friday she believes the district is top-heavy with administrators, she approved the three new positions in May.
The job description for the arts dean, who will be paid an annual salary of $118,397, says the dean will provide leadership in creating, implementing and maintaining a curriculum for visual and performing arts programs for a kindergarten through fifth-grade arts magnet school.
The supervisor of professional development will provide programs and training for educators and administrators and will help recruit teachers, administrators and other staff, Fischer said. The salary is $113,080 a year.
Money for the three new positions comes from a combination of resources, Fischer said, including the state Alliance District grant, operational funds from the 2013-14 school budget and the Science and Technology Magnet High School.
Julianne Hanckel, who was a reporter at The Day until Friday, will start work Monday in the school district as the communications manager. In addition to media relations, her duties will include responding to constituents' questions and concerns, according to Fischer.
Curtin said the communications manager position is a first for the district. The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education does not track such positions, but few districts in the region have had someone in that role.
"We especially need a communications specialist,'' Curtin said. "It's important we have that position so people will know what's going on in our schools and to get more people involved, especially families.''
Hanckel, a 2010 graduate of Howard University, will earn $55,000 a year. She will report to the superintendent.
"She's going to be a terrific asset,'' said Fischer. "She's written extremely well about New London schools. She's invested a lot of energy in understanding the students, the parents and the community."
On Thursday night the school board approved the three-year plan that maps out steps to turn the city school system into a magnet district. "Pathways" to specific fields of study in the sciences, arts and foreign languages eventually would be offered from kindergarten through 12th grade. Students from throughout the region would be eligible to attend the schools.
"We're going into an all new system," Curtin said. "We have to get people in and get them to understand what it's all about.''
Other changes in the district include expanding the duties of Louis Allen, who is director of the Science and Technology Magnet High School. In addition to running STEM, he will be the top magnet school administrator, Fischer said. "He will be coordinating activities and marketing for all the magnet schools in the district," as well as recruiting students for all the schools, Fischer added.
For New London to be eligible for state funding for the new magnet school plan, 25 percent of the students must be from out of district. That number will eventually jump to 30 percent as the program grows, Fischer said. Also, 30 percent of the student body must be white. Those students can come from within city limits or surrounding communities.
The board also approved a new STEM administrator who would assist Allen in running the high school and also teach math and science at the school. The salary for the 10-month position will be determined by the Board of Education and teachers' and administrators' collective bargaining units.