Public service is pick for fourth focus of New London magnet schools

New London - More than 360 people who participated in a survey over the past week chose leadership and public service as the first choice for the fourth and final field of study for the city's proposed magnet school district.

The leadership and public service pathway would focus on teaching, law enforcement, military and social service fields. Some future careers could include political science, law, criminal justice, business, education and human services.

School officials made the announcement Monday night at a forum for parents, students and community members.

With 45 percent of respondents choosing leadership and public service as their top choice, the leadership pathway received more support than the other two options: sports medicine (39 percent) and maritime arts and industry (15 percent).

The results of the survey, which was conducted on the school district's website, are nonbinding, and the ultimate decision belongs to the Board of Education.

The school board will discuss survey results and feedback from the forum at its regular meeting Thursday and is expected to vote on the fourth pathway next month.

Also at the forum, school officials addressed questions from parents and community members about the proposed magnet school district, including questions about why the city plans to shift to all magnet schools.

"Financially, as a school system, New London can't survive on its own," Superintendent Nicholas A. Fischer said. "There is not enough money in the property value of the city of New London to sustain the current school system."

Eventually, under the magnet school plan, 25 percent of New London students would attend schools outside the district, and 25 percent of the student population in New London would comprise students from outside the district, which would bring in more state funding for New London schools.

"For every New London kid we get $3,000 from the state and for every out-of-district kid we get $7,085 plus tuition," Magnet School Director Louis Allen explained. "So we can generate revenue to offset the operating costs."

In June, the Board of Education approved a three-year strategic plan to turn city schools into the state's first all-magnet school district. The board already has decided on three "pathways schools" that will offer concentrated classes in visual and performing arts, math and science, and foreign languages. Each curriculum would be available for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Once the board selects the final magnet theme, a planning committee composed of school members, community members and parents will create the program's design and curriculum.

Some forum attendees questioned how much the curriculum would differ from one magnet pathway to the next.

"There are some things that all kids will learn in the same way and others that will be very much geared toward the particular theme of that particular pathway," Fischer said. "The content that you use to learn a set of skills may vary based on the curriculum that you create over time; the skills are going to be pretty common."

Fischer and Allen acknowledged that full implementation of the magnet school plan is years away and that community involvement is necessary to shape the schools and programs.

"There are going to have to be a lot of conversations about how we make this work, but we've got to make it work," Fischer said. "If this system is going to survive, we've got to make it work."

c.young@theday.com

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