Network School designation sought for Norwich's Uncas

Norwich - Uncas School could become the second city elementary school designated as a state Network School, which would bring additional funding if approved by the state Department of Education.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver will ask the Board of Education tonight for approval to apply for Network School status for Uncas, the city's lowest-performing elementary school.

If approved by the local school board, a turnaround committee would be established to write the school's reform plan and submit it to the state Board of Education in time for its March meeting.

In 2012-13 Connecticut Mastery Tests, Uncas School scored well below the Norwich district average and state targets in all categories. In Uncas' School Performance Index - an average of all mastery test scores - Uncas scored 46.4 out of a possible 100. Overall, Norwich schools scored 61.2, and the state target is 88.

Average scores for the four academic tests, math, reading, writing and science ranged from 39.9 to 59.8.

Dolliver said Monday that while the time frame is tight, the school district has two years of experience with the Network School system, which has brought the John B. Stanton School an additional $1 million per year in funding for its turnaround plan. The school also received state bond money to build a portable classroom and improve security measures.

If the Board of Education approves the application tonight, Dolliver said she would meet with the Norwich Teachers' League and school staff to prepare. School officials will appoint a turnaround committee to write an Uncas School turnaround plan to present to the state Board of Education in April.

The Board of Education would appoint one administrator and one parent to the committee, and the teachers' league would name two teachers and a parent.

If the state approves the turnaround plan, Dolliver hopes to receive funding to implement the plan by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

The amount of funding is not yet known, and would be based on the plan, enrollment (now at 273), and other factors. But Dolliver said it likely would be much less than Stanton received.

Stanton used its Network School funds to hire classroom intervention instructors, extend the school day, launch full-day kindergarten a year earlier than the district overall and to improve parental involvement in the school.

Principal Jason Foster supports the idea of naming Uncas as a state Network School, but said it's too early to outline specifics of an Uncas turnaround plan. If approved by the school board, the committee would have to be named and get to work quickly to write the school's improvement plan. Some aspects of the Stanton turnaround plan could be used at Uncas, Foster said, but the school has a different population and a different layout, with a wide open floor plan rather than traditional classrooms.

"I don't see any reason you would pass up these funds," Foster said of the Network plan.

"You'd like to do everything you can for the students. I see it as an opportunity."

c.bessette@theday.com

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