State OKs Norwich's Uncas School for special improvement status, funding

Norwich – The state Board of Education Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to make the Uncas Elementary School a Commissioner’s Network School, funneling state grant money into the school in an effort to improve test scores, attendance, parental involvement and student behavior.

Norwich Superintendent Abby Dolliver, Uncas Principal Jason Foster and members of the school turnaround committee presented the 30-page plan to the state board Wednesday and now will prepare to implement it in the 2014-15 school year.

“We already started some things,” Dolliver said after the five-hour state board meeting. “We’ll be in full gear in the next school year.”

Uncas, one of five schools added to the commissioner’s network Wednesday, becomes the second network school in Norwich. The John B. Stanton School was one of four in the inaugural program launched two years ago. The state allocated $15 million for network schools this year.

State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will set the funding for Uncas, Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said. The amount will depend on the turnaround plan, enrollment and other factors. Norwich school officials anticipated receiving about $500,000 for the first year for the 274-student elementary school.

Uncas, currently the city’s lowest performing school, is using the model established at Stanton in 2012-13 as the basis for its turnaround plan. Stanton received $1 million per year for the first two years. School officials applied for $711,000 for the coming school year.

With Wednesday’s approval, Uncas will extend the school day in the coming year by one hour. Students will attend school for 7 hours and 25 minutes, while a teacher’s official work day will be 7 hours and 55 minutes long. Uncas also will focus on early literacy education, improved professional development for teachers and better use of technology to evaluate student performance.

The plan calls for hiring a full-time literacy specialist, full-time math coach, a school psychologist and two additional classroom interventionists to work with students. A University of Connecticut administrative intern will help provide administrative support for the reforms.

The plan also calls for hiring a full-time family liaison to improve parental involvement.

“Uncas maintains a small but active group of parents who organize events for families and work to engage other parents,” the turnaround plan states. “New parent engagement specialists and expectations around teacher communication with parents aim to further engage families as partners in their children’s education.”

Other Network Schools approved Wednesday are in Hartford, New Haven, East Hartford and Bridgeport.

“The turnaround committees in each of these communities have succeeded in developing plans for boosting academic achievement, strengthening professional development, and improving the culture and climate in their schools,” Pryor said. “We are pleased to welcome these schools into the commissioner’s network, and we look forward to the progress they will make in the coming academic years.”

c.bessette@theday.com

 

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