Magnet schools compare notes at conference

New London — For the first time ever, Connecticut is hosting the annual conference of Magnet Schools of America, and on Friday, magnet schools from southeastern Connecticut got a chance to show off.

The conference, which brings together more than 1,000 magnet school teachers and administrators, began Thursday and will run through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

"A lot of it is looking at best practices and new initiatives, and validating what you're already doing," said Louis E. Allen, director of the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut. "The topics of discussion can range from STEM integration, to how you market your program, to how you sustain a budget."

Allen said that although he has attended the conference for a number of years, it always provides a glimpse at what the next big idea might be.

Kate McCoy, the STEM coordinator for Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School, said the conference helped spark ideas for new programs in the city's magnet schools.

"It was an opportunity for us to say, 'Wow, we're doing this and we're doing it really well,' and to also say, 'this is something we can add to it,'" she said.

On Friday, some attendees took field trips to magnet schools in southeastern Connecticut, including Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London, Dual Language and Arts Middle Magnet School in Waterford and Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton.

The Regional Multicultural Magnet School hosted a workshop on its Selborne Project, a historical and natural study of the square kilometer surrounding the school, and its world language programs.

Later, a group of about 20 educators from as far as California visited the STEM magnet high school in New London to attend a workshop on integrating "the four Cs" - critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity - into a magnet program.

In total, about six staff members from New London Public Schools, which is in the midst of an evolution into an all-magnet school district, will attend at least part of the conference.

Among the group was Janet Farquhar, a science and biomedical teacher at the STEM high school who in March was named the 2014 Teacher of the Year for New England, New York and New Jersey by Magnet Schools of America.

Farquhar will learn today if she has been awarded the Magnet Schools of America title of National Teacher of the Year.

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