New London middle school to get nearly $3 million to fund new programs

New London — Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School is receiving nearly $3 million in grant funds to start two innovative programs in the coming year, the school district announced Monday.

The school is the recipient of a five-year, $2.5 million Full Service Community Schools Grant in conjunction with Project Connect, through the U.S. Department of Education.

The Dalio Foundation also awarded the school a $247,000 grant to fund New Classrooms, a personalized method of teaching math.

Project Connect is an initiative designed to partner the school with local organizations to “expand the field of educational opportunities,” according to a statement from the school system.

Partners will include Connecticut College, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New England Science & Sailing, Connecticut Science Center, Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, Child Nutrition Program of New London, Appalachian Mountain Club Youth Opportunities Program and New London Youth Affairs.

The grant was awarded to just 12 districts in the country. Bennie Dover Principal Alison Burdick said the school is constantly seeking opportunities to engage students beyond the traditional classroom instruction.

The partnerships will allow for school and after-school activities along with outings to enrich their education.

“I am proud to work in a school with such a forward-thinking, innovative staff," she said. "We are excited to implement these individualized learning pathways in both academic and experiential arenas.”

Burdick compared the New Classrooms program to Pandora, a streaming music service that tailors musical tastes based on the likes of the listener. In the case of New Classrooms, teachers will be able to tailor curriculum to students based on which teaching approaches are working best for individual students.

Staff training for the program starts this week, Burdick said. Money for Project Connect will be released in October, with $500,000 coming in the first year.

“New London Public Schools has received statewide attention and has garnered national recognition for its many initiatives that, over the coming years, will fundamentally transform our district into a regional school system offering the highest quality learning experience for all students,” School Superintendent Manuel Rivera said in a written statement.

Board of Education Chairwoman Margaret “Peg” Curtin said in a written statement that “the district is moving forward and is attracting national philanthropic funders, such as the Dalio Foundation, who are committed to excellency in schools.”

"I am appreciative of Dr. Rivera’s work with the Dalio Foundation in Norwalk and the team effort that led us to this opportunity,” she added.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, issued a statement Tuesday congratulating the school district, calling the Full Service Community Schools Grant "a major benefit to New London schools, students, and families."

"The close coordination of the many services and supports that help children succeed in school will help maximize each of these investments, and give every child the opportunity to receive a top-notch education," Courtney said in a statement. "Innovation is key to help equip students with the skills and knowledge they will need to compete in the global economy, and I commend New London Public Schools for being at the forefront of these changes."

Courtney said the New London Camp Rotary summer program at Bennie Dover is a proven example of community education promoting STEM in a healthy, positive environment.

"This program run by the school system, with partners from New London Rotary and New England Science and Sailing, connects summer activity in New London’s maritime locale with STEM curricula. That is exactly the way to stimulate STEM interest with low-income youngsters who otherwise could go backwards educationally during the summer months," Courtney said.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

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