New London school district's special master has term extended

New London - The State Board of Education has extended the appointment of special master Steven Adamowski to the New London school district for three more months.

Adamowski, who was appointed to a one-year term July 1, 2012, will remain with New London through Sept. 30. He was charged by the state to help the New London Board of Education come up with a plan to improve schools for the city's 3,000 students and raise standardized test scores.

In September, Adamowski will give a report on New London schools to the state board and will present a proposal to turn New London into an all-magnet school district meant to attract students from throughout the region.

The city's school board approved a three-year strategic plan in June that outlines steps to create the three magnet schools. Each would concentrate on one area of expertise from kindergarten through 12th grade. The three schools would focus on science and technology, visual and performing arts, and foreign languages.

For any school that attracts at least 25 percent of its students from outside the district, the state will give $3,000 for each New London student also enrolled.

That adds up to an extra $9 million a year from the state for New London schools, according to Margaret Curtin, chairman of the school board. The money would go directly to the schools, she said, and could be used for such things as establishing programs and hiring staff.

"I've liked it from the beginning,'' she said of the magnet school concept. Offering different fields of study, like performing arts and languages, may be the spark some students need to get involved with school, she said.

"Right now, a lot of kids are either bored or they don't care,'' she said. "Maybe something like this will open their minds. Art, music and drama are great ways to get kids to open up."

The state board will review the strategic operating plan and either approve it or send it back to New London for revisions. It will also decide whether or not to re-appoint Adamowski to a longer term to help implement the strategic plan. No date has been set for the September meeting.

This past year, under Adamowski's leadership, the school district received a 1.5 percent increase in city funding, the first increase in five years. He also initiated state-mandated training for the school board and helped analyze student performance data and develop the multiyear strategic operating plan.

At the State Board of Education meeting Monday, two people from New London spoke, saying the district is stable and the parent group they represent is watching over the school board.

Jason Morris and Maegan Parrot, members of New London Parents Advocate, urged the board not to reappoint Adamowski and to leave control of the schools to the elected board.

"I don't think we need special master intervention,'' Morris said Tuesday. "With Dr. Adamowski's guidance, I think the board is now capable of moving forward."

Morris, who is running for a seat on the New London school board in November, said he's been to nearly every meeting during the past year and has seen things improve.

Adamowski also just completed a second year as special master in the Windham school system. He is also expected to give a report on Windham at the September meeting.

He is being paid $225,000 a year by the state to oversee the two school districts.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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