O'Leary familiar with Norwich school programs, sees 'a good fit'

Norwich - Kaitlyn O'Leary can't yet rattle off all the acronym titles of the after-school and summer programs she'll oversee in her new position as director of strategic initiatives for the public school system, but she knows the grant-funded program is a key piece of the education puzzle for more than 500 enrolled students.

O'Leary, who earned her master's degree in elementary education at the University of Connecticut in 2005, succeeded former program director Ross Anderson, who plans to return to college for his doctoral degree.

O'Leary said she already was familiar with Norwich's extensive after-school and summer extended learning programs through her previous position at the Capital Region Educational Council. Although the region does not include Norwich, as program coordinator for the division of teaching and learning, O'Leary oversaw statewide grants through the 21st Century Community Learning Center.

That brought her to Norwich and to other local schools to check in on their after-school programs.

"Having been involved with programming, I became very familiar with the Norwich programs, so this was a good fit for me," O'Leary said Thursday.

She also has experience with efforts to bring more parental involvement into schools, something Norwich has been emphasizing in school reform plans, Superintendent Abby Dolliver said.

Her duties cover a mouthful of programs, including the Bridges after-school and summer programs for elementary school students, the Aspire program for middle school students, the Thrive4Life school health projects for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and the Sprouts mentoring program.

The program serves 500 to 600 students after school during the school year and about 225 during the summer.

The grant-funded programs also connect the school system with more than 20 community partners, from New London County 4-H to United Community and Family Services, Three Rivers Community College, Otis Library and the Sea Research Foundation.

The $800,000 program budget is covered mostly by grants, along with the school system's in-kind contributions of building space, supplies and a late school bus for transportation. Student fees for some of the programs bring in about $150,000.

O'Leary is looking for volunteers to serve as adult mentors for the upcoming after-school programs, which start soon after school resumes Aug. 28.

For information about volunteering as a student mentor or for information about the extended learning programs, contact O'Leary at (860) 823-6284.



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