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New London's first magnet school begins classes under new leadership

New London — The Regional Multicultural Magnet School kicked off its first day of school Wednesday under new leadership and in its first year as an International Baccalaureate school.

Mariana Reyes, the former assistant principal for the LEARN-run school, is serving as the interim principal for the school year. She had worked with former principal Susan Iwanicki through the rigorous IB Primary Years Programme certification process.

Iwanicki now is serving as LEARN’s director of curriculum and instruction.

LEARN Executive Director Kate Ericson said she is confident that Reyes will continue the legacy of success that has been created at RMMS and will be a great leader as the school enters a new era.

“Mariana Reyes has the respect and admiration of the RMMS community,” Ericson said in a statement. “She is warm and nurturing with children and is a very talented educator. Her leadership will continue to strengthen the IB program at RMMS and broaden opportunities for all students.”

To date, RMMS is the only elementary school in the region to offer an IB program, which Reyes said assures a high standard for inquiry-based curriculum development and promotes independent learning and responsibility.

The IB program is based on six transdisciplinary themes around which learning is planned. One of those themes, “Who We Are,” helps to promote the idea of students as “global citizens and agents of change.”

“We’ve made so much progress in terms of curriculum and defining ourselves,” Reyes said. “It’s not just content. We’re really teaching students skills and how to help ... to know what’s happening in the world and making sure students feel like they can take action on things that are happening in the world.”

As one small example of being agents of change, Reyes said, is the effort by first-graders to take it upon themselves to approach the superintendent about getting rid of plastic sporks in the cafeteria. The school is using silverware this year.

RMMS celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016 and was founded as part of an effort to end racial isolation in the region. It’s one of the first interdistrict magnet schools in the country. The K-5 school has about 500 students — four classes at each grade level — from New London and a host of other towns and cities.

“Magnet schools were created to end racial segregation in Connecticut. It’s such a big part of our mission,” Reyes said. “We’re bringing kids from all backgrounds — socioeconomic and racial — and having them learn together and I think that’s powerful. There is real value in that. It benefits all students. We’re becoming such a global society.”

Reyes, a 30-year-old mother of two, was 2 years old when her parents moved the family from Costa Rica to New London, where she attended school.

She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in international studies from American University in Washington, D.C. She earned her teaching certification in bilingual special education from the New York City Teaching Fellows program.

She has worked as a bilingual instructor, special education teacher at RMMS and later a special education coordinator for LEARN.

g.smith@theday.com

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