Two New London magnet schools honored with national award

New London — A national organization has honored two of the city's magnet schools with its highest merit award, a recognition that places the schools among a select group of 106 prominent magnet and theme-based schools across the country.

Nathan Hale Arts Magnet School and the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut were named 2019 Schools of Excellence by Magnet Schools of America. The annual award from the nonprofit education association recognizes schools for their commitment to high academic standards, school diversity, specialized curricula and instruction, family engagement and community partnerships.

They were among 395 magnet schools to apply for the organization’s merit awards, which include School of Excellence and School of Distinction, the later being the second highest honor.

“These extraordinary schools have been through a rigorous review process and adhere to the five pillars of magnet school excellence. Merit awardees embody the best on public education and should be celebrated as such in their community,” said MSA Executive Director Todd Mann in a statement on Friday.

The news was met with pride from Nathan Hale Principal Carlos X. Leal and STEM High School Director Laurelle Texidor, both of whom are invited to the Magnet Schools of America’s 37th National Conference in Baltimore from April 10 to 13. The highest-ranked schools in the excellence category are eligible for monetary awards and a chance to be named among the nation’s top school schools in one of three categories.

“This award and recognition is a testament to the amazing staff, families and students at our school,” Leal said. “We are dedicated in a collective effort to ensure that all of our students experience the best possible education and have access to an immense world of opportunities in the arts and beyond.”

The school regularly partners with arts organizations that include the Garde Arts Center, Mystic Art Museum, the Florence Griswold Museum, Flock Theater and Lyman Allyn Art Museum.

Texidor, in a statement, credited the effort and accomplishments of staff and parents, “who work diligently to support and challenge students to perform at their highest potential, regardless of their current levels.”

It is the first time Nathan Hale has received the honor. The K-5 school is the first step in an expanding K-12 arts magnet pathway and offers five artistic disciplines: dance, theater, media arts, visual arts and music. Art classes are coupled with traditional subjects of English language arts, mathematics, science and social studies. The school is a designated a Spotlight HOT (Higher Order Thinking) School through the Connecticut Office of the Arts. Nathan Hale Teacher Jennifer Dowker was honored as 2018 teacher of the year by the Magnet Schools of America for the Northeast region, which encompasses eight states.

STMHS received honors for the past four years, twice as a school of excellence and for the past two years as a School of Distinction.

Both schools are open to students from across the state. According to the school district, the STMHS attracts students from 29 regional towns, including 103 students who started in the STEM pathway at Winthrop STEM Magnet Elementary School and continued through the STEM Magnet Middle School.

In a statement, the school district said students experience instruction at STMHS through project-based learning, the engineering design process and development of “21st Century skills that focus on collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. Coursework specific to the STEM curricula includes biomedical sciences, sports science and engineering.

The schools were among eight named Schools of Excellence in Connecticut this year.

“We are so thrilled of the collective work the schools did to achieve these national recognitions,” said New London School Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie. ”These awards highlight our district’s commitment to high-quality magnet-themed programming, which aims to showcase the incredible talents and varied interests of our students. We couldn’t be prouder.”

g.smith@theday.com

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