Groton's Thames River Magnet School gets National Blue Ribbon
Groton — Thames River Magnet School, a prekindergarten through fifth grade school, was named as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.
The designation recognizes "exemplary achievement gap closing" for the Mary Morrisson Elementary School community, Superintendent Susan Austin said. Mary Morrisson closed at the end of last year but its students, as well as some of the educators, are now at Thames River Magnet School, so the distinction follows them to the new school, she said.
"We're really proud of this honor," Austin said, calling the recognition a "testimony to the good work that's happening in Groton."
About half of the students at Thames River Magnet School come from military families, according to a news release from Gov. Ned Lamont.
"Given the challenges associated with a highly mobile student body, the entire school community works to support students through transitions," the announcement stated. It also noted the Anchored4Life program, in which "student leaders work with their peers to develop confidence and resiliency together," and both military and civilian students develop "an increased sense of connectedness to each other and the broader community."
Jamie Giordano is principal of Thames River, which is themed around environmental and marine sciences. Kathleen Miner, who retired at the end of last year, was principal of Mary Morrisson, and Mary Morrisson Assistant Principal Ada Allen is now at Thames River.
This is Groton's second military school to receive the honor after Charles Barnum Elementary School was named in 2016 as a National Blue Ribbon School, Austin said.
"We can all take pride in this accomplishment since we are all in this together!" Austin said in an email announcing the recognition.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Tuesday announced 325 schools nationwide that received the National Blue Ribbon Schools distinction. Thames River, Andrew Avenue Elementary School in Naugatuck, Northwestern Regional High School in Winsted, and Frisbie Elementary School in Wolcott were four schools in Connecticut named.
"This year's cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish," Cardona said in a statement.
The schools either are "among their state's highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests" or they "are among their state's highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school's student groups and all students," the release states.
"Every child — no matter their family's income or the neighborhood where they are being raised — deserves access to a quality education that prepares them for achievement," Lamont said in a statement. "There's no doubt that we must continue on our mission to close persistent achievement gaps that have lingered for far too long, but I firmly believe that the strong work of so many of our educators is having an impact."
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, congratulated students and teachers at Thames River Magnet School. "Families in Groton are lucky to have teachers like these at our schools, and for educators like Susan Austin, superintendent of Groton Public Schools, who has now helped build two of our local Groton schools into National Blue Ribbon winners," he said in a statement.
All five of Groton's elementary schools are now intradistrict magnet schools. As part of the Groton 2020 plan, Claude Chester, S.B. Butler and Mary Morrisson elementary schools closed at the end of last year. Two new themed magnet elementary schools — Thames River and Mystic River — opened this year, and Charles Barnum became a themed magnet school; Northeast Academy Arts and Catherine Kolnaski STEAM continue as themed magnet schools.
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