The proposal to convert New London into a district of magnet schools met with support from several different organizations on Thursday.
The Board of Education received letters of support for the idea as part of its Thursday meeting. The board also voted to adopt several strategies as part of a three-year strategic plan for school improvement, including the establishment of K-12 magnet pathways in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; visual and performing arts; and dual/multiple literacy and culture as a way of achieving the goal of creating a “regional system of high performing, effective schools” in New London.
Michael Brown—a New London resident who was involved in the creation of a Foreign Trade Zone in the city—gave a presentation in support of the idea to create a magnet program for international commerce at New London High School. Brown said this would prepare students for careers in the economic field.
“There are opportunities that are right in front of us, but are we really preparing our students for those opportunities?” he asked.
Brown said the Jennings School could help students to learn languages used in international commerce before they entered the upper grades, and that the school could cooperate with New London’s deep water port as part of its curriculum.
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Jeff Harris, a member of the OpSail board of directors, also recommended a maritime magnet program to capitalize on New London’s marine resources.
Frank McLaughlin, co-chair of the city’s Economic Development Commission, said in a letter that the commission is supportive of a magnet school model. McLaughlin said the commission agrees with the assessment that it could lead to additional state funds and that the district would be able to attract out-of-town students, saying this has already occurred for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs at Winthrop School and the Science and Technology Magnet High School.
“This integration is a positive thing for students from New London,” McLaughlin said.
Anthony Silvestri, project manager of New London Harbour Towers, also said he supported the idea. Silvestri said in a letter that he is currently planning a “City Flats” effort to convert the city’s residences into affordable housing and promote home ownership in New London.
“An all magnet school district would be a huge incentive for families to live in or move to New London,” said Silvestri. “This would give their children the advantage of a better education and more choices than anywhere else locally. If this comes to fruition, it will be a 'game-changer' for the city, for families and children as well as a much needed boost for the local economy.”
Dr. Stephen Adamowski, who proposed the all magnet school district model in September, said the New London Public Schools have a unique opportunity to develop the model since state legislation adopted in 2006 lowers the required threshold of out-of-town students to 15 percent. Adamowski has said the model would allow the development of K-12 academic pathways and make New London eligible for $9 million in state funding each year. Adamowski said the state distributes magnet school funds prior to Education Cost Sharing funds, making that revenue less susceptible to cuts.
Some parents and board members expressed concerns with the idea at a November meeting of the Board of Education, questioning whether the state funding could be guaranteed and how a magnet model could support students with interests outside the approved K-12 academic pathways.
On Thursday, resident William Gonzalez asked whether the district would be able to find the funds to keep the district competitive and make necessary repairs to some school buildings.
“I believe that hiring more teachers will be necessary in order to reduce the class size,” said Gonzalez.
Regina Nicholson agreed that the district needs to work to reduce class sizes. She said schools must also strive to set higher expectations for students.
“There has to come a time when we set expectations for our children, whether we have a magnet district or not,” said Nicholson.
In the coming months, the district will work on implementation steps to put the all magnet strategy into place.