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Stanton school turnaround called possible in Norwich

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published July 31. 2012 10:00AM   Updated August 01. 2012 4:26PM
Official says struggling school could be best in city

Norwich — The draft reform plan for the John B. Stanton School has the potential to transform the school into the city’s top- performing elementary school, according to Steven Adamowski, a former Norwich superintendent appointed by the state as a consultant on the Stanton Turnaround Committee.

Stanton School is one of four state-designated Network Schools targeted for radical reforms through plans written by local committees and approved by the State Board of Education, bypassing the Norwich Board of Education. The state Department of Education is expected to vote on the plan Aug. 9.

The plan is designed to address numerous weaknesses found in the school through a state-funded performance audit conducted earlier this month. The 23-page audit noted that Stanton’s Connecticut Mastery Test scores have declined since 2007 and found numerous shortfalls in classroom instruction, family involvement in the school, student behavior and leadership.

Adamowski, who served as Norwich superintendent in the 1980s, met with the committee Monday as it finalized its draft reform plan due by the end of the day. State Department of Education officials are expected to review the plan and submit questions, comments and requests for revisions, and the Stanton committee must make those changes and submit the final plan by the end of the week.

Education department spokesman James Polites said the draft plans for Stanton and Network Schools in Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport would not be released until they are forwarded to the State Board of Education next week.

Adamowski, who also was appointed recently as the special master to oversee the New London school district, said Tuesday he expected the draft plan to have major impact on the quality of education at Stanton in the years to come. He said he could not reveal details of the plan but said some changes would be enacted for the upcoming school year and some for the following year. He said that is appropriate given the last-minute nature of the state schedule for the plan.

“I think this has the potential to become Norwich’s highest-achieving elementary school,” Adamowski said.

He commended Superintendent Abby Dolliver and the committee for completing in a few weeks a plan that normally would take several months to write.

Among other shortfalls, Stanton School was criticized in the state audit report for lack of parental involvement in children’s education. About 400 students attend the school, including about 100 from Greeneville neighborhoods transferred to Stanton after Greeneville School closed in 2010.

Ron Ward, a Greeneville advocate and founder of the Greeneville Family Zone, last week proposed creating a Greeneville neighborhood PTO to give families a stronger voice in the school system. Advocates of the plan pointed out that many Greeneville families do not have transportation and have difficulty getting to Stanton for events or PTO meetings.

Parent Dawn Hooper, who was active in the Greeneville School PTO for several years, said the idea of creating a neighborhood-based parents’ group is good, but she questioned whether the Norwich school system would support the idea. She was not surprised by the audit report’s finding of low parental participation because school officials didn’t seem to want their help.

“I tried to talk to Abby about it a couple years ago, and she was not interested in it,” Hooper said. “She didn’t want our help, so now you can figure it out.”

Greeneville parent Sandra Van Lew doesn’t yet know which elementary school her three young children will attend. Van Lew has two sons, ages 4 and 3, and a 1-year-old daughter. She said it’s difficult to get parents involved. She said her son brings home fliers and other information from preschool in his backpack, but she thinks many parents don’t check for such things. She said a lot of Greeneville families rely on buses and taxis for transportation, making neighborhood-based meetings and events more attractive.

“It’s not just Stanton,” said Van Lew, who was active on the Uncas School Governance Council when her son attended preschool there. “It’s every school. I think it’s a great idea (Ward) has. Make it fun with family outreach things. It’s not within walking distance, like Greeneville School used to be. It can’t possibly hurt if they have a more centrally located meeting place.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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