The 2017-18 School year saw a lot of changes in the school system and in the coming school year many more are planned. So what happened last year and what is coming?
One of the biggest events last school year was The Consolidated School District on New Britain (CDSNB) partnering with Central Connecticut State University and the Ana Grace Project to welcome families from Puerto Rico and neighboring islands.
About 280 students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands came to New Britain. 80 have left the City, but 200 will be in the school system this year.
“With an evershrinking budget it is tough to take on more kids even though the kids are lovely,” said Superintendent of Schools Nancy Sarra. “We will know exactly how many students we have this year when central registration is over.”
During the year a new high schol band director was named, a new prinicipal came to Roosevelt Early Learning Center, Northend Elementary School got a new principal and Damon Pearce was named principal at the high school.
The Ana Grace Project partnership was strong and a new project for 4-5th grade students this year involves a famous author.
A new Smalley Elementary School building project began and plans are for it to open for the 2019 school year.
The school year ended on a high note as over 500 students graduated in the Class of 2018.
“We are waiting for the education rate, but I believe it is just south of 80 percent. “It will continue to rise. Over the last 10 years the percentage of those graduating went from 60 percent to 80 percent.”
So what does Sarra have on tap for the 2018-19 School year?
First is the first day of school, which is August 30, a little bit later than last year.
The biggest event happening this school year will be STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Enrichment.
“Our kids are not responding to the way we are teaching, so next year we are focusing on teaching and learning. It sounds little, but it is huge,” said Sarra. “Every student in elementary will have music, art and gym in STEAM enrichment.”
Kindergarten through grade 5 will have 3 hours a week of enrichment. Middle School will have one full day of enrichment every 10 days. High Schoolers take elective courses – the enrichment model is only for K-8.
“This generation of kids don’t stick to anything. They give up quickly. They don’t sit there and listen in a classroom,” said Sarra. “We used to sit and watch and learn. This generation of kids doesn’t sit in front of a tv and watch it. They interact.”
STEAM enrichment teaches them how to work in a team to do activities.
“We talked to families and found that what every kids needs to graduate is to be resilient, work on a team, and problem solve. We have to give them something interesting for them,” said Sarra. “Teaching them through being interactive helps them to problem solve. STEAM is a totally new elective for elementary students and not just gifted and talented. Every kid has a gift and we are going to be sure to find it.”
Sarra said the goal is to keep kids wanting to come to school and not finding it boring. She said there is a phenomena of high absences across the country which had been leading to a new way of teaching.
And it is not only the students who will be learning. When the students are in STEAM, teachers will go to New Britain University at the high school to start planning together lessons for kids to learn in a different way.
“When kids are getting enriched, the adults are getting enriched,” Sarra said. “We are improving teaching and improving learning. While the kids are in labs doing building projects and working together, about 75-80 teachers a day will go to New Britain High School. This is our big push this year and change will be very hard for people.”
Also new this year will be no half days except for holidays and report card conferences.
“Half days are a hardship on families and that extra time will be spent in STEAM,” said Sarra.
This year there will also be a superintendent/parent cabinet. It will allow 2 parents at every school to meet with Sarra in the evening to keep them updated on their concerns. Some students may be invited.
This year starts the Commissioner’s Network grant which is $5 million dollars given to the schools to be used on professional learning and not staff. Some of it will be used for STEAM.
A lot of administrative changes will take place including Mike Foran becoming assistant superintendent.
“He is a familiar face, a New Britain man and is an instructionally strong leader,” said Sarra.
There will also be 2 new principals – one at Brookside and one at the Satallite Careers Academy. Pulaski needs an assistant principal and other positions are open.
“We are really excited for the year,” said Sarra. “We know there will be bumps along the way, but we have a stick to it attitude. We will prepare and move on.”