Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman witnessed positive changes happening at Stanton Elementary School in Norwich today—changes that are part of Stanton’s Turnaround Plan in the new Commissioner’s Network—a group of the state’s lowest performing schools receiving new resources and tools to help improve student achievement.
Malloy and Wyman were joined by a small crowd in the school library that included CEA President Sheila Cohen, CEA Vice President Jeff Leake, Norwich teachers, administrators, board of education members, parents, and State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, for an update on the new creative model and innovative approaches being used to help students succeed.
Malloy says the model at Stanton, one of four turnaround school models across the state, is “exciting,” and “success here is very important to the overall efforts.”
“We’re working together with CEA and are prepared to go down a whole new path, hand-in-hand, because we ultimately understand that Connecticut is on the road to improvement,” says Malloy.
Stanton School Principal Christie Gilluly says expectations have been raised and the staff is moving forward, working on increasing language development, student thinking and writing and sharing ideas, and getting the community and parents involved.
“We still have a lot to do, but I thank the staff who is committed and working diligently toward our goal,” says Gilluly.
Stanton’s turnaround plan is a two-year process and includes:
- Extended school day for teachers and students
- Increased teacher professional development
- New reading and math curricula
- Smaller class sizes
- Reading specialists
- Summer learning opportunities
- Family liaison
- Satellite office and family conferences in neighborhoods
- Parent workshops and home materials to support classroom instruction
- Partnerships with School Based Health Centers
Financial resources can’t be underestimated in school transformation. Governor Malloy says the state has made a sizeable commitment to education in Norwich, including receiving an additional $191 per student under the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula, education reform grants, wraparound services, and 26 early childhood education slots.
“Connecticut is fortunate to have a governor who understands that closing the achievement gap requires an influx of new, targeted dollars—funds that are being provided to Stanton School under the state’s new reform law,” says Cohen.
Bill Linski, a Norwich teacher, serves on the committee that developed the turnaround model for Stanton. He says the extra resources are making a big difference. “The staff support and interventionists that had been cut in the budget are now available and providing welcome guidance and initiatives to the teachers,” says Linksi.
Stanton teacher and local union co-president Stacey Hungerford agrees that added resources make a difference. “Teachers are part of the turnaround team, and our ideas and challenges are being addressed,” she says. “We are also receiving a lot of information and professional development, and teachers are eager to help their students achieve.”
Governor Malloy ended his visit with a tour of several classrooms. His first stop was in Hungerford’s fourth-grade class, where students were conducting experiments involving magnets. Student Zaraya Neal says she answered the governor’s questions about her magnet experiment, but she says she was a little nervous. “I had never met the governor and didn’t know what he was like, but he’s fun, and I would like to see him again,” says Neal.
Tiffany Harvison, a member of the leadership team at Stanton, says the staff is unbelievably committed to the turnaround plan. “Teachers are here late, until 6 or 6:30 every night, working across grade levels to collaborate on ideas, and they’re excited about things to come and ways to improve student achievement.”
“Teachers need the tools, professional respect, and support necessary to help all their students succeed, and at Stanton School, all indications are that this is exactly what is happening,” says Cohen.
Tom St. George, the Norwich Teacher of the Year and a member of the turnaround committee, agrees. “Teachers’ voices are being heard, our ideas are being implemented, we are part of the leadership process and feeling empowered to help our students succeed.”