Grants Bring New Early Learning Programs to Meriden

State education reform law funds early learning programs at John Barry and Roger Sherman elementary schools.


Under the Connecticut education reform law that took effect in July, Meriden recently received funding for two new elementary school programs—an early reading intervention pilot at and a new Family Resource Center (FRC) at .

As an Alliance District, one of the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state, Meriden was eligible to apply for grants from the Connecticut Department of Education for the two programs. John Barry was one of five elementary schools selected to pilot the K-3 Literacy Initiative, an intensive reading intervention program for students in kindergarten through grade 3. The new Family Resource Center at Roger Sherman is one of 10 new FRCs in the state established under the law.

John Barry Literacy Pilot

The John Barry reading pilot brings five new staff members to the school: a literacy coach and four reading interventionists. The literacy coach will work with the staff to implement best practices in reading instruction. The four reading interventionists will work with struggling students to develop individualized plans to improve their reading skills.

Also as part of the grant, the school must provide 120 minutes of uninterrupted literacy instruction per day and must organize a literacy team that meets regularly and monitors student progress.

The other towns to receive the competitive grants, worth $354,000 each, are East Hartford, Hartford, New Haven and Windham.

In a statement announcing the grants, Gov. Dannel Malloy said, “By improving literacy in kindergarten through third grade, we’re helping Connecticut’s young people set a foundation they will build on throughout their lives.”

Roger Sherman Family Resource Center

The new Family Resource Center at Roger Sherman School is Meriden’s third. The other two are located in John Barry and Benjamin Franklin elementary schools.

“With only 10 new centers being funded, for Meriden to get a third one is quite impressive,” said Meriden Family Resource Centers Director Cathy Battista.

“The governor and the commissioner of education really understand the early childhood arena and the key role early intervention can play in a child’s life,” she told Patch. “They put their money where their mouth is.”

The $110,000 grant will pay for at least three staff members for the new Family Resource Center, professional development and materials, Battista said. The school has set aside space for the center. Battista is now beginning the process of hiring. The center could open as soon as November, she related, but hesitated to set a firm date.

Meriden’s FRCs are part of a statewide network of 70 FRCs supported by the state Department of Education. They provide family support and child-development services, including educational activities for children and parent training.

“The fact that we’re located in the school is the key,” Battista said.

Each center is customized to the needs of the families at that school. FRC staff work directly with these families, often visiting their homes. They also connect families to other city and state services as needed, including the state Birth to Three program, Battista pointed out.

“The schools target the child. We target the whole family,” she related.

The goal is to bring families into the program before the children are even enrolled in school, often as early as birth.

 “We help these families get a head start so the children can succeed in school and in life,” Battista said.

Roger Sherman School was selected as an FRC site because of the strong need in the area, she explained. The school is located in the Meriden Family Zone (MFZ), a distressed area of downtown. The MFZ program provides a wide range of supports for children and families, including a strong home-visitation component.

“We can build on the home visiting already going on in the Zone, making it that much stronger,” Battista said.

“Our state’s Family Resource Centers provide high quality support services to our children and families,” said Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor in a statement announcing the new FRCs. “By boosting access to these valuable school-linked services, we help ensure that children come to school ready to learn and that families have access to the services they need.”


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