The Meriden school board Tuesday night unanimously approved a plan outlining how it will spend millions in funding available under new state education reform legislation. According to the law, as one of the state’s 30 lowest-performing school districts, Meriden is eligible to receive $1.78 million next year as an Alliance District.
In order to qualify for the money, “we had to develop a plan for how we would use those funds to improve instructional practices,” Associate Superintendent for Instruction Robert Angeli said.
Angeli submitted the five-year plan to the Connecticut Department of Education on Aug. 3 for review. City school officials are now awaiting the state’s approval.
“I don’t anticipate any strong concerns from the state,” Angeli told the board. The funds have already been incorporated into the school system’s budget for this year, he said.
In presenting a brief overview of the plan, Angeli said it focuses on four main areas of reform:
- Kindergarten – Grade 3
As part of the plan, the district is moving from half-day to full-day kindergarten for all schools this year. The school system is also revising curricula at this level to increase rigor and relevance.
- Additional Learning Time
Meriden typically offers 944 hours of instruction a year compared to a state average of 987 hours, according to the plan submitted to the state. To address this shortfall, an American Federation of Teachers Innovation Grant is funding an extended school day at Pulaski Elementary School. The program adds 90 minutes to the school day and 270 hours to the school year. In addition, district-wide weekend enrichment classes will be expanded.
- Developing Teacher Talent
The district plans to help teachers hone their skills through peer coaching, a leadership academy, a principal mentoring program, and other professional development opportunities.
- Collaboration with Early Childhood Education Providers
To help ensure that Meriden children enter kindergarten ready to learn, the school system will work closely with preschool providers and provide training, peer coaching, and other ongoing support.
The plan also includes specific provisions for individual schools in the district that have been identified by the state as having special needs. For example, Hanover Elementary has a high population of English Language Learners (ELL) and special education students.
The plan prompts the district to “look at our resources and see how we’re going to address those subgroups that aren’t performing as well,” said School Superintendent Dr. Mark Benigni.
He also pointed out that the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state are also likely the 30 most economically challenged districts.