October 7, 2006
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Magnet Middle School is only 6 years old, but Friday officials and students celebrated the school's selection as a No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School.
"Hartford Magnet Middle School is not a good school, it is one of the best schools in the United States of America," proclaimed Michael Sentance, the U.S. secretary of education's regional representative.
"It's official," Principal Cecilia J. Green yelled as she took the certificate and held it up to show it off at a rally at the school Friday.
All 600 cheering students, their teachers and Mayor Eddie A. Perez, chairman of the school board, were already wearing T-shirts announcing the honor. But the excitement lasted through the hourlong pep rally at the school, for children in grades 6 through 8, at Hartford's Learning Corridor near Trinity College.
"HMMS," as the school is called locally, is the third school in Hartford to earn the federal stamp of excellence. Simpson-Waverly in the city's North End was first and Dwight Elementary in the South End was second.
But the achievement is a rare one. This year just three schools in Connecticut were awarded the blue ribbon ranking. St. Joseph School in the Rockville section of Vernon and The Connecticut International Baccalaureate Academy in East Hartford are the other two.
Perez, who helped oversee development of the Learning Corridor before he was mayor, recounted the history of the school and said it exceeded the hopes of most people.
"Ten years ago," he said, "most people never would have imagined how we would get to today - have a blue ribbon school on this site. ... I feel like a proud papa."
Delores Bolton, the school's first principal, and officials from the Capitol Region Education Council, which managed the school before turning it over to the Hartford public schools, also shared in the accolades.
Students sitting in the bleachers watching the marching band perform said they love the school. Josh Clements, an eighth-grader from East Hartford, said the school's greatest strength is its unique classes, such as the cultural dance class, and the hands-on approach to core classes such as science.
Bruce Douglas, executive director of CREC, said the school's greatest asset - one that will endure for decades - is the "powerful culture" students and staff created that fosters excellence and a love of learning. "This culture will be here 50 years from now."
The one disappointment that children noted was that Green's last week is next week. She accepted a job as associate superintendent in Kansas City, where former Hartford superintendent of schools Anthony Amato is now superintendent.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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