New Magnet School Plans
To Aim High
January 3, 2005
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff
Hartford's newest public school has begun recruiting students
by promising the same kind of rigorous college-bound education found at some
of the region's exclusive private prep schools.
The Capital Preparatory Magnet School will open in the fall, and officials say
they are looking for applicants, including those from low-income families, who
have the right stuff.
"We're going to be targeting motivated students who want more than the typical
high school experience," said Steve Perry, one of the planners of the new magnet
school that is scheduled to open at Capital Community College in downtown Hartford.
The school will hold an informational meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the college's
11th-floor auditorium for families from Hartford and 21 other nearby towns. The
school is a regional magnet school, one of eight new Hartford magnet schools
opening under the court-approved settlement of the Sheff vs. O'Neill school desegregation
The school, three years in planning, is an outgrowth of the Connecticut Collegiate
Awareness and Preparation Program (ConnCAP), an intensive college-prep tutoring
and study program aimed at teens from low-income homes or from families who have
never attended college.
The school will feature daily academic advising, mandatory extracurricular activities,
summer classes, a rigorous curriculum and a required senior project, said Perry,
director of ConnCAP at Capital. Students will wear uniforms.
"It is, by design, rigorous," Perry said. "We make no bones about it. If you
don't want to do a lot of homework, if you don't want to go to school in the
summer, if you don't want to wear a uniform - then this is not the place for
The school is scheduled to open with 220 students in grades 6 through 12 and
eventually will grow to 700 when it moves out of the college and into its own
building after a year or two, Perry said. Half the students will come from Hartford
and half from surrounding towns.
"The vision for the school is to create a learning environment that will propel
inner city children as well as suburban children into really good colleges," said
former Capital Community College President Ira Rubenzahl, a member of the group
that planned the school.
Students will be able to take courses at Capital for college credit and can earn
associate degrees while still in high school.
"This school means everything to me," said the 35-year-old Perry, himself a product
of a ConnCAP program at Wesleyan University in Middletown. At Capital, he has
seen about 70 students graduate from the program. All have gone on to four-year
colleges such as Boston College, Connecticut College, the University of Connecticut,
Morehouse College and Temple University, he said.
That is in sharp contrast to the college-going rate of graduating seniors in
Hartford's public high schools. In 2003, for example, only three out of 10 city
graduates enrolled at four-year colleges.
"I know there are more kids out there, if given the opportunity, who would" go
to college, said Perry, who holds degrees from the University of Rhode Island
and the University of Pennsylvania.
"I was one of those kids," he said. "Somebody gave me a shot."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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