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Fair Lets Schools Promote Their Offerings, And Parents Find The Right Match

STEVEN GOODE

January 08, 2010

HARTFORD - Lincoln Anderson was looking for diversity for his children. Tammie Hudson was hunting for a technical high school outside the city for her son. Carmen and Nathaniel Cotton were interested in smaller class sizes for their son and daughter.

All three families found what they were looking for under one roof Thursday as teachers and administrators from about 70 Hartford area neighborhood, inter-district magnet, technical and vocational schools and agricultural centers promoted their programs at a school choice fair.

"It's very educational. We're getting a lot of information we didn't know to help us finalize our decisions," said Carmen Cotton, a Bloomfield resident. "I'm glad we came."

Several hundred parents, some with children in tow, attended the fair at the Classical Magnet School on Woodland Street. It was the third of four such fairs as schools vie for students who can now apply to any neighborhood or magnet school in or outside of the city.

Representatives from the various schools touted their programs, student achievementS, relationships with area colleges and learning opportunities.

At the Mary Hooker Magnet School of Environmental Studies, booth, library and media specialist Donna Liebman promoted the school's state-of-the-art interactive theater and location on 11 acres near a river that students will be able to use for a wide range of studies.

At the McDonough Elementary School table, reading curriculum specialist Dirk Olmstead had a tougher challenge, because his neighborhood school has struggled to improve its test scores.

"How do we compete? We have to compete," Olmstead said.

This was the first year that Hartford's neighborhood schools took part in the choice fairs along with inter-district magnets and technical and vocational schools to try to fill all of their available slots, which are important because Hartford has implemented student-based funding as part of its reform efforts.

"The assumption that you have a ready-made audience no longer exists," said Christina Kishimoto, Hartford's assistant superintendent for school design. "Schools that don't fill their seats, we will look at" when it comes to funding.

The last fair will be held Jan. 30 from 9 a.m. to noon at The Learning Corridor, 53 Vernon St. Parents will have until March 30 to fill out their applications on-line for Hartford public schools. The deadline for applications for Hartford host magnets, CREC magnets, vocational-technical schools, agricultural programs and open choice for suburban schools is Feb. 5. More information is available at magneteducation.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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