A proposed culinary arts academy at Weaver High School and a redesign of M. D. Fox Elementary School had their moments in the spotlight Tuesday evening as school officials outlined their plans at a school board meeting.
Fox, the city's largest elementary school with nearly 850 students, is set to be turned into a CommPACT school, meaning it would be run by the community, parents, administrators, children and teachers in partnership with the University of Connecticut's Neag School of Education.
If the school board approves the plans at its next meeting, the school would have autonomy over its budget, staffing, governance, curriculum and the school calendar — including the length of the school year.
The approach is unique in the district's effort to redesign low-performing schools, Superintendent Steven Adamowski said. He said the district reserves autonomy over decision-making for higher performing schools.
Under plans to redesign other low-performing schools in the city, Adamowski said, redesign teams would choose a model, administrators would hire principals and principals would hire teachers.
But at Fox, the teachers and the principal remain, and they selected the new model for the school.
"The bet we are making is that by giving autonomy to a low-performing school, they will step up," Adamowski said.
Michael Lorenzo, the school's principal, said parents and teachers have enthusiastically endorsed the plan. He predicted that within five years, Fox would become one of the city's most successful schools for pre-K through eighth grade.
The CommPACT model is based on Pilot schools in Boston. A joint effort by the Neag School, the Connecticut Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents and the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators is helping to apply the model to around a half dozen schools in this state.
The Culinary Arts Academy for grades 10-12 would spend its first year at Weaver High School, if the board approves the plan. But school officials hope to move it to the Connecticut Culinary Institute on Farmington Avenue.
The academy would infuse culinary arts throughout its curriculum. For example, when students read classical literature they also might study the food and diet of the book's time period.
Students also would run a restaurant and a bakery. The curriculum would be designed to prepare students for college.
"The whole purpose is to engage students in learning. If this is the vehicle, so be it. If they don't go into the field after high school, that's OK," said Marty Trymbulak, one of the school's teachers.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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