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Hartford's School 'Choice' Program Outlined; Some Parents Disappointed

By JODIE MOZDZER | Courant Staff Writer

September 26, 2008

Parents got a crash course Wednesday in the new "choice" program that will let them send their children to any Hartford public school next year.

But some parents, expecting the program to be similar to an existing "open choice" system in which children can attend schools outside Hartford were surprised to see that the list only included Hartford schools.

"I don't want to go from McDonough to some school that's the same or worse," said Hashem Khybery, whose two children go to McDonough Elementary School on Hillside Avenue.

Wednesday's "community conversation" at Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School was held by the school district and the Hartford Education Alliance to respond to confusion about the choice program, which will take effect for the entire district in the 2009-10 school year.

Students in two grades chose their schools this year.

The choice program will require parents to apply to new schools when their children are in the last year at their current school.

"That's a change," said Treda Collier, the director of admissions for Hartford schools, who explained the system to about 35 parents. "You apply for a job. You apply to get a passport. You don't think about applying for public school."

If they don't send in an application, the students will get a "deferred placement" in one of the schools with the lowest demand from students.

All other students have the option of applying for a new school, even when they are not in the last year at their current school.

The new process could mean more paperwork for parents who aren't sure whether they want their children to attend a public school or a magnet school. To place a student at a magnet school in the city, parents will have to fill out a separate application through the Regional School Choice Office.

The choice program is one of several changes to the school district under Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski's transformation plan. This year, new schools were opened, and other low-performing schools were closed and redesigned as different schools.

Next year, more low-performing schools are scheduled to be redesigned. Other changes include the way budgets are distributed to schools and the level of autonomy that high-performing schools have.

Officials said that as the changes are implemented, the school choice program will eventually let parents pick from a long list of specialized public schools, such as the Academy for Latino Studies that opened in the former Dominic Burns Elementary School this year.

More forums on the changes are planned. The next is scheduled for 4 p.m. Oct. 16 at Capital Community College at 950 Main St.

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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