As Labor Leaders Gather on Friday in Hartford, Faculty and Administrators Debate Consolidation of Community Colleges Across Connecticut

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In the hopes of improving student outcomes and reducing costs for state taxpayers, Connecticut’s twelve community colleges are expected to be consolidated into a single accredited institution in 2023. “Students First will help improve the success rate of our community college students which is not good at all right now, the lowest in New England actually,” said Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. “It will address the equity gap that exists and thirdly put our community colleges on a sustainable financial path for the future.” According to Leigh Appleby, director of communications for the school

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Area Schools Show Jump in English Language Learner Enrollment

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Between 2015 and 2019 the number of English Language Learners in Westbrook Schools increased from 5.9 to 11.9 percent of the student body. As of October, that’s 89 students spread across grades kindergarten through 12 entering school without fluency in English. “We expected this population to rise, but it appears to have happened sooner than we thought,” said Patricia Ciccone, superintendent of schools in Westbrook. Although Westbrook has seen the greatest increase of English Language Learners by percent in the region, a broader trend is evident. Old Saybrook’s population of English Language Learners increased from 2.6 to 4.8 percent and

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Experts Debate State Approach to School Safety

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“Initiating emergency lockdown,” an electronic voice announced from a speaker on the desk phone. A small red button on any phone in all four of the Lyme-Old Lyme school buildings can activate a “critical incident response,” a school safety procedure drilled twice each month.  “The state requires you to do at least one drill each month, at least eight fire drills and two lockdown drills,” explained School Superintendent Ian Neviaser. “We do two per month — sometimes lockdowns, fire drills, critical incident drills.”   That’s 20 drills each school year, in addition to class time devoted to safety training. As of

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Eligibility for Free & Reduced School Lunch Jumps in Semi-Rural and Suburban Towns Under New Formula

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In the last three years, Old Saybrook Public Schools has seen a 11.1 percent increase in students receiving free or reduced school lunch. Putting aside the issue of declining enrollments in the district, 227 students qualified for subsidized lunch in 2018-19, compared to just 100 students in 2015-16. “The reasons for the increase are hard to assess because the information is so highly confidential. I do not know the names of the students on free and reduced lunch, so [I] rarely become aware of who is receiving this benefit,” said Superintendent Jan Perruccio. “I will say that there seems to

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Old Saybrook Board of Education to Phase-in Universal Pre-School

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OLD SAYBROOK — The Board of Education voted unanimously to authorize the superintendent to proceed with a phased-in approach to adding universal preschool for 4-year-olds in the Old Saybrook. “We move very deliberately in this district,” said Jan Perruccio, superintendent of Old Saybrook schools. “It is a safe way to pilot this that allows us to expand this without stretching it so far that it runs the risk of failing.” The phase-in will begin next school year, reducing preschool tuition from $4,300 to $3,450  for non-special education students, and increasing non-special education enrollment of 4-year-olds from 35 to 45 students.

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$26.8 Million to Fund Reorganization, Scholarships in Early Childhood Education

On Thursday, the Office of Early Childhood received a $26.8 million federal grant targeted toward supporting and expanding the workforce by easing the burden of childcare. “How do we support the workforce, that is the essential problem,” said Beth Bye, the commissioner for the Office of Early Childhood. “Childcare and workforce go hand in hand. That’s why we are coordinating with the workforce efforts led by Governor Lamont.” Without reliable childcare, it is more difficult for parents to work outside the home and join the workforce — a priority for the governor, said Bye. “The strength of our state is

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Department of Education Balances Work and College Prep for Connecticut High School Graduates

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In 2017, 70.9 percent of new Connecticut high school graduates enrolled in a college or university, according to the State Department of Education. Nearly 30 percent of Connecticut students joined the workforce with a high school diploma. In a statement this October, the State Department of Education underscored the need to provide public education that directly meets the needs of both career paths. “We strongly believe that Connecticut’s K-12 public education system must not only emphasize rigorous, well-rounded academics and citizenship, but also evolve to meet the needs of the state’s economy. In addition to providing pathways to college through

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Letter: Portland Superintendent Responds to Open Choice Reporting

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I recently read the December 12th article published in the CT Examiner entitled, Few Rules, Little Oversight for 11 Million Open Choice Program.  I was astonished by two assertions raised in this article: First, the suggestion that funding used to supplement limited resources that support teaching and learning is a “slush fund” and not subjected to rigorous accounting procedures and oversight is entirely inaccurate. Second, the suggestion that a program designed to reduce the racial, ethnic, and economic isolation in Connecticut Public Schools is not having a positive influence on student learning is misguided and does not reflect the reality that I know.   The perceptions

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Few Rules, Little Oversight For $11 Million Open Choice Program

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Each year the state writes a check for more than $11 million that is shared among 13 school districts as compensation for accepting 2,242 students from Hartford into their schools. That money – called the Open Choice grant – arrives after local school budgets are finalized and comes with no specific guidelines for its use, according to the State Department of Education. “Open choice is essentially an entitlement grant. We don’t track the district’s expenditures,” said Peter Yazbak, the director of communications for the State Department of Education. “Open choice grants go to districts in the form of revenue like

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More than $3 million on athletic facilities could be spent in Lyme-Old Lyme

LYME – OLD LYME New tennis courts, a pending turf field installation and the coming renovation of the elementary and middle schools are planned for Lyme-Old Lyme schools in the next five years. The needed high school tennis court renovations with bleachers and a windscreen will cost the school district $571,360, according to the latest design. “We are going out to bid the beginning of January and will hopefully be bringing bids to the February meeting,” said John Rhodes, facilities director for Lyme-Old Lyme. Rhodes, who is retiring at the end of the school year, said, “I hope to be

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