School officials preparing to apply for additional funds


NAUGATUCK — School district administrators will meet with a delegation Wednesday from the state Department of Education to begin working on an application for $635,000 in Alliance District funding.

The borough is one of the 30 municipalities with the lowest-performing school systems in the state, termed “Alliance Districts” under Gov. Dannel Malloy’s education reform plan.

The state increased the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant by a total of $39.5 million for these districts.

The ECS increase to Alliance Districts follows different rules than other ECS funding. Rather than going to the municipalities to be used towards education costs, the increase for these districts will go directly to the local boards of education. And, these districts will have to apply for the additional funding from the state by submitting a plan to improve student performance.

“We will do our very best to develop a plan that gets us all the $635,000,” Superintendent John Tindall-Gibson told the school board Thursday night.

If Naugatuck’s application or portions of it are rejected, the district would lose out on the additional revenue, but officials expect the state to work with Alliance Districts to secure the funding. The additional revenue is already factored into the school budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Alliance District designations are for five years and such districts can seek funding for multi-year programs as it’s anticipated the funds will continue in future years.

According to the state education reform initiative signed into law last month, school improvement plans many include intervention systems for schools, ways to ensure reading mastery from kindergarten through third grade, extended classroom time, recruitment and retention of high-performing staff, training on new teacher evaluation models, alignment of early childhood education programs with kindergarten and social services for students in need, among other goals.

Tindall-Gibson said the borough school system’s plan would match at least some of those categories.

Administrators have not yet formulated a more specific plan, but are considering kindergarten counseling as a program that could be eligible for the funding, Tindall-Gibson said. The plan can be submitted July 13 at the earliest, he said.

Based on Connecticut Mastery Test data, borough schools rank 16th from the bottom of the state, according to a list the Board of Education received.

The borough does not have any schools that rank so poorly that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor can impose an overhaul plan on them, Tindall-Gibson said. The state determined Central Avenue Elementary School was a “focus school” due to its large achievement gap, but it will close next year.

Administrators and board members said they voted to close the school because it was logistically easier to redistribute the students, but board member Glenn Connan said Thursday that Central Avenue’s test scores were the basis of his decision.

“The reason I voted for Central was because it was a poor performing school,” Connan said, adding he had heard from parents who were happy their children would be attending the higher-scoring Maple Hill Elementary School.