State to Provide $1 Million to NBHS Under Commissioner’s Network Program

The Consolidated School District of New Britain has announced that the State Board of Education has approved New Britain High School as the state’s newest “Commissioner’s Network School”, bringing with it $1 million in additional funding for NBHS during the next three years.

NBHS was initially selected as a possible Commissioner’s Network school on October 25, 2016. Since then, a “Turnaround Committee” was constituted by the New Britain school district and the New Britain Federation of Teachers, which then worked with the school district and the State Department of Education in creating a “Turnaround Plan” for New Britain High School.

On October 4, 2017, Dr. Dianna R. Wentzell, the State Commissioner of Education, recommended that the State Board of Education approve the plan, with the condition that the New Britain school district and NBHS participate in monitoring and oversight of the plan by the State Department of Education.

Commissioner Wentzell introduced her recommendation for approval by saying that state law,

establishes the Commissioner’s (Network) to provide new resources and flexibilities to improve student achievement in a subset of the state’s lowest-performing schools. The Network represents a commitment between local stakeholders and the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) to empower teachers and leaders to implement research-based strategies in schools selected by the Commissioner to participate in the Network for a period of three to five years. Network schools remain part of their local school districts; the districts and the CSDE secure school-level autonomy for the schools in exchange for heightened accountability.

The New Britain High School Turnaround Committee consists of:

  • Tricia Putnam, CSDNB Coordinator of Leadership Development and Higher Education Partnerships, who is the Committee’s Chairperson
  • Nancy Sarra, New Britain Superintendent of Schools
  • Joe Pinchera, NBHS Principal
  • Sondra Sanford, Assistant Coordinator of NBHS Programs and Community Partnerships
  • Lara Bohlke, CSDNB Coordinator of 6-12 Academics
  • Michael Foran, Principal, NBHS Satellite Careers Academy
  • Sal Escobales, a teacher and President of the New Britain Federation of Teachers
  • Michael Titor, a teacher representing New Britain Federation of Teachers
  • Michael Zayas, a teacher representing the New Britain Federation of Teachers
  • Rita Zapor, a parent, PTO Board Member and School Governance Council Member
  • Richard Ashman, a parent and PTO Board Member
  • Paulette Fox, Executive Director of OIC New Britain
  • Robin Sparks, Executive Director of the Coalition for New Britain Youth

Commissioner Wentzell’s message to the State Board of Education said that,

The goal of the New Britain High School Turnaround Plan is to establish a school-wide career pathways model which provides every student with an opportunity to explore careers in a personalized environment; to use what they learn in the classroom to solve authentic, real-world problems related to careers they will pursue after high school; and to acquire academic and technical skills and knowledge that lead to postsecondary education or training and meaningful credentials.

Elements of the plan include:

  • Prepare students and families for implementation of career pathways model for all students, including the role pathway selection will have in course enrollment and the implications for future careers, education and training.
  • Restructure the school schedule to maximize time for student instruction, teacher collaboration, and academic interventions.
  • Develop and implement a family/community engagement plan that embraces New Britain High School families and community partners in the improvement of student outcomes.
  • Create a Welcome and Family Resource Center at New Britain High School.
  • Implement district and school policies and strategies to improve chronic absenteeism rates.

Commissioner Wentzell added,

New Britain High School will benefit from increased flexibility and additional resources in exchange for heightened accountability. Over the course of the school’s participation in the Network, the Commissioner and/or consultants of the CSDE Turnaround Office will review: (a) school progress relative to implementation of the Turnaround Plan and annual plan amendments and (b) school performance relative to identified goals and leading and lagging performance metrics.

“The NBHS community is thrilled to be part of the Commissioner’s Network for the next three years,” said Pinchera. “School administration, central office staff, state consultants, and NBHS teachers have been developing a comprehensive high school turnaround plan for about a year now. Superintendent Sarra and I feel confident that this state partnership will move our high school to the next level.”

The New Britain school system says that,

The plan will begin immediately and the main focus this year will be audits and data analysis. Professional development and coaching will also be established and implementation will begin based on the priority areas. Additionally, a family engagement plan will be developed in an effort to increase engagement throughout the community.

In the second year of the model, which will be the 2018-2019 school year, the work from 2017-2018 will continue. Professional development, coaching structures and protocols will also be set in motion with scheduled progress monitoring.

During the 2019-2020 school year, the focus will be on working with external partners to center their work on sustainability at every level of the organization. Structures, protocols, progress monitoring and train-the-trainer professional development will continue to be monitored to ensure sustainability.

Superintendent Serra said that, “The work over the next three years will focus on personalized and comprehensive whole-child education so our students will be prepared for, and positively contribute to, a profoundly different future. We’re excited and proud that the State Department of Education has the confidence in our staff to begin this transformation. We understand the work and commitment that is needed by all staff in order to make these changes for all New Britain students.”