New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio on Thursday proposed turning New London High School into a magnet school for sports and sports sciences in the mold of Hartford's Sports and Medical Sciences Academy as part of a plan to transform the public school system into an all-magnet district.
Finizio, who spoke at Thursday night's Board of Education meeting about his plan after circulating a memo on the subject (see attached PDF) earlier in the day, noted the challenges facing the New London Public Schools District in recent years, including the appointment of a state "special master" to oversee the city's schools and flat funding for five consecutive years. In the memo, he wrote, "It now falls to all of us to chart a new course forward."
Finizio's "new course forward" includes turning New London High into a scholar-athlete and sports medicine magnet school as part of a larger plan to make New London the state's first all-magnet district under legislation introduced by state Sen. Andrea Stillman in 2006 and passed by the state legislature.
The state-appointed special master overseeing the school system, Dr. Stephen Adamowski, announced at the meeting that there is a $3 million request to cover initial design work for the renovation of the high school that is scheduled to be approved by the state Bond Commission Friday.
"The original building is in dire need of renovation and improvement," Adamowski said. "There are a number of complaints that have been filed over the years to the Office of Civil Rights that are pending against the district relative to the issue of the school being inaccessible to the handicapped."
The 2006 Stillman bill also lowered New London's threshold of required out-of-district students to 15% and stipulated that the district would receive $3,000 per student if the all-magnet school system was "racially and ethnically integrated," according to Finizio's memo.
"This has the potential of bringing in $9 million in new revenue to the city," the mayor noted. "... This initiative would be able to compensate for years of flat-funding and help the school district and the City in immeasurable ways."
Currently, the city has two magnet schools — the Science & Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut and the . The Nathan Hale Magnet Elementary School for Visual and Performing Arts is slated to open next fall.
In the memo, Finizio compares New London's demographics to Hartford's, and notes the success of Hartford's Sports and Medical Science Academy in improving achievement rates.
The mayor also said his proposal would be consistent with the demonstrated interests of the community.
"A Sports and Science Medicine Academy would be in keeping with the interest among the student population that is currently at New London High School," Finizio wrote. "In addition, there is the possibility for widespread political support for investment of this initiative throughout our community.
"In the past, the community supported improving the athletic programs and facilities that are available. This academy would maximize the prior athletic facility investments that have already been made."
Jason Harris contributed reporting to this article.