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Dear We-Ha Editor,
You may be aware that there are two schoolwide Title I schools in West Hartford (Charter Oak and Smith STEM). These are schools that have over 40% of the student population that fall below the poverty line and qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. Charter Oak served 12.7% percent of their student population who are English Language Learners and Smith STEM has 25%, compared the to districtwide average of 7.6%. Both Magnets have higher rates of chronic absences, as well as higher representation of Hispanic, Black and Asian students than the district-wide average.
These magnet schoolhave special programming (an International Baccalaureate program at Charter Oak and STEM program at Smith). The design behind these programs is to attract families from across the district who select the magnet program, creating greater racial and socioeconomic diversity. Magnet programs like these provide educational opportunities to students who historically faced barriers due to race, economics, and language/cultural differences.
The recent budget proposal by the Board of Education eliminates the role of STEM Curriculum Specialist, targeting the magnet program at Smith. This is the only budget cut at the elementary level for the 2023-2024 school year and takes resources away from a school that serves one of the most diverse communities in West Hartford.
Why is a STEM specialist essential? The STEM specialist designs the STEM curriculum, organizes STEM experiences and after-school enrichment, and works alongside classroom teachers to provide an authentic STEM magnet experience. Asking a science teacher, whose time is primary spent in the classroom, to take on the responsibilities of a full-time curriculum specialist is unreasonable. Asking the parent body from a school which regularly has one of the smallest PTO budgets in the district to pick up the slack is not a solution.
Cutting this position undercuts the purpose of the magnet program, which is to attract students from a diversity of backgrounds, thus improving the educational opportunity for West Hartford students with the greatest need. Not a good look from a BOE that claims to value diversity and equity.
A concerned West Hartford resident,
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