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School Gets Funds To Open

Achievement First Institution Is Considered Key To City’s School Reform

By JEFFREY B. COHEN | Courant Staff Writer

July 23, 2008

A charter school whose widely anticipated opening in Hartford was threatened by a lack of cash will open this school year, city officials said Tuesday.

City hall spokeswoman Sarah Barr said in a press release that the Achievement First charter school, run by the same group that operates the acclaimed Amistad Academy in New Haven, will open to 252 students "thanks to public and private support."

Barr, along with officials at the public school system and Achievement First, declined to say where the money for the school was coming from. A press conference is scheduled for this morning to announce the opening and the funding source.

"The plan is to announce that at tomorrow's press conference," Patricia Sweet, an Achievement First official, said Tuesday.

Considered a key part in the city's school reform efforts, the school received approval from the state and city boards of education late last year. Expecting money to be included in the state budget, school officials moved ahead with plans to open, hiring staff and enrolling students. There is already a waiting list for kindergarten and first grade.

But when the governor and state legislators opted not to make any changes to the budget this year, instead adopting a spending plan created last year, the funding for the school — roughly $2.3 million for 252 pupils — never materialized.

In a recent letter, Hartford schools chief Steven J. Adamowski asked Gov. M. Jodi Rell to allocate the money. He described Achievement First-Hartford as a critical part of the district's plan to reorganize city schools and offer more high-performing schools.

"Failure to fund the seats for the new Achievement First-Hartford school ... would strike a blow at the heart of our plans for the upcoming year and set back our reform effort not only in the eyes of Hartford parents and teachers but also in the eyes of the national funding community for whom the inclusion of Achievement First in our plans is critical to their future support," he wrote.

The school received approval last year to open with three grades — kindergarten and first and fifth — then add grades each year until it enrolls pupils from kindergarten through eighth grade. It would be housed at Mark Twain Elementary School on Lyme Street.

The group operates schools in Bridgeport, New Haven and New York. Its Amistad Academy and Elm City College Preparatory School, both in New Haven, have drawn attention for producing reading, math and writing gains among low-income and minority children.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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