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Avon Patch: Reggio Magnet School Groundbreaking Turns the Soil for Education

Wednesday September 12, 2012

Reggio Magnet School Groundbreaking Turns the Soil for Education
Capitol Region Education Council staff, Avon Public School and town officials, students, parents and local politicians celebrate the school’s construction on Waterville Road.
posted by Jessie Sawyer
September 21, 2012
©Avon Patch

The groundbreaking of a larger Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) Reggio Magnet School of the Arts is not only turning the soil on Waterville Road but also for increased opportunities in education.

This is such an exciting experience for us,” Denise M. Gallucci, CREC deputy executive director and superintendent of schools, said after a groundbreaking ceremony Friday. “It’s a privilege for us to offer this opportunity to kids in the capitol region.”

Site work to prepare for construction officially began about a month ago, according to Donald Walsh, CREC deputy executive director. The next step is laying down the foundation, he said. Construction should be completed by December 2013.

The magnet school was established in 2008 at Fisher Road in Avon as part of a settlement for Sheff vs. O’Neill, according to Walsh. The incentive behind the 1989 lawsuit was to create adequate educational opportunities for Hartford children and eliminate the “pocket of racial isolation,” he said.

Elizabeth Horton-Sheff herself, one of the plaintiffs in the Sheff vs. O’Neill case, spoke at the groundbreaking. She said that the commitment of the town of Avon, teachers and parents to her family’s dream made it tangible by supporting the Reggio school.

“Sheff [vs. O’Neill] came about through interest of families, urban and suburban and public interest lawyers to address inequities in Hartford with regard to education,” Horton-Sheff said.

Her son, Milo Sheff, who the lawsuit was named after, was 10 when Sheff vs. O’Neill was filed.

Horton-Sheff said that she’s noticed a huge difference since the first settlement. The achievement gap is closing, she said, and numerous magnet schools have been established as a result.

“A lot achieved, yet still more to do,” she said.

Gallucci, of Avon, has seen progress too. Many times, impoverished pre-kindergarten children who take the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test when they start at Reggio are one or two standard deviations below the mean. By kindergarten, they are often at or above the standard.

Gallucci, whose daughter, Avery, 8, is a Reggio student, called Principal Josie Dipietro-Smith “a gifted educator.”

“It’s an amazing day for us,” DiPietro-Smith said.

CREC planned to open the school in September 2013, but Walsh said the new target date is January 2014. The construction was delayed because the Planning and Zoning application process went longer than expected, he said. Until then, approximately 300 pre-kindergarten to fifth grade Reggio students are taking their classes at a temporary facility on Security Drive that’s owned by Mark Greenberg.

“The kids love it, the staff loves it and the parents love it also,” Walsh said.

The 2008 settlement called for the creation of seven magnet schools – Reggio, the Public Safety Academy in Enfield, Medical Professions and Teacher Preparatory Academy in New Britain, International Magnet School in East Hartford, Discovery Academy, Aerospace and Engineering Academy in Windsor and Museum Academy. Thursday marked the groundbreaking for the Enfield and New Britain magnet schools and the International Magnet School groundbreaking was last week. Discovery Academy is currently in Wethersfield temporarily and will be relocated to South Windsor once a new site is built.

Milo Sheff is 33 now. He owns Milo Sheff Studio to record music in Hartford and he’s taking classes in video editing. Sheff’s also training to be a sous chef. His mother said he was out of school by the time of the first Sheff vs. O’Neill settlement in 1996, so he didn’t directly benefit.

“I didn’t do it for my child,” she said. “I did it for my children.”

Link: http://avon.patch.com/articles/reggio-magnet-school-groundbreaking-turns-the-soil-for-education?ncid=newsltuspatc00000001