O’Connell to adopt International Baccalaureate program
By Grahame Winters Slogesky - ReminderNews
East Hartford - posted Tue., Aug. 21, 2012
Good things are happening in East Hartford’s public school system. In fact, residents with children in other towns may even be envious over the town’s commitment to its younger residents, as Dr. Thomas S. O’Connell School is in the process of adopting the International Baccalaureate Programme.
The IB program was founded in 1968 and currently is featured in more than 140 countries to serve more than 900,000 students in a worldwide community. The International Baccalaureate Programme includes four levels designed for students aged 3 to 19, which, according to the IB website, is designed to “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.”
Any school wishing to offer one of the four programs must be authorized by the IB through an intense learning and training period for both administrators and teachers to develop inquiry-based teaching and conceptual understanding, while thinking globally.
In May 2012, the East Hartford Board of Education voted for O’Connell School to pursue accreditation as an IB World School, becoming the third theme-based school in the district. O’Connell will adopt the IB Primary Years Programme, which normally takes two to three years to complete its authorization, and its campus will serve students from kindergarten through sixth grade.
O’Connell will become the seventh school in the state to adopt the IB Programme. Currently, East Hartford offers one other IB School, the CT IB Academy (CIBA), led by Principal Art Arpin, who is very enthusiastic about the addition of another IB school in the district.
CIBA, as a high school, offers the IB Diploma Years Programme, and has a track record of excellence. The school is consistently ranked highly with performance. “U.S. News & World Report,” “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek” all rated CIBA #1 in Connecticut. The school is nationally ranked #14. Arpin is very proud of that ranking. “Given that we are a magnet school and accept students through a lottery system makes our accomplishments even more amazing,” Arpin said. “This is a highly rigorous college-level program, and students who take this program wind up succeeding at the college level because they’re better prepared.”
Arpin said it was former superintendent of schools Dr. Mark Zito who had the idea to create theme-based schools to keep families invested in education in East Hartford. His vision became the district plan to eventually offer a continuum of International Baccalaureate Programmes, with the addition of a Middle Years Programme school in the future. Arpin said that new Superintendent of School Nathan Quesnel is “ready to follow through all board initiatives; he has energy and enthusiasm, and having been in the system, he knows what the needs are.” Once the plan comes to fruition, East Hartford will be among the first in New England that would offer the entire continuum within the town.
The Primary Years Programme at O’Connell School’s long-term plans include becoming an IB Candidate School, implementing the IB curriculum, offering Spanish instruction for all students in grades K-6 and renovating Barnes School, all in the 2012-13 school year. The following years’ plans include the IB campus to include Barnes School and the possible expansion of the school to include pre-K through 8.
Arpin stated that this addition of another IB school in East Hartford offers “quality education to their district students that put more of the learning on the student, to find ways in which they can look at the basics of reading and writing through trans-disciplinary themes, so they’re looking at curriculum in a holistic manner.” He recalled visiting other PYP schools, and said, “It’s fascinating, what these kids can do – the level and depth that they express themselves; they can explain themselves in a very mature way, so you may forget you’re talking to an 8-year-old.”
Arpin said the plan includes keeping existing staff, and the hiring of a Spanish teacher for second-language instruction. The entire staff will be trained by specialized IB trainers.
The in-district (neighborhood) families were given first priority for enrollment. Following that, residents interested in sending their children to O’Connell School were asked to apply last spring. Its enrollment is close to 500, a large jump from the approximately 330 students served in the past.