Norwalk NHS/NCC P-Tech collaboration on track for fall

Norwalk Public Schools Director of Technology and Innovations Ralph Valenzisi addresses the Board of Education Tuesday.
Norwalk Public Schools Director of Technology and Innovations Ralph Valenzisi addresses the Board of Education Tuesday.

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk high school freshmen who are enrolled in the ground-breaking Norwalk Early College Academy (NECA) next fall will get be given their own laptops, be eligible for all the amenities a Norwalk Community College student gets and, if they stay in the program, earn $12 to $14 an hour as paid interns in their junior year, Norwalk Public Schools Director of Technology and Innovations Ralph Valenzisi said Tuesday.

Not only that, but the college credits they earn in the NECA tech program will be transferable to the college of their choice, should they decide they want to continue their education after graduating with both NCC and high school diplomas, at no charge.

Valenzisi gave his update on the Pathway in Technology (P-Tech) initiative at the regular Board of Education meeting. In the month since the first P-Tech school in Connecticut was announced a month ago, informational sessions have been held for parents and applications have been accepted for an academy director.

“We know that this will open,” Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera said. “This will open well. We are paying a lot of attention to the details.”

Rivera said 25 students have applied, including a few that evening. Admission will be done by lottery if more than 100 apply. Students will be selected in mid-May.

The budget for the program is about $950,000, he said. Of that, $500,000 is coming from the state to pay for renovations to Norwalk High classrooms, equipment, furniture and technology. The half-time $102,595 academy director cost will be borne by Norwalk, as will a $69,690 technology assistant. Rivera said he has a commitment for $75,000 from one foundation and a verbal commitment for $40,000 from another foundation.

IBM will contribute a full-time staff member to Norwalk High, and each student will get an academic mentor from IBM, who they will consult both in person and through a secure online connection, Valenzisi said.

The renovations at Norwalk High will make “a number of the classrooms” state of the art, Valenzisi said. There will be no smartboards, but rather a 70-inch LCD panel at the teacher’s station, he said. The goal is to have a collaborative think tank environment, he said.

The biggest issue to come out of the informational session is the ability of students to be in the band, given the expanded days the students will face, Valenzisi said.

“They will be able to be part of the sports teams, part of the band, join all those other types of electives and grow as a Norwalk High student,” he said. “We’ll make sure they have the support but it’s a lot of work. It’s a very, very rigorous program. Looking at the students in Brooklyn the growth in these high school students is unbelievable. They become very mature students. When they start seeing themselves as college students in 10th grade their attitude to these things changes. They develop these management skills as well. That is part of what the mentor from IBM helps with as well. ”

“This is not for every student. You have to balance your time. There’s a number of things you have to consider for the student,” Board member Rosa Murray said.

If fewer than 100 students enroll, it’s not a problem, Valenzisi said. There;s no minimum number as far as the state is concerned.

Board member Sherelle Harris asked if a student could repeat ninth grade to get into the academy this year.

“I don’t know, I’d have to get back to you on that,” Valenzisi said. “I guess we have to really look at that. I think it would be difficult.”

“If we have space that is something we should probably look at.” Rivera said.

Valenzisi said students need options. Brien McMahon is going to offer a health services program in collaboration with NCC, Valenzisi said. “We need to make sure we build these academies for kids,” he said.

The students will be able to participate in their high school graduations but will not get their diplomas until they also graduate from NCC, he said. “If we award them a degree they are not eligible for the tuition at NCC,” he said.

Again, the credits are transferable. Valenzisi said he and Rivera head met a “brilliant” high school junior when they visited a P-Tech academy in Brooklyn, who had already gotten 35 college credits and was planning to go to Temple law school.

“She’ll be two years ahead of the curve when she gets there,” he said.

“If I can describe it in three ways I would say it’s cutting edge, ahead of the curve and puts us on the map,” Board member Heidi Keyes said. “I think it’s a phenomenal program.”


3 responses to “Norwalk NHS/NCC P-Tech collaboration on track for fall”

  1. Piberman

    Yet more evidence of the extraordinary benefits to our City from a reinvigorated BOE under strong leadership and a superb Superintendent setting a high standard of “public service”.

  2. David

    This is the future of education, right here, right now, in Norwalk. These are the linchpins you create economies around.

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