Trinity College and Hartford Public Schools Join Forces

Bold Venture Underscores College’s Commitment to Hartford Children

Two of Connecticut’s oldest institutions, Trinity College and Hartford Public Schools, today signed a landmark partnership agreement to expand the district’s nationally acclaimed Hartford Magnet Middle School into a grade 6 through 12 academy that will emphasize college-preparedness as well as the sciences and the visual and performing arts.

Trinity President James F. Jones, Jr., and Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski held a signing ceremony in the middle school’s library this morning, accompanied by Hartford Magnet Middle School Principal Sally Ann Biggs, students from the HMMS Phoenix Jazz Band, Superintendent-Designate Christina M. Kishimoto, and other officials in the Trinity/Hartford Public Schools community.

The new Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy (HMTCA) will be situated at the Learning Corridor, the 16-acre campus managed by Hartford Public Schools that sits on Broad Street across from the Trinity campus in the city’s South End. Construction of the 35,000-square foot school addition is expected to begin in 2013. Biggs will serve as the principal of HMTCA, which has already admitted the first class of 9th graders for the fall of 2011. The class of 100 students will be housed in renovated space in the middle school. 

The proposal to expand and rename Hartford Magnet Middle School to form a comprehensive grade 6-12 academy was approved by the city’s Board of Education on May 17 and by Trinity’s Board of Trustees on May 20, marking the final steps in the planning process. An application to fund the project will now be submitted to the state Department of Education.

Jones and Adamowski worked in tandem to move the project forward, devoting the time and resources to turn their vision into a bricks-and-mortar reality, and working synergistically to enhance the educational opportunities available to schoolchildren throughout the region. It was Jones’s desire that there be a heavy emphasis on writing and on study- and time-management skills. Thus, a key objective of the academy will be to prepare students for college and to allow those students who qualify to take college courses for credit and experience a college schedule and standards during their senior year of high school.

“The academy will give high school students a much greater vision of their own potential futures and what it takes to succeed at a competitive college,” said Jones. “It will also provide an opportunity to directly recruit talented local students from Hartford to Trinity. Attracting more local students of color and first-generation college students is a natural step forward in Trinity’s ongoing community outreach efforts.”

HMTCA will add to the continuum of teaching excellence that has been the hallmark of the Hartford Middle Magnet School, which on May 18 received the prestigious Dr. Ronald P. Simpson Distinguished Merit Award, as the magnet school that most exemplifies a commitment to diversity, high academic standards and curriculum development. In winning the award, the middle school bested nearly 6,000 magnet schools in the United States serving more than 1 million students. It marks the first time that any Connecticut school has achieved this distinction.

“Hartford Magnet Middle School’s selection as the best magnet school in America is a historic event for Hartford and Connecticut,” said Adamowski. “It should give all of us confidence that we are capable of creating the best schools in the nation for our children right here in Hartford.”

Altogether, HMTCA’s enrollment in grades 9 through 12 will be 400. In addition to qualified seniors who may enroll in college-level classes, the goal is to have seniors take their high school classes on Trinity’s campus on a space-available basis. That facet of the program will begin in the fall of 2014, when the first group of 9th graders will be seniors.

However, Trinity faculty have been collaborating with HMTCA teachers in curriculum development and, beginning this summer, will be co-teaching with HMTCA faculty at Trinity in the pre-9th grade writing and study skills program, which will be a permanent preparation program for every new 9th-grade class.

A significant motive behind HMTCA is the continuity it will afford many middle school students who, until now, complete 8th grade and either have to return to their neighborhood school or apply to another magnet school.

Half of the students will come from Hartford and half from towns in the region. The funding for the suburban students will be provided by the state, the result of the Sheff vs. O’Neill lawsuit, which seeks to end racial isolation in suburban school districts and Hartford. The funding for the city students will be paid out of the Hartford Board of Education budget.

The initial term of the agreement between Trinity and the Hartford school system is for 10 years, renewable for 10 years. During that time, Trinity will not only help design the curriculum, but will participate on the governing council that oversees the school. Also participating will be parents, school administrators and staff.