Shelton schools earn distinctive honor

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Two of Shelton’s public schools have earned high marks from the state of Connecticut.

Sunnyside School and Long Hill School were both tabbed as Schools of Distinction in the state’s Next General Accountability System — a measure that strives to judge schools on more than just test scores — released Jan. 30.

This is the fourth consecutive year Sunnyside School has received the honor, while this is the third such recognition for Long Hill School.

“I am delighted for the district and for these schools,” said school Superintendent Chris Clouet. “We have had growth in all our schools, which is encouraging.”

Overall, the state number slipped a bit. Looking at a dozen indicators — everything from academic growth to chronic absenteeism to access to the arts — the system gives the state’s public schools a combined grade of 74.2 out of 100 for the 2018-19 school year compared with 74.9 percent the year before. The index is higher, however, than the 73.1 score of 2015-16.

Sunnyside School finished with a score of 90.92, a jump from 82.1 last year, while Long Hill School finished at 81.99, a drop from last year’s 85.5 but still enough to grab another School of Distinction honor.

“This gives the staff credit where credit is due,” said Long Hill School Principal Andrea D’Aiuto. “Many times, teachers are so self-reflective, always looking at what could have been better in every situation. Being recognized as a school of distinction lets them know that they are doing some wonderful things here for students … and they’re going in the right direction.”

With budgets tight, D’Aiuto credits her staff with finding creative ways to offer instruction to students.

“I am so proud of the staff here,” said Sunnyside School Principal Amy Yost. “I am so happy for them. This award is validation for all the hard work and endless hours the staff, K through 4, put in teaching our students.”

Yost said Sunnyside School continues to show robust growth with all students, particularly those coming in with lower past performances. Yost said students are demonstrating more than a year’s worth of growth in math and reading in the school year.

“We put our children first,” said Yost. “It is all about relationship building with the kids. A kid is not a just a number here. We make them part of a community … we give them a voice, and when a kid feels that level of trust, they become risk takers, and that reflects in their academic achievements.”

Yost also said Sunnyside School staff monitor each student’s growth during the school year. Yost said staff will intervene when necessary so no student begins to lag behind academically or socially.

Overall, the Shelton school district’s score dipped to 78.48 this year. The district scored 80.1 in 2017-18 and 76.37 in 2016-17.

Clouet said the district’s academic growth in math and English Language Arts remains impressive but there is always room for improvement. He said the district continues to succeed on the strength of its staff, which regularly find creative ways to deliver education, especially among high-needs students.

“We are limited by the resources we receive,” said Clouet, “making it more of a challenge to achieve increased growth … but our district is still on the path to place among the top 20 percent in the state, using SAT and SPAC scores.”