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Fox Run Named a Finalist for Award

Fox Run Elementary School has been recognized by an area foundation for its academic improvement.  It is one of four elementary schools, including two in Bridgeport and one in Stratford, in the running for the fourth annual Fairfield County Academic Gain Award handed out by the Lone Pine Foundation of Greenwich .

“This is a validation of our hard work,” says principal James Martinez.  The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 9, during a ceremony at the University of Connecticut in Stamford.

For the 2008-09 school year, Fox Run was a school “in need of improvement,” according to No Child Left Behind standards.  This year, however, the school made  “Adequate Yearly Progress,” through a designation called “safe harbor,” by posting over 10 percent improvement among its minority and economically disadvantaged students.  The most striking gains across the grades and subgroups were made in reading, says Martinez.  “We focused on literacy.  It’s key, without it, you can’t access other subjects.”

“We did it very creatively,” says Martinez, explaining the school’s progress.  He had all of his teachers trained in  “Readers Workshop” -- a reading methodology that  provides children with reading books, individual conferencing and independent reading time. “I provided my staff as many professional development opportunities as I could,” says Martinez.

Assistant Principal Elisa Nelson ran A.M. Academy, a before-school program that provided struggling readers with extra support.  The school also ran a Fluency Academy to give English Language Learners additional help with reading.  Martinez said he recruited parent volunteers to give one-on-one reading and math help to students.

As a result of federal assistance through the Title I program, Fox Run had a full-time reading specialist.  The school lost its Title I funding this year, reducing the specialist position to part- time.  “I’m worried about sustaining our improvement without the extra support this year.”

Martinez, who has been principal for two years, believes that school climate has an effect on student learning.  “I try be very positive and visible.  I’m in the classrooms every day.  When you have a good relationship with your staff, parents, and kids, there is energy in the building.”

The Lone Pine Foundation conducted site visits at all four schools, which were chosen from all public elementary schools in Fairfield County.  Every full-time employee at the winning school will get $500, and runner-up schools will receive a lump sum of  $1,000.

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