By Leslie Yager
At Tuesday night’s primer on Greenwich government at Town Hall, Deputy Superintendent for Schools Dr. Ellen Flanagan stepped in for Superintendent McKersie. Flanagan previously served as Principal of Glenville School and late as Director of Human Resources for the District.
Dr. Flanagan, who has been Deputy Superintendent since 2009, said the district services 9,000 students every day, which breaks down to 11 elementary schools with about 4,000 students and almost 2,000 across the three public middle schools. She said that between GHS and the two alternative high schools, there are about 2,500 students.
Rising Minority Student Enrollment
Flanagan summarized enrollment and demographic data from Greenwich Public Schools over 50 years. She said the peak enrollment was in the late 60s and low point in early 90s, but that in the last ten years enrollment has been flat. She said what has changed has been demographics of the students population.
1980-1989 minority population increased from 6% to 16.5%
1990-1998 minority population increased from 16.5% to 20%
1999-2008 minority population increased from 20% to 25.8%
Flanagan said that in the last ten years minority population has increased to 33.6% of students.
She categorized the minority population as largely Hispanic, but with the new census category in the last ten years, there is an increase in Hispanic and students who identify themselves as belonging to two or more racial groups.
Increase in Socio-Economic Status Has Changed Significantly
Gauged by the number who qualify for free or reduced lunch, which is set by a federal guideline, Flanagan said there has been a steady increase in socio-economic need among students.
Dr. Flanagan cited spikes in students on free and reduced lunch in the early 1990s and since 2008 which she suggested reflects the economic recession. Currently 14% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch lunch rate.
Public School Versus Private School Enrollment
The percentage attending public school has remained stable according to Flanagan that percentage has ranged from 75% to 73% of students eligible to attend Greenwich Public Schools.
“We serve 80% of our students extremely well, with them getting into the best colleges, doing well on SATs, AP exams etc.,” Flanagan said, adding that on SATs, Greenwich students outperform those in the Demographic Reference Group B (DRG B), which Flanagan explained is a Connecticut term for clusters of districts according to socio-economic and demographic criteria.
“On SATs we not only outperform DRG B, but also the state and the nation and we’re very competitive with DRG A too,” Flanagan said.
Greenwich Public Schools has dramatically increased the number of AP tests administered 2004 when 700 AP exams were administered, to 2013 where 1,800 AP exams were administered, all while maintaining median scores.
Flanagan said that his year Greenwich Public Schools received an AP award from the College Board both for significant gains in AP access to students as well as for performance. “We have increased the number of students taking AP exams from 2004 to 2011 by 21.7% and increasing the number of students with scores of 3 or better by19.7%.” (AP tests are scored on a scale of one to five.)
In the Intel Science Competition, Flanagan said this is the second year that a GHS student was selected as a national finalist, one of only 40 in the country.
This year Greenwich High School has 17 National Merit Scholar semi-finalists, which is the largest number of National Merit Semi-Finalists at any high school in the state.
In Johns Hopkins Talent Search, Greenwich Public School students had 21 students in grades 2 through 8 with score in the top 25% in the nation. The program allows qualifying students in grades 2 through 8 to take the regular SAT along with high school students.
Flanagan admits that the achievement gap persists, though the problem is not unique to Greenwich. The achievement gap is primarily between our socio-economic groups rather than between minority groups. We are about to give the BOE a report on the achievement Gap on April 3 and that report will be posted.
How the schools are funded? The superintendent develops a budget with the administration which goes to the BOE in December. They very rigorously review it and approve it and send it on to the BET, who review it and vote on it in February. “They just recently approved it and it’s moved on to the RTM who will vote on it in may. And then in May, we start all over again,” said Flanagan.