Andrew Campanella: ISAAC has been making a difference for students and your community for 21 years. What has been the driving force in your success?
David Howes: I would say that the driving force has always been the first word in our acronym, “Interdistrict.” New London is a small urban area. We draw students from around the region to come to ISAAC with theme of arts and communication. The innovation here has been about this idea of bringing kids together from different places. In part because of the example that ISAAC has set, our region has really become all about choice.
Andrew Campanella: Tell me more about your school’s philosophy in terms of individual creativity and how that inspires kids to do their best and to achieve?
David Howes: The mission from the very beginning of the school has been a broader definition of arts and communication. Our experience is that students learn best with experiences that are relevant to their lives and challenge them to work together to answer difficult questions. And then we use arts and communication to help them to explore and to communicate their learning.
Andrew Campanella: What was the inspiration behind the “Community Faces” project?
David Howes: New London itself and this region have quite a bit of diversity for such a small region. And so our social studies teacher, Mr. Kuczenski, was inspired to have kids explore that more and celebrate each other – doing something that would have an impact on their community or an impact on the world.
Andrew Campanella: What was the reaction in the community when the students presented the project?
David Howes: It was powerful. There’s been over 18 articles written about the project from local newspapers. The students did a presentation at Connecticut College about their findings. They had their gallery of portraits, and then there was a community presentation that involved the teachers. They also created a book, they were recognized at the State House on Connecticut Immigration Day in early May, and they’re the youngest ever recipients of the Angela Anderson Award for those that do positive things for immigrants in our community.
Andrew Campanella: Tell me how you celebrate School Choice Week every year?
David Howes: The week coincides with either our winter concert or our celebration of learning. So, we’re celebrating the great learning that’s happening in our school, related to arts and communication. Last year we had a community meeting where the entire school community comes together and kids will present things that they’ve done, and we celebrate good work around our character values. We all held up our school choice signs and we took a big school wide photo.