Yale invests in West Haven schools

In the University’s latest move to help improve local education, Yale announced Tuesday it will invest $100,000 in West Haven public schools.

Since 2007, when the University purchased the Bayer Healthcare Complex and founded West Campus, Yale has invested more than $1 million in the city of West Haven in an ongoing effort to reach out to the West Haven community. This $100,000 will primarily fund reading materials for elementary school students, said West Haven Public Schools Superintendent Neil Cavallaro. A portion of the funding will be directed toward purchasing computer and Smart Board software.

West Haven school administrators said they are grateful for the University’s investment.

“[Yale administrators] have been very generous to us. When they purchased West Campus, they made it clear that they wanted to be a part of our community,” Cavallaro said. “We hope it continues for a long, long time.”

Cavallaro said improving early literacy is one of the most important items on the district’s agenda. It is very difficult for third-grade students behind their appropriate reading level to make up the difference with their peers, Cavallaro said. To prevent such reading level setbacks, the new funding will target young elementary school students and attempt to bring all students to reading at grade level, he added.

“Early literacy skills are critical in the development of our local youth and in placing all children on an equal footing as they take their first steps of their academic career,” said Lauren Zucker, associate vice president and director of New Haven affairs for Yale.

Ritamarie Bouchard, the K-6 English language arts coach for West Haven public schools, said Yale’s donation will fund programs such as the Daily 5, a West Haven elementary school program in which students rotate through five different reading activity stations, such as “read to self” and “listen to reading.” Daily 5 also allows teachers to work with individuals or small groups, she added.

Access to a variety of books is vital to students’ ability to improve their reading abilities, Bouchard said. The reading levels and topics of the books need to be varied so students are reading at the right level on topics that interest them, she explained. The $100,000 donated by Yale will fund books of all genres, from non-fiction to poetry.

“Reading is magic,” Bouchard said. “Reading is a gift that will take children wherever they want to go.”

Zucker said Yale must exhibit “civic leadership” in West Haven analogous to the way the University invests in New Haven.

“Similar to our investment in the New Haven Promise, Yale is pleased to be able to contribute to a program which focuses on improving all children’s opportunity for educational success,” Zucker said.

Cavallaro added that more than half of the money Yale has invested in West Haven has gone to the school district. He noted that, among other programs and activities, West Haven high school students take advantage of internships on West Campus.

In April 2009, Yale gave $500,000 to West Haven for the creation of a West Haven Center for the Arts.

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