Four New Haven schools will receive $11.7 million in federal grant money over the next three years, thus designating the K-8 schools as magnet schools.

Bishop Woods School, John S. Martinez School and West Rock Author’s Academy will direct the funds toward STEM education while the Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy will invest in global awareness and social justice teaching, according to West Rock principal Madeline Negron, who spoke on behalf of outgoing New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 at a press conference at Clemente last Thursday. She said the money will also go toward increasing teacher development opportunities and improving parental engagement in all four schools.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Education’s Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which gave over $91 million to nine different districts around the country this year, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

“We are small, but we punch above our weight,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 (D-Conn.) said at the press conference. “In federal funding competition this one is like the World Series and the batters who made it possible were the educators.” 

Blumenthal thanked the NHPS district’s faculty and said the grant reflects the excellence of New Haven schools, and said competition for the grant was fierce.

The grant will help New Haven students become successful and compete in the workforce, Blumenthal said, adding that the workplace today requires academic and social skills as well as the ability to work in diverse settings. Because magnet schools draw students from across different school zones, they help bring together students with diverse backgrounds.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the money will help interdisciplinary work and allow schools to connect their work to what is happening outside of classrooms. He added that the money came at an opportune moment, at a time when the state is finding itself in a “tough spot” with potential gaps in educational funding. Earlier this year, Gov. Dannel Malloy faced criticism after proposing a cut to educational funding to address a potential upcoming budget deficit of $922 million.

Murphy praised Clemente’s student council students, who attended part of the conference, and told them they were setting a positive example for their peers.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-New Haven), also present, highlighted the importance of education for children’s future success.

“President Lyndon Johnson once described education as the only passport out of poverty,” DeLauro said. “Decades later, he is still right.”

Negron told the News that the funds will allow schools to continue working on improvement efforts and most importantly to develop interdisciplinary units of studies related to their magnet themes.

Clemente Principal Pam Franco said her school will be starting its first unit of study as a magnet school in April.