NORWICH – A leadership retreat for a select group of Norwich High School students has sparked outrage in the community and among some members of the school’s faculty and student body, despite the attempts of the district’s administration to defend the program.
Critics of the leadership training program turned out in force at Tuesday night’s Norwich City School Board meeting to express their concerns. They raised questions about the timing of the trip, the planning process, selection criteria, and even the individual students selected to participate.
According to Superintendent Gerard O’Sullivan, 26 high school students were selected for the four-day trip scheduled for this weekend. The purpose of the trip, he said, is to teach these students decision making skills, goal setting and to work as a team.
“When I looked at what we’re trying to accomplish with this program, I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to build a strong group of student leaders,” O’Sullivan explained, stressing that it wasn’t a field trip or reward program. “The whole idea is to help grow, develop and nurture students.”
The students chosen to participate in the pilot program are “kids with all sorts of potential from all walks of life who were selected and identified by teachers as students who could benefit (from the training) in some form or fashion,” the superintendent reported.
The trip, which O’Sullivan described as “an opportunity of a lifetime” for those involved, was the idea of high school teacher Joseph Maiurano, who worked with a group of his fellow teachers and staff to plan the excursion. They also secured funding for the program and helped select the students who would participate.
While the program has had the support of the district’s administration, it has raised hackles among some community members, teachers and students.