CAB partners with Southport School

CAB partners with Southport School
Posted on 04/29/2019
Southport SchoolStatistics show that nationwide nearly 1 in 5 students have learning and attention issues, including 1 in 10 with dyslexia. Children dealing with these issues are as smart as their peers but need assistance from trained teachers to achieve.
“Unfortunately, there are kids at every socio-economic level who struggle with learning disabilities in school,” said Pat Griffin, principal of the St. Ann campus of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport. “It’s important to assess students’ abilities, and for teachers to be trained by professionals to address these obstacles.” 
The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport consists of four campuses: St. Ann, St. Andrew, St. Augustine and St. Raphael. Recognizing the need for additional focus on students’ learning difficulties, the Academy in 2017 formed a collaboration with The Southport School, which is dedicated to educating children with ADHD, dyslexia, executive functioning issues and other learning differences. 
“Here’s a school that has a stunning gift and they’re eager to help us,” said Sr. Joan Magnetti, rscj, Executive Director of the Catholic Academy. “I think it’s extraordinary that an independent school has the vision to share their knowledge with those inner-city kids who require extra expertise to have their educational needs met.” 
The mission of The Southport School is to transform the educational experience of students with learning differences in ways that have a lifelong impact. Building on nearly three decades of educational achievement, the school’s headmaster, Dr. Benjamin Powers, along with the faculty, staff and board of directors had been exploring how it could bring its vision and mission to a wider learning differences community.
“Our faculty is trained in the best research and evidence-based approaches to help our LD/ADHD students achieve success, but the reality is that not every student who needs The Southport School approach can attend here,” Dr. Powers said. “With limited human resources, we realized that if we cannot have students come to us, we would have to come to them.”
Dr. Powers, who struggled with ADHD himself as a child, described elementary school as a “messy experience for me.” He overcame that obstacle to earn an executive MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology and combined his interest in finance with his research in self-esteem in adolescents with LD/ADHD to complete a Doctorate in Business Administration from the Grenoble Ecole de Management in Grenoble, France.
Early in his training, he worked with students with dyslexia and ADHD. “I fell in love with teaching,” he said. “I saw bright, creative, intelligent kids who were kind of beaten down with their struggle to learn.”
His experience led him to research the impact of learning disabilities on emotional well-being. In addition to his position as headmaster, he is affiliated research scientist at Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, a research affiliate to the Research FERE Chair at Grenoble and co-director of the Academic Center for Excellence at TDF in New Bedford, MA.
Dr. Powers was first introduced to the Catholic Academy and to Sr. Magnetti by his friend, Brad Evans, who is also the chairman of the Board of the Academy. “There are so many factors that impact kids in an urban environment,” Dr. Powers observed. “One of the big things we heard was this issue of literacy, of literacy outcomes.”
A team from The Southport School, including Director of Education Jeffrey Ruggiero and Director of Tutorial Program Theresa Collins, held a listening tour of all four campuses of the Academy. They screened over 400 students with a predictive assessment of reading. 
“This assessment, followed by professional training for teachers, gives us much more ability to meet students where they are, strengthen their weakness and challenge their strengths,” Principal Griffin said. “The Southport School instructors are working with students themselves, so they understand firsthand the challenges our students face.”
More than a dozen teachers at the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, including principals, have taken part in this training. “They came to [our campus] and gave two solid days of training just for the Academy’s kindergarten St.teachers,” said Sr. Allison Masserano, ASCJ, a kindergarten teacher at the Academy’s St. Raphael campus. “It was helpful to me to bounce ideas off the other teachers with the guidance of a professional.” 
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