Commander, Submarine Group Two


Military Children Thrive at Connecticut School

GROTON, Conn., Nov. 22, 2011 – Children from military families who attend Dr. Charles G. Barnum Elementary School here are getting their early education in a school that first lady Michelle Obama has singled out for its culture of excellence.

Although it’s not a Defense Department school, Charles Barnum is the nearest elementary school to Submarine Base New London, and a large majority of its students are military children.

“About 90 percent of the school’s 400 pre-school to Grade 5 students are from military families, Principal Valerie Nelson said.

Before base housing was privatized a few years ago, Nelson said, the school had been in the military housing area since it was built in 1965, Nelson said.

“It’s not totally military housing now, but before it was privatized it was all military housing,” she added. “The only children who are not military are a few that live in those houses, but we also have some integrated special education programs where students come from all over the district.”

The students of Charles Barnum recently scored 100 percent proficiency in math from third to fifth grade for the second straight year.

“I think the children are excited when they are recognized for their achievements,” said Catherine Hanson, a community coordinator with the school. “They may not remember it on a day-to-day to basis, but when they are reminded of their achievements, they are proud of themselves.”

The school’s academic performance earned specific praise in a letter from the first lady last year.

“[The students] certainly enjoyed hearing from the White House,” Hanson said. “When Mrs. Nelson read the letter to the student body, they recognized that it was from Mrs. Obama.”

“As first lady, I have no greater joy than learning about the remarkable students across our country that are working hard in school, dreaming big dreams, and improving their communities,” Obama wrote. “Every American, no matter what age, has a special role to play in leading us to a better tomorrow, and I hope you continue to put your best effort into everything you do.”

The school’s success stems from high standards and teamwork, Nelson said.

“I think most of it is really high expectations, good instruction and collaboration,” she said. “We have a very strong collaboration team with specialists and regular classroom teachers.”

Another factor that highlights the school’s accomplishment in back-to-back years is the turnover of the student body that’s inherent in military life.

“A lot of the children that took the test aren’t back this year,” Nelson said before citing a recent study. “[We had] 48 percent return of students [in] Grades 3 through 5. We’re really proud of our achievements, and it was kind of exciting. The teachers are really proud, and the kids are very proud of what they did.”