History of Breakthrough Magnet


The Breakthrough Magnet Schools had their beginning as Project Breakthrough, "A K-6, School Within A School", at a large Hartford Elementary School in 1991. The proposal for its founding and financial support from Cigna Insurance Co. for teacher training, materials and data collection, was written and implemented by Norma Neumann-Johnson, the teacher team-leader of the effort.

In 1998 the effort was granted a charter by the CT State Department of Education as the Breakthrough Charter School, building on the learning and experiences from Project Breakthrough. The theme for the school, outlined in the proposal, written by then founding principal, Neumann-Johnson, formally became Character Education with the unique B.R.I.C.K.© character curriculum, still the foundation for BMS’s theme today.

In 2002, Breakthrough became one of the first two inter-district magnet schools run by the Hartford Board of Education, a number now numbering 18.

In 2006, BMS added the instruction of Mindfulness to its character curriculum to build students’ brain capacity to deliver on the teachings of the B.R.I.C.K. Character Curriculum©. This program was taken up and fully grown, developed and implemented through today, by then social worker, Ms Maritza Soto-Gomez, now known widely for her expertise and leadership in mindfulness instruction and programming in Greater Hartford and beyond from her home base at BMS South.

In 2008, Breakthrough II opened, at the request of the HPS superintendent and designed by Ms. Neumann-Johnson to duplicate BMS I, but with only Hartford students. This expansion was led by the second in command from Breakthrough I, at the time, and two of its teacher leaders.

In 2012 Breakthrough II was invited to become an

inter-district magnet school run by the Hartford Board of Education, thus creating the two Breakthroughs of today.

Where is the creator and founding principal for the Breakthrough schools today?


In 2013, Ms. Neumann-Johnson, after having designed and implemented the proposals for all four school efforts, moved from her role as principal to creating and directing the Breakthrough Training Institute (BTI), breakthrougtraininginstitute.com. Her teacher manual for the BRICK Character Curriculum© is available for teachers, staff and parents as a part of her training workshops. She, herself a certified mindfulness instructor, is currently consulting with principals to transform their traditional public schools to Character Development driven schools, with school staff, students’ and parents’ training in Mindfulness, and Mindful and Restorative Discipline as implementation tools.