The “Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs” report released last week suggests ways that “open choice” schools in Connecticut should work to reduce segregation across racial, linguistic, and ability lines. The report finds that most school choice programs are actually integrated as far as socioeconomic status is concerned, with integration defined quite broadly: enrollment between 25-75% minority students. Continue reading 'How to Make Schools More Integrated'»
In recent months, the entire Weaver High School community has been mobilized by the Hartford Board of Education’s poor communication about the school’s temporary move to the Lincoln Institute and the plan to eventually rehabilitate and rebuild the north end school. Tuesday night’s Board meeting once again found students, teachers, and Weaver families demanding action and answers from the Board. There were few to be found, but much talk of “due diligence.” The uncertainty and anxiety among the Weaver community was palpable, as too was the growing mistrust of the Board and its hollow words. Speakers, including Principal Tim Goodwin, admonished Mayor Segarra, who was not in attendance, for suggesting that Weaver’s low enrollment could affect the school’s reconstruction. Goodwin demanded that enrollment issues be taken off the table and not be a part of the discussion. He cited the school’s continued improvement according to multiple metrics, including decreased disciplinary referrals. Through the years, Weaver High has been especially hampered by the breaking up of Hartford’s traditional high schools and the “school choice” reform scheme. Lastly, it was clear Tuesday night that Michele Rhee’s privatization front group StudentsFirst had attempted to glom onto Weaver’s struggle, going so far as to blindly hand out as many of their unrelated t-shirts as possible to students.
Since the Board’s failed attempt to hand the Clark School to the Achievement 1st charter school corporation two months ago, Clark was entered in to the Commissioner’s Network of schools in need of “turnaround.” A “turnaround committee” of parents, teachers, and the State Department of Education has been meeting to develop a plan for Clark. Parallel to this, HART was contracted by the Board to garner support among the community for another charter takeover of the school. This time a charter school corporation called Friendship Charter School of Maryland has been identified as the favorite by the Commissioner of Education. As has been reported in Real Hartford, the Clark community is unwilling to be bullied, bought off, or threatened into this deal. During Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Kishimoto blamed outside interests for the problems with the committee. In her report on Clark, she warned of parents being “lobbied heavily by organizations placing pressures on parents on matters beyond the immediate and urgent needs of Clark School students.” She chided these mysterious groups and mentioned that parents were complaining to her personally about the “pressure.” Continue reading 'Hartford Promises'»
Enough Elephants in the Room for a Circus
Hartford is a small, diverse city. The 2010 census data indicates that 38.7% of its population identifies as black, 43.4% identifies as Hispanic, and 15.8% identify as white, non-Hispanic. The rest falls into categories of white, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and biracial/multiracial. Of course, we know these numbers do not reflect those who are not reached by data collectors; historically, blacks and Hispanics are undercounted.
Knowing this, questions were raised going into last week’s #youngHartford forum about the blatant lack of racial diversity on the panel.
Carlos Hernández Chávez, a local with a solo exhibit currently on display in the ArtWalk Gallery, posed a similar line of questions while in the audience of the Courant/Fox/HYPE-sponsored event: “I’ve been here [in Hartford] 47 years,” he said. “Hartford right now is over 50% Hispanic. How many of you are Hispanic here?” he asked the audience. A few hands were lifted. “That’s not 50%.”
Hernández Chávez said this was not about creating guilt for anyone, but this subject had to be discussed.
“How many dark faces do you see here?” he continued. “If we want to see Hartford thrive,” he said, “then “you have to look at that issue.”
But not everyone has been wiling to do that. Sidestepping unpleasant controversy is just easier for some, including those who had both an audience and a microphone but chose to use neither for the greater good.
That’s not to say that all of the panelists were complacent. Continue reading '#younghARTford: Second Time Around'»
It’s expected that the State Bond Commission will approve funds on Friday to finish paving the walkway between Charter Oak Landing and the existing path that crosses railroad tracks. Continue reading 'Access Along River to be Extended'»
“This is about preparing an area for development,” said Thomas Deller, City of Hartford’s Director of Development Services. “Everything that’s here is being proposed as the maximum.”
The Downtown North Park Plan is funded, Deller said, by a sustainable community grant to “determine how we develop” the area “for growth and sustainability.”
As with the previous two public meetings, there were questions about who these proposed changes are for, even as the standing room only crowd was told that a steering committee included community members.
But all along, it has been evident that whole segments of the population have not been included in the planning process. At the previous meeting in October, very few residents not employed by the City were in attendance, and no regular users of New Ross, County Wexford Park were involved, even though this small park has its own Friends group. At that meeting, when I informed Tim Love, the Principal of Utile, Inc., that the park is currently used by skaters and others, and that a formal skate park was about the break ground, I was told that if this park was deemed not in the interest of economic development, the skate park could be moved.
I suggested that the parties involved in redevelopment reach out to the community.
That does not seem to have happened in the time since, but park users — including those who skate, do parkour, and use the space as a canvas for their art — caught wind of the plans to change a space without seeking their input. So, they showed up at last night’s final meeting, and they showed up in large numbers.
Predictably, information about the skate park was presented last, for mere minutes, and then followed by the rushed Q&A segment. Continue reading 'Final Downtown North Design Meeting'»
If you are in need of a holiday dinner to prepare at home – frozen turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and coffee — stop by the Pope Park Rec Center on December 16th from 5-7pm.
This is first come, first serve with only one meal being given per family. There are enough meals for 600 families. Continue reading 'Holiday Dinner Ingredients to Be Distributed in Pope Park'»
Pope Park Recreation Center, now being called the Samuel V. Arroyo Recreation Center, played host to the final public input session for the Capital Parks Master Plan Monday night. This was the only of three meetings to be held in one of the city’s parks; the other two were at the Hartford Public Library.
Enthusiasm and engagement was low. New material was sparse. The audience was told that results from the online surveys were in, but that “the team” would not be spending any time sharing this information with the group who had come to hear more about potential plans and give feedback on them.
Most of the evening was a rehash of previous meetings, the process, and a mix of abstract concepts. There was no question-and-answer period. After the presentation was given, residents were told to write down their top three items (desires? dislikes?) on postcards. From there, the meeting seemed to fall apart.
Does Input Matter?
There has been more of an effort with this project than with others to get public comment. Besides the three meetings, there was an online survey used to collect thoughts on the parks and there continues to be a feedback form on the Sasaki website.
But what has happened to those ideas?
Materials from the presentation in October did not include all remarks made in the first meeting. Suggestions challenging the iQuilt plan seemed to be omitted from record. Another slide providing early data on barriers to park and recreation program use stated in a large font that “use is hindered by a lack of information, maintenance, and safety concerns,” as if those were the top three issues. Looking at the numbers directly next to the statement, the top three concerns are actually the lack of information about services, poor maintenance, and programs being offered that park users do not have an interest in. During the first meeting, there were plenty of remarks about programs park users would enjoy, but these did not seem to go anywhere.
On other slides, only the negative comments given about Pope Park and Colt Park were shown, despite there being positive comments submitted. As expected, Bushnell Park, Elizabeth Park, and Riverside Park were portrayed as favored.
There were also claims that many comments came in suggesting that the parks need better marketing and branding. From everything witnessed in the first meeting, there was no indication that the public was pushing for yet another branding campaign, which is a creature different from marketing the programs and events offered at the parks.
During Monday’s meeting, it seemed almost nothing from the first meeting had been incorporated. There was no mention of leash law enforcement, programming, cooking grills, or historic fencing at South Green. Allowing some areas of parks to “renaturalize” and creating better infrastructure for cyclists seemed to be the only items, besides that perennial complaint about ATVs, that made it into this round. It was suggested that hillsides and other areas allowed to renaturalize might discourage ATV use in parks.
It was unclear if those previous ideas from the other meetings and survey were mostly discarded or if the team opted to just not discuss them. Continue reading 'Capital Parks Master Plan: Park Program Fees and Bike Lines'»
As we move into the holiday season, some see it fit not to push toward creating a more just world, but to punish those who have already been punished. This is done selectively and in ignorance, or apathy, of the larger consequences and messages being sent. The same people lamenting recidivism are actively putting up stumbling blocks to those who have made mistakes and are trying to do right.
Last week what we saw in Hartford was not concern for public safety but a witch hunt.
We can speculate over why Kennard Ray was singled out more than others to have his background checked out. Maybe it’s his party affiliation — being part of a growing third party in a city controlled by the Democrats. There’s been open hostility toward that party by those who believe it is somehow responsible for both Republicans losing their footing here and for some Democrats to lose votes. Some have suggested that those calling for this investigation with such gusto all hail from a different racial background from Ray, and that their privilege prevents them from seeing how they are contributing to institutional racism.
I asked Kennard Ray why he thinks this got the spotlight, after all, not all new hires are given so much as a second glance by the media. His telling of it is that questions arose after a press release was issued by the Mayor’s Office, with reporters from the Hartford Courant initially raising the issue. At this stage of the game, he had been appointed and was due to begin work this morning, following the Thanksgiving weekend.
He says that he has “heard several theories on why [his past] may have been brought up, but I’m not sure if any of those theories lead me in a direction where I can form a solid opinion and I am not comfortable speculating. I’m sure we’ll hear more about why this became a public issue of interest in the days to come.”
Regardless of the reasons, this push to “investigate” Ray came largely from those whose own pasts are far from perfect.
The Debt That’s Paid is Never Paid
At what point has someone paid his debt to society? Is it after he has served his jail term? Stayed out of trouble for five years? Ten years?
Kennard Ray himself, in a statement on Facebook, has said that he has “worked tirelessly in my community and communities like it over the past decade to make good on past misgivings. I have in fact done the crimes that the media has reported on, and I have also done the time. In fact, over the past decade I’ve put more time and effort to doing right, than I ever have in doing wrong.”
Do we only consider him rehabilitated on his death bed when we can all be sure that he has obeyed the law for the remaining decades of his life?
What Does the Law Say?
The fact is that Ray, nor anyone else applying for a job with the City of Hartford — with only a few exceptions — needs to be upfront about his criminal past. Hartford has an ordinance spelling out as much. A resolution states:
The court of common council by substitute resolution dated January 12, 2009 resolved that the human resources department review its current civil services processes and eliminate any barriers during an interview process that may preclude applicants with criminal records from gaining employment with the City of Hartford.
Interpretation: a person who has a criminal past can be employed with the City of Hartford. Continue reading 'Ban the Box: What does the law say?'»
Sandra Fluke, an attorney and women’s right activist whose name achieved celebrity status when Rush Limbaugh publicly referenced her as a “slut” and a “prostitute,” spoke to a group of students, academics, and community stakeholders in Hartford about an array of social justice issues affecting modern day politics and life. The discussion spanned from reproductive healthcare, Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey for the constitutional law enthusiasts out there), to social welfare programs, poverty, labor movements, and even immigration reform.
At first glance, these issues appear to stand alone as isolated social and political agendas. However, Fluke, a Georgetown Law graduate, demonstrated how each of these issues intersects with gender equality, providing a context for modern-day feminism that is often disregarded as being abstract or far-fetched. But as Fluke pointed out, what is a theoretical debate in one circle represents another community’s day-to-day reality of living on the margins of society – despite desires to break free from the structural barriers they face to legally proscribed rights.
Fluke cited the family cap on public assistance as one example. The cap is a policy that denies mothers and families who receive welfare additional assistance after the birth of another child. Essentially, it’s a child exclusion policy. Fluke said, “That child is cut off from any kind of basic assistance. Basic needs. If you think about why we have this policy [and] what that policy is about, it’s about controlling the reproductive choices of somebody who’s poor. It’s about saying we don’t want to have a lot more poor children, so lets try to tell poor people not to have more kids. …. [It] links to very racist ideas about who should be having kids and who shouldn’t.” Continue reading 'Breaking Down the Silos in Modern Day Feminism'»
Ken Krayeske, a Hartford cyclist and lawyer, posed a question at Bike Walk Connecticut’s fundraiser dinner: How does the permanent closure of Flower Street to pedestrian and cyclist traffic enhance Transit Oriented Development (TOD)? The keynote speaker, Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, gave a succinct response before swiftly changing the topic: “I’m not sure that it does.” Continue reading 'How Flower Street’s Closure Helps Transit Oriented Development'»