Category: commentary/editorial

#younghARTford: Second Time Around

By , February 19, 2014 10:08 am

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'»

When the Media Teams Up with Public Schools

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By , February 4, 2014 5:38 pm

Those not immersed in the field of education might believe the recent attention to Common Core and teacher evaluations came out of nowhere. With the exception of items that are unavoidable, such as the nonrenewal of the superintendent’s contract, local news reporting has trended glossy on education, biased toward the status quo which goes by the name “education reform.”

Last month, the Hartford Courant and Hartford Public Schools announced the plan to partner, specifically with the Journalism Academy. The details on this, along with potential price tag, are still being hashed out.

Already, HPS has contracts with Connecticut Public Broadcasting, Inc.

With such partnerships, there are a few clear winners. Continue reading 'When the Media Teams Up with Public Schools'»

Policy Delay a Sign of Responsiveness?

By , January 30, 2014 3:50 pm

Governor Malloy issued a letter to the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council on Tuesday urging more “flexibility” and a delay regarding the planned changes to teacher evaluations. There was no mention of delaying or canceling the standardized testing in March; those tests are central to this issue.

This relieves stress for many of those directly affected by the policy that was pushed through in 2012, but some in the media are playing this off as politicians merely being responsive to constituents. Although the current standardized testing does not encourage this, let’s apply some critical thinking and see what evidence leads us to believe. Continue reading 'Policy Delay a Sign of Responsiveness?'»

Opportunity or Charade? BOE Talks Money for School Design

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By , January 9, 2014 7:04 pm

The Burns Latino Studies Academy on Putnam Street has been named as a potential applicant for the Commissioner’s Network in school year 2014-2015.

After Board of Education members were sworn in without fanfare on Tuesday, the conversation picked up basically where it left off last year, but with some unexpected contributors to the dribs and drabs of critical thinking.

The Minimalist and Inadequate Explanation of What the Lighthouse School and Commissioner’s Network Are

The “Lighthouse School” is part of the new Sheff agreement. The Sheff v. O’Neill case agreement was approved in Connecticut’s Superior Court. That’s legally binding, folks. According to Kathleen England, “there’s ample funding across three years to support” the school chosen for a Lighthouse School redesign. The amount being promised is $750,000 per year for at least three years. England said that the school selected would be one making progress rather than at the bottom, but that the neighborhood the school is in would also need to be “on the cusp of improving.” To be eligible, the school would also need to be a neighborhood, non-magnet with what the Hartford Public Schools is calling “potential for natural diversity.” There is a tight timeline for the selection and application process. England says that “it’s a great opportunity” for schools “to get financial commitment,” to “maybe take a design you have in place and take it and make it more robust.” With this process, she said, it would “absolutely” remain a neighborhood school and not become a magnet school. This would be money to enrich existing design. The Global Communications Academy IB was named as a potential candidate.

The Commissioner’s Network, in contrast, has been around a few years and already taken in one of our public schools– Milner. For 3-5 years, the school district loses complete control over the public school, but according to State Department of Education documents, there will be a “transition” of the school as it leaves the Commissioner’s Network. Operating expenses must still be provided by the local school board while it is potentially “partnered” with another not-for-profit management organization. When Milner entered the Commissioner’s Network, the school was closed down, teachers told they would have to reapply for their jobs, and then re-opened as Jumoke Academy Honors at Milner. This time around, Superintendent Kishimoto says HPS is not necessarily suggesting a change in school leadership and not talking about a closure because there is not time for that. Kishimoto is continuing to push for America’s Choice at SAND and Clark Elementary School to apply to the Commissioner’s Network.

But It’s More Complicated Than That, So Keep Reading. This isn’t Reader’s Digest

There was insistence that a Lighthouse School would not be turned into a magnet model, but Kishimoto said that there is possibly legislation being drafted that could make this model a magnet. There are a number of unknowns. Continue reading 'Opportunity or Charade? BOE Talks Money for School Design'»

Grid, Interrupted: The Bushnell Neighborhood

By , January 6, 2014 8:51 am

Today Real Hartford introduces a new series: Grid, Interrupted. This will be a glimpse at some of a street or block’s history.

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A recent piece in the Courant painted a kind of dreamer’s dream. It reported that the State of Connecticut’s laboratory building, pictured above, is being vacated and is potentially slated for demolition. The Bushnell is eying this spot for condominiums and apartments. Other desired changes to this area: retail and restaurants. A potential change: a parking garage on part of a surface lot and the possibility of a garage elsewhere with (maybe) housing and (maybe) a restaurant surrounding it.

Lovely, ain’t it?

But what the iQuilt supporters have skated around is obvious and simple: no neighborhood is going to exist until all those hideous and isolating surface lots are dealt with, seriously. Continue reading 'Grid, Interrupted: The Bushnell Neighborhood'»

Lame Duck Superintendent Pushing Again to Hand Over Clark and SAND

By , January 2, 2014 9:35 am

A scene from inside Milner at Jumoke Academy, the one Hartford school that is currently part of the Commissioner’s Network

Mayor Segarra and the Board of Education could intervene any time to stop outgoing Superintendent Kishimoto from pushing an agenda that the community has loudly spoken against. They could urge her to focus on addressing the actual concerns that School Governance Councils want addressed at their respective schools. Instead, residents continue to scratch their heads over how someone whose contract was not renewed could stay on for an entire school year and wield power after being slammed on her own performance review, which incidentally, was the only review the Board of Education officially conducted for her.

In November, parents said “No” to the proposal to toss SAND School to a newly formed private management company linked to Capital Prep Magnet School’s principal, Steve Perry. Just days before that, Clark School parents said “No” to the plan to hand the public school over to the Achievement First charter school chain.

Opponents of public schooling have framed this as a grand conspiracy led by unionists; while the teacher’s union has had involvement, it has been minimal, which is plain to anyone who has been paying attention. Parents have been leading the fight against disrupting their children’s educations by closing schools.

Now, Superintendent Kishimoto is pushing for Clark and SAND to become part of the Commissioner’s Network; Continue reading 'Lame Duck Superintendent Pushing Again to Hand Over Clark and SAND'»

Scenes from the Sidewalk: Installment 76

By , December 5, 2013 8:04 am

This was the scene on Wednesday (and on many other days over the years) on Scarborough Street.

The bike lane is not where you (or your landscapers) should put the leaves. Continue reading 'Scenes from the Sidewalk: Installment 76'»

Ban the Box: What does the law say?

By , December 2, 2013 8:42 am

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?'»

Focus on Women, Not Fox News

By , March 18, 2013 7:00 am

Now that the initial sting of Fox-CT’s obscene coverage of Women’s Day has subsided, we can all agree that some reflection is in order. After all, the event did mark the 40-year-battle for gender equality in Connecticut.

The obvious takeaways: yes, the progressives’ disdain towards Fox News has been validated. And yes, the footage highlighted that even in a 21st century, blue state like Connecticut, the effects of misogyny and gender discrimination persist at best. Even though Fox was publicly shamed, I can’t help but wonder if they won this round at the end of the day.

Think about it. For those who weren’t able to attend the event, the only newsworthy piece of information revolved around the news outlet’s unfortunate—but unsurprising—distraction from the depth of the issues and their solutions. In Connecticut, full-time working women earn 78% of their male counterparts. The wage gap is even more drastic for African American women and Hispanic women, who earn 59% and 48% of what men earn, respectively (The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Policy Agenda 2013). Violence against women, whether it’s domestic violence or sexual assault, abounds and causes costly long-term health problems for women everywhere.

But what does this mean for Hartford, where poverty and crime are concentrated more than anywhere else in the state? Continue reading 'Focus on Women, Not Fox News'»

March Forth to Respect Women

By , March 4, 2013 2:30 am

Sign from Rally for Gender Equality in Bushnell Park, April 2012.

State Rep. Hewett made a corny joke, which some imaginative individuals construed as a sexual reference. Both the intern to whom the comment was directed, and Matt Fleury of the Connecticut Science Center, have said they were unaware of any controversial remark until it was reported on by the news. The politician apologized, the intern accepted the apology, and a rational person would expect this to be the end of story. Yet days later, in what seems more like character assassination than true concern about respect for females, there remain those who feel Hewett will not have made amends until he resigns.

Like the outrage over the Onion’s recent tweet, the outrage over Hewett’s remarks is not about respecting females. It can’t even be called outrage. Armchair activism has been reduced to 140 character spurts of reactionary anger, often not based on any context.

While this rage is blowing up on Twitter and Facebook, attention spans have been whittled down so far that few can digest the actual widespread violence against women.

In January, Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) released its 2012 Campus Report Card. The organization surveyed 21 four-year and four two-year higher education institutions in Connecticut last summer. Anything lower than an ‘A’ grade should be unacceptable, but with marks ranging from A-F, this report card was still received as, at most critical, “mixed” by reporters.

According to CONNSACS, “up to one in four women experience unwanted sexual intercourse while attending college in the United States” and “one in twelve college men admit to acts that meet the legal definition of rape.” Continue reading 'March Forth to Respect Women'»

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