“It’s really no choice at all,” says Robert Cotto, who plans to vote against the “Resolution Requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority Relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee,” an item on the Hartford Board of Education’s special meeting agenda for April 8, 2014.
The false choice, Cotto is referring to, is that which was presented to the Clark Turnaround Committee: parents and teachers requested to see more than only the Friendship School after which they might model Clark as it undergoes its re-branding; this did not happen.
In March, Morgan Barth of the Connecticut State Department of Education vehemently denied that it had issued an ultimatum to the committee, but if consensus was not reached on the vote for a school model, the CSDE would be stepping in to assert its authority over teachers, parents, and other community members. Barth and other CSDE representatives have said at various times that they favored the Friendship Model. As voting members, they have been able to block consensus all along.
On March 27, there was one vote against the Friendship School as the lead partner with the Clark School. Although the Hartford Public School’s resolution states “there is significant support within the Clark community expressed by parents and other stakeholders to partner with Friendship,” some of the “yes” votes have been attributed to the absence of choices given to the Clark Turnaround Committee. Continue reading 'BOE to Vote on Edu-colonialism at Clark School'»
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'»
The Hartford Board of Education was not suggesting a leadership change or closure, said outgoing Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto at a BOE meeting in January. At the time, she reassured everyone that the schools accepted into the Commissioner’s Network would not experience the rushed overhaul that was witnessed at the Milner School a few years back. Parents and the community were told that they would be able to examine a number of school models that could be replicated; those schools could include ones within the district. Kishimoto herself cited Betances as an example of a school with a model that could be followed elsewhere.
Now, the Clark School community says that the Connecticut State Board of Education has served them up with an ultimatum.
At the end of February, the turnaround committee for the Clark School, which includes parents, teachers, and administrators, flew to Washington D.C. to look at the Friendship School model. Hartford Rising!, a group that evolved out of Clark Rising, claims that State Department of Education representative Andrew Ferguson and Hartford Board of Education representative Oliver Barton have told parents that the turnaround committee would not be investigating any other models. Shonta Browdy of Hartford Rising! says parents had been told “either they would approve the Friendship model or all educational funding would be denied.” Continue reading 'Clark School Community Resists Ultimatum'»
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Although Tuesday night’s Hartford Board of Education special meeting had only two agenda items for public comment, you would have never known it from the hundreds of people, especially Weaver students, who packed into the Fred D. Wish Elementary School gymnasium. It was a sea of forest green hoodies. Proudly emblazed on the hoodies was the rallying cry of the night: “Weaver Strong.” In addition, Weaver students greeted every attendee with a handout celebrating the school’s achievements. Thundering drum beats in the school’s lobby foretold of a battle. Handheld placards proclaiming “Weaver Forever” were placed on every seat. Ironically, the presumed fight over the future of Weaver High School was the least contentious event of the night.
The massive turnout of Weaver students, parents, alumni, and staff was the dissatisfaction with the Board’s communication with the school’s community. The show of force was to ensure the survival of Weaver, including its traditions, history, and legacy. The issue at hand was the future move of Weaver Culinary Academy to a temporary location at the Lincoln Culinary Institute on Sigourney St. Weaver High School is slated for a $100 million rehabilitation and the entire school must be relocated to Lincoln while construction occurs.
Rumors had been swirling over the future of Weaver, but the real issue, as the school’s principal Tim Goodwin explained, was the glacial pace of the project and the numerous unanswered questions over the school’s future. The leadership of the Blue Hills Civic Association also peppered the board with questions over the developer of the Weaver site and lack of communication with the neighborhood. Continue reading 'Known Knowns and Unknown Unknowns: Hartford BOE Edition'»
Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Education
UPDATE 1/21: Due to the expectation of inclement weather, this event is being rescheduled.
Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education who has on more than one occasion given praise to South Korea’s education system, will be visiting the University High School of Science and Engineering on Mark Twain Drive.
He will be one of the participants in what is being called a student-centered town hall meeting on access to higher education. Also expected at Tuesday’s event: State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Governor Malloy, Mayor Segarra, and Hartford Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Kishimoto.
Some of this discussion will focus on recent release of the 2014 FAFSA. The federal student aid form has been redesigned to more accurately record a student’s family’s income. For those adults who are shacking up, there will be the option of filing as “unmarried and both parents living together.” The FAFSA is due February 15th and this event will have juniors and seniors from the high school in attendance.
The town hall event will be held in the school’s atrium at 1:30pm.
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'»
Photo by Christopher Brown
“You have used the most powerful word in the English language,” Steve Harris, member of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee said, “and that word is ‘no.’”
“No” is what the parents, families, teachers, staff, and community have been saying to the proposal that the public John C. Clark School be phased out and replaced by Achievement First, a charter school.
Photo by Christopher Brown
After this proposal was sprung on the Clark School last month, parents have stood up to say they are not interested in having their children’s school closed.
Before the Board of Education workshop on Wednesday night, nineteen people lined up to speak against this proposal in the cafeteria of the former Milner School on Vine Street in the city’s North East neighborhood, blocks away from the school in jeopardy.
Imam Muhammad Ansari, the President of the Greater Hartford Chapter of the NAACP, said “this issue is a civil rights issue when the parents’ rights are being taken away.” Continue reading '“N” is for No: Community Speaks Against Closure of Clark School'»
From all accounts, nobody from the Clark School community is asking for this.
It’s not that the parents, children, and teachers are delusional. They know the school could be improved. They have even articulated the needs via a list created by its School Governance Council last spring:
- Additional SPO
- Two additional certified teachers Continue reading 'Clark School: Not Waiting for Superman'»
Superintendent Christina Kishimoto — whose employment in this capacity with the Hartford Public Schools is over at the end of this school year and who has had her request to no longer be evaluated by the Board of Education granted — has angered a number of parents at the Clark School in the city’s North East neighborhood with the proposal that this preK-8 school be phased out and replaced by an Achievement First charter school. Continue reading 'Achievement First Proposed for South Side Now Eyeing a North End Neighborhood School'»