Those who attended last week’s Board of Education meeting may have come away believing that the Moylan Montessori community largely supported the move of the school from Hartford to West Hartford, even if only a handful of teachers and parents were present to speak. Most of the questions were made through the PTO or came from members of the school board.
As it turns out, that vote to go ahead and pursue the site at the American School for the Deaf has not been received so well.
Stakeholders are circulating a petition asking for that decision to be suspended. They say that parents were only notified a few days before the vote and were not given full disclosure that the invite to “ask questions” or “show support” before the Board of Education was going to be tied to something so binding, so soon. Continue reading 'Moylan Montessori Community Circulates Petitions'»
Much of the school superintendent’s transition report is predictable, as its framework had been provided to the public in June. Since coming to Hartford, the new superintendent gathered input from meetings, focus groups involving 700 participants, and surveys completed by 1000 community stakeholders.
What is surprising about the report is not the content in itself but that what has been common knowledge — problems that have persisted for years — is acknowledged in writing by the new superintendent:
- “Portfolio Strategy” used for most of the last decade has serious flaws, including that “schools were created with agreed-upon design specifications, but in several instances, core specifications have not been realized. Sometimes this appears to be due to limited resources, and on other occasions, this seems to be the result of ambiguity around what a redesigned school can expect from the district” (11).
- Schools deemed to be high-performing are said to contribute to inconsistencies in curriculum: “Curriculum across schools lacks consistency and significantly more curriculum work is needed at all levels. Decision-making autonomy for high-performing schools has also led to more curriculum inconsistencies across schools” (8). Continue reading 'Superintendent’s Transition Report Released'»
Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez, incoming superintendent of Hartford Public Schools
“I want my [tenure as superintendent] bookends to be about equity,” Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez said.
“It’s not just about surviving. It’s not just about graduating. . .. It’s about thriving.”
Immediately following Monday’s press conference to unveil Schiavino-Narvaez’s entry plan, she met with the transition team.
Larry Leverett, a former superintendent and Assistant State Commissioner of Education, is the chair of that eleven-member team, which also includes Jennifer Allen, Paula Altieri, Andres Alonso, Richard Lemons, Sheryl Petty, Enid Rey, Kelvin Roldan, Maree Sneed, Jonathan Swan, and Robert Villanova. Continue reading 'Incoming Superintendent Describes Entry Plan'»
Tuesday night’s Hartford Board of Education meeting was well attended for two main reasons: the recognition of the late, great “Doc” Hurley and the appointment of seven new principals. The audience was filled friends, coworkers, and well-wishers. But once these agenda items passed, the crowd headed for the doors. But many were able to see the final, conflicted actions of a lame-duck, and now rudderless, administration.
The most agonizing of these was the discussion and debate of one of the hallmarks of the Kishimoto administration: the Teachscape teacher evaluation system. The program was on the agenda since the yearly contract was up for renewal. The annual fee for the evaluation system is $206,800. In discussing the evaluation system, the district pointed to the ease of managing well over 1,800 staff members and the wonders of a paperless system. They also pointed to the staff surveys, which found nearly 70% of the respondents happy with the evaluation system. But as board members Dr. Shelley Best and Robert Cotto pointed out, the district’s data revealed that well over 1,300 staff members were dissatisfied with the Teachscape evaluation system or did not even participate in the surveys.
Best and Cotto both pushed the district to explain the benefits of the system that went beyond the ease of electronically managing over 1,800 teachers and staff members. Best pointed out that at no point in the presentation did the district highlight how teachers were benefiting and growing from Teachscape, which is supposed to be the goal of any teacher evaluation system. She also preferred the $200,000 to be spent directly on the teachers in the form of professional development. Board member Mike Brescia also wanted to know why only teachers supportive of Teachscape were mentioned, especially since more than 50% of the entire teaching staff did not participate in the survey. Continue reading 'Twilight of the Kishimoto Administration (sans Kishimoto)'»
Clark School community resisting the plan to give Achievement First, a charter school network, decision-making power over the public school. / November 2013
Remember when the Hartford Public Schools ran ads to promote its school choice program and steer city students away from magnet schools? Now, Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) — which manages a number of magnet schools in the areas — will serve as the lead partner for the Clark School. The Clark Turnaround Committee reached this decision, unanimously, today.
No part of this process went smoothly, beginning last autumn. After parents protested the attempt to give Clark over to Achievement First, a charter network, Mayor Segarra stepped in to support the resistance.
During this months-long turnaround process, members of the Turnaround Committee claimed that an ultimatum was served up: vote for the Friendship School — a D.C.-area charter school system — or else Commissioner Pryor would step in and take over. There were denials that such an ultimatum had been issued, but multiple sources involved in the process claimed to have been told this or witness to it. The reality was that consensus was required; if no consensus was reached, then Commissioner Pryor would have been able to step in.
Parents and community members sit through a Board of Education vote that never needed to happen / April 2014
Then, there was the dog and pony show at the beginning of April in which the Board of Education voted in favor of…does anybody actually know what that was about? Even parents and community members who were brought out to rally beforehand were in disagreement over what their demands were, despite wearing shirts suggesting unity. One community member, wearing a t-shirt in solidarity, did not understand the issue, and wanted to see the public schools Continue reading 'CREC Voted Lead Partner for Clark School'»
Once the contract negotiation process is completed, Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez will be “reintroduced” to the public, according to a message from the Mayor’s Office. This is expected to happen in early July.
To learn about the Board of Education’s selection, see Real Hartford‘s coverage of last week’s candidate forum.
Dr. Ronald Taylor
Dr. Beth Schiavino-Narvaez
Do you want substance or style?
That is the question when it comes to Hartford’s finalists for superintendent.
On one hand, you have a candidate who saunters into the audience, does call and response, and cracks jokes. He compliments the nature of each question, goes on tangents, and often never responds to what was asked. Afterwards, an audience member will describe him as “Steve Perry-esque,” not exactly a compliment.
On the other, you have a candidate whose job interview jitters seep through on occasion, but who seems genuine and approachable. Sometimes she uses the language of the administration rather than that which might be more accessible for all parents, but she described herself first and foremost as a parent whose child has special needs. Continue reading 'Superintendent Search: Substance or Style?'»
“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'»