“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'»
Photo is courtesy of Andy Hart
The Clark Turnaround Committee was informed Tuesday that more site visits would be possible, and that the Friendship School model (use of the word “model” has been debated) is not the one that must be picked. As of Friday, parents, teachers, and community members were fighting for the ability to do just that, as a press conference was held to shine light on the need for more time, better communication with the State Department of Education and Hartford Board of Education staffers, and self-determination.
Tentative meeting dates, including those for school site visits, were discussed at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the Clark School. According to the agenda, school site visits in New Haven and New York City are possibilities at the end of March and early April.
After SDE representative Andrew Ferguson reprimanded the parents, teachers, and community members on the committee, saying “there has to be urgency from everyone at this table,” teacher Kimberly Daly responded, “to be honest [...] we were not given the models to look at.” Daly, referring to her notes, said that at the February 19th meeting, she asked that an appointment be made for the Turnaround Committee to visit an Expeditionary Learning model school — Hartford schools Moylan and McDonough already use this model, and the Sánchez school will be fully using it in 2014-2015 — yet, she said, no appointment has been scheduled. Continue reading 'Clark Told “Friendship is on Hold”, Okay to See Others'»
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'»
Tired of schlepping downtown for every last event? Bessy Reyna has curated the Hartford Loves Poetry reading series in April for National Poetry Month. This means that over two weeks, each of the ten Hartford Public Library branches will be hosting a poetry reading and workshop.
The event will kick off on April 7th with Jose B. Gonzalez at the Park Branch (744 Park Street). The Goodwin Branch (460 New Britain Avenue) will host Marianela Medrano on April 8th; Leslie McGrath will appear at the Dwight Branch (7 New Park Avenue). Pit Pinegar will be reading at the Camp Field Branch (30 Campfield Avenue) on April 9th and John Stanizzi will be at the Albany Branch (1250 Albany Ave) on April 12th. Also on April 12th, the Barbour Branch (281 Barbour Street) will host Ernie Blue. Joyce Ashuntantang will read at the Mark Twain Branch (55 Forest Street) on April 14th. The Blue Hills Branch (649 Blue Hills Avenue) will host Antoinette Brim on April 15. Poet Kate Rushin will be reading at the Ropkins Branch (1750 Main Street) on April 16th. Weekday readings are scheduled for 5:30-7:15pm; Saturday readings will go from 3-5pm.
The series closes on April 19th with a Grand Finale at the Downtown Branch, 1-4pm. Reyna said that community presenters will be reading poems in their own languages Continue reading 'Multi-Cultural Poetry Celebration in the Neighborhoods'»
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'»
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'»
The John C. Clark, Jr. School was accepted into the Commissioner’s Network, a decision that places it alongside the Jumoke Honors Academy at Milner, née Core Knowledge Academy at Milner, née Thirman L. Milner School, née Vine Street School. At Monday’s Board of Education meeting — a rescheduling of what should have taken place last Tuesday — it was also announced that Mille Soto and Lakeisha McFarland, both vocal members of the Clark School’s PTO and SGC, would be on the Conditional Turnaround School Committee.
America’s Choice at SAND School, née SAND Elementary School, was rejected by the Commissioner’s Office. It was said that there would be aggressive application on behalf of SAND for a “School Improvement Grant.” SAND, like Milner, had been previously redesigned. Continue reading 'Commissioner’s Network Takes One More'»