Tag Archive | "School Closings"

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Hartford School Board Refuses Proposal to Add Magnet Schools, Drops Capital Prep Plan for SAND


By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Connecticut doesn’t do change well.

That’s why it’s necessary to find alternatives to traditional schools for black and brown students, said Rep. Doug McCrory (D-Hartford) during Hartford Board of Education’s 90-minute public comment session before it nixed a proposal to have Capital Prep Magnet School Inc. manage SAND Elementary, a low-performing school in Hartford’s North End.

The eight members present on Tuesday voted 5-3 to reject two other proposals as a part of Sheff v. O’Neill‘s school desegregation agreement that would create more magnet schools: Capital Community College’s Senior Academy and Hartford School Inc. All three proposals were components of the state’s negotiated settlement with Sheff plaintiffs carved out for the 2014-2015 school year for the Hartford Public School district, which is 90 percent black and Latino. More than 92 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch.

The board’s vote came after the state failed to achieve racial balance in Hartford’s schools by the Oct. 1 deadline and Gov. Dannel Malloy announced a moratorium on magnet schools.

Board members’ collective pause on the matter means the state and the district must now continue the negotiation.

Hartford Public School Board’s Vice Chair Lori Hudson was adamant about having a plan that includes the Capital Prep model.

“It was all or nothing,” said Hudson after the late night vote in Rawson Elementary School’s auditorium. “The deal worked for me with the Capital Prep component. When they removed it, I was against it.”

Board member Richard Wareing was also against the removal of Capital Prep’s proposal, which had significant community support. Wareing gave an impassioned plea to “put Hartford students first” instead of the process that brought the proposals to the table.

Teachers protest what they called a "hostile takeover" of SAND.

Teachers protest what they called a “hostile takeover” of SAND.

Some administrators, teachers and opponents of Capital Prep’s Principal Steve Perry said the board’s process lacked transparency, and the Capital Prep model “can’t be forced on the community.”

Because of the confidential nature of the Sheff v. O’Neill plaintiffs’ negotiation with the state, board members and others disseminated very little information after a supposed agreement last week, Hudson said.

Local advocates for the Sheff desegregation agreement have also failed to engage the community, drawing less than a dozen Hartford parents and community advocates at a recent conference on school integration held earlier this month.

The Sheff settlement included, for the first time, money for Hartford’s local schools, Clark and SAND: a $3 million grant. In the past, no money would have been allocated to local schools.

Parkville Parent Teachers Organization and Hartford Parent Organization Council President Ivette Diana said that parents were misinformed about Capital Prep’s proposal.

“None of the kids were going to leave those schools,” Diana said referring to Clark and SAND elementary schools. “Parents didn’t know that. And no one knew about the money…. It was the pissed off move. We weren’t supposed to know.”

Diana said “unions should stay out of this.” She vowed to organize parents.

“If the teachers want to fight for something, they should fight for our children, not their jobs,” she said. “We’ll be back. We’re the parents. We should decide what happens to our schools.”

Board Chair Matthew Poland and Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said they heeded the cries of parents and community leaders who showed up last week and on Tuesday to protest a proposal to convert Clark Elementary to an Achievement First Charter School, another low-performing school in the North End.

In a statement issued last week, Segarra said: “I indicated clearly that any decision regarding a redesign of Clark Elementary would be predicated upon parental involvement and support. I am committed to identifying an alternate solution that meets our objective of accelerating student learning and closing Hartford’s achievement gap. I encourage all those invested in this issue to stay involved.”

After the vote, which occurred at about 11:15 p.m., Perry said the Hartford board dropped his proposal because several board members lacked courage to “stand in the face of some level of discomfort.”

He added: “At the end of the day, children lose again.”

Others had a different view, emphasizing the lack of transparency in the push to close several of Hartford’s low-performing schools.

At the public session, one teacher said that the board’s move to have Capital Prep take over SAND was sudden and hostile. So the teacher’s union mobilized and invited a few parents and children to speak out on teachers’ behalf.

But another parent said he was in favor of “something different” because his child can’t do first-grade math.

When contacted via phone, one active parent said he knew nothing about the proposals. After being briefed, he said:

“Steve Perry is an ass. But there’s a difference in his school. Capital Prep doesn’t say to students ‘you are poor so you can’t learn.’ The teachers at Prep educate and empower students. They don’t make excuses,” said Robin Williams.*  “These teachers are all white and from the suburbs. They don’t want to change the status quo. That’s the other side of the coin that needs to be explored.”

Teachers had their say, too.

Ronald Linker, who teaches at Hartford Public School’s Academy of Engineering and Green Technology, said teachers are burdened with students who have been passed through the system every year to increase the district’s graduation rate.

“They’re pushed along like they’re on assembly lines, not by parents or teachers but by the district,” Linker said. “They failed to hold back these students, and they keep offering alternatives like summer schools to get them to graduate.”

His colleague Ron Williams agreed.

“These are not failing schools,” Williams said referring to Clark and SAND. “These are failing policies.”

Neither teacher is at SAND Elementary. But they said they were there to support their colleagues who teach at SAND.

“We’re here,” Linker said, “because they are coming for us next.”

*Robin Williams is a pseudonym used to protect his identity.

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Hartford Group Joins National School Closings Protest


HARTFORD — A Hartford group will join in the nation-wide kick off event to protest against school closings in low-income communities of color.

In light of these school closings that organizers say a national 25-city coalition plans to call for an end to  the creation of “school deserts” through a moratorium on all school closings, turnarounds, phase outs and charter expansions. The event will be from Aug. 27 to Aug.  29.

Organizers say that on the heels of the nation’s 50th anniversary of the March On Washington, Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) members agenda is similar: racial justice and equal opportunity for all children – regardless of color, class or community – to a quality and safe education.

The coalition added that school closings “destabilize communities, create school deserts with no right-of-access to public schools, and do not improve low-income students academic performance.”

National Journey for Justice Alliance demands include:

  • Moratorium on all school closings, turnarounds, phase outs and charter expansions
  • It’s proposal for Sustainable School Transformation to replace failed intervention strategies for struggling schools.
  • U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to be held accountable for discriminatory, top-down policies that target communities of color and have not improved student outcomes.                  

Explosive school closings resulting from this agenda violates the United Nations proclamation of 1948, Article 26(http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml) establishing the inalienable human right of every child – regardless of race, income or community — to receive a quality education in a safe environment.

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No Heat Prompts Early School Closings


HARTFORD — Two schools closed this morning because there was no heat in the building, officials said.

The Asian Studies Academy in the Bellizzi school at 215 South St., closed 11:00 a.m. today and Weaver High School at 415 Granby St., closed at 10:30 a.m. today.

Both early closings are due to the fact that there is no heat in the buildings, school officials said.

Officials said both schools are expected to open Tuesday.

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Power Outage Closes Two City Schools


HARTFORD — Due to a power outage, classes at the Pathways to Technology Magnet High School at 184 Windsor Avenue in Windsor and the Hartford Transitional Learning Academy at 2550 Main Street in Hartford have been canceled for the day.

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