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Hartford School Chief Pushes Milner Closing

By Molly Callahan, Staff Writer

HARTFORD—Milner Elementary School in the North End inched closer to closing its doors to neighborhood children—for good.

Claiming Milner Elementary as its lowest-performing school, the Board of Education on Tuesday approved plans to create a Turnaround Response Team to “fix” the school.

The response team, which will work in partnership with Jumoke Academy, is the city’s response to the State Commissioner of Education’s turnaround plan for low-performing schools across Connecticut.

This all falls under Gov. Malloy’s Education Reform Bill, Senate Bill 458, which was passed early Tuesday morning.

The bill establishes the Commissioner’s Network: a means for the state to intervene in the 25 lowest-performing schools throughout the state. Tuesday night’s vote cemented Milner Elementary School’s position in this network, allowing the state to determine the redesign plan for the school.

“Not every school is given this opportunity,” said Superintendent of Schools Christina Kishimoto.  “I think it is apparent that there is a collective commitment to make sure Milner becomes a great school.”

Milner’s Turnaround Response Team will consist of Kishimoto, Board member Richard Wareing and the Milner School Governance Council, all of whom will work closely with representatives from Jumoke Academy to achieve the state and the city’s education goals.

“We’re looking at close to 30 years—three generations—of low performance at this school,” Kishimoto said.

“We hope that the Milner community will benefit vastly from the talent and money that will be put into this school,” Board Chairman Matthew Poland said in response.

However, many on the Board, including Luis Rodriguez-Davila were wary of the state’s heavy-handedness in the matter of the public system.

“It was not the state who started this, but now the state is telling us what to do and how to do it,” Davila said.

Likewise, Board Member Robert Cotto said he was apprehensive about the precedents being set in reforming Milner School. “Milner is a school that accepts any kid who shows up on the door. I’m concerned that we’re moving toward a model of simply moving kids around, and only helping a select group.”

Both Cotto and Davila were sure, though, that something needed to be done to improve public schools. “We have to figure out what went wrong,” Davila said.

Others were quick to agree that although the exact reform procedure had not yet been determined, the Turnaround Response Team was a step in the right direction.

“I’m not sure myself exactly what the answer is, but I know we haven’t done enough,” said Board member Elizabeth Brad Noel.

Milner’s and other public schools’ low performance through the years was an issue that resonated with many at Tuesday’s meeting.

“It does not seem right to me, that I have to get my kids up at 5:30 in the morning so they can get on a bus to Avon to get the education that they should be getting here,” said Lavenia Vaught, a city resident. “I need some answers now.”

“This is a deep and important issue,” Kishimoto responded. “It’s what’s driving reform in schools; we need children to know that they can get a quality education right here in Hartford.”



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