Tag Archive | "Hartford Board of Education"

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Arizona Board Votes to Hire Kishimoto

HARTFORD — During what was reported in local media as a raucus, standing-room only meeting, the Gilbert, Ariz. school board early Wednesday morning selected a new superintendent of schools: Christina DeJesus-Kishimoto, the superintendent of Hartford public schools.

The position in the central Arizona community was expected to be offered to Kishimoto after the meeting according to the Arizona Republic Newspaper. Kishimoto, whose contract in Hartford ends in June, accepted the position according to reports. A search for Kishimoto’s  successor already is under way. The Hartford Board of Ed

The Gilbert vote was 3-2 at the end of a meeting in which parents and teachers accused conservative board members of political bias and driving out educators, the newspapers website, azcentral.com reported. The selection process also came under fire.

The 39,000-student district has been in an uproar with the five top administrators and the interim superintendent resigning.

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Good News for Hartford Board of Education

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra recently announced his support to have a new leader at the helm of Hartford’s Board of Education on Feb. 18: Richard Wareing.

This is good news.

Wareing, an attorney and a mayoral appointee to the board since 2012, is seemingly passionate about putting the welfare of students first. Most importantly, he is able to rise above the malaise that sometimes grips Hartford when it comes to making substantive changes for the greater good.

Yeah. We know. Wareing is a lawyer and a Republican who champions “school choice.” And he’s been active in city politics for decades, having served on the Metropolitan District Commission since he was 19. But he has also demonstrated this much: he cares. He constantly champions parental input. And he stresses that parents should be well-informed about proposals in the district.

editorialbannerthumb When parents were upset about a proposed closing of Clark Elementary School and then a move to convert it into a magnet school, Wareing passionately and eloquently detailed the rational for turning Clark into a magnet school, unveiling previously withheld facts that later helped parents arrive at an informed decision about the proposed changes.

It was clear to some onlookers that he buried his ego and used common sense to assess what would truly be best for students. In this particular case, what was best for Clark was the money the state would funnel into the school. What Clark school needed was more resources to continue its progress. And under the Sheff  v. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit agreement, converting it into a magnet/charter school would help direct resources to it. Clark is now among the Commissioner’s Network of Schools, which will allow it to get the necessary resources needed to make drastic improvements.

Another good news is that Rev. Dr. Shelley Best will join the Hartford Board of Education to ensure that students continue to rise above mediocrity and offend those who have low expectations of them. Best, a gifted orator and community leader, is the president and CEO of the Conference of Churches and is seemingly committed to servant leadership. Best would replace Cherita McIntye, another mayoral appointee who resigned in December.

The recent appointment, in addition to the recently elected board members with a history of civic engagement, has Hartford schools poised for great progress well into 2014. However, it’s odd that no West Indians have been appointed in the long history of the board of education,  given the large number of them in the city and its schools. We hope city administrators will rectify this egregious error soon.

In any case, there are good reasons to celebrate Hartford’s progress, which is to come for our long-neglected public schools.


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Hartford Board of Education and City Need Immigrant Representation

Four party-endorsed candidates are vying for four seats in the Hartford’s Board of Education election on Nov. 5. Voters could have had other choices had the political parties feverishly engage city residents, many of whom are immigrants and children of immigrants.

See voting ballots online here.

Hartford is set to hire a school superintendent, continue its controversial reform efforts and manage millions of grants and donations it attracted from the federal government, Bill Gates and “corporate reformers,” who are set to close schools in the North End of Hartford. Moreover, the Hartford Public School district, like other districts across the nation, is implementing common core state standards, new teacher evaluation methods and curriculum for 21st century students.

Therefore, all eyes should be on the 2013 reshuffling, even if there are only four party-endorsed candidates. The Democratic Party candidates include Michael Brescia, 79,  a former Buckley High School teacher; Beth Parker, 35, a research scientist at Hartford Hospital and a faculty member in health sciences at the University of Hartford; Craig Stallings, 40,  a self-employed tax specialist. Working Families Party incumbent Robert Cotto Jr., 32, is a senior fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children.  There are no Republican candidates.

Joe Gonzalez, a 39-year-old warehouse manager and a Democrat, is a write-in candidate. Originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, Gonzalez said he wants to represent the Hispanic immigrant. Though not an immigrant, Gonzalez’s desire to represent immigrants highlights a larger issue. In a city of immigrants, very few immigrants find their way into the Hartford’s political arena, much less the inner circles.

The Hartford Guardian is not seeing enough evidence that Hartford is integrating its immigrant population.

editorialbannerthumbWith nativism on the rise, new arrivals to the city are experiencing a higher rate of discrimination and exclusion. This is unfortunate because in other cities, such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, the immigrant population has spurred economic growth and vitality. The same can be done for Hartford’s 124,893 residents if more effort is put into integrating these immigrants into all aspects of the city, including commissions, boards and the city council—fostering a sense of belonging. And it can start with the school board, seen by ambitious politicos as a sure and steady pathway to higher office.

Of the total population in 2011, more than 22 percent are foreign born. And 26 percent, or 31,474, of the entire population are school-age children below 18. More than half the school’s students are migrants, immigrants or children of immigrants, according to recent estimates by school officials. Moreover, Hartford school boasts a diverse student population from more than 24 countries and who speak more than 70 languages. In fact, about two thirds of the city’s population is from the Caribbean region. Understanding these sub-cultures in the city will be crucial to “turning around” schools. We don’t see meaningful reform happening any other way. And the record of slow and misguided growth in the school district confirms this.

The current board in no way represents the city’s population, especially the immigrant population—the most vulnerable residents in the city. Consequently, the board has failed to attend to the need of most immigrant families and their children who find it difficult to navigate the school system and who are wrongly treated as “foreigners who don’t vote.”   Board members seemingly don’t understand the nuances of navigating a new country with a different accent. Or think about it during meetings.

Additionally, the Hartford Democratic Town Committee, which is primarily responsible for recruiting possible candidates for elected office, does a poor job of engaging new Americans. Members do not advertise their meetings, or do outreach, in these communities. For example, the HDTC does not update their website,  another way of keeping information from the public’s purview.

In fact, when the HDTC held a recent meeting to select its slate, it failed to inform the immigrant papers, online news sources, or community organizations. Some critics say it was done deliberately to exclude these groups and to engineer a carefully handpicked board. As for the Hartford Republican Party, it seemingly wants nothing to do with immigrants at this time. The Working Families Party already has its candidate.

This circumscribed life for new Americans in Hartford is unacceptable. Most of these citizens are Democrats. They should not be excluded from any part of the democratic process, or only told to show up and vote.

City officials, including the town committees, can correct this decade-old problem by appointing first-generation immigrants and their children to the board so that they too have a voice in what kind of education their children receive. Instead of erecting barriers to an already messy and complicated democratic process, officials should ensure these residents feel a sense of belonging so the city can reap the benefits of an engaged and caring community.

Public relations strategies that “support immigrants” are not enough. Real support is having new Americans seated at the table.

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Robert Cotto Announces Re-election Campaign

HARTFORD — Hartford Board of Education Robert Cotto, Jr., will seek reelection in November’s election.

Cotto now serves as board secretary and works as a senior policy fellow with Connecticut Voices for Children. He said that during his four-year tenure, he has been “a leading voice on the Hartford Board of Education for equal educational opportunities for all children in our public schools.” For example, he led policy changes that made school uniforms more affordable for families, made the choice process more accessible through paper applications, and encouraged more of Hartford’s high schools to attain accreditation, he said in a statement to the press.


“Our public schools must help children learn to become engaged, productive, and healthy adults,” Cotto said. “To accomplish that goal, I have used my office to advocate for a rich, broad curriculum for all students, sufficient resources for all schools, better ways of evaluating schools, and collaborating with teachers and parents for school improvement. Across the state, I have protested the inappropriate use of tests to judge schools and award bonuses, excessive disciplinary practices, increasing racial and ethnic isolation, and the privatization of schools.”

In addition, Cotto said his tenure so far includes:

Chairing a policy committee that:

  • Proposed a policy for schools to demonstrate quality by attaining accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
  • Modified the school uniform policy to stop “sole-source” vendors of uniforms.
  • Helped modify policies ranging from School Governance Councils, physical activity and nutrition, to anti-bullying and harassment.

Additional highlights include:

  • Authored a resolution to provide paper applications for the local school choice process.
  • Authored a resolution for a study on dual-language inter-district magnet programs.
  • Helped eliminate bonus pay for top-level administrators.

Proposed policies from the last four years:

  • Proposed a policy that would require a vote to accept grants from private donors and foundations that want to change or control Board of Education policy.
  • Proposed a policy that would require a three-year term renewal by the Board of Education for all top-level administrators.
  • Proposed modifications to the policy on “grading” of children’s schoolwork.



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Hartford Superintendent Withdraws Demand

HARTFORD — Hartford School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has announced that she will not seek a $15,450 performance bonus for this fiscal year.

Kishimoto, in a statement released to the press on Saturday, responded to a report about her lawyer’s negotiation to get a contractual performance bonus added to her already sizable salary of $231,000 in her second year, plus $10, 000  toward retirement and a $400 monthly car allowance.

Kishimoto has served as superintendent for 16 months.

“In light of reporting today on communications between the Board of Education and my attorneys concerning a recent evaluation process conducted by the Board, I wish to clarify that I will not seek a bonus for my performance over the past year,” Kishimoto said.

The statement comes on the heels of an unsatisfactory performance review by the board of education last  month.  The board had vigorously objected to Kishimoto’s demand.

See performance review here.


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Hartford Parents To Hold Advocacy Workshop

HARTFORD — This Saturday, the Hartford Parent Organization Council will hold a workshop to inform parents on how they can advocate for their children.

The retreat will be from 8 :00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Rawson Elementary School.

The workshop will include HPOC President Shay Teal, Hartford School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and parents. The event will include a four and a half hour retreat for all city parents who want to be actively involved in their children’s education, organizers said.

Among other topics, the retreat will concentrate on training parents on how to communicate their concerns to school and district administrators and how to lobby government officials for school reform.

Breakfast and lunch will be served.

In other school matters, the Board of Education met on Thursday to review the state’s impending shift to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) curriculum. The curriculum is a “smart balance” of a nation-wide curriculum, so that if students were to leave the district and attend another state, they would be acquainted with the curriculum in their new school.

The state is also expected to implement a more rigorous statewide academic test in the 2014-2015 school year.


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Right Move: Hartford City Council Resolution Summons Board of Education


HARTFORD — Finally, there is some semblance of responsive leadership from the Hartford Court of Common Council on the recent and gross indiscretions by the Hartford Board of Education.


Council President rjo Winch has sponsored a resolution to have the city’s Board of Education and the Chief Operating Officer be present at the public hearing on the mayor’s budget. Mayor Pedro Segarra is also expected to be present. The resolution is on the agenda for Monday’s city council meeting.


Most informed residents welcomed the Mayor’s robust response to the board of education’s feeble attempt at a superintendent search. But he retreated after criticism and pressure from some. That was unfortunate.


That’s because a fundamental wrong had been done with the search process, and it unequivocally sends the message to students, who the board is trying to educate, that it’s OK to break the rules.


Consider this: the search committee looked at only two candidates. Yet certain board members kept saying Assistant Superintendent Christina Kishimoto was the best candidate. Just knowing basic English would tell us that the proper dictum is as follows: “good, better, best.” Kishimoto could only be “the best” candidate if there was a third, or more candidates, to compete with.


Speaking of candidates, one assistant superintendent, who previously applied for the superintendent job, was pushed out of the district in 2007. He was a brilliant scholar with solid administrative skills and has since garnered national recognition. His name is Romaine Dallemand, and he is now superintendent of Bibb County Board of Education in Georgia. Perhaps that’s why the board and others refused to entertain a national search. If they did, Dallemand would have clearly been one of the best. During the city’s search, he was on the market for a new job.


But aside from the number of candidates screened, there was the vat of arrogance that oozed from not only Kishimoto, but a few board members. They behaved as if they were a part of a clique, and they owed the public no sensible explanation because they spent weeks and months following rules that were, get this, put in place to eclipse the long established rules for doing a search for this critical position.


The twisted attitude displayed by these board members was enough to make a casual observer realize the depth of their ignorance about the role of board members.


In addition to that wanton ignorance, there was arrogance from the School Superintendent’s “cabinet.” In this economy, where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, is asking residents to make “shared sacrifice,” the board’s administration is saying they deserve pay raises. The gall.


Another problem came after the board voted on the new superintendent. After being warned about heeding to residents and their concerns, Kishimoto insisted on moving forward with plans to close three schools. And guess where these schools are located? Her target zone is in the poorest section of the city with the most vulnerable children, the North End.


On May 16, residents want to see more than talk. They want concrete actions to follow soon afterward and that will address a bevy of concerns about the board of education. They want to see measures of accountability—besides ramped up test scores that fail to give an accurate snap shot of what’s actually going on in Hartford’s schools. City residents are rightfully saying enough is enough.




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Hartford School Superintendent Presents Budget

Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD—Hartford School Superintendent Steven Adamowski presented his proposed budget to the board of education on Monday at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, leaving many flummoxed.

That was the board’s first look at Adamowski’s 267-page budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Adamowski said his proposed $283.4 million operating budget represents a one percent decrease, or $2.1 million.

Most of the projected decrease is because of reduced federal grants, including the Title I Improving Basic Skills money by more than one million. At least seven other federal grants were reduced. But a 2010 infusion of $11 million from the “Teacher’s Jobs Legislation” is filling the gap left by those reductions.

There was no projection of new money to replace that funding, nor were there any new money to fill the gap spurred by increased operational cost of utilities, increased insurance rates and pending salary increases. And the overall proposed operating budget does not include capital expenditures.

So Adamowski’s budget is projecting cuts from special education to fund other parts of the budget, said board of education member, Louis Rodriquez-Davila.

Currently, the district spends 23 percent of its budget on 14 percent of its students, who are in special education, Adamowski said. And special education spending has increased dramatically in the past five years. So he is proposing a $4.6 million reduction of the over-all special education budget.

But special education is not the biggest chunk of the budget. The major driving factor in the projected increase in the proposed budget is salary increases, said Chief Financial Operator, Paula Altieri. The total increase in salaries and benefits in the proposed budget is $222.3 million, a $9 million increase from last year’s budget.

This leaves only $61 million for utilities and other operational expenses. And there is a slight reduction in instructional supplies

Adamowski budget is also projecting an increase in students. Board member Brad Noel, who has been on the board for at least 10 years and the only one to respond to Adamowski’s presentation, questioned the sudden increase after a series of projected decrease in the number of students.

Officials said the entire budget will be on the district’s website by Wednesday.


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Hartford Board and Council To Discuss Critical Agenda Items

HARTFORD — This week the Hartford Board of Education is scheduled to meet Monday, the same day and time as the City Council’s scheduled meeting.

Hartford School Superintendent Steven Adamowski is expected to present the proposed 2011-2012 budget at Capital Preparatory Magnet School’s cafeteria at 6 p.m.

A public hearing for residents to speak on the budget is scheduled for April 19 at Capital Prep Magnet, 1304 Main St.

The Hartford City Council will also meet on Monday to consider a host of resolutions including a resolution for immediate allocation of funding to extend the no freeze shelter at the Salvation Army Marshall House, slated for closing on April 15.

The council is expected to vote on the resolution.


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