Tag Archive | "Hartford Public School"

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English Language Learners And Special Education Students Will Pay The Price For Hartford Mayor’s Bankruptcy Strategy

By David Medina

Welcome to the Hartford where everything is designed to shield Mayor Luke Bronin from the consequences of his own decisions.

Hartford Public Schools, for example, made two interrelated announcements back-to-back during the week of October 10th, to persuade city residents that their children will receive a better education if certain neighborhood schools are shut down.

In the first instance, the Board of Education unveiled the first draft of Equity 2020, the plan to close four low-performing underutilized neighborhood schools and shove their 3,500 students into the rest of the low-performing neighborhood schools.

The better funded Sheff magnet schools that are focused on luring white students from the suburbs will remain untouched.

The school board, under the direction of chairman Richard Wareing, is expected to approve Equity 2020  in December, so that the targeted schools are eliminated from the budget for the school year that begins in August of 2017.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionIn the second instance, the board appointed a search committee to find a qualified educator to replace outgoing Superintendent Beth Schiavino Narvaez, and be the henchman who implements Equity 2020.

Despite its name, there is no equity in Equity 2020. It is simply a brutal, slash-and-burn blueprint for rapidly shutting down the Martin Luther King, Burns Latino Studies, Thirman Milner and the Simpson-Waverly neighborhood schools.

The plan offers three scenarios under which the four doomed schools would close. The only real difference between them is the pattern for redistributing the displaced students throughout the school system.

Equity 2020 also calls for terminating the leases on schools that operate in rented spaces and doubling them up with schools that are located in city-owned buildings. As such, High School, Inc. and the Kinsella high school students would join the Journalism and Media Academy in the renovated Weaver High School building.

The plan makes no provisions for meeting the educational needs of the displaced students or for such things as after-school programs, transportation services, dental and health clinics, security, custodial services and school meals. That ugly task would have to be completed by whoever replaces Schiavino-Narvaez and the central office staff well before the first day of school in August.

The basic objective of the plan is to use the money saved from closing the schools to help Mayor Bronin eliminate the city’s enormous budget deficit and allegedly avoid bankruptcy without alienating Bronin’s political base. Neighborhood schools, including the ones targeted for closure, have increasingly become a dumping ground for Special Education students and the largely Latino population of English-language learners. Equity 2020 would make them even more of a dumping ground. Latino voters did not support Bronin in 2015. So he owes them nothing.

The city’s deficit for this year stands at $22 million and next year’s deficit is projected to be about $40 million. Meanwhile, Standard & Poor’s has downgraded Hartford’s bond rating near junk levels, based on what it said were Bronin’s unrealistic budget projections. Earlier this year, Bronin tried and failed to have the state legislature grant him the authority to unilaterally cut pensions and nullify labor contracts — a power that even the President of the United States doesn’t have. Lately, he has advocated for lowering expenditures in Hartford and other cities by regionalizing services and tax rates with neighboring towns, grand ideas that have fallen flat before.

That leaves Hartford Public Schools, and, more specifically, the neighborhood schools, as the only service that Bronin can freely disembowel to make it look as though he’s doing everything possible to keep the city from going bankrupt. All he needs is a compliant superintendent who will implement Equity 2020 and take the heat when raging parents demand to know how the city can justify opening an expensive new baseball stadium and closing schools at the same time.

Over the coming weeks, the search committee will interview candidates, check their backgrounds and perhaps hear testimony from parents and community leaders on the type of educator they want to see as superintendent. The committee will recommend a nominee and the Hartford Board of Education will then vote to offer the nominee a three-year contract with a salary of roughly $250,000 a year.

Everything will appear honest and above board, although many suspect that the selection process has already been rigged to favor Dr. Jose Colon-Rivas. Dr. Colon-Rivas became the district’s chief operating officer in July, after more than 30 years of service in both City Hall and Hartford Public Schools. He has been a teacher, principal of Hartford Public High School and a central office administrator. As chief operating officer, Dr. Colon-Rivas is already second in command at Hartford Public Schools and has done much of the day-to-day decision making there while Schiavino-Narvaez transitions to her new job as chief of instructional leadership in the Pacific Ocean for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Dr. Colon-Rivas is also invested in Equity 2020. He sits on the Equity 2020 Committee that will present the final draft of the plan for Board of Education approval in December. He even facilitated the unveiling of the first draft on Oct. 13. The more he fronts for Equity 2020, the better he looks. He has the added advantage of having served as a mayoral appointee to Hartford Board of Education, right up until the day he accepted his current job of chief operating officer. So, he clearly has Bronin’s confidence and is well-known to the board members who would appoint him superintendent.

The only potential candidate who poses a serious threat to Colon-Rivas is Dr. James Thompson. Dr. Thompson, who was educated in Hartford Public Schools, is already superintendent of  Bloomfield Public Schools, widely acclaimed as the most improved district in Connecticut every year since he took it over in 2011. Like Colon-Rivas, he spent most of his career as an educator in Hartford, where he became famous for his data-driven work in transforming low-performing schools, including an amazing turnaround of the Simpson-Waverly Elementary School that led to a coveted national Blue Ribbon Award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2003. Thompson, moreover, would be an attractive choice for Luke Bronin to present to the city’s African-American community that strongly supported him for mayor in 2015.

Dr. Thompson, however, would probably have little incentive to come to Hartford without a free hand to run the district as he saw fit. Being a hand puppet to Board Chairman Richard Wareing is not his style. Dr. Thompson also signed a three-year contract extension with Bloomfield recently, where he supervises 2,500 students instead of 21,000 for a salary comparable to what he would earn in Hartford. Furthermore, Thompson made his reputation as an educational leader who improves schools, not one who closes them.

The search process for Hartford superintendent may attract additional candidates. Some will take it seriously and others will throw their hats in the ring with no expectation of getting the job, thereby legitimizing the process. The urgency to pass Equity 2020 and the short timeline to fill the superintendent’s position makes it hard to imagine any of those candidates matching the experience, credentials, and the value of Jose Colon-Rivas or James Thompson.

That being the case, Mayor Bronin should simply skip the dog-and-pony show and choose the candidate that he has already decided can best satisfy his political and economic needs. Even the shoe-shine boys in Hartford know that Equity 2020’s role in Bronin’s bankruptcy gambit will determine who gets the job. So, be transparent. Don’t insult the public’s intelligence with a charade.

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Letting Parents Know the Odds of Getting into a Magnet School

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

It took Paola Arrospide four years to get her daughter out of a low-performing Hartford public school and enrolled in a magnet school.

“I started screaming when we received news she got in,” said Arrospide, a baker from the South End of Hartford. “We won the lottery finally.”

But the odds of that lottery never were clear to the Arrospide, whose daughter was one of about 13,000 students who apply every year for a seat in the Hartford area’s non-traditional public schools or a chance to attend a suburban school under a voluntary choice program.

That’s about to change.

Starting this school year, the state will begin measuring what percentage of Hartford Public School students are turned away from attending an alternative to their local school.

The measurement is an attempt to meet a requirement of the settlement in Sheff vs. O’Neill, which produced an order by the state Supreme Court that the state to reduce inequities caused by racial isolation in Hartford’s schools.

To comply, the state needs to provide 80 percent of the Hartford students that apply to attend non-traditional public schools the opportunity to do so, or have 41 percent of minority students attending integrated schools by next October.

The change could help Arrospide, who two other children in a school where test results show students’ achievement levels are significantly below state standards.

“Maybe it won’t take as long to get them in a better school,” she said. “I’m not holding my breath though.”

Arrospide’s story is common. Hundreds of parents and their children flooded a fair at a Hartford vocational technical high school over the weekend to apply for a seat in one of the magnet, vocational or charter schools or other choice programs. Many of them had stories of going through the same routine for years.

“We are in a business where we can’t satisfy everyone. So parents come back next year and the next and the next until their child gets in,” said James Caradonio, who heads the Greater Hartford Regional School Choice Office, which is responsible for the lottery.

Last year, the state fell well short of meeting the 41 percent requirement, with just 25 percent of minority students attending integrated schools. Results of this years demographic breakdown will be released by Nov. 15.

It’s currently anyone’s best guess how many of those 13,000 students wanting to leave their local schools actually had the opportunity to do so.

Martha Stone, a lawyer for the Sheff plaintiffs, said she suspects that state is turning too many students away.

“Thousands of kids are not getting the type of education they are entitled too still,” she said while touring the School Choice Fair over the weekend, adding this requirement of reporting how much demand is being fulfilled will only further highlight how the state is doing.

Caradonio said he cannot guess what the Nov. 15 numbers will show, but said one truth remains — students have a better choice of getting into another school if they apply than if they stop applying because they are frustrated it is taking so long.

“If you don’t play, your odds are zero percent,” he said. “Keep applying, and apply to multiple schools.”

Arrospide is already following his advice, and has applied for five magnet schools for each of her two children still in a Hartford Public School.

“It’s all about luck,” she said. “I am hoping my luck changes soon for my son and daughter.”

(Photo Courtesy of CT Mirror: Paola Arrospide left, talks with Two Rivers Principal Jean Privitera and a student hoping to get into her school)


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Hartford Begins School Year On Schedule After Hurricane Irene

HARTFORD — Mayor Pedro Segarra, Superintendent. Christina Kishimoto, and former Mayor Thirman Milner greet students at the Milner Core Knowledge Academy after their first day of school on Tuesday.

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‘Glee’-Inspired High School Choir To Perform At Bushnell Park

HARTFORD — The Hartford Public School’s Glee-inspired choir is gearing up to perform Christmas carols at  Bushnell Park on Friday.

The Dec. 10 event comes just months after the Hartford Public’s administration set out to have a choir similar to the one in the series of the network television show “Glee.”

Founded in October 2010, the Hartford High Show Choir has 22 members from HPHS’s four academies (Freshman, Law & Government, Nursing, Engineering andGreen Technology) began practicing their vocal skills by singing songs performed by the “Glee” cast.

They also sing gospel and African music and do choreography.

The choir expects to be performing four pieces: Ride on King Jesus, a gospel song, Jingle Bells, with a twist, Joy to the World and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

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