Tag Archive | "Hartford Public Schools"

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Hartford Students Raise Money For Haiti

Employing a variety of inventive fund-raising techniques, students throughout the Hartford Public School system have so far donated about $9,000 and large amounts of food, clothing, household goods and medical supplies to assist the victims of the earthquake that devastated Haiti last month, school officials said.

The money totals are likely to increase over the coming weeks because additional fund-raising activities have yet to take place and others are ongoing, officials said.

“It is encouraging that our students are learning responsibility to others at an early age and that they are able to see themselves as part of a global community,” said Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski. “Their caring, as demonstrated through a variety of
unique projects to contribute to the Haitian relief effort, are deserving of recognition and commendation.”

In some cases, the donations were linked to a particular educational objective.  Students at the Montessori Magnet School at Annie Fisher, for example, organized a Haiti Read-a-thon, in which they collect contributions from friends and family at a per hour rate for simply reading. The Read-a-thon continues through the month of February.

Proceeds go to the Hope Is Life Foundation, established by 11-year-old Natascha Yogachandra, which is raising funds to restore schools in Haiti.

Among the students participating in the activity is third-grader Patricia Weaver, 8, of Hartford, who said she has obtained donation pledges from all the members of her family for reading an hour and a half every day. Her book selection includes “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “The Sugarplum Ballerina” and “Georgia’s Secret Key.”

“I’ll probably collect about $100,” Patricia said.

Her classmate, Evelyn McNamee of Wallingford, said she is hoping to raise about $50 for reading during her three-hour daily commute to and from school.

The Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, meanwhile, hosted a benefit music and drama performance at which guests were asked to donate a $10 admission fee that went directly to Helping Hands, an organization that aids an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti.

Many schools held “Dress-Down Days”, in which students were permitted to come to class without their uniforms so long as they paid a fee for doing so. Dress down Day at Kennelly Elementary School alone raised more than $1,700.

District schools in which students held fund-raising drives include: Maria Sanchez, Noah Webster Micro-Society Magnet, Simpson-Waverly, Breakthrough Magnet, the Adult Education Center, Ramon E. Betances, Alfred E. Burr, Hartford
Magnet Middle School, the Nursing Academy, the Law and Government Academy, Annie Fisher, Dwight, Bellizzi Middle School, Weaver High School and Moylan.

Other Haitian relief charities that received donations from Hartford students were the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCares of Stamford, Doctors Without Borders and the Connecticut Haitian Earthquake Relief Fund.

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Council Set To Oversee City Schools

By David Medina

Higher test scores and opening four more redesigned schools aren’t the only things that Hartford Public Schools expects to accomplish in the coming New Year.

Beginning this semester, parents, students, staff and other strategic partners in the district are also poised to gain a major say in how their schools are managed.

Their authority comes from membership in the new school governance councils that were established by a vote of the Board of Education in the spring of 2009.

The councils have many duties. Their most important responsibilities, however, are approving their school’s budget each year, developing an accountability plan that sets data-driven educational goals for their school and recommending a new principal in the event of a vacancy.

“Our district’s strategy to close the achievement gap requires significant parent input to succeed,” Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski said. “The school governance councils were designed with that goal in mind.”

Each governance council can have up to 12 members, half of whom must be parents. A parent, moreover, must co-chair the governance council with the school principal, who is a non-voting member. The rest of the membership includes any combination of students, teachers and other staff, religious and community organizations, business partners and partners in higher education.

Sasha Davis, 25, who sits on the governance council at the Nursing Academy in Hartford Public High School, said she first heard about the council at a parent open house from principal David Chambers. Ms. Davis is legal guardian to her cousin, Sharion Clare, 17, a senior at the academy.

“I was looking for a way to get involved so that I could make sure that things went smoothly for her,” Ms. Davis said. “The council is a great way to help the principals run the schools and to guarantee that students get what they need.”

The new policy applies to autonomous schools, namely schools that maintain an Overall School Index at the proficient level or above each year and new and redesigned schools that increase their OSI by 3 percent a year, regardless of their level on the OSI.


To that end, the district has selected 26 schools in which to launch the governance

councils. More than 200 individuals, half of them parents or guardians, have volunteered

to join them. The participants have spent much of the past semester attending training

sessions administered by Leadership Greater Hartford to prepare for service on the


“I found the early sessions interesting and helpful,” said Rand Cooper, a writer

and novelist, whose three-year-old daughter, Larkin, attends the pre-K program at the

Noah Webster MicroSociety Magnet School in Hartford’s West End. “They were

designed to help us work together and do things diplomatically. The fourth session was

about what the school governance council is expected to do and how to go about it.”

Diane Jones, a foster parent to Earl Coleman and Neftali Requana at the Hartford

Culinary Arts Academy in Weaver High School, had a similar reaction.

“The training was fabulous,” she said. “It brought everyone to a place where they

could feel they would have an impact.”

Ms. Jones added that, in addition to discussing the school’s budget and

accountability plan, her governance council is already into “the nitty-gritty” of plans to

build a state-of-the-art kitchen at the academy.

The councils must meet at least six times per year. Any member who misses two

consecutive meetings loses his or her membership. All members shall be designated

annually and may serve up to two terms, corresponding to two consecutive years that

extend from July through June. That said, councils do have the flexibility to set norms

for participation that may be more suitable for the school.

The success of each council will be measured by how well it meets the targets set

in its accountability plan and the degree to which it increases parental involvement in

school affairs.

“With teamwork and communication the council can be effective,” said Assistant

Principal Rafael Lopez, who sits on the Bulkeley High School governance council, where

social and discipline issues have been topics of discussion. “It’s going to take time to

adjust to this process.”

Victor De La Paz, the Special Assistant to Superintendent Adamowski who

supervises the formation of the governance councils, is very optimistic about the positive

impact that they can have on closing the achievement gap.

“If our parents, community partners and students participate to the level that the

Board of Education envisioned, this innovation has the potential to be transformative for

our schools,” he said. “It’s a very exciting opportunity for our district.”

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Hartford Schools Grab National Spotlight

HARTFORD — The Hartford Board of Education’s efforts to reform its school system have caught national attention again. 

The board’s participation in Reform Governance in Action training was featured  in a report by the Wallace foundation and published as a supplement in Education Week earlier this month.  

On Thursday, Nov. 12, the district’s method of redesigning low-performing schools into high-achieving academies and learning centers with a focus on a career theme will be the subject of a major presentation at the annual Education Trust National Conference in Arlington, Va. Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski will lead the session, according to a press release yesterday.

Earlier this year, Hartford Public Schools were the focus of a special report on school reform that appeared on the PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Shortly thereafter, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan cited Hartford in a speech as one of six districts in the country that were doing the most to turn around low-performing schools. 

Reform Governance in Action is a two-year program run by the Houston-based Center for Reform of School Systems, in which a group of hand-picked school boards and superintendents develop the policy tools to run their districts effectively and close the achievement gap. 

Participation in the program is by invitation only and most of the costs are absorbed by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. 

During their training, school boards and their superintendents meet every other month to develop a “theory of action” that determines the strategy that works best for them to improve learning. They then draft and approve policy changes that set the strategy in motion. 

The Education Week article noted that under Hartford’s theory of action, the district’s relationship with each school depends on the school’s performance. As the school meets targets, such as increasing its scores on standardized tests, their principals gain more autonomy over budget, personnel and curriculum. 

Ada Miranda, chair of the board of education, noted that the training has transformed the way the board does business. 

“We don’t want what has happened to be dropped,” she said. “So we are focused on sustainability.”

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