Some Favorite Sites
Government/ Community Links
At Dedication, DeStefano Makes Final School Rebuilding Argument
by Nick Defiesta | Oct 7, 2013 8:06 am
For Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Sunday afternoon’s dedication of East Rock Community Magnet School was all about the numbers.
“In school, it’s important to know the numbers!” DeStefano told the students present in the crowd of nearly 300 parents, children and teachers assembled in the school’s gymnasium. He then focused on the 20 technology-equipped classrooms — including a library and media center, science laboratory and special education room — as well as the two playgrounds that serve approximately 550 students in the newly rebuilt 77,600-square-foot school building that DeStefano called a “lighthouse” for the neighborhood and cost the city $49 million. The school had been torn down then reconstructed; it reopened last month.
Collectively, the numbers added up to something more important for DeStefano, who will leave office after two decades at the end of this year. East Rock Community Magnet School is the latest education facility to be rebuilt under the city’s $1.6 billion school construction initiative, which began in the earliest years of DeStefano’s tenure and became a hallmark of his legacy in office. It is the last school that will be dedicated while he still sits in the city’s top seat.
Before the audience — and joined onstage by recently appointed Superintendent Garth Harries and predecessor Reggie Mayo, a host of city and state legislators, Board of Education members and East Rock School officials—DeStefano made a final argument for the importance of the school construction program. Even putting aside the significant financial contribution from the state — which sums to around $1.3 billion so far — New Haven taxpayers have been billed around $300 million for the cost of the new schools.
Speaking in the middle of the bright new building, DeStefano stressed that the “investment” in the city’s children has been worth the pricetag. He also noted how the strength of some of the city’s schools has changed the city’s relationships with surrounding towns.
“Instead of New Haven kids fleeing to the suburbs, every day 3,000 kids from the suburbs come into the city to go to school,” he said.
In total, the school construction project has seen the renovation or replacement of 37 schools — a number emphasized by every speaker. Still, four projects remain: Engineering and Science University Magnet School, Helene Grant Early Learning Center, New Haven Academy and Bowen Field.
DeStefano took the opportunity at the end of his speech to remind the audience that school construction and education reform will continue, no matter who is in office.
“For 20 years I’ve been turning the room over to Reggie Mayo, but I’m not doing that today,” DeStefano said. He looked back at the stage — where mayoral candidates Toni Harp and Justin Elicker were sitting — calling the moment a reminder that “none of us are irreplaceable.”
Harries said the new school reflects the “great legacy” of both Mayo and DeStefano before asking all the students in the room to stand. The students, he said, represented Mayo and DeStefano two decades ago with regards to the city’s schools: their heads in the clouds but their feet firmly planted on the ground.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, a Yale graduate like Harries, echoed this sentiment. While it “helps” to have a state Senate majority leader and appropriations chair from the city — referencing Sens. Martin Looney and Harp — DeStefano and Mayo “ultimately” accomplished the job, Pryor argued.
Halfway through the program, sixth grader Ruth Green sang Alicia Keys’ “Girl On Fire,” a Harp campaign favorite, as the audience clapped along. After closing remarks, Principal Margaret Pelley — with her remarks translated into Spanish by new Board of Education member Daisy Gonzalez — invited all those in attendance to a reception in the school’s cafeteria featuring catering from Madi and Mia’s, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a jazz performance.
Tags: schools, education, DeStefano, Harp, Pryor, Lemar, Elicker, Harp, Torres, Mayo, Harries, East Rock Community Magnet School
Post a Comment
Buildings aren’t everything but they really, really matter. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about the school building program. Imagine if we hadn’t had it—imagine the snark that would be being directed at DeStefano for “20 years in office and our kids are still in buildings that are falling down, dangerous, inhuman, hideous, out of date ... ”
What was and remains inexcusable is the idiocy that led to the building of the original East Rock and Jackie Robinson monstrosities in the first place—out-of-touch arrogant architects running experiments in “cutting-edge” architecture at the expense of kids and teachers.
How ironic! This coming from the same Mayor who fought any and all attempts to reform and improve schools for the first 17 years of his administration. Building new schools was more about financing DeStefano’s ambitions—not about educating the children who sat in those classrooms.
Thanks God that both of these characters are out of the picture. And this rendition of the Alicia Keys song - which happens to be Harp’s campaign theme song - is not entirely political? They never stop. I think the Harp campaign theme song should be the O’Jays hit For The Love of Money because it is entirely appropriate. And the Commissioner giving a shout-out to Harp - priceless.