With Early Peek At Data, Holder-Winfield Slams Carolina

On the eve of mayoral candidates’ first debate on education, Gary Holder-Winfield slammed Principal Kermit Carolina over survey results revealing discontent at Hillhouse High School.

Holder-Winfield made the remarks in advance of an education-themed debate among the seven candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor in a Sept. 10 primary. The debate is set to take place at 6:30 p.m. at Varick Memorial Zion Church at 242 Dixwell Ave.

All seven candidates, including Holder-Winfield and Carolina, are set to attend.

Holder-Winfield’s campaign highlighted school survey data from the spring of 2013 that the school district released internally to staff last week, but has not been officially released to the public. It cited the following results (which the Independent confirmed) about Hillhouse High, the school Carolina has run for three years:

In the latest school survey, only 12 percent of teachers said they would recommend Hillhouse to their friends, compared to 66 percent across all high schools. And only 10 percent of teachers said that discipline and order are consistently maintained at the school, compared to 72 percent citywide.

Only 38 percent of Hillhouse teachers said they “trust the principal.”

Ratings from teachers and students fell on most questions, including “I am treated fairly in my school” (60 percent of students agreed, a 5 percent drop) to “Administrators encourage collaboration among teachers” (52 percent of teachers agreed; a 6 percent drop).

Fifty teachers, or 60 percent of the teaching staff, filled out the surveys. That’s a drop in participation from the prior year, when 76 teachers took the survey.

“We need to ask ourselves why was the participation in the poll so low considering how important it is for us to get the right data, did teachers feel intimidated by the climate at Hillhouse?” Holder-Winfield’s campaign stated.

Reached Thursday, Carolina said, “I’m disappointed that Gary chose to attack me and my school on this very important and sacred night when we are celebrating the outstanding achievements of the Class of 2013.”

He said he was about to go into the graduation hall and did not have time to address Holder-Winfield’s specific remarks. “I’ll have an appropriate response to this attack on my school after this graduation ceremony,” he said.

In his release, Holder-Winfield touted his education-related work, from parent-driven school governance councils to early childhood reading standards.

“We need more innovative change with the best knowledge in the field, not more of the same,” Holder-Winfield said.  Click here to read more of his thoughts on the subject.

In other mayoral campaign news:

Harp Releases Education Plan

State Sen. Toni Harp, who’s also running for mayor, on Thursday released the first part of a five-part education policy agenda.

Harp called for “holding schools accountable” in three ways:

• First, through an “annual public report card that details how well a school’s students perform and what it does with the money that it receives.  Taxpayers deserve to see where their money is going and what they’re getting for their money, and this report card will allow them to compare the results from one school to other schools across our education system.”

• Second, Harp vowed to “ensure that our Board of Education scores all schools, including our specialized ones, on how effectively they are teaching our kids and utilizing the resources they receive from taxpayers. We’ve put a lot of effort as a state into instituting a common-core curriculum and set of standards for student achievement, and we need to hold our students, teachers, and administrators responsible for ensuring that our students meet those standards.”

The school system already does a version of “report cards” through its annual process of grading schools and dividing them into three “tiers.” Harp said her scoring system would “go beyond” the current tiering system.

• Third, Harp vowed to “see to it that we use our teacher evaluation system to prioritize sending the highest-performing teachers to our highest-need schools.”

Harp plans to further elaborate on her platform at a rally Friday before the debate.

Harp Names Campaign Co-Chairs

Also Thursday, Harp named four campaign co-chairs for her mayoral campaign:

• Vincent Mauro Jr., special council to the state Senate majority and vice-chair of the New Haven Democratic Town Committee.
• Karen DuBois-Walton, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of New Haven.
• New Haven Sen. Martin Looney, state Senate majority leader.
• Jorge Perez, president of the New Haven Board of Aldermen.

“I’m proud to have such a diverse and talented group of civic leaders chairing our campaign,” said Harp in a press release. “For years, they have been leaders in a variety of sectors – government, housing, public health, education, immigrant rights – and I’m thrilled that they are coming together to move New Haven forward as part of our team.”

The co-chairs’ responsibilities “will include policy development, and acting as surrogates for Toni in addition to other duties.”

Elicker Unveils Early Childhood Plan

As part of his plan to unveil 75 policy “solutions” in 75 days, Alderman Justin Elicker, who’s also running for mayor, unveiled detailed plans Thursday on his thoughts on early childhood education.

He called for pre-K programs to focus on “love and play” instead of letters and numbers. Research shows “the best outcomes follow from programs that allow children to develop complex, loving relationships in a low-stress environment, not from programs that emphasize concrete, academic skills,” he wrote on his campaign website.

He also called for expanding pre-K offerings and providing more scholarships to families who can’t afford private pre-K.

And he said he would create a new childcare training program for parents and other caregivers. The program would build off of the successful work of New Haven’s All Our Kin, which trains low-income moms to set up certified daycare programs in their homes.

Click here to read Elicker’s full remarks on the topic.

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posted by: ELMCITYPROF on June 20, 2013  7:52pm

It’s nice that Holder-Winfield and other candidates received access to the results of the climate surveys. However, I find it appalling that parents have to wait so long to have access to this data. Especially given the tremendous anxiety many parents face as they languish on lottery waiting lists. Transparency needs to be a key feature of effectively running this city.

Lastly, I disagree with Carolina that the remarks are slamming his school or desecrating such an important night for the graduates. The data speaks for itself. Now that we know “the what,” the question to be addressed is “why”

posted by: Noteworthy on June 20, 2013  10:25pm

Mini-me2 Harp Notes:

1. All Report Cards All the Time. Yawn. We get report cards now and have all kinds of test data that’s available. We know how students are doing, where the fall in the different tiers and don’t need anything more.

2. This is a rather shallow attempt to “look like” she knows something about education and has a platform. It will accomplish nothing even if implemented to the fullest extent. In other words, it’s like eating air.

3. Mini-me2’s co-chairs are the same suits that have run this city for decades. Dump the lumps. All of them.

HW Sucker Punch Notes:

1. HW continues to struggle for traction. This shows it.

2. I know the BOE puts a lot of stock in them. I don’t and most people don’t think they’re worth much. It’s akin to testifying at a public hearing. It means nothing. It affects nothing. Making a big deal out of it is not saying a whole lot. Hillhouse is a mess from top to bottom. It’s been like that for a very long time. It’s a drop out factory.

3. HW’s past involvement in education is not hands on. He’s a theorist. Besides, anybody who agrees to Keno and embraced the state budget’s funky finances I’m not sure is in much of a position to discuss education.

posted by: SaveOurCity on June 21, 2013  9:00am

can anyone explain to me why Harp is running and what she expects to accomplish as mayor?  It seems that she has a substantial amount of support from The Machine but that just means that she will owe a lot of favors….

posted by: Curious on June 21, 2013  10:13am

Harp says “Taxpayers deserve to see where their money is going and what they’re getting for their money”.

Yes, we do.  How about that for ALL city services?  Will she pledge that?

Will she pledge to reveal her donors and the contracts and positions they win in her administration, so we can see what THEY are getting for their money?

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on June 21, 2013  11:04am

I’m glad to see Representative Holder-Winfield calling it like it is.  The survey is useful and is actual data on Mr. Carolina’s efficacy at his current position.  This is as close to real time data that we can have on someone who is seeking to run the City.  If his current employees don’t trust him and find him an ineffective leader (my takeaway from the comments) that is absolutely relevant to determining the likelihood that he could effectively run a much larger and more cumbersome organization.  This demphasizes not rule him out but it puts him at the back of the list.

I’m glad to see that Senator Harp has begun unveiling her education platform.  I look forward to seeing it in its completion.  With respect to her “score cards” this is necessary and it is foolish to believe that we can fix a problem without first assessing what’s wrong.  That we’ve been testing schools before doesn’t mean that the data was used effectively or that the tests asked the right questions.  We should not be afraid of testing but endorse its use when utilized properly.

With respect to Elicker’s suggestion, I don’t doubt that an emphasis on love and play has its place.  But there also needs to be a greater emphasis on educating our teachers to instruct students with positive reinforcement and an overall emphasis on physical education as many of the children I see are obese.  The summary of his idea is not a policy solution but an idea that is politically hard to argue against.  However, I doubt that many foreign nations who rank more highly in math and reading than we do emphasize love and play over actual studies.

posted by: Razzie on June 21, 2013  11:30am

I have known Gary to be knowledgeable and committed when it comes to educational issues. And I share his concerns that Hillhouse is a mess, and hasn’t shown any significant improvement in the 3 years that Kermit Carolina has been there. If Carolina can’t run a high school right, what makes him think he is ready to try and run New Haven. In my opinion, if he really cares for the welfare of his students, he needs to focus more on the job at hand and quit running around pretending to be something that he’s not. I am tired of the HH students and parents being cheated out of a quality education.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on June 21, 2013  12:01pm

@SaveOurCity and @Curious, she is forced by campaign finance law to reveal her donors.  You all can then do your homework post-election after she wins.  Please, request that not just she but that all candidates do the same if you’re so very concerned about transparency.  Indeed, if you’re that concerned about transparency, just state your name, title, address, and what you hope to get by supporting your candidate.  Somehow I don’t think you’ll be doing that any time soon but then again its easy to throw mud when you’re covered in it.

More to the point though, whoever wins this election will have had to raise a lot of money.  Mr. Fernandez expects to raise more money than Senator Harp.  We should inspect his donor list and whom he awards contracts to as well.  Indeed, many developers are supporting a Fernandez candidacy just to get contracts should he win.  Does that make him ineligible or bad, nope.  It’s just a reality of our political system.

And make no doubt about it, if forced to run as an independent, Elicker will saddle up to the big money as well.  Completely divesting himself of his small-town, small dollar talk that he holds so dear.  He will sell his campaign to the highest bidder.

posted by: westville man on June 21, 2013  1:40pm

Razzie- keep posting your “anti-Carolina” rants and I’ll keep straightening you out. 
I know several teachers & administrators as well as some current students- HH is not a “mess’ as you so vindictively say.  It’s actually on a trajectory upwards and the statistics that matter bear this out.
He will pull huge numbers, even with the so-called “endorsed’ Harp running.  Those votes will come from teachers, staff, former students, athletes and their parents.
Look, I’m a supporter of his, but I dont slam Elicker, HW, Harp, Nemerson with every post i make. Wouldnt that get tiring? It is to me….
ps- watch or go to the debate tonight.

posted by: David S Baker on June 21, 2013  1:58pm


Suppose Elicker DOES organize a huge spending campaign IF he loses the primary.  What of it?  He and two thirds of the candidates had the guts to give this town an opportunity to prove they want elections based on ideas rather than dollars.  If the voters prove after the primary that they do not care about campaign spending and give the Dem nod to whomever paid to stuff the most mailboxes, then the voters have spoken, No? 

And IF the voters demand a tank battle, Elicker is not such a fool that he would continue to arrive to face the tanks with a sword.  I watched the man on the BOA for years. He is FAR from stupid and reminds me of Bernie Sanders back when he ran Burlington, VT.  Don’t let the sweet young face and the fact he tried to keep the first round of this election on a level playing field fool ya’.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 21, 2013  3:07pm

To all who say Hillhouse High School under Principal Kermit Carolina is in a mess.You need to look at Politicians in Hartford some of them who have been in office for more then twenty years and the mess they keep making and you all keep voting them in.

posted by: Curious on June 21, 2013  3:21pm

Well said, David S Baker, well said!