Officials don’t want to let the public know about it yet, but they alerted staff and some parents at the Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy this week that they’re planning to turn over New Haven’s first school to a for-profit company.
Clemente, which has been considered a failing school for nearly a decade, has been tapped as a “turnaround” school as part of the city’s new school reform effort. Schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo revealed in March that he was in talks with a company to manage Clemente in the fall.
New Haven school reform czar Garth Harries, who took part in the meetings this week, confirmed Monday that the district is talking to Renaissance about a possible “turnaround” at Clemente, but he said no contract has been signed. If the deal goes through, Clemente would become the first city school to be taken over by a for-profit entity.
Renaissance School Services, LLC was founded by Richard O’Neill. The company website bills O’Neill as “one of the most experienced turnaround experts in the U.S., having managed the first state contract directly awarding failing schools to outside management in Baltimore in 2000.” O’Neill and his business partner have “worked in turnaround” in over 25 failing schools, the website says.
The company runs schools in Delaware, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, according to New Haven teachers union President Dave Cicarella.
Cicarella said he in general has reservations that charter companies would skim the most talented kids from the district, leaving other schools with more on their plates. However, he said he met this week with O’Neill to discuss the possible takeover, and he was encouraged by what he learned about the company.
“The unique thing about them is, they’ve done charter schools, but they’ve also done traditional schools,” Cicarella said.
“The one thing that’s encouraging about them is they will take the whole school”—including all the students—and run it as a public school with an outside management company. “That’s what they’re considering at Clemente.”
“They don’t try to push out the bilingual kids, the discipline kids, the ELLs [English language learners],” he said. “They take everyone, lock, stock and barrel.”
The company “work[s] directly with underperforming district schools and underperforming charter schools,” according to its website. “We have also worked directly with states that have intervened on behalf of failing schools, and with state-appointed panels overseeing failing schools.”
Renaissance uses its own “performance metrics, academic information databases and analytics, teacher rating systems, and teacher recruitment program” in its turnaround schools, the site says. While the site lists no physical address for the company, it is listed in a New Jersey government database with an address in that state.
Schools Superintendent Mayo has said the district tapped Clemente for an overhaul because the school has been on the federal watch list for failing schools for nine years—the longest of any school in the district.
Mayo rolled out the “turnaround” model for the first time last fall, in year one of an ambitious effort to close the city achievement gap and restructure failing schools. As part of the initiative, all city schools are “graded” and placed into three tiers; Clemente landed in the bottom rung and is one of 11 schools slated for “transformations” next fall.
The city currently has two turnaround schools: Brennan/Rogers, which was kept in-house, run by the district with more flexible rules; and Domus Academy, which was taken over by a Stamford-based not-for-profit charter group.
With 538 students at Clemente, the turnaround would be a far bigger undertaking than the one at Domus, which opened with 48 kids.
Teachers Await Word
Because Clemente is a turnaround, all the 45 teachers at the school will have to reapply for their jobs if they want to keep teaching there.
Teachers have already been told the work rules at the new school, regardless of whether an outside company takes over.
The student school day will be capped at 6.5 hours, shorter than, say, at Domus Academy, where students log nine hours in school.
Teachers will have to spend an extra two hours at school prepping for classes. They’ll be required to take on student advisory responsibilities. And they have to promise to “check email and phone messages at least 2 times per day,” and “respond to all email or phone messages from parents within twenty four hours.”
If teachers don’t like those terms, or if they are not chosen for the job, they’ll be guaranteed a job at another school within the district. The provisions are all part of a landmark teachers contract approved in 2009.
There’s no hard contractual deadline for when the district has to make a decision on which teachers to hire back at a turnaround school, said Cicarella.
“The goal is—whether you’re returning to your building or not—when teachers leave for summer vacation, every teacher knows what their placement is for next year.”
As part of the change-up, Principal Leroy Williams will step down as principal after 16 years.
Reached this week, Williams said he didn’t have any details on the changes ahead.
“They announced this on Monday to my staff,” he said, but he wasn’t present at the meeting. “I’m not really aware” of the plans in store.
School officials are releasing little information about the upcoming arrangement.
Parents were invited to learn about the changes through flyers, sent home in English and Spanish and left in the main office.
The school district barred the media from the meeting. Before the meeting started, Chris Hoffman, the schools’ new $78,793-salary spokesman, alerted a school security guard to keep reporters out. Hoffman himself showed up to the meeting and made sure that a reporter wasn’t let in.
Since they launched in 2009 a citywide school reform campaign to close the achievement gap, the mayor and superintendent have declared the process would be transparent.
Hoffman said Thursday the district cannot disclose any details on the turnaround now because the plans have not been made official. That means no public debate on the plans or the ideas behind them is to take place until an agreement is reached.
“When this process is complete, at that point we will be transparent,” Hoffman said.
Click on the play arrow at the top of this story to watch him explain that vision of transparency as he barred the press Thursday night.
For profit? Does this mean that students are going to have to pay tuition, or is the city paying the company to run the school? Either way (and I think it is the latter), this is a horrible idea. New Haven should be ashamed to do this, especially with all the money we have spent in new buildings, teachers/administrator contracts, maintenance, etc. If the school performs so poorly on such a consistent basis it should be closed down, the students should be enrolled at other schools and the teachers, administration and staff should be fired.
posted by: TP on May 13, 2011 12:32pm
How is it that a discussion about a school that serves the public, whether it’s run by the NHPS or by a private company, is not open to reporters in a country with a constitutionally protected free press? Seems strange to me.
posted by: Annie on May 13, 2011 12:49pm
Yes, Atwater. And then, magically, all the kids will pass the tests.
But seriously, I do agree that “for profit” takeover is a shameful gambit. It’s all game-playing. But it’s only the lives of the kids, their families, the teachers’ lives, their families. Does anyone really care?
posted by: Nurse on May 13, 2011 12:53pm
How could Mr. Hoffman be paid nearly 80,000 per year..!!!
posted by: Pedro on May 13, 2011 1:41pm
If you want to make money off of education, open a private school and charge tuition. This is a revolting development. How much money does this operation skim away from teachers, support staff and supply costs? All so we can teach to a test? Tragic.
posted by: Youbet on May 13, 2011 2:01pm
The school is failing. If a for profit company can turn it around then it’s worth the money.
Parents got notice. If they didn’t want to go, tough. The only purpose letting media into the meeting would serve is inflaming NH residents w/o children who poo-poo anything that might cost them more money. They hear “for profit” and their tea party spidey sense goes crazy and blows the tin foil hats right off their heads. “Better to spend $10 on something that doesn’t work than $11 on something that does, as far as it goes to things that don’t affect me directly”... the thought process being.
$80k is a pittance of a salary for someone with a college degree and that much work experience (assuming because he’s older). It’s just pandering to even mention it.
posted by: Atwater on May 13, 2011 2:30pm
@Annie: I think one the fatal flaw of our educational system is our fixation on testing. Because of this our schools might produce good test takers. People who are able to regurgitate facts and numbers. But, we fail in really preparing people for the complexities of our world. A lot of college grads and even high school grads seem to have an inability to retain information and, more importantly, think critically and intelligently about various issues. It seems our ethos has become, ‘as long they pass a test, they are educated’, unfortunately this is far from true. The for-profit management companies reflect the neo-liberal, post-industrial pedagogy of standardized tests and demographic categorization. They will not create better students, or more intelligent people. They will create good test takers (maybe), and these test takers will move through the system until its terminus. And at that time they will have no idea how to think for themselves or solve real world problems. Like Pavlov’s dogs they won’t perform unless proctored.
posted by: CityforSale on May 13, 2011 3:11pm
And the mad rush towards PRIVATIZATION takes on an ominous new twist! Now that the City and School Bd have tossed in the towel and surrendered in abject failure, we can now look to for-profits to run all the City’s essential services. What the hell are we paying taxes for!!!! And what the hell are we paying School administrators huge salaries for??!! Can’t believe the teachers are buying this.
posted by: Public Money for a Private Company? on May 13, 2011 3:49pm
1. It would have been so much easier for the public officials if they had opened the meeting to the press. If parents at large were invited, it was a public meeting. Someone should contact FOI. 2. The State of Connecticut paid HOW MUCH for that new building? Is New Haven still eligible for state funding for the building now that a private entity will be running the school? 3. With the layers of people buffering the superintendent of schools, they have to give up on the really tough schools? What’s next? 4. If Hillhouse and Cross don’t improve dramatically, will the district make them turnaround schools, too? 5. Mr. Mayor, you still think that New Haven is doing great?
Decision-makers meet with the mayor—the mayors staff dictates how boards and commissions vote—the school system is run with no public input.
The mayor really is king john.
posted by: Elaine Braffman on May 13, 2011 4:26pm
Although you didn’t get into the meeting you did very well with the questioning and I actually enjoyed and got a real kick out of this video…I don’t know how really they could ban the press because it wasn’t some sort of executive session and I would think in the end this will cost money out of the taxpayers pocket…not clear at all how they can exclude the press. So I guess transparency is transparent when the transparency starts shedding it’s cover and becomes transparent?
posted by: trainspotter on May 13, 2011 5:05pm
I love the part about responding to emails and phone messages within 24 hours. Can we institute that across the whole district and can we get administrators to do it too?
posted by: LOL on May 13, 2011 6:43pm
FROM ANOTHER THREAD:
posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on May 12, 2011 7:52pm LOL, Neighborhood schools, like the three you listed, do not hand pick their students. There is a school district that surrounds the school and whoever lives within that district is allowed to attend the school. If there are open spots before the school year starts, those positions go into a lottery system like the magnets. The schools you mentioned are successful because their districts encompass neighborhoods that happen to have remained viable in a post-manufacturing economy. In East Rock, Westville and the East Shore people can find employment for their skill level, they can afford goods and services for themselves and a family, and they have time and money to raise their kids in positive social and educational environments, so the schools that their kids are allowed in to do quite well. Other neighborhood schools in places like Newhallville and Fair Haven have become low performing schools over the last few decades because those schools happen to draw from a population that resides in neighborhoods that are no longer viable in the wake of the departure of manufacturing from their neighborhood and the city. Many people in those neighborhoods cannot find employment for their skill level, cannot support a family financially, and get drawn into criminal, or drug-addicted lives. Many of the people that do find employment for their skill level have to travel enormous distances by bus to outlying suburbs for work, which leaves little time for child rearing. As a result, many of the kids do poorly in school and the school turns out abysmal test scores.
Great, now tell Mayo and DeStefano, who apparently believe the answer is to villify teachers, make them work longer days and subject them to ridiculous PD sessions run by idiots who themselves couldn’t make it in the classroom.
While you’re at it, ask Mayo and DeStefano why the teachers at the Hookers, Hales and Edgewoods—who in their opinions are so much better than others citywide, and thus deserve more autonomy—aren’t they teaching at the schools with the “abysmal” scores? After all, shouldn’t the “best” teachers be working in the schools that need them most?
I betcha Mayo doesn’t have valid answers, despite his two PhDs and $226K annual salary. But then, that’s where I suppose Hoffman earns his $79K as publicity director. NHPS needs an outside company to run things and supplies in its schools, but has money for a publicity director ...
posted by: brutus2011 on May 13, 2011 7:29pm
Wow, transparency after ??? ... I’m speechless! Although some Latin comes to mind: ex post facto caveat emptor dies irae facta non verba and a saying an old friend of mine (made a fortune in sales) used to say… If you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance, baffle them with bullsh*t! Wake up people! If you can’t see through this one, then all hope is lost.
posted by: TOMBURNSFORMAYOR on May 13, 2011 8:11pm
This article is not completely accurate. This is just to say that NIMBY, NEASC and Cambridge once said no to WCAHS (Cross Annex) and so an unholy union was formed with a fly-by-night called Alternative Opportunities LLC to run a “new” school called GLAD (housed at the old Prince St. School on Gold St.). The union was short-lived; however, it did not dissolve before the CEO of AO LLC was able to purchase an S550 (i.e. the “big” Mercedes).
posted by: noteworth on May 13, 2011 8:23pm
Its amazing to see a former reporter prostitute himself on the public test. This meeting held in a public building by public officials discussing public business is always a public meeting. That anybody would twist this to be a private meeting, indeed why they would want to, is a mystery. What is the purpose of hiding the pending decision and deal points until there is nothing to discuss? Hoffman and Mayo and Clark should all get a dictionary and look up transparency. If they can’t get this one thing right, it is no surprise you have a school on the federal watch list for almost a decade and are only coming up with a plan, secret as it is.
posted by: Lucille Treloar on May 13, 2011 8:27pm
MAYBE IF MORE PARENTS GOT INVOLVED THERE WOULD NOT BE ANY FAILING SCHOOLS IN NEW HAVEN. I WORK IN A NEW HAVEN SCHOOL AND YOU CAN PICK OUT THE STUDENTS THAT HAVE SUPPORTIVE PARENTS AND THE ONES THAT DO NOT. SOME OF THESE PARENTS DO NOT CARE IF THEIR CHILDREN GET AN EDUCATION OR NOT. STOP BLAMING THE SCHOOLS AND THE CHILDREN AND START MAKING THE PARENTS ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR CHILDS EDUCATION. THE APPLE DOESNT FALL FAR FROM THE TREE.
posted by: Will Clark on May 13, 2011 9:04pm
If I recall correctly Melissa Bailey previously wrote an article or two related to school reform and specifically related to Roberto Clemente. Its designation as a Tier 3 school was documented as was the desire of the District to pursue changes in the school including the potential of hiring an outside service provider to lead the school. There is nothing new about that process and it has not only been transparent but it was reported by Melissa herself. I recall specifically after a recent BOE meeting that both Garth Harries and Dr. Mayo took time to speak to Melissa and to answer her questions about the District’s intention to hire an outside service provider for Clemente, if possible and appropriate. She wrote that article. Yet she now claims a “secret” process. A process that she has previously reported on? How secret is a parent meeting or a staff meeting or letters that are sent home to all parents?
The District has gone through a process to identify an appropriate provider that it feels can be successful at Clemente. Visits to schools, many meetings and interviews and significant research has been undertaken in this regard.
The result of this work led the District to a provider who was willing to take the school in its entirety, along with the Unionized teachers therein and accept the challenge of turning it around. Unfortunately other providers have preconditions to taking on a turnaround challenge, whereas this provider does not. This provider also has a proven track record of turnaround success.
After negotiations with the provider the district felt it had the makings of a contract that was ready to move forward. However, it was integral to the process to have the leadership of the potential provider meet with the staff and parents. The reaction and interplay between the provider and the parents and staff were the last piece to the puzzle before the District was fully confident that this contract should be moved on to the Board for approval. As Mr. Hoffman correctly noted in his ambush interview with Melissa there was nothing final or predetermined to report prior to the meetings this week. This was a necessary and appropriate step in the negotiation and vetting process. Had it not gone well, there would be no contract.
With all due respect to Melissa Bailey. She does not work at Clemente and she is not a parent of a Clemente student. Involving the press in the contract negotiations or the frank parent and staff discussions would not have produced the results that the District is interested in pursuing. This is not a lack of transparency as Melissa attempts to portray in her latest sensationalized story. Rather, it is an appropriate thought out process that focused on the best interests of the students at Clemente.
We feel confident that the results of this process are that we have found a new partner to join in the School Reform process and we are very excited about that. We feel confident that we have negotiated a contract that is sustainable. We feel confident that the staff, Union and parents are informed and supportive of the direction of the turnaround.
We will now take the potential contract to the Board of Education and seek approval. At that time we will be happy to disclose the terms and conditions of the agreement as it passes through Finance Committee and the Board of Education for appropriate review and vote. Each of these levels of approval will be open and public as is the process for every dollar that is spent by the Board or Education (a fact that Melissa knows all to well but chooses to ignore when the headline suits her).
School Reform is not easy and there are many moving parts going in different directions at any one time. In order to get things pointing in the right direction there are times when closed door meetings are necessary and appropriate. That is why virtually all contract negotiations happen behind closed doors and that process has produced such results as a groundbreaking and nationally recognized Teacher Contract among others. However, when a decision is made it is always discussed and approved publicly as will be the case here.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 13, 2011 9:10pm
I keep trying to warn all of you.This school reform is nothing more but a snake-oil and Three Card Monte shell game,Run by Political Hustlers and Corporate Vampires who will make big money off the back of the students and taxpayers.Read this Report and Next get ready for the voucher enterprise to start making it’s way in next.
Privatizing Public Schools: Education in the Marketplace
posted by: Lincoln Robertson on May 13, 2011 10:07pm
This is a disgrace. I can only guess that the unions no longer give DeStefano money. He now needs campaign contributions from school managers from the pay they get. He is just passing on taxpayer money to anyone who will keep him in power. This money should be used to pay teachers to educate our kids. Teachers should not be let go. On the street this is called P**ping. On the street its a crime, but not in city hall.
posted by: abcdef on May 14, 2011 12:32am
I guess that why the name of the school is missing from the building. Most have sold that for profit.
posted by: observer on May 14, 2011 7:23am
and who was the principal all those years when Clemente was a failing school?
posted by: KTB on May 14, 2011 7:35am
This is appalling! Basically what is being said is that major decisions are being discussed, these decisions will not see the light of day until they are a fait accompli and then all will become transparent. Private, for-profit take over of the school system? I would really like to know how an OUT-OF-STATE company can be counted on to have the welfare of the city and our children as their first priority. All private companies have profit as their first priority. This is a bone-head idea!
posted by: newnewhaven on May 14, 2011 8:21am
Youbet, I am pretty impressed by your superior vocab….however, you it is your understanding of the situation that needs some improving. As many American families struggle earning much less than 80K, it is pretty insulting (and pompous, like the vocab) to suggest that 80K is mere peanuts. In fact, all the teachers Mr Hoffman ‘speaks’ for makes less than that (all w degrees and most w masters). So far, his track record is “no comment” on student protests and “keep the public out” about this….thought his job was to communicate, not obstruct communication. Lastly, the notion that those who oppose ‘for profit’ schools are tea party-types is just so far off the mark….most of them are educators, New Haven parents and taxpayers who question this latest scam by the BoE - both for profit ed. and Mr Hoffman’s salary.
posted by: Teachergal on May 14, 2011 8:37am
So, what I’m hearing is that NH needs a “for profit” organization, Renaissance, to come in and do what NH cannot do. Why wasn’t that principal replaced long ago if standards weren’t being achieved? Why do we need a non-profit to get teachers to answer emails and calls promptly? So, NH will pay Renaissance to improve what it’s highly paid administrators cannot fix. And all the teachers and principals deemed unacceptable will be placed in other potentially at risk schools? Why is it that New Haven has such difficulty getting rid of it’s ineffective teachers and principals?
Then, there are the students that consistently break rules, disrupt classes, swear at teachers, etc., and are allowed to return to the classroom day after day. I’m surevif you asked most teachers who are not teaching in a magnet school, what do you spend most of your day doing?, the answer would be disciplining students. Teachers cannot teach w/o classroom management and this seems to be a problem, for even the best teacher, if they work in some of the more difficult schools in NH.
New Haven has many wonderful teachers, students, parents, and admins who want the best for kids. Our schools need some fine tuning. We need the comer process understood and applied in all scools. We need consistent consequences for kids who present constant challenges. We need to work together not turn our schools into “for profit” charters. A few will benefit from tis but not those who really matter, THE KIDS!
posted by: Concerned Citizen on May 14, 2011 11:13am
1. Thanks to Melissa Bailey and the NHI for an outstanding job in bringing us this story. 2. The interview with Mr. Hoffman demonstrates how our money is being WASTED! Why is this man being paid $78,793?!!! That money could be much better spent on recruiting talented and effective educators.
3. I agree 100% with Atwater that the school should have been closed after four years at the bottom of the academic barrel, and the students reassigned to other academically successful schools. Why was Leroy Williams and his failing crew kept in place for so long while thousands of students continue to fail?
Who is being held accountable in the New Haven public school system for the fact that too many children are dropping out of school? Many students drop out in high school because they did not get the preparation they needed in elementary and middle school to do high school work. Yet, ineffective principals and teachers are kept in place for years!!! This is morally reprehensible; it is indefensible!
If Roberto Clemente School was a business place it would have been closed after two years of failure. What a travesty to all those children who NEVER got adequately prepared for high school! Where are they now? How many of them have dropped out of the education system completely, and at what price to themselves and to us as a society and a nation? Nine years of incompetence and blatant robbery to so many children! It is OUTRAGEOUS!
Annie: It is about the law of averages. If you put poor performing students with good performing ones in classrooms with good instructors and innovative, dynamic educators- the poor performers are more likely to improve.
4. The Mayor and Dr. Mayo should be held accountable for wasting such precious resources and for wasting public dollars. Why construct a fancy building when precious little learning was taking place? Yes, children need a clean and pleasant learning environment, but NHPS district knew that in nine years nothing was happening to justify that new building. This is a multiple tragedy. Every parent, every tax payer, and every thoughtful citizen should be outraged at this because we will ALL bear the burden later.
Mr. Williams will retire with a nice fat pension; he might even get a $10K bonus! Who is going to give all those children who have passed through Roberto Clemente School over the past nine years a second chance to learn what they did not learn in K-8 grades?
5. Public Money - Thank you for your five solid points.
6. The NHPS system and NH City Hall need to be purged from the top down; that seems to be our only hope for real improvement in all areas. In short, we NEED a miracle in NH.
posted by: NewHavenTeacher on May 14, 2011 1:13pm
many comments lump teachers and administrators together…please do not think that teachers in NH have any -ANY - any choice in what is taught or how to teach it. Two words that have infiltrated NH schools is Fidelity and Rigor. That means, “do it this way, don’t change anything, and if you don’t you will be punished.” The failure of any school in NH rests entirely on the shoulders of school level administrators, the huge number of middle management at Gateway, and Dr. Mayo. He has been Supt. for many years. This system is his design - top heavy with administrators who wield power with no accountability.
The teachers in the classroom everyday, work harder than most of you could imagine. Of course there are some poor teachers, just like there are poor lawyers and poor doctors. We are the worker bees. Teachers in NH have no voice in how the system is run, and most do not have any voice in how their building is run.
Until Destefano and Mayo are really called to the carper to take responsibility for our failing school and poor district, there will not be any true Reform.
posted by: Leslie Blatteau on May 14, 2011 1:26pm
I appreciate Will Clark’s response on this story. Specifically:
“After negotiations with the provider the district felt it had the makings of a contract that was ready to move forward. However, it was integral to the process to have the leadership of the potential provider meet with the staff and parents. The reaction and interplay between the provider and the parents and staff were the last piece to the puzzle before the District was fully confident that this contract should be moved on to the Board for approval.”
With that said, can we find out what percentage of Roberto Clemente parents were in attendance at the meeting?
@Will Clark: “Involving the press in the contract negotiations or the frank parent and staff discussions would not have produced the results that the District is interested in pursuing.”
“involving”? I’m sorry, I’ve never seen the press “involved” themselves. Is that a newspeak word?
I’ve seen the press cover stories.
Hate to break it to you Will, but the city is run by tax dollars, and EVERY citizen has a right to know what plans you are coming up with. That is “transparency”.
Transparency implies openness, communication, and accountability—NONE of which are accomplished when you bar the press from reporting on your plans.
If you want to claim that Melissa is incorrect when she accuses you of a lack of transparency, why do you bar her from quietly sitting and observing a meeting?
I’ve been to a lot of meetings, and I’ve seen Melissa at many of them. I’ve never once seen her “involve” herself in the meeting. I’ve always seen her be quiet and simply record information.
Why does that challenge you?
Why does the presence of a reporter make you so squirrelly?
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on May 14, 2011 4:35pm
TeacherGal, You ask why is it so hard for NHPS to get rid of ineffective teachers and administrators?
It is because the recent version of the America’s public school system, not just New Haven’s, has been run more to be an employment agency than an industry geared towards delivering effective education to lots of kids.
When the economic interests of adults are at the center of the mission, you get things like collective bargaining, binding arbitration, seniority-based lay-offs, a lack of performance evaluation system, 100+ page contracts, a stifling compliance based culture, “due process”, - and consequently very bad results for childen.
We are starting to see changes to that system both internally and as a result of privatization. But it is still a very hard transformationm and we have a long way to go.
posted by: Robn on May 14, 2011 6:01pm
If a meeting was held between administrators and parents regarding policy affecting all students present and future, then this was a public meeting and it was unlawful to bar the press.
posted by: che on May 14, 2011 9:20pm
I say, no taxes, I keep my money, more competition for my demands, garbage, plowing, education, and I get to choose who I pay for the services I need instead of the city. If you gave each taxpaper the voucher to send their kids to the school they feel is best for their kids and they were treated like a business, we would have more competition and the schools would have to work better or close because they are not up to par with what I need. Teachers unions once used to protect the teacher from unfairness. Now its a hinder. You pay a teacher very well, no union, more hours of a school day and if they do not work out, let them go. Run it like a business. Our kids need people who will do their job right. Let us parents decide, not you where my kid can go. Enough with this Bull of lottery. Ridiculous that you have to put your child’s future and education in a lottery. We have been spoiled long enough with mediocracy. Give me the money and I will choose the school my kid goes to. My taxes are paying for crap services. I would do better if things were privatized and I choose the service that gives me more for my buck. With this new for profit, are the teachers still going to be part of a union?
posted by: Alan Felder on May 14, 2011 9:24pm
New Haven Public schools are going from “Main Street” to “Wall Street”, remember the Banksters that the American people bailout, now we are mortgaging off our children future to “Wall Street Educatesters” and “Wall Street Educator Speculatorsters”.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 14, 2011 10:27pm
This Film that is coming out will show you the real deal on school reform.
Will Clark’s post spoke volumes as to the path and direction NHPS has chosen. If one examines the text of Clark’s post, it is apparent that the executive, and his appointees and followers, of New Haven government has declared itself the sovereign. Clark has stated that decisions will be made, and are being made, with a great deal of effort, thought, and research. While Mr. Clark may believe that it is the job of NHPS officials to lead the people of New Haven in school reform, I submit that it is the job of NHPS officials to serve the people of New Haven. Leadership is a subset of service, not the other way around. A strong leadership mentality is the gateway to tyranny. I do not use that word lightly. The time may have come for us to seek a referendum or some other legal means to protect ourselves from our government officials.
posted by: john on May 15, 2011 7:47am
Was Hoffman once with the Register and/or Courant?
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 15, 2011 9:16am
posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on May 14, 2011 5:35pm TeacherGal, You ask why is it so hard for NHPS to get rid of ineffective teachers and administrators?
It is because the recent version of the America’s public school system, not just New Haven’s, has been run more to be an employment agency than an industry geared towards delivering effective education to lots of kids.
But the same can be said of the charter schools.How about the Charter Schools who are pushing to get a waive certification for charter school teachers.If these Charter School are so good,Then why should the teachers be give any types of waive.If I am not wrong I think this your favorite school.
Meeting the certification requirement has been a problem at some charter schools. Seven of Achievement First’s 57 teachers in Hartford are uncertified, according to the State Department of Education, which has repeatedly warned school officials that teachers must be working toward certification or lose their jobs.
Bill would waive certification for charter school teachers 25 Comments Printer-friendly versionSend to a friendApril 22, 2011 By Jacqueline Rabe
Quick and easy fix change the leadership at the school put Johnsky and Gettings at that school and they will change it the way they did Fair Haven! Will Clark is not qualified to make decisions regarding education. Do we really need Chris Hoffman when his salary and Will Clark’s salary could hire 4 qualified teachers!!
posted by: Gary Doyens on May 16, 2011 10:35am
The children at Clemente have not been given a quality education in at least a decade, and if the truth were told, they have probably been deprived of proper schooling for at least a generation. Evidence of that is found by being on the federal watch list for nine years. That doesn’t happen suddenly. Dr. Mayo has been with the school system for 30 or more, many of them as superintendent. The current principal, Leroy Williams has been at this school for 16 years. Yet, NHPS leadership is just developing a turn-around plan. Fine. It’s long overdue.
But what is not fine is to cloak any facet of this city disgrace re-make in secrecy. It’s as bad a move as hiding the poor educational outcomes that have been known all this time. To watch schools’ spokesman Chris Hoffman’s defense of this latest stealth move is painful and so thinly supported as the right thing to do that it insults our senses. So far, the public pronouncements from Hoffman’s office have mostly constituted “no comment” and “no information” and “no you can’t attend a public meeting.” This is not what I expect from an $80K salaried employee - $110K with benefits. As a former reporter, Hoffman should well understand the importance of public information, and should be an advocate for the public’s right to know. Instead, he’s become the house organ for the public’s right NOT to know while claiming to believe in a bastardized definition of transparency.
Enter Will Clark’s comment attacking the reporter/messenger, Melissa Bailey, for a story detailing the shrouded meeting with Clemente parents, the contractor and top school brass in a public facility, discussing public policy and that will be paid for with public dollars. This was not a contract negotiation. Bailey should not have been barred from this meeting nor is there any definition of transparency in law or in practice that thinking and well-meaning people would come to the same conclusion as Clark and Hoffman.
Just because previous stories have detailed the school’s tier 3 status and its possible candidacy for an outside contractor to help turn it around, does not now give school officials cart blanche to violate the taxpayers’ and public’s right to know the step by step process of what is to be executed. Indeed, this could well serve as a prototype for other chronically underperforming schools in brand new buildings. To intentionally and blatantly sequester any of this process outside of the actual contract negotiations with the company, is morally and ethically wrong. To claim a highly paid spokes-puppet is ambushed is laughable. It appears Mr. Clark thinks the press and the public should call Hoffman’s office, and book an appointment or perhaps wait for a call back as the only appropriate forum. Not hardly and not by a long shot and I dare say, that as a reporter, Hoffman likely did not sit in his office and wait for story targets to happen by. If he did, he wasn’t a very good reporter.
Clark writes: “Involving the press in contract negotiations or the frank parent and staff discussions would not have produced the results that the District is interested in pursuing. This is not a lack of transparency as Melissa attempts to portray in her latest sensationalized story…” First, this was not a contract negotiation and what were the results the District was pursuing? A cooked contract with little public discussion, debate or vetting because the results driven all-knowing NHPS knows best and we, the public are just too dumb and uninformed to provide input? Would chronicling that discussion not have been beneficial for the larger community or the parents who could not attend?
Clark protests too much. It’s because he doesn’t really believe in transparency - defined as candid, clear-cut, above - board, easily seen, frank, forthright, plain, undisguised and visible. He has confused his definition of TRANSPARENT with HIDE: bury, camouflage, cloak, cover, curtain, dissemble, duck, ensconce, harbor, hold back, obscure, shelter, shield and shroud.
The public’s right to know should supercede any poor substitute. We need to know more, not less about the alleged deliberative nature of such a major move so that we can get behind it or oppose it; support it or at least use Clemente’s experience and questions to inform others should it be proposed at their child’s school. The public is not the enemy any more than the press is. It is how most of us get our information because frankly, there are not enough hours in the day for us to attend every BOA meeting, every NHPS meeting, committee meetings and public hearings. Many folks are working, some two and three jobs to piece together a living here in high-cost Connecticut. What is so confounding is why there is a consistent pattern of suppression of information? The school budget is some $370 million and that doesn’t include the debt service on all those schools or the cost of healthcare for all its workers. That alone should provide sufficient basis to respect our right to know.
Until Clark and Hoffman and other school brass who endorse sequestering and the lip service of transparency really embrace the concept and adopt it as gospel, there will continue to be stories like this. And that of course, will necessitate the murky and at times snarky comments from the cloistered halls of NHPS. Count on my response to follow.
posted by: abg on May 16, 2011 11:18am
I’m not an angry parent or disgruntled former employee, and I have no particular axe to grind with New Haven Public Schools. Overall I think they do a reasonably good job. But I am consistently amazed at the awesome contempt and unprofessionalism displayed by Mr. Clark towards the media, towards the Board of Aldermen, and towards the very citizens who pay his salary. It was bad enough when he personally demeaned critics on the blue ribbon budget panel—it doesn’t matter that some of their ideas were uninformed or half-baked, because citizen volunteers seeking accountability for where their tax dollars are spent should be treated with decency and respect. It was bad enough when it came out that the City’s school construction program was dumping perfectly good reusable building materials (Clark’s defensive denials to the media were offered without any documentation) and beneath a veneer of greenwashing has little or no interest in sustainability. And it was bad enough when Clark publicly impugned the integrity of Alderman Justin Elicker for wanting to put an end to the practice of the Board of Ed selling bottled water to students, and brazenly declared that he would ignore the Board of Aldermen’s bottled water ban. And now Clark is lashing out at a stellar, fair-minded reporter like Melissa Bailey simply for trying to inform citizens and taxpayers about the woefully opaque actions of the schools administration that the public is funding. Shame on you, Mr. Clark. Your disrespectful attitude sets a terrible example for students and your unprofessionalism is a stain on your own legacy and the legacy of this mayor.
@Doyens: “Clark protests too much. It’s because he doesn’t really believe in transparency - defined as candid, clear-cut, above - board, easily seen, frank, forthright, plain, undisguised and visible.”
posted by: Gary Doyens on May 16, 2011 11:37am
“News is something someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising.”
Attributed to British newspaper magnate Sir Alfred Harmsworth.
posted by: ScoTeacher on May 16, 2011 11:38am
Orwellian! As a NHPS teacher, I’m bemused and insulted by all this pretending to care while at the same time circling the wagons to defend against lawsuits. Hoffman is a PR flak, running interference so that the people who make the decisions can continue robbing taxpayers. In that respect, he’s probably well compensated.
For Mr. Clark: one cannot hide in jargon for long, and one cannot make something be true simply by repeating it over and over. This arrogant assumption that you can make decisions that aren’t really yours to make is tiresome at best. Either you can abide by constitutional law or not, but you cannot have it both ways. Look up the definition of “transparent”, for a start.
As for the “union”, they’ve been bought and paid for already. They argue over parking spaces and are irrelevant. They won’t impede corporatism at all.
The parents and students generally feel that education is essentially no different from customer service relationships. This means screaming when you don’t like your burger with pickles (your child has a grade you don’t like), and threatening people by contacting those in power who go to the same church you attend.
At lease the corporate environment would itself be transparent and reflect current American values. Garth’s reform tool will go by the wayside, just like other ‘reforms’, shrouded in pre-existing patronage mechanisms.
posted by: Yuck on May 16, 2011 12:10pm
It easy to see why the BOE needs a $80k spokesman. Will Clark can always deny knowledge, and blame it on a mis-understanding. Only problem is test results don’t lie.
posted by: robn on May 16, 2011 1:46pm
I know Mr Clark is just trying to protect what he believes in, but there’s nothing really sensationalist about this story at all. I just watched the entire video and I think that Melissa’s questions were persistent and and professional, and also far more polite than I’ve seen from other interviewers.
posted by: Morris Cove Mom on May 16, 2011 3:02pm
@abg: You’re lucky you’re not one of us. Perhaps you haven’t had the bad luck to have to speak to Will Clark in person, or wait in endless, nonsensical lines trying to register a child for school.
The reason the BOE sold water to the students wasn’t JUST for profit. It was because the water in the schools is not clean enough, and is actually harmful. But they won’t let in a third party to test it, because that would be showing their incompetence!
A new building for a school failing 10+ years? That’s like putting new jewelry on a corpse. Ridiculous.
I’m ready to homeschool my kid. I’m lucky because I have the time and skill to actually do it. For those who don’t, which is most of New Haven, the schools need to be fixed, the truth needs to be told, and the Mayor and his all-boys-club needs to be ousted.
posted by: newnewhaven on May 16, 2011 5:08pm
Gary Doyens for Mayor. Seriously Gary, get on it.
Tom Burns, thoughts on this latest outrage?
I plead ignorance, can someone explain to me how they make profits? Cutting costs, advertising, worse?? I don’t know.
posted by: Leila Crockett on May 16, 2011 6:30pm
Great job Melissa! Keeping it real.
posted by: Jack on May 21, 2011 7:25am
There is an irony to all of this. Public school administrators preside over a failing school for years. And then because of their failure, they turn the school over to a private entity? Shouldn’t all of these administrators be fired immediately? Isn’t their action to make this school private an admission to their complete and utter failure as managers?
posted by: Richard H on June 9, 2011 3:11pm
What a program!! The Superintendent/Mayor should have done their homework by meeting with parents before it got down to a deadline time. Under open meetings rules they can’t meet in private with a few individuals and the entire board in attendance. The board should have met in a closed meeting to discuss the alternatives because they can’t trade/sell school property without a vote in a public meeting. After the board reviewed the alternative then they open the meeting to hear comments from the public not the press. The press would be allowed to be in attendance at the open meeting only. After all residents have given their comments the board would vote for the change one way or other. After that the press can interview people and officials. End of story. P.S. $80,000 is not a high salary for a school superintendent/Mayor in my area. Their problem is similar to many schools in the country check Detroit MI for example where the school board was dysfunctional. A money manager was hired by the state government and the new manager closed 40 schools by his order.