One mayoral candidate endorsed a new schools chief Thursday while another unveiled his “big ask” from Yale: to create a “premier” training program for principals at its School of Management.
Those two messages came in back-to-back appearances before the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee.
Justin Elicker, one of five Democratic mayoral candidates, told the Chamber that he backs Garth Harries to become the city’s new schools chief. Harries, the system’s current deputy, is one of three finalists for the job.
The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee has this past month invited all five Democratic mayoral candidates to appear in the 10th floor boardroom at 900 Chapel Street to answer questions. (The Chamber is not, however, making an endorsement in the race.) Thursday morning was Elicker’s turn, as well as candidate Henry Fernandez’s. (The Chamber invited a third candidate, Sundiata Keitazulu, too, Thursday morning. He didn’t show. Click here to read about a previous set of appearances by candidates Toni Harp and Kermit Carolina.)
Elicker and Fernandez spoke separately with 16 Chamber members gathered around the board room’s long doughnut-holed oval conference table in the group’s board room on the 10th floor of the 900 Chapel St. office tower across from the Green.
During his hour-long appearance, Fernandez fielded a question on school reform. That’s when he spoke of his SOM idea. Throughout the campaign he has made school reform a central issue, stressing the need for top-notch principals.
“In your first 100 days [as mayor], you get to ask Yale for something big,” especially given that Yale has a new president, Fernandez told the Chamber. His “something big” request: That SOM create a program to train principals and aspiring principals from around the country in how to manage schools. A “premier” program. The country’s best.
The students would do their clinical work in New Haven’s schools, he proposed. And then “all we need is five to seven of them every year” to decide to remain in New Haven’s public schools to put their training into practice.
Fernandez also told the group he’s not a “fan of corporatization of education.”
After he left the room, he was asked to elaborate on what he means by “corporatization”—and how a school geared toward training corporate managers would be best suited to train school public-school principals. (Click on the video at the top of the story to watch that conversation, which took place in the hall outside the conference room and then, at a Chamber member’s request, in a side office.)
As for why SOM would make the best place to create a training program—rather than, say, an institution that already trains teachers and principals, like the education school at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU)—Fernandez responded: “Look, I would strongly prefer that Yale had a premier education school. It does not. I think we capture the fact that Yale University will attract the top talent from around the country. But at the same time we have to make sure that the program is built out in a way that education is a central tenet, educational leadership.”
SOM has a strong reputation in the field of “organizational behavior.” Fernandez said he envisions the program partnering with perhaps SCSU but also with Harvard’s education school or Columbia’s Teachers College.
Asked about Fernandez’s idea, Yale’s new president, Peter Salovey responded: “I know that education leadership is an area that very much interests SOM’s dean, Ted Snyder, and his faculty.”
Yale political scientist Douglas Rae—currently an SOM professor and a former top city official—expressed a cautiously optimistic initial reaction to Fernandez’s idea.
“I am more positive than negative. But to be really positive what we’d do is sit around for a few hours and say, ‘What would be better?’ And I haven’t even begun to think about that,” Rae said. “I think aspirationally it’s a good idea. But I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that the president of the university could say, ‘Well, yes,’ and make it happen in any big way. It would take somebody who believed in it with a substantial checkbook. I think you can find one. I think you could find many. But you’ve got to raise the money and shape the program—it’s not something that would happen quickly.”
He echoed Fernandez’s point about the need to bring in people with specific expertise in education: “On organizing and managing complex things, I think SOM would be pretty good. But on the intricacies of educational policy and finance, we would have to add somebody to the faculty. Probably more than one.”
A possible key player in any such program would be Garth Harries, one of three finalists (and the favorite) in the search for a new city schools superintendent.
Asked about Fernandez’s idea Thursday, Harries said he’d need to know more about the details of Fernandez’s proposal.
“I love the fact that this conversation is taking place,” Harries said. “There’s no question I like anything that expands our ability to grow and strengthen leadership in the district.” He’d also need to look at how such a program would fit into existing efforts the school system has launched to train future principals. It has been training promising potential principals in a joint “residency” program with the Achievement First charter schools, for instance. (Read about that here.)
One of Fernandez’s mayoral challengers, Toni Harp, criticized his proposal. “I just don’t see the relationship” between a business school and training principals, Harp said. “Typically in New Haven most of the management decisions are made in the central office in terms of hiring and firing. The budget is set by central office.”
In his appearance before the Chamber Thursday, Fernandez also criticized his former boss, Mayor John DeStefano, although not by name. He said City Hall has too often “gone to war” with business leaders rather than work out differences more productively. He cited the angry confrontation with United Illuminating leaders when they chose to move corporate offices out of New Haven (click on the video and on this story for more on that); and a dispute with the developer of the 360 State St. residential tower over its tax bill, a dispute that Fernandez said sent a signal to potential investors that New Haven is a bad place to do business.
Bullish On Harries, Esserman
In its meetings with the candidates Thursday, the Chamber asked them to describe their first acts as mayor if elected.
Justin Elicker responded that he would meet with all top department heads on day one, work to keep the good ones (of which he said the city has plenty), and hustle to fill vacancies. As he did at a candidates’ debate Tuesday night, he singled out Police Chief Dean Esserman as a top official he hopes will stay in the job. He described Esserman as a model manager, based in part of his observations of the chief at some 20 weekly CompStat meetings he has attended at the police department. “He’s tough when he needs to be. He rewards people and doesn’t take credit when they do their jobs” well, Elicker said of the chief.
“I would be shocked if Garth Harries is not selected as the next superintendent,” Elicker told the Chamber. If that doesn’t happen, he said, on day one he would take steps to fill the job with Harries.
“Garth has proven he is reform-minded,” Elicker said. “He bases his decisions on data and best practices around the nation.”
Elicker clarified his remarks when asked about them following the Chamber event.
He said he meant to say he would seek to put Harries in the slot only if it remains open when the new mayor takes office on Jan. 1. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to [seek to] overrule the Board of Education’s decision,” he said.
He also clarified that “I can’t just appoint” someone superintendent if he becomes mayor. “I would support” Harries as the choice but understand that the school board (whose members the mayor currently appoints) makes the call, Elicker said.
I am more than surprised that Elicker would make an announcement in support for Harries, without even looking at, or knowing anything about the other candidates and what they have to offer.
This type of Decision making sounds rash and brash while demonstrating absolutely no for-thought.
Not a good sign Justin. Grade: Needs improvement.
posted by: anonymous on July 18, 2013 12:56pm
Webblog, despite the NHI muckraking, this wasn’t really a press event endorsement - it was a more of a conversation inside the Chamber. Citizens, including the other Mayoral candidates, have frequently expressed which candidate for Superintendent and Police Chief that they would prefer. They don’t seem brash when they do that, they seem honest and level-headed.
To your point, I’m sure that if the Messiah did emerge as a candidate for Superintendent of New Haven, and the Board chose him/her, the Mayoral candidates and others would embrace that decision.
posted by: urban ed on July 18, 2013 1:48pm
@Weblog1: Not rash and brash at all. Actually the cautious choice, since I think we all know or at least feel that Garth will be appointed next week. Assuming that’s true, the charter gives Garth a probationary tenure of one year and then he’s up for renewal…after the new mayor is in place and perhaps with some new board members. Garth is a good risk, since he represents a decent combination of continuity and new thinking. And before I get pilloried for mentioning the ‘continuity’ piece let me point out that a system of 25000 human beings *needs* some sense of continuity, or the risk of chaos is great….just look at other urban superintendent appointments around the country if you don’t believe me.
I am acquainted with Garth. I like him a lot. I know that he is not the messiah, and he would be the first to admit that. But he’s good enough, and he’s worked hard enough, for us, to have earned his 1-yr-long shot. That Justin recognizes this is only to Justin’s credit, as far as I’m concerned, and yet another reason why he is pulling ahead in the race for my own personal vote.
Want to meet them? Finalists forum on Saturday, July 20, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Gateway. Trumbull Street Garage parking validation, free lunch, childcare.
posted by: Hieronymous on July 18, 2013 2:51pm
Those other guys have way cooler names.
posted by: Curious on July 18, 2013 2:51pm
What is Elicker DOING?!
Someone SHUT HIM UP!
Everyone knows that you don’t say anything specific about how you will improve the city before the election, you just make broad and vague promises to EVERYONE so you get more votes!
What Justin should say is this…
“I support Garth Harries for superintendent, he would make a fine leader for our schools. I also support Reggie Mayo coming out of retirement, should he choose to run for the job. Oh hello sir, hello ma’am! Who do YOU think should be superintendent? Why, I think that is a FINE choice! I agree completely with you! Can I count on your vote, or perhaps a $1,000 donation?”
posted by: Xavier on July 18, 2013 2:59pm
One City Henry, not afraid to upset JD, came out on this. One City Henry said that the process to select a new superintendent should wait until the new mayor (presumably One City Henry) is installed.
One City Henry, good sound leadership. Police often stop One City Henry, not because he did anything wrong, but because he is so fascinating.
posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on July 18, 2013 3:29pm
I am surprised that Mr. Elicker thinks that Mr. Harries is the best candidate in the nation for the position of superintendent of New Haven public schools. Unless he has some inside information about the other candidates, how could he arrive at that conclusion? Rumors are rife in the community that the Board made its decision months ago to appoint Harries superintendent and wasted the taxpayers’ money to hire a private firm to do a “national search.” New Haven probably needs some new blood to take our school system in a new direction. I know many are convinced that we are a model of school reform for the nation. Unfortunately we don’t have the statistics to show major student academic progress or dramatic improvement in closing the achievement gap between New Haven and other Connecticut towns.
posted by: Webblog1 on July 18, 2013 4:59pm
That was more than “just a conversation inside the Chamber”, anonymous, and Urban Ed; Elicker’s action was not in the least a cautious choice.
You should all know, that Elicker needs to know that: to be Mayor one will have to demonstrate the ability to study the field, consider options, call upon advisors, and most of all meet with the candidates beore you shot from the lip to a chamber of commerce in front of the press.
If this was not rash and brash, which was putting it mildly, then it certainly is political immaturity.
I gave Justin a grade of : needs improvement, but since it has just been confirmed that there are two of candidates, I change that grade to incomplete.
Don’t get me wrong I like justin, but too often he finds ways to demonstrate his political immaturity.
posted by: Xavier on July 18, 2013 5:29pm
One City Henry, building steam. Can you hear that? That is the sound of inevitability.
One City Henry, commanding attention at every step of his campaign. No need to get mired in picking on the Senator, he has bigger fish to fry.
Paul awesome coverage of One City Henry! Money buys great campaign staffs and messaging tools, but the biggest tool in getting the message out is One City Henry’s vision, one city, his city.
posted by: urban ed on July 18, 2013 5:54pm
@Webblog1: You said: “To be Mayor one will have to demonstrate the ability to study the field, consider options, call upon advisors, and most of all meet with the candidates before you shot from the lip to a chamber of commerce in front of the press.” And that’s absolutely correct. But a mayor has no say in the appointment of a superintendent beyond his/her one vote on the Board of Ed. He/she can try to influence…but that’s it.
Political Immaturity? Perhaps on some issues. Justin’s put his cache on hard work and study; constituent service over schmoozing the local powerbrokers. But in this case, I’m not seeing immaturity. Far from it. Consider:
Scenario 1: Garth gets in (likely) and so does Justin (who knows?). Justin is already ahead of the game in advancing his education agenda, which we already know differs somewhat from the present one of the district, because he backed the right horse.
Scenario 2: One of the other two super candidates gets hired and Justin gets elected (or not). Things go badly as, if you know the district at all, you know they inevitably will. Justin sits on the sidelines and says “See? I TOLD you the other guy was better!”
Scenario 3: One of the other two super candidates gets hired and turns out to be Superman and the first year is frakking AWESOME. Justin sits back and says “I’m so happy to be wrong and this is why mayors don’t get to hire superintendents.”
No lose as far as I can see.
Right now Garth is, if not popular, at least known and accepted at a certain comfort level. Justin picks him over two totally unknown quantities. Again. No lose there. Seems like a well-calculated political equation to me.
posted by: robn on July 18, 2013 6:05pm
Hopefully you’ve started a new meme.
DWF…“Driving While Fascinating”
posted by: urban ed on July 18, 2013 6:08pm
Scenario 4: Garth gets in and faceplants. (unlikely) At the end of a year, we move to hire someone else and Justin (whether he’s mayor or not) can say “Whoops. Good thing our charter is configured as it is. I backed the candidate I believed in in good faith, but I’m not infallible. And BTW the BOE hired him, not me.”
Again. No lose for Justin.
posted by: urban ed on July 18, 2013 6:18pm
Yale SOM to train principals? Why not look to existing programs with proven records of excellence? Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s Principal’s Center is one. (Bias alert: I’m an alum of their summer institute.) A Harvard satellite in New Haven? Ha! Suck on THAT, Yale!
(Okay I actually think Yale is awesome. But I’ve hosted some of their education students in my classroom and c’mon…Not their area of expertise and let’s just leave it at that.)
posted by: markcbm on July 18, 2013 8:09pm
@Robn and @Xavier,
Ditto on the DWF comment. “Police stop him because he is so fascinating.” My gut hurts from laughing :)
posted by: Brutus2011 on July 18, 2013 9:29pm
When I studied how the framer’s put together the Constitution in Philadelphia, and subsequently got it ratified, I was struck by how Madison turned the prevailing wisdom of classical republicanism on its head to advance the new model of republicanism that led to our country becoming a nation-wide republic.
If I may, I would like to suggest that the prevailing wisdom of today is to approach public education from a top-down perspective.
My contribution is to assert that this viewpoint is flawed and should be inverted, or turned on its head, to have a bottom-up or classroom perspective.
Additionally, we don’t need leaders in our schools—we need servants. Or simply put, we need those who lead by service and not those who serve to lead.
Yale’s SOM will only give us more leaders, and fewer servants, and more top-down hierarchical management structures. Fancier maybe but essentially the same flawed management structure. (if you take exception to my saying that the current structure is flawed then why the reform and why only incremental progress if that?)
This will only perpetuate the morass NHPS has been in for decades and will continue to be in until the BOE makes me superintendent! (just kidding)
Got your attention, eh?
posted by: swatty on July 18, 2013 9:53pm
Harries? Isn’t he under contract to Yale? Do we have to buy that out. Prehaps Streetgate is paying for it?
posted by: teacherteacher on July 18, 2013 10:03pm
Henry, you really had my vote up until this announcement. I’m still leaning towards voting for you based on your solid positions on other issues (and your experience), but this proposal gives me pause.
This proposal follows a misguided line of thinking—that great managers will be great principals, even if they have never taught. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are just not equivalent.
So much lip service is being paid to “teacher leadership” at the moment, but New Haven doesn’t even see teaching as a valuable enough skill that we would require our candidates for school superintendent to have some real teaching experience.
If Yale wants to value education and give my worthy field the respect it deserves, let it open a true school of education like Columbia and other ivies. Then, by all means, prepare principals as well. Otherwise, Yale should not stick one do-gooder toe in the water just to check it out and experiment on our kids! I don’t think this is what Henry intends at all, but it’s what happens if we are not careful (think Michelle Rhee, Cathie Black, countless failing charter schools in New York and elsewhere).
The elite claim that more standardization, a more rigorous testing regime, and yes, more management will somehow provide solutions for schools they neither know nor love. Those of us in the thick of it see things very differently, and I get scared about giving the elite more control over how our schools are run. They can just send their kids to Hopkins or Hamden Hall if their experiments don’t work out, for goodness sake.
I hope the candidates will tread carefully here.
posted by: HhE on July 19, 2013 7:44am
I am not clear on something. Is Mr. Fernandez’s idea that SOM train teachers to become school managers, or to take people with no classroom experiance and turn them into school adminstrators?
posted by: andywight on July 19, 2013 8:23am
Henry Fernandeze’s proposal for principal training via Yale SOM bears consideration as a possible next phase in the current active effort to develop the next generation of school leaders in New Haven. BTW, Yale DID have a national model urban education training program for teachers developed by Jack Gillette, a Harvard grad, accomplished New Haven teacher, Yale SOM PhD, former director of projects in the Comer Program. Yale cut that program to help fund New Haven Promise and Dr, Gillette was immediately hired as Dean of the education school at Lesley College. It is time to bring Jack back to New Haven—he knows urban education, public and charter schools, exemplifies education leadership, and could once again create a unique, successful, research-based, New Haven-Yale school principal training program without a lot of BS.
posted by: Brutus2011 on July 19, 2013 8:33am
I would like to offer a quote from a comment by a respected blogger, KrazyTA, that just appeared on Diane Ravitch’s blog on education. This opinion mirrors mine and thus offered.
KrazyTA posts, “I noticed in some of my jobs—blue and white collar, different cities, profit and non-profit—that the more management is not held accountable and responsible for doing a good job, the more that incompetents rise to higher and higher levels of management, the ticket to greater pay and less work being the ability to ‘kiss up and kick down’.”
“When those running the show create powerful incentives to bring out the worst in people—it is not surprising that they create just the situation you describe.” (this was in response to an earlier comment by a teacher lamenting how her efforts to give suggestions to administration were met with condemnation.)
I have observed this very thing here in or at NHPS. This is not to say that all admins are ineffective, but enough are ineffective to make continuity of a failed system their goal regardless of how much order might be served by doing the same or similar things ensuring the same results.
posted by: Teachergal on July 19, 2013 9:48am
Reading the resumes of the 3 candidates for the job I think NHs best bet is to stick with Harries. I was not impressed by the other 2 candidates resumes, one being too sparce and the other being ridiculously long and tedious. But, to Garth, I recommend having someone spruce up your resume which is not at all professional. I’m surprised you would use something like that to land such an important job!
posted by: Teachergal on July 19, 2013 11:54am
Andy Wight is absolutely correct. Jack Gillette would be a wonderful addition to New Haven’s reform movement. He is knowledgeable about New Haven, having served as a teacher and then Yale college professor on Urban educayion. I had the pleasure of working with him many years ago. New Haven would be fortunate to get him back!
posted by: urban ed on July 19, 2013 3:57pm
Andy and teachergal: Yes. Jack would be perfect. He’s been an incredible asset to the city in the past and certainly could be again.
posted by: Indigo on July 20, 2013 6:05am
It sounds like Fernandez should apply to be dean or PR director of Yale SOM. He seems to have more wonderful things to say about Yale SOM than anything else. Overall the idea seems pretty half-baked…unlike the ideas presented in Elicker’s 75 days, 75 solutions campaign, which are quite detailed and interesting http://www.elicker2013.com/75-solutions. How about some coverage of those ideas, NHI?
posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 20, 2013 8:21am
What a waste of a wish! Dream big. Have Yale and all the other BIG non-profits pay their fair share of taxes, and I don’t mean the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) from the State which taxpayers pay.
posted by: Hemp_Shirt_Rocker on July 20, 2013 10:21am
If we (or any school district) wants really god adminstrators, then the best way forward is to have would be adminstrators serve an aprentiship under really good adminstrators.
Dwightstreeter, could you or someone else please define “fair share of taxes?” This is an expresion that is often heard, but seldom if ever defined. Connecticut state law defines fair share for non profits as “zero.”
Since the nearest thing to a “base” that OneCity has is the Yale Law School and its alumni, I would not expect much Yale bashing from him.
posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 20, 2013 2:55pm
to HhE: How about we develop a means test for non-profits. If either income or assets exceed a certain amount (to be negotiated, but to apply to all), then the entity is taxed at standard residential or commercial rates. We can no longer afford wealthy so-called non profits like YNHH and the Yale Corp. The shell game that sends PILOT from state funds is a double tax on us in New Haven. These exemptions have to be stopped. Why wait for New Haven to file for bankruptcy or for the middle class to move out in desperation? We need serious tax reform and no one is dealing with a real property system of taxation to support education that is on the verge of collapse. We need creative thinking on this. The “fair share” is to participate by paying taxes. The threshold is negotiable.
posted by: HhE on July 20, 2013 9:45pm
So Dwightstreeter, large, “successful” non profits would be taxed, but small non profits would be off the hook. Scale as fairness.
Why not tax all non profits equally? Do not forget to include the churches; no PILOT there.
Would it not make sense for the state to move away from property tax? Property taxes are based upon an obsolte concept of wealth and investment. I pay property taxes on my house, but not on my mutual fund.
How is it that we cannot “aford” Yale (corporation, as you put it)? Can you cite a study that demonstrates that the cost of Yale is greater than the wealth that Yale generates for New Haven?
posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 21, 2013 7:21am
The rationale for exempting certain non-profits has been the social benefit to society for charitable works, etc. so I would not eliminate some tax breaks for them totally. By allowing for a modest level of income and/or assets, society still could choose to subsidize such activities - or it could eliminate them all together. Politically, I think it would represent such a challenge to the current way of thinking that a transition is preferable. Surprisingly, there are many people that wonder how many store front churches do we need. I leave that to others. When CEOs at “non-profits” get multi-million dollar salaries and other benefits, it’s time to check out the sacred cows among us. Note: I am not against Yale’s international success or its $4 billion endowment (or is it more), just saying we have to take note that the US economy has challenged, probably irrevocably, and as a society we can’t afford to subsidize these wealthy institutions via our tax laws. As for the old saw that New Haven would be Bridgeport without Yale, the fact is that Bridgeport’s economy is growing faster than New Haven’s. If you can get the study done a while ago in which economist Richard Wolff participated, he concluded positively that Yale took more than it gave. In effect, the City subsidizes Yale, a conclusion he was not expecting. Since I have not seen the report, but did discuss it with him, I’m willing to rely on his conclusion that nothing has changed. As the State increases the gas tax, failed to sunset the RE conveyance tax, has completely failed to revamp the tax system once the income tax was put in place, the trend towards adding regressive taxes is pushing the average person to a feeling that they are working for the company store. The pain of this system is real. I am not hearing any one come up with any solutions or alternatives.
posted by: HhE on July 21, 2013 11:26pm
Dwightstreeter, I would be careful about using a study that nether of us can find, written by a maxist econimist.
While I have no need or use for store front churches, clearly many people do given the number that are supported by their parishiners.
I have proposed a solution; move away from property taxes towards a less regressive income tax.
posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 22, 2013 9:20am
I contacted Prof. Wolff re: the location of the study and he responded as follows:
The best resources remain those gathered for the New Haven revenue Commission’s work in 1984-1985. Its final report contains the information that will mostly apply today as well. The city’‘s Office of Legislative Services was always charged with keeping all such records, but they may also be in the NH Historical Society and at the Yale Library.
I will try to track it down and hope HhE will as well.
As for the label “Marxist”, I find it preferable to the ideologues from the Milton Friedman School of Economics
posted by: HhE on July 23, 2013 10:03am
Dwightstreeter, as a rule, I do not track down research for other people.
At the end of the day, your claim is based upon work done over 25 years ago (pre Rick Leven/Bruce Alexander/Linda Lorihmer), by a self discribed marxist, that may be held in a file somewhere in this city.
The cost of Yale could be reasonable calculated by adding: the additional cost of fire coverage and calls for service (probably the cost of Engine 8 or Squad 2), The cost of building and maintaining streets that serve Yale (half cost if one side has Yale buildings, full cost if both sides of the street are Yale buildings), and whatever else one could reasonably add.
The benifit of Yale is harder to calculate, but would include: Volintary contributions and property tax, largeist employer, small buinesses that primarly cater to students and people visiting New Haven because of Yale, and such.
Easy to say that Bridgeport’s economy is growing faster. Hard to say why, yes? How about Hartford’s? Fairly sagnent I think.