Fernandez: Don’t Reelect Me If Schools Stay The Same

Paul Bass PhotoHenry Fernandez asked voters in Dixwell to choose him as the next mayor—but to vote him out if he fails in a crucial task, “dramatically improving public schools.”

Fernandez (pictured), one of seven Democrats seeking to succeed retiring two-decade-incumbent Mayor John DeStefano, returned repeatedly to the topic of dramatic school improvement during a question-and-answer session at the end of a campaign event Thursday night at Dixwell Congregational Church.

“One of the primary reasons I’m running for mayor is I want to be held accountable for the public schools,” he said, contrasting his position with opponents who have vowed to take a hands-off approach to the Board of Ed.

“If you elect me mayor, and we cannot turn around the public schools, don’t vote for me again.”

He was answering a question about how to better opportunities for people in poor neighborhoods. He called school change key to that quest. He said property values are so much higher in East Rock than in poorer neighborhoods because parents who have the money will pay more to place their children in the best-performing schools, which are in that neighborhood.

He cited the schools again when asked how he’d get more New Haveners jobs.

“Our schools are not preparing our young people to be able to get the jobs that are coming here” in sciences and health care, Fernandez responded. He said Yale-New Haven Hospital “goes around the world to recruit nurses because they have vacancies.” He praised Gateway Community College for training nurses for jobs that pay $40,0000 to $50,000 a year. “We need more of that,” including public schools that prepare kids better, he said.

And he raised the topic of education, along with crime-reduction, in responding to a question about how to bring back neighborhoods like Newhallville and Dixwell.

“We keep trying to bring back factory jobs that aren’t coming back,” he said. “Our kids need to be scientists. Our kids need to be able to start a business. Our kids need to be able to become accountants. Our kids need to be able become president.

“That starts with great schools. We want to rebuild this neighborhood [Dixwell], we want to build my neighborhood in Fair Haven, it starts with great schools.”

Carolina Gets $24K

Melissa Bailey PhotoIn other campaign news, Democratic mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina received his first batch of money from the Democracy Fund, the city’s clean elections program. He and his field director, Bethany S. Watkins (pictured), accepted a check Friday afternoon from Maria Hunt (at right in photo) at the city accounting office.

The $24,530 check includes a $19,000 one-time grant, plus matching money for 207 small donations he collected from New Haveners. Candidates participating in the Democracy Fund agree to limit individual contributions to $370 (rather than $1,000) and forswear donations from outside committees in return for public dollars.

Carolina, who serves as principal of Hillhouse High School, said his team raised the 207 donations in just five days. Of the 207 contributions, 152 were in the smallest amount, ten bucks. Some came from people typically disenfranchised from politics, Watkins said, such as Brad Sutton, a 22-year-old man from the Hill who is juggling two jobs and just graduated from Gateway Community College.

Carolina is one of three candidates who have qualified for the Democracy Fund—click here to read more. Candidates Fernandez, Toni Harp, and Matthew Nemerson have opted not to participate in the system.

“Despite starting late compared to the other candidates, I still felt it was extremely important to participate in the Democracy Fund and represent the spirit of a clean election,” Carolina said. He said he wants to “send a clear message to the potential voters of this city that their interest is what matters—not the interest of special interest groups.”

Carolina is planning a campaign kickoff on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Community Outreach Center at 654 Orchard St. He also just launched a campaign website.

Nemerson Comes Out Vs. Tax Hikes

Mayoral candidate Nemerson doesn’t want to raise your taxes.

He issued a press release to that effect Friday. In it, he promised to make “holding the line on property taxes” his number-one priority if elected.

His stated strategy: Grow the grand list. “Modernize government.” And eventually, even make taxes go down.

“Everywhere I go taxpayers are telling me that they are struggling under the crushing weight of New Haven’s growing tax burden. Next year, we will be facing another 7.7 percent increase on top of the already steep mill rate on our homes and businesses,” the release quotes Nemerson as saying.

“First, we need to look at all of our city departments and conduct a comprehensive review of how to reduce costs, ease restrictive work rules, and reduce duplication. Second, we need to use technology to modernize delivery of government services and provide a higher standard of performance for residents and taxpayers. Finally, by consistently reducing taxes on residents and businesses, we will create a climate of private investment and growth.”

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posted by: Noteworthy on May 24, 2013  2:21pm

So Mini-me Fernandez says “don’t reelect” him if there isn’t dramatic school improvement. Here’s the problem - the Big Me has been saying there is school improvement for at least a decade, and big gains in the last two years. The only measurement of such are test scores and those test are taught in the schools for at least a month before the tests. The kids aren’t being taught critical thinking, problem solving and writing correctly. They’re being taught the test and not much else. That’s not much of a measure.

As for “re-electing” Mini-me - “electing” him is the first step and that is no sure thing.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on May 24, 2013  2:22pm

I, for one, will be ecstatic when just one of these candidates stops acting as if money alone is “the issue” when it comes to education, and starts talking about method as we seek to be productive in educating our children.

The simplistic assumption that money and how we spend it is the only answer to the education problems in this city and around the nation has taken hold of seemingly all of us like a pit bull gripping raw meat.

Of course, an intelligent use of our resources is important, but it’s not the only or the most important thing concerning the educating of our children.

A report from Atlanta, GA revealed this week that a frequently homeless mother of five has two daughters graduating from two different High Schools this year at the top of their respective classes, one Valedictorian, and the other Salutatorian. One daughter is graduating with a 4.466 GPA and a 1900 SAT score and enough college credits to enter Spelman College as a Junior on Full Scholarship.

Clearly, money is not the only answer to the education woes so many of our students face.  But, the unwillingness of our politicians and politically controlled School Superintendents to address honestly what is (not?) happening in the homes, neighborhoods, and communities that effect our children’s education stifles our ability to have a full conversation about what we must do to help turn the situation around of low and underachieving students.

Parents are too insensitive to hearing necessary corrective measures like, turn off the TV, take away the iPod/pad, or GET HELP if you can’t help your child with their homework, and politicians and their lackeys are too cowardly to speak truth to those who possess the power of the vote.  Add to this mix of embraced dysfunction the desire to maintain a status quo that does not increase competition for the already privileged in our society and you have a perfect storm of achievement gap maintenance.  We can do better, but courage and selflessness are key.

posted by: Curious on May 24, 2013  2:23pm

He said Yale-New Haven Hospital “goes around the world to recruit nurses because they have vacancies.” He praised Gateway Community College for training nurses for jobs that pay $40,0000 to $50,000 a year. “We need more of that,”

First, that’s a crock.  Hospitals recruit and hire nurses from India and the Philippines because they can pay them LESS.  They don’t want new grads for $50k, they want experienced nurses for $40k.  What’s Henry going to do about that?

Second, how many years is he asking for to turn the schools around? One term?  He’s going to dramatically improve NHPS in two years?  Or four?  Or six?  That’s an empty promise without a date.

posted by: CreatingUrgency on May 24, 2013  3:07pm

Unless you address the issues of poverty New Haven will not change.

posted by: orangestreeter on May 24, 2013  3:49pm

second comment regarding public finance stories… great to post a picture of the candidate with the check, bad idea to focus on the routing number and account number of the city of new haven… don’t put that on the website. there are lots of reasons that the city probably wouldn’t want that out there advertised - be smart, black it out.

thanks for all your outstanding coverage otherwise

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 24, 2013  5:01pm

Astonishing that a Yale Law grad thinks the rest of us are that stupid.

Or maybe not.

posted by: Anders on May 24, 2013  5:43pm

House of Cards Henry - Please remember you are running for Mayor, not as a replacement for batman. Your dress indicates a lack of respect for the office.

posted by: Xavier on May 24, 2013  6:30pm

Still crowing about One City Henry telling the Democracy Fund to go to h@##.

One City Henry has the money to hire a top notch campaign staff. You can not govern if you do not get elected. Period.

People should not be angry with One City Henry for wanting to win an election. You should be angry with these whimpering field of candidates with lame press announcements, poor campaign staffing (because their supposed supporters tie their hands with the insistence of a “clean” campaign).

posted by: formercommish on May 24, 2013  9:40pm

Wow so Henry Fernandez says don’t re-elect me if the schools don’t improve. Okay,doesn’t someone have to be elected first before he is re-elected? Just a question, anyway that is Henry Fernandez in a nutshell and if you vote for him for Mayor in essence it will be the second coming of John DeStefano. Good luck New Haven, you are going to need it.

posted by: anonymous on May 26, 2013  11:58am

“Unless you address the issues of poverty New Haven will not change.”

Wrong.  Plenty of cities are vastly improving, even though the poverty rate is increasing nationally. 

If we had mixed-income housing, so that people of limited incomes weren’t all concentrated within a few neighborhoods with poor quality services, the city would be vastly improved.

Poverty is a big factor, but there are other things that make a difference in people’s quality of life - for example, how long it takes to get to a job, how good the schools are, whether the parks are clean, whether libraries are open, and whether streets are safe. 

Generally speaking, people in poverty want the same things that everyone else wants.

posted by: HhE on May 27, 2013  9:28am

What I see here is hubris.  The idea that anyone could turn around a single school in less than two years, let a lone an entire district reveals how arrogant Mr. Fernandez is, as well as how little he understands education.  He does not have an EdD, nor experience in public schools.  Schools are not sports cars, they do not change direction quickly, they cannot stop on a dime, and they do not get off the line quickly.  Their cycles by definition are year long, and they system is so complex, that even if one gets the change right, a measurable, positive outcome is not assured.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on May 27, 2013  9:38am


Though clearly I’m not supportive of Mr. Nemerson’s quest to be mayor. However, To his credit, I agree with his approach regarding taxes in the city.

As I often say, the city doesn’t have a revenue problem.  The city has a spending problem.  Control the spending and you can reduce the taxes.


The average child from the inner-city arrives at school with a 30,000 word deficit.  How do you make that up?

In listening to Henry discuss education one would think that the teachers spend the night with their students.  Henry, parents are the primary educators of their children. 

Teachers are asked to be baby sitters and social workers, some are unfortunately even asked to be human shields.  At which point do the parents share some blame Mr. Fernandez?



posted by: Claudia Herrera on May 27, 2013  12:08pm


Just to “HELP YOU” to spread your support to Fernandez I just posted your most resent comment on my face-book, so proud, please New Haven be aware nobody and nothing will stop this candidate to win!!

“Still crowing about One City Henry telling the Democracy Fund to go to h@##.

One City Henry has the money to hire a top notch campaign staff. You can not govern if you do not get elected. Period.”