Unfinished Reform Business: Parents

Melissa Bailey PhotoThe question of how to get parents involved emerged as the biggest unsolved challenge of the city’s school reform drive as four would-be mayors debated for the last time.

All four candidates running in the Sept. 13 Democratic mayoral primary gathered Thursday night for the education-themed debate.

The debate was hosted by Teach Our Children and Youth UnleashED at The Children’s Community Programs of Connecticut, Inc. at 446A Blake St.

The debate featured Mayor John DeStefano and all three Democrats—Tony Dawson, Clifton Graves and Jeffrey Kerekes—who are challenging his quest for a record 10th term. All four candidates will face off in Tuesday’s primary.

Parental involvement emerged when the floor opened for questions from the audience. The topic has proved among the more challenging aspects of a wide-ranging effort launched in New Haven to overhaul public schools and close the achievement gap.

Kerekes suggested the city take some lessons from the Harlem Children’s Zone. Dawson called for creating a “contract” with parents. Graves called for more “sticks” in addition to carrots to encourage parents to do well.

Those comments drew a rebuke from Alderwoman Migdalia Castro, who objected to “throwing rocks” against parents.

DeStefano cited gains in parent turnout at Katherine Brennan School, and touted a program called BOOST that’s supposed to connect families with social science agencies.

The rest of the two-hour debate covered textbook supplies, the constitution of the school board, and how much a mayor should know about the school curriculum.

DeStefano started out on the defensive, with some pointed, personal exchanges with Kerekes, and ended with a call for unity.

Read the blow-by-blow in a live blog below:

6 p.m. Kerekes and Dawson are in the room. Graves’ younger brother is fixing the candidate’s orange and silver tie.

6:05 The mayor just arrived. He’s looking for some water before we begin. There are about 20 people in the crowd, including city Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden, criminal justice activist Barbara Fair, and several school administrators.

6:06 Kerekes fans have joined the room, complete with signs they were holding outside.

6:08 TOC’s Nilda Aponte introduces the group.

TOC was embroiled in some pretty ugly battles with the school district for a while over issues like translation in schools. Those public battles have subsided in recent years.

DeStefano takes a sip of water. He’s been campaigning on his record in the schools, and has made his nascent school reform program a major plank of his reelection quest. The crowd includes some pretty strong critics, as well as some supporters, like a few principals, school reform czar Garth Harries and schools spokesman Chris Hoffman.

6:15 Shirley Fullerton announces the rules: Opening statements will be limited to 3 minutes.

6:17 Graves opening statement: New Haven has made “baby steps” with school reform, but “we have a long way.” Says he knows of a student who wants to be a doctor, yet her physics book won’t be here until October. (He doesn’t say which school, because he sees administrators here.)

Graves calls for extending the school day [as the city tried at Katherine Brennan, but scaled back that experiment] and separating kids by gender in schools.

A lot more people are filling in, maybe 60 total.

6:19 DeStefano: New Haven has engaged in one of the most aggressive school reform efforts, period.

He goes through the main tenants of school reform—managing schools differently according to their needs; new teacher evaluations designed to help struggling teachers improve; BOOST, which is supposed to connect kids to social services; and New Haven Promise, the college scholarship program backed by Yale and the Community Foundation.

He mentions again a statistic he’s been using a lot—that the rate of improvement on standardized tests by New Haven high school students this year was two and half times the state average.

That statistic is true—as far as it goes. The gains were welcome news, but are quite small. New Haven students start far below the average student in the state, and the achievement gap is still wide. (Read more here.)

6:23 Dawson: DeStefano has done well with the school reform drive, but not with “transparency.” Need a hybrid board where some people are elected, not just appointed by the mayor.

6:25 Kerekes: 75 percent of kids are not reading at goal—that’s “unacceptable.” Mayor was long resistant to people calling for reform. Now he’s doing school reform, but not enough input from parents. “You had to drag him kicking and screaming” to listen to your ideas.

Kerekes to the mayor: “I’m glad you’ve finally come around to improving education. It’s very important.”

Superintendent of Schools Reggie Mayo has walked in, along with lots more folks. The desks here are full now.

6:28 Question: If you have to cut the schools budget, where would you cut?

Graves: Administrator salaries. Send some of them to the classroom as part of a plan to extend the school day.

Graves says he wouldn’t touch school supplies.

6:29 DeStefano: The most important support is in the classroom. Where I’d look to save money is employee health and pension costs, to have them more resemble the private sector.

DeStefano rails against Kerekes for missing facts. [Kerekes had said the dropout rate was 50 percent. I’m not sure where that came from—last we checked, it was 27 percent. Also: Unlike at the last debate, the mayor is getting prickly early, here, attacking Kerekes for his tone.]

“Leadership isn’t about tearing people down, it’s about bringing people together,” DeStefano tells Kerekes. “It’s unfortunate that we have to rely on a campaign that tears everything down.

6:32 Kerekes is getting personal now. He says if you’re going to talk about demeanor, why “throw cell phones” at your IT people when your phone isn’t working or yell at your press person for having lunch in front of other people? [He’s attacking DeStefano for “demeaning” his employees. I wonder how those employees feel about Kerekes going public with those anecdotes.]

6:34 DeStefano defends himself: All these comments and innuendos just “short-sell us for what we could be because of anger and fear.”

In response to a question about the constitution of the school board, DeStefano finds himself defending his appointed school board members as not pushovers, but credible experts in the field. [This is getting contentious pretty quickly.]

Dawson: Let TOC and Youth UnleasED have a seat at the Board of Ed. “We have to get some regular grassroots people on this board.”

Kerekes: There should be a hybrid board of ed, but it should be weighted toward mayoral appointees so that the mayor can get things done.

6:36 Graves: If you expand the board, how about appointing or electing a student to the board?

6:38 Question: How much of a priority is it to you to maintain and update school supplies?

Dawson: Take some money back from the firefighters who just endorsed DeStefano and put it toward the schools.

Kerekes: [He’s back to attacking the mayor here.] The mayor has an “entourage” who follows him around, wastes money on school construction overages instead of books.

Graves says the district should renegotiate better prices with providers of supplies.

DeStefano: When I took office, they were having classes in “closets and in hallways,” in buildings with leaky roofs. “I don’t apologize” for creating 35 new schools. “No school district in America can compare” “not only to how we educate these kids, but the kind of facilities we provide.”

Next question: How to revamp the school curriculum?

Kerekes: Need to spend money on teachers and classrooms, not on “bloated” budget with high-paid administrators.

Graves: The failing of the school construction program was that it doesn’t include a vo-tech school. The city needs to prepare kids for jobs, not just college.

DeStefano: New Haven has “one of the most aggressive and robust curriculums.” [He’s pretty fired up about defending the schools.] The state prevents New Haven from operating its own tech school, but we should be pursuing that with Hamden.

6:45 Question: How do you propose to hire, train and evaluate teachers and paraprofessionals?

Graves: I would stress that cultural competence be integral to teachers’ hiring and training.

DeStefano: Gives an impassioned defense of the city’s new teacher evaluation program, which has prompted some poor-performing teachers to leave. [The district still hasn’t released the numbers on this. Officials promise to do so at the next school board meeting.]

Dawson: The city needs more African-American teachers. (Gets some applause.)

Kerekes: Need to spend money in the classrooms. “Teachers are what makes it happen.”

Kerekes promotes a “come back home” program to incentivize teachers to move to New Haven and buy homes here.

6:52 Question: How can the city provide community learning centers?

DeStefano swings back against Dawson’s and Kerekes’ points. His wife and sister are teachers. “I don’t think where they live reflects their interest in a kid.”

“Race doesn’t define a teacher’s interest in the kids” either, DeStefano says. The best “community learning centers” are the schools, he says.

Dawson: Let’s concentrate one school on serving dropouts.

Kerekes: Agrees with Dawson that libraries need to be open later.

Graves: We need to support and expand community learning centers. Put new resources into these entities. Keep the libraries open later. Let’s reopen the ex-Martin Luther King School, which sits empty in the heart of Dixwell, to offer GED training for the reentry population. [He gets applause here.]

6:57 Audience questions open, with a warning: This will not become a circus.

Parental Involvement

The first question comes from Merryl Eaton (pictured) of Christian Community Action: What will you do to support parental involvement?

[Eaton runs a Parent Leadership Training Institute which has trained moms like Nilda Aponte to become advocates for issues they care about. After many years, the city and school district still have no formal relationship with the PLTI.]

Kerekes: City should model itself after the Harlem Children’s Zone, a New York charter school that offers a nine-week parenting workshop called Baby College for expectant parents, then supports families as their kids go through school.

Graves: Parents need a carrot and a stick. [He calls for more sticks.]

DeStefano: Let’s be realistic about programs, because in dire budget times there’s a limit to what we can do. The answer is in making schools comfortable and inviting to parents. Also: Let’s evaluate the city’s pre-K program and “carve out a way to engage parents” at that level.

Dawson: Hold parents responsible for kids’ behavior.

7:02 Question: What about recreation for these kids?

Graves calls for more after-hours and weekend activities.

DeStefano: A third of kids go to summer school and 3,000 go to summer camps. Chef Tim’s healthy food program feeds them well. Schools are open after hours and on the weekends. That said, “city government can’t do everything.” The city needs to coordinate with community groups who are already doing this work.

Dawson: Bring back physical ed to the public schools. [Dawson is the most brief of all the candidates. DeStefano, by contrast, keeps running over his allotted time.]

Kerekes: Some parents don’t know how to get kids into summer school. Too many Youth@Work jobs go to kids from the suburbs, he argues.

7:06 Questioner shares an observation: Mom of three kids says computers at schools have weak software offerings—no one gets a job because they know Microsoft Word. Poor curriculum, she says.

DeStefano: It’s worth knowing the curriculum and having schools show their improvement with school improvement plans. “That’s why I go to Board of Ed meetings.” It’s worth the time and effort to stay on top of what’s going on in the schools, he says.

[DeStefano didn’t always strike this note. When he was running for governor in 2006, he was the most truant member of the school board, where members missed 37 percent of meetings.]


Fair Haven Alderwoman Migdalia Castro: Candidates are “throwing rocks” at parents here. We need to give parents more chance to participate. What would you do to engage parents around New Haven Promise?  [Castro is another graduate of Eaton’s leadership group.]

7:13 Dawson: Parents need to sign a contract about expectations for the school year.

Kerekes: We know which kids are showing up to school “dirty or stinky.” Let’s engage those parents. We need a system “that listens to them.” [He suggests the current administration doesn’t.]

[This is the biggest unsolved challenge of the city’s school reform drive. Top officials have acknowledged they still haven’t developed this component of reform.]

Graves: First priority is to empower the parent and help the parent.

DeStefano: Most parents do a good job. Most are effective advocates for their kids. How do schools engage them? He points to Katherine Brennan, which went from one of the lowest to the highest rates of parental involvement. [This must be based on turnout at report card night. However the school still failed to find any parents to serve on a PTO or to take part in a school governance council as required by state law. While the school made big strides this year, Principal Karen Lott has said parental involvement remains a huge challenge.]

DeStefano also touts BOOST, which is supposed to connect families with resources the city already has, without spending the money.

7:20 Kerekes: At Katherine Brennan, “they got rid of the people and started over.” “That’s what we’re asking you to do on Tuesday.” Replace the people with poor results—[like the mayor]—with fresh energy.


Question from Mario Callahan, a senior at Hillhouse High School who put on fine threads for the occasion. There’s a lack of emphasis on learning foreign languages. What will you do about this “crisis”?

Applause for Mario for how he presented himself—and a thumbs up from Mario’s principal, Kermit Carolina, who has supported Youth UnleashED’s organizing efforts. [Most of the members of Youth UnleasED come from Hillhouse, perhaps because of the welcoming environment there for kids who speak up, even in dissent.]

Graves: City kids need to learn Chinese. The city needs to incorporate more languages in the curriculum.

DeStefano: Are you a Promise scholar?

Yes, Mario says. [That means he’s aiming for a partial scholarship to in-state schools if he keeps his grades up.]

DeStefano: The question is really about preparing kids to work in the world. Ultimately, it’s about getting a job and having choice in your life. [That comes from a college degree, he argues. He’s making Promise a big part of his reelection campaign. The program is just starting to be phased in, with the first class of 110 students getting 25 percent scholarships to in-state public schools.]

Kerekes: Can’t promise more $$ for foreign languages, but he can promise more money for the classroom. We need to fix this problem, first: 51 percent of kids dropping out of school and lots of young kids can’t even learn. [This time Kerekes cites a report in Education Weekly on the dropout rate; I’m not sure what he’s referring to.]

7:31 Comment from Teacher Steve M.: “I resent hearing that we should turn around more schools.” Given the national teacher-bashing, what would the candidates do to keep the dialogue open with unions and not peg us as part of the problem?

DeStefano: We signed an agreement in October 2009 that was a big risk.

He’s already hailing the first year of teacher evaluations as a success. [I hope they will share information publicly soon to support that claim.]

Dawson: I would invite more people to the table, to be more “transparent” than DeStefano has been.

Kerekes: The mayor has “refused to listen to your suggestions,” city workers. We need input from everyone. “I’m willing to listen and I’m willing to talk.”

He gets applause for this line: “Let’s make the city work for the people who live here, not just for those who run it.”

Graves calls for a 10 percent cut for all department heads and the mayor himself. There needs to be “shared sacrifice.”

7:36 Hillhouse Principal Carolina: You’re sitting in the living room of one of our young black or Latino men who was killed by gun violence. What do you say?

Dawson says he’s been there in the Yale-New Haven Hospital ER when parents learn their kids have died from gun violence. His aunt’s grandkid was shot in the head on Kensington at age 16. That was one of the hardest things that’s happened in his life.

Kerekes: I’m a psychotherapist. I’ve worked with cops and other folks who have been traumatized by gun violence. I talked to kids after their parents have just committed a murder-suicide. You have to listen and be available. When kids are being killed in the neighborhoods, what’s happening? Nothing! Not the response that happens when shots are fired downtown. [He gets applause for this.]

Graves: We have no idea the short-term and long-term impact of the trauma on our families. Need to address gun violence, give these kids something to do.

DeStefano: We’ve been in those living rooms. There’s not much you can say. But you start by acknowledging there is a problem of violence in the city. We have to deal with people flooding back to the city from prison. You need to talk to those two [Hillhouse] kids who were in that car on South Genessee Street and urge them to speak the truth.

[DeStefano sounds confident here, emotional, not on the defensive.] No matter if we mayoral candidates are successful or not, this is a value we all share—protecting our youth. He says New Haven Promise is part of the solution, as much as ending the no-snitching code.

7:45 Question: How can we make sure New Haven kids get pre-K slots, and aren’t edged out by out-of-towners?

Kerekes is on the attack again, bringing up random ways that DeStefano wastes money on in his opinion, such as spending $175 per hour on snow removal. He doesn’t give a clear solution to the question.

Graves is not offering a specific answer to the question. His time is up!

DeStefano: First of all, I’m not going to give you someone else to blame—such as suburban kids. Here’s the truth: We get more money for New Haven kids by admitting suburban kids. It’s $3,000 per kid from the suburbs. Also, by state law, magnet schools need to allow some room for regional kids. That’s part of how the schools are funded and designed. DeStefano runs out of time, too. He stops when someone objects.

[“You’d lose money,” the mayor whispers to Graves, continuing his point.]

Dawson: We could have LCI workers survey how many kids are in neighborhood homes. [I’m not sure where he’s going with this.] Let’s reassess the entire thing to make sure neighborhood kids can get into school.

7:52 Closing statements.

Graves thanks Dr. Ben Chavis, well-known civil rights leader, for sitting through the debate. [Chavis was due to give a speech at 7:30 with Graves—looks like they’re going to be late.]

Graves: Let’s thank DeStefano for his “great service” by giving him a banquet. We need a “new vision.”

Graves touts his experience of two prior mayors—I didn’t work for Mayor [DeStefano, as is alleged in a new attack flyer from Dawson], by the way—I was just a contractor for the Board of Ed doing tutoring for at-risk kids.

DeStefano: We’ve had many “frank discussions” with Youth UnleashED and TOC [to put it lightly]. Thanks for that.

DeStefano ends on a conciliatory note, pitching himself as a uniter (while also suggesting his opponents are being divisive).

“It’s a scary time all over America. We need to find ways to work together, to see self-interest in each other. I will never demagogue on a group. I will never react differently in one neighborhood” over another one. I won’t penalize parents. I stand up for immigrants, whether they’re here illegally or illegally. “At its core, what we have is one another. Acknowledging our problems where we have them, but appreciating our self-interest in each other.”

Dawson: “John, you did a wonderful job and we need to move on.” He says he’s learned a lot from DeStefano. “They trained me well and now I’m going to run the city.” He’s touting his crime credentials. No one’s going to want to come to New Haven “until we get this crime wave under control.”

Kerekes: “Fifty-one percent of kids are not making it through our schools.” Too much money wasted on school construction overages. We prioritized creating a war chest to run for governor [through the school construction program] instead of training New Haveners to get good trades jobs.

[Graves left early with Chavis to give their speeches on Dixwell Avenue; he doesn’t get closing remarks.]

That’s a wrap, folks.

Students from Youth UnleashED give an extra thanks to their principal, Kermit Carolina, for his support.

“Now I’m well-informed to make my decision” on Primary Day, Nilda Aponte announces.

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: Cookie Monster on September 8, 2011  7:09pm

This is more of a question for Melissa than a comment on the debate. While you note that standardized test improvements well outpaced the state average this year, you minimize those improvements as still quite small.  Do you think mayoral candidates ought to be pushing for improvements three or four or five times the state average? Is that realistic? Or would that be a red flag that someone was tampering with the tests? These aren’t hypothetical questions, I’m sincerely curious.
I think it’s one thing to look at a particular student, and to be confident that that student can make great gains in a given year, but is it realistic to expect an entire district worth of students to make huge and consistent leaps well beyond the pace of the rest of the state?

[Editor’s note: I was taking issue with the way in which the gains are described: I thought it was misleading to describe the gains as “double” those of the state, because that suggests a wider difference between the two numbers. I think it would be more truthful to say that the local gains were about one point more than the state gains—Melissa Bailey.]

posted by: streever on September 8, 2011  8:28pm

When Kerekes points out specific failings of DeStefano, he says, “We need to stop being divisive.”

Mayor, after 18 years in office, I’m sorry that you feel citizens can not criticize your priorities, records, or results. Should we abstain from voting too, or does the block on criticism end with the verbal and written?

I know your appointed staff has told me I can not and should not vote in opposition to your agenda before on the Board you appointed me to.

Not sure if the mandate on voting for your agenda is one you want to impose on us at the polls too? I haven’t gotten a telephone call instructing me in how to vote at least this time.

posted by: New Haven School Mom on September 8, 2011  8:58pm

Kerekes: We know which kids are showing up to school “dirty or stinky.” Let’s engage those parents. We need a system “that listens to them.”

Mr. Kerekes by your statement you have made it very easy for me in this primary and I will not vote for you.  How dare you speak about how children comes to school, you should be very happy that they come.

Kerekes you have no platform and all you do is criticize the Mayor who im not a fan of but I will tell you this, you lost my vote and he grained my vote.

posted by: Time has come on September 8, 2011  9:46pm

Kerekes was great. When Destfano said his figures were wrong. Kerekes wiped out the proof that they were not. His point about making sure teachers had what they need was dead on. (even though that is a common sense idea it seems to not e happeneing. His work at Cliford Beers should give him alot of insite on many child hood issues that effect kids in our city. Bravo, great job.

@New Haven School Mom were you there? That is taken out of context. ... He was honest and realistic. He had a fantastic platform for education and our great teachers. His ideas and vision to help ALL children will and the way of approaching it are exactly what I am looking for in a Mayor.

posted by: HhE on September 8, 2011  10:18pm

I think our expectations are pretty low if we are very happy that kids just come to school.

I’m thinking he was talking about indicators of neglect.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 8, 2011  10:19pm

New Haven School Mom:

Either the flow of the dialogue didn’t get captured in the live blog or you are intentionally and irrationally responding to only a portion of it.

The point was, when a kid shows up at school stinky, dirty, unkempt and that student’s clothes and other issues are in disarray, these are clear indicators something is wrong at home. That is a perfect opportunity to try an intervention and reach out to the parents. There are problems there that need addressing. And besides, that student will be made fun of and be ostracized by his/her classmates.


And by the way, there is plenty to criticize the mayor over. From his temperament to his policies, cronies to crooks, scandals to shakedowns - we’ve had 18 years of his best ideas. And look at where we are.

If you want to see the Kerekes platform you don’t know anything about, go to http://www.jeffrey2011.com and read up. ...

posted by: Claudia Bosch on September 8, 2011  10:38pm

About two years ago the School Board made a Mom cry (see http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/school_board_makes_mom_cry/). Back then I missed someone making a statement like the one DeStefano made tonight:
“Leadership isn’t about tearing people down”. Literally the Board under the leadership of DeStefano’s appointee Mayo was tearing down a mother who only wanted to get truly involved in her kid’s education. The big leaders (Torres included) were all over her! This is the leadership we have right now in this city.

Melissa you are wondering why is there not yet a plan for parental involvement? Because besides homework tutoring, our input is not really considered important by the current administration.

I think it is time to change that and give Kerekes a chance! 

P.S. Kerekes remark about the children was not offensive towards them. It was about neglectful parents who just do not care, and as an outcome these children miss so much more than bodily hygiene.

posted by: Mayor please on September 8, 2011  11:55pm

Mr. mayor ...  Let’s face it.  You have been considered a fraud using school kids, you parade contractors in front of us, as if we don’t know how you have worked the deals.  You send you internal police to prevent a candidate from talking to people and getting signatures in a public building taxes pay for, you buy another union endorsement…  Oh I missed the coverage of that clam bake fund raiser, you know the one nobody showed up at.  NHI must have missed it too.  Or were they told not to report the lack of any supporters.  ...

posted by: richgetricher on September 9, 2011  2:26am

DeStefano must be looking in the mirror. The main reason the city is so tied up in knots right now is because of his divisive tone and demoralizing method. Day after day he demonizes city workers, union leaders, rival aldermen etc.  He’s bullied anyone who stood in his way or dares not bow to his will. He’s anything but a unifier who is rallying the community behind him. In his own mind you can see he divides folks into two camps -his yes men and everyone else (his “enemies”). Kerekes is right: “Let’s make the city work for the people who live here, not just for those who run it.”

posted by: Jane on September 9, 2011  8:18am

I would have to agree with New Haven Mom. Insulting our children, through no fault of their own, is not a campaign I would sign onto. You just lost my vote.

posted by: You should know on September 9, 2011  8:31am

Sorry to say the NEW schools have roof leaks too every time it rains! Heat and AC problems too! The teachers are still teaching in hallways! Big schools with big halls with not enough classrooms!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 9, 2011  8:51am

Five surgeons are discussing who were the best patients to operate on.
The first surgeon says, ‘I like to see Accountants on my operating table because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.’

The second responds, ‘Yeah, but you should try Electricians! Everything inside them is colour-coded.’

The third surgeon says, ‘No, I really think Librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order.’

The fourth surgeon chimes in, ‘You know I like Construction Workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would.’

But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed, ‘You’re all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There’s no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, and there are only two moving parts - the mouth and the as@hole - and they are interchangeable’

posted by: anon on September 9, 2011  8:57am

Jane, New Haven Mom, etc. ... These types of terms are widely used among teachers, school officials and policymakers as indicators.  If we only think about our schools as new buildings and classes, like some of your comments suggest, we are doomed to have worse outcomes every year, which is precisely what has happened here over the past 30 years. We need “bigger picture” thinking if we want to ensure quality educational opportunities for all.

posted by: anon on September 9, 2011  9:31am

I have yet to be solicited, but today I am writing my check to the DeStefano campaign.

Good grief, the empty campaign rhetoric and synthetic platitudes, without any meaningful grasp of municipal governance is truly annoying!

posted by: Cedarhillresident on September 9, 2011  11:09am

I gave to Kerekes! GO KEREKES!

Paul can we please do something to address the 3 anon’s we seem to have posting here?

posted by: Paul Wessel on September 9, 2011  11:21am

I couldn’t make it last night, but am grateful for the awesome work of Teach Our Children and Youth Unleashed.  As well, I continue to admire Kermit Carolina’s ability to both be a principal and nurture youth leaders who push him.  Finally, the more I spend time on state-wide school reform work, the more I am impressed by how ahead of the curve New Haven’s school reform program is.  By accounts from all sides, it’s in place because John DeStefano demanded it.  It was too long in coming, and is still in its infancy, but acknowledged by both business education reformers and union leaders as a model to be emulated.  And TOC and YU’s work is making that reform stronger.  Thank you for your work.

posted by: Accountability for ALL Involved on September 9, 2011  11:50am

“Kerekes suggested the city take some lessons from the Harlem Children’s Zone. Dawson called for creating a “contract” with parents. Graves called for more “sticks” in addition to carrots to encourage parents to do well.” These are quotes taken from this article by Melissa Bailey.

At the outset Mr. Graves also said: First priority is to empower the parent and help the parent.  But clearly Fair Haven alderperson Migdalia Castro did not hear that part; maybe because she was more interested in scoring points than in being helpful.

“Those comments drew a rebuke from Alderwoman Migdalia Castro, who objected to “throwing rocks” against parents. The incendiary language she chooses to use speaks for itself.  These elected political leaders are supposed to help to solve problems, not compound them.  We seem to be telling the schools that they also have responsibility to raise the parents as well as the children.  No one dare say anything about the need for more parental accountability. This is absurd!

Schools have now become the catchment tub for the total family. Schools are expected to do everything for the parents and students! If they ask parents to live up to their responsibilities as parents they are accused of being unreasonable.  If community leaders say parents must be held accountable for the conduct of their children, they are throwing rocks.  Where does this end? Raising children has to be a partnership.

We have people who cannot support themselves but they also have 3-6 kids and the rest of us are expected to feed, shelter, clothed and educate the children and provide support for the parents! Yet, society is to ask nothing of these people!  Those of us who own property and earn an income through our own hard work and sacrificial efforts pay 2-3 times what is reasonable in taxes and for other services.  This allows the city, state and federal govt. to provide all that is demanded to support those who make no contribution, but drain the system every day.  I am all for giving people a hand-up, but that should not be for their entire lives. 

It is perfectly logical and reasonable to expect people to pay their own way; those who can’t should get the help they need to become self-reliant.  However, they need to show willingness and make a reasonable effort to improve the condition of their lives; to be responsible for their children, and to act responsibly as citizens.  Even strong cities cave in under constant pressure. NH has caved.

Schools are staffed by people; they have families.  In Bpt some schools are open from 6am until 6pm; yet, some still complain that is not enough.  Do we stop to ask ourselves about the hardships being forced upon teachers and para-professionals?  They are parents and families too; they need respite.

In a post yesterday someone who identified as NH Mom said Mr. Kerekes should be glad the children show up at school at all; therefore, he should not talk about stinky, etc.  Is this just sheer ignorance or is it arrogance?  Why should Mr. Kerekes be glad her children show up to school? Whose lives are being ruined by a lack of education? Oh! Maybe she is saying that we the tax payers should be glad she sends her children to school so that we don’t have to financially support them all of their lives. By the way, some children do show up at school smelly and wearing dirty clothes.

Why would anyone want to run for mayor of New Haven?  It is sheer madness. New Haven and every inner city in the USA would be so much better off if everyone who lives in them would do their best to shoulder their individual responsibilities. Many NHPS are under enormous social and psychological pressures daily.

Community and elected political leaders should act RESPONSIBLY and stop pandering to emotionalism.  To say that parents should be held accountable is NOT throwing rocks at anyone.

As a society we need to find effective ways to stop the proliferation of teen pregnancies; we need to offer parenting classes in various community and social service agencies so those having children understand that it comes with significant responsibilities.
Parents enrolling their children in school should be required to sign an appropriate contract as to their responsibilities as parents to the school.
School administrators, teachers and para-professionals should fully understand and agree to the conditions under which they will work, and be held accountable for fulfilling those conditions.  Accountability for ALL involved is the only way they system can work.

posted by: Merryl Eaton on September 9, 2011  11:56am

For the record, Migdalia Castro graduated from the Parent Leadership Training Institute before our agency, Christian Community Action was the sponsor.It remains, however, a wonderful program and we are currently accepting applications for our January 2013 program

posted by: media watch on September 9, 2011  12:20pm

Does anyone know if the New Haven Register covered this debate? I was surprised not to see any coverage in the paper today. 
Kudos to the Independent for being there and sharing this important information with the community!

[Editor’s note: There was no other media there.]

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 9, 2011  1:46pm

posted by: Accountability for ALL Involved on September 9, 2011 11:50am
“Kerekes suggested the city take some lessons from the Harlem Children’s Zone

He needs to do his homework on the Harlem Zone.

Charter school not making the grade.
By Nayaba Arinde, 
Amsterdam News Editor
By Cyril Josh Barker, Amsterdam News Staff
Published: Thursday, October 7, 2010


posted by: brutus2011 on September 9, 2011  2:29pm

Did you all know that the mayor and his appointed superintendent use our schools as their own private fiefdom?

Inappropriate principal appointments?($120K per yr)

Instructional supervisors with no background in the subject for which they have jobs? ($65K+ per yr)

Protection of administrators who have alcohol and /or drug related issues?

Expenditures of funds to hire private contractors to run school buildings while employing a bloated administrative staff? ($129K+ per yr)

These are facts the mayor does not want you to know or to contemplate.

If we citizens do not vote out this mayor then we deserve everything that we get.

But why make our kids pay for our mistakes?

posted by: Natalie on September 9, 2011  2:46pm

I mean no disrespect but I really want to know why Clifford Graves wears that hat.  Is it of religious significance, like a yarmulke?

posted by: Just Me on September 9, 2011  3:30pm

@Accountability,, I so agree with everything you said.  I don’t live in New Haven, so I have no interest in who becomes the mayor.  BUT, I do not like the current mayor, and if I did live in New Haven, I’d never vote for Graves. But who cares.  I believe if I were a teacher it would concern me very much if a child came to class dirty and stinky. I’d want to approach the parent.  This child would get teased, and as he grew up,, probably would quit going to school because they were ashamed.

I don’t like the fact that I work full time and pay big taxes that go towards helping people that don’t want to help themselves.  Why should I support them?  Fact, a few years ago I was looking for an apt. I was given a price of $1,200 for the apt.  But the lady across the hall only paid $225 for the same apt. because she only worked part time.  It goes by your income.  For the same exact apt.,, I don’t think so. These people get away with murder.  You work and you get taxed, you go to the store and buy something you get taxed,, put you freaking money in the bank, collect interest and they tax that.  Only in America.

posted by: solsbury on September 9, 2011  4:01pm

Am I missing something? Have any of these candidates ever been to a Bd of Ed meeting? Do they know how budgets, salaries, jobs, grants, and schools actually work? Do they even know what principals or administrators do? The one with a “platform” has 7 sentences on education… how is that a plan or platform? Doesn’t even understand contracts, salaries, etc.. I’m tired of people assuming any teacher or principal of color or that has another family member in the city got their job through political connections. Brutus and others obviously have personal issues with one or two teachers/admiadministratorst we all just are trying our best. Sure I would like smaller classes and more supplies and more parent involvement. And maybe get to go to a workshop or conference once in a while. The only power a mayor has over education is to appoint the Board of Ed… so how do they think their goals will be achieved. Why can’t the candidates tell me HOW they are going to make it happen!!

posted by: concernedwestvilleres on September 9, 2011  4:26pm

I have a feeling the debate as reported here is not fully accurate telling the whole story.  However, I have heard from people who were at the debate and they told me DeStefano was heads above the other candidates in respect to his knowledge of the schools and in his defense of the policies.

If what is reported here is accurate, Kerekes has no solid ideas to help with the schools except to target the parents of kids who come to school stinky.  Many schools have up to 600 kids if not more.  Does he think the principal and staff can try to engage the parents of every kid who is stinky?  Has he thought that maybe they are stinky because they are homeless?  Or maybe they live in a bad housing area where the water is unsafe?  Looking at Kerekes other comments noted here he just shows he is not up to the job.  He points out DeStefano’s failures but his only plan is to pattern our schools after a failed charter school in Harlem.  Electing Kerekes will be a big mistake.

As for Graves, he had ideas but I don’t know if he has the capability to implement them.  I also don’t know if his ideas will work.  Of the 3 opponents I like him the best but I don’t know if he could handle running a city.

Dawson was fairly quiet, so it’s hard to know what he stands for.  He made some points but could not go toe to toe with the mayor.

DeStefano knew his facts and was able to explain his reform well.  The biggest problem with his reform is it took too long to begin.  Why he didn’t do this 10 years ago or 12 years ago is beyond me.  However, now it is in place and is working.  I have kids in the schools and I am seeing it on a daily basis.  I would like to see the magent curricula expanded to other schools without turning them into magnet schools.  Principals who have done a great job like Lola Nathan could go and turn around other schools.

This election is not a great choice.  It is like the 1988 Presidential Election where the choices were George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis or the 2000 election where the choices were Al Gore or George W Bush.  Sometimes it comes down to the who is the least of the worst.  At this point DeStefano is making a claim that he is the best of the worst.

There are alot of good posters on this sight.  I’d like to see some of them run for alderman or mayor.  We need a good alternative and so far there is none.

posted by: Observer on September 9, 2011  5:47pm

Let me plead again . . . let’s vote this…out of office then figure out how to make City government work better for us New Haven residents and taxpayers.  DeStefano is the more polished candidate but we all know by now what we will get with another two years of him in office.  No more!

posted by: GO KEREKES on September 9, 2011  8:22pm

Funny how the mayor pontificates “Leadership isn’t about tearing people down…” yet Kerekes exposes the truth about how DeStefano treated his IT people.

IMO, that’s not getting personal.  That’s calling somebody on being TWO-FACED.

Same with his schools projects.  New buildings are great, but if there isn’t enough staff, supplies or furniture within them, how do kids benefit?

Further, if you want teachers to make the extraordinary sacrifices that they do, and if you truly believe instruction is the strongest component of education, then why would you try to cut pensions, staff and health benefits?

How about you trim from downtown first?!

posted by: hey, Paul on September 9, 2011  8:59pm

You seem easily fooled by perceptions.  Try reality for a change.  It might change your opinion of New Haven’s reform.

Talk to the kids who routinely lose enrichment classes because schools are understaffed (forcing enrichment teachers to cover for testing conditions, et el), who are denied computer access because of broken/incomplete equipment, and who are stuffed into large classrooms due to fewer teachers/paras and increased bloated payrolls at the top.

And spare us all the “not everything is perfect, there’ll always be kinks” jargon.  People like you, the mayor and superintendent sure seem to tout it well enough.  Understaffing of teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff, as well as a lack of student computers, supplies and furniture are serious issues facing many of the city’s schools.

And before you go touting DeStefano for this reform, haven’t you asked yourself why it took nearly two decades for him to “demand” it?  I’ll give you a hint:  The feds started cracking down on education.

posted by: chosen one on September 10, 2011  1:45am

This is the bottom line first of all the two black candidates left in the race are being backed by people who have personnal issues with Mayor Destefano! (the harpes and the newtons) so they are not running for there own purpose! how dare kerekes come out his mouth with a comment dirty and stinky ( when he looks like that with blonde hair on his face tis is not the circus we don’t need a ring master! ...

posted by: Sheila on September 10, 2011  10:10am

I didn’t appreciate reading the reporter’s personal commentary throughout the reported debate.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on September 10, 2011  2:00pm

posted by: Natalie on September 9, 2011 2:46pm
I mean no disrespect but I really want to know why Clifford Graves wears that hat.  Is it of religious significance, like a yarmulke?

It is a African Hat.He gets them from my Tailor
in Harlem.


posted by: WC10 on September 11, 2011  10:33am

@ threefifths

If he’s wearing a kofia, then it’s for religious reasons associated with the Muslim faith. Kofia means hat in Swahili, and in East Africa is only worn by those practicing Islam. 

So yes, it’s for religious reasons, but I don’t think he knows it.

posted by: WC10 on September 11, 2011  10:43am

@ Melissa Bailey.

You’re not sure what Kerekes is referring to when he mentions Education Week. The NH Register knows exactly what he’s referring to:


posted by: christopher schaefer on September 11, 2011  5:16pm

“When I took office, they were having classes in ‘closets and in hallways,’ in buildings with leaky roofs…” Talk to personnel in many of these new schools. The new roofs leak. Most were constructed by the same group of contractors. Who are funding DeStefano’s campaign.

posted by: Go Dawson -- Once is Enough on September 11, 2011  5:17pm

... He needs to show me more about how his being a YNHH security guard qualifies him to be Mayor.

posted by: Taxpayer New Haven on September 11, 2011  10:49pm

Who cares what kind of hat Mr. Graves is wearing it’s obvious that he is a well educated man with some brains under that Kofia!
To the current Mayor…schools are still leaking, Teachers are working in closets, inadequate furniture, no teacher lounges, anyone who has a vowel for a last name is a coordinator, supervisor, principal. Anyone who has contributed to the chest-fund of the mayor has a job getting paid to organize papers. There is no authentic teaching going on only prescribed teaching that is coordinated by incompetent people who has little or no experience at different levels! Now, any school that was not built inside of the inner city is a dump: Hillhouse, Troup, Jackie Robinson etc. are all dumps leaking water and the smell of sewer gas and poop back ups on a regular bases at one middle school. Rats party at all the NHPS it is common knowledge! Filthy, filthy,filthy, WHY? because the custodial staff was cut and you have two men trying to clean one building! It is a shame that kids within the inner city have such filthy learning environments and poor renovated schools…all the schools outside the nnucleus of the city are better! EXPLAIN THAT! by the way school reform and building renovation was started by the former Mayor John Daniels/teacher pay increases were started by former Supt. John Dow!