Carolina Breaks From The Pack On Charters

Melissa Bailey PhotoThe moderator of the mayoral campaign’s first education debate declared consensus among seven candidates in support of “school choice,” which has included charter schools.

Not so fast, said Kermit Carolina.

Carolina (pictured), the principal at Hillhouse High, piped up to say he would not want money taken away from traditional public schools to go towards charter schools. In a debate sponsored by charter school proponents, he was the only candidate who expressed such reservations.

He also talked about how as a principal, he has seen firsthand how charter schools dump the toughest-to-teach students onto traditional public schools.

Carolina’s remarks came as he fought back against criticism over new survey results revealing discontent at the 1,000-student traditional public high school he runs.

The discussion took place at an education-themed debate Friday evening at Varick Memorial Zion Church at 242 Dixwell Ave. It included all seven candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace retiring 10-term incumbent Mayor John DeStefano: Carolina, Alderman Justin Elicker, former city economic development chief Henry Fernandez, state Sen. Toni Harp, state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, plumber Sundiata Keitazulu, and former Chamber of Commerce prez Matt Nemerson.

Scroll down for a live play-by-play blog of the debate.

Friday was not only a day for debate, but a day for policy: Three candidates released education platforms in advance of the event.

This was the first debate centered on education, and the first chance for charter school proponents to direct attention to their agendas. The debate was sponsored by: A Better Connecticut, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs, Inc., the New Haven Firebirds, the Urban League of Southern Connecticut, and Varick Memorial AME Zion Church.

The setting was not an accident: Varick has become a cause célèbre for the charter movement, as Pastor Eldren D. Morrison (pictured) moves forward with a proposal to launch a charter school serving Dixwell and Newhallville. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has scheduled two personal visits to the church this year to support the charter effort. In turn, Morrison has joined a group of ministers who have lent political heft to the charter movement. That heft has been “a game-changer” for the charters at the state Capitol, according to Reshma Singh, vice president of external relations for Achievement First, which runs a network of charter schools.

Carolina stood out from other candidates on the issue of the day, charter schools. A charter school is a public school that operates outside a traditional school system under its own state-authorized charter. In return for extra state scrutiny, charters get state funding and extra autonomy. Morrison and Varick are awaiting state permission to open a pre-K to 4 school named after Booker T. Washington. 

Carolina gave a nuanced argument. He said schools of choice, like charters, dump difficult and transient kids onto schools like Hillhouse High. Sixty-three percent of all high school kids who transfer schools mid-year end up at Hillhouse, Carolina said. “Those are kids from incarceration, failure in charter schools, failure in magnet schools. They all come to us.”

Carolina said he got one new student just last week, with one week left in the school year. He said he supports families having the right to choose which schools they go to, but the burden of difficult kids and transient kids should be spread evenly between schools.

He also expressed concern that charters draw resources away from schools like Hillhouse: “I’m not anti-charter schools. I certainly support their right to come into existence. … But I do not support the idea of taking money” away from traditional public schools to fund charters.

Carolina found himself on the defensive Friday against remarks made by Holder-Winfield before the debate. On Thursday, Holder-Winfield blasted Carolina over new school survey results revealing discontent at Hillhouse. Carolina promised to launch a robust defense Friday of his three-year tenure in charge of the school.

Before the debate, Carolina released a statement attacking Holder-Winfield as a “desperate and lonely political figure”—click here to read it.

In the statement, Carolina didn’t address the specific areas in which Hillhouse saw declines in satisfaction over the last year. Instead, he gave a broad reply: the survey results “reflect the challenges the school has historically faced. Given the number of challenges the larger community faces – challenges that seem to grow in intensity and frequency on a near daily basis – it is highly likely that the breakthrough for which we have all worked so hard to bring about will take more time.”

During the debate, Carolina didn’t have much time to elaborate. But he did say his school faces many challenges outside of its control, including students entering at a 5th-grade reading level, and various problems associated with poverty.

Carolina also argued that too many teachers live outside the city and come to New Haven just to teach. Because of that, “there’s a cultural disconnect” between teachers and kids. “We can no longer accept people coming into the city” and just teaching and going home. He later clarified that he was referring only to “some of those teachers who live outside the city,” not all of them.

In other debate highlights:

• The candidates found consensus about the need for investment in early childhood education. That matches up with President Obama’s recent pledge to spend $75 billion in early childhood education over the next decade.

• Holder-Winfield and Elicker disagreed over the usefulness of “character education” programs. Elicker supports them; Holder-Winfield called them ineffective and said hunger, trauma and poverty need to be addressed first.

The debate was moderated by Ayana Harry, a Fox CT reporter. Shahid Abdul-Karim, reporter for the New Haven Register, and Dr. Fred McKinney, president and chief executive officer of the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, asked the questions.

Where They Stand

In advance of the event, three candidates released education platforms.

Elicker, an alderman from East Rock, made education the focus of a series of policy proposals released this week. On Thursday, he unveiled an early childhood education plan, which included pre-K programs that focus on “love and play” instead of letters and numbers. Friday, he called for a “citywide character education curriculum.”

“Research has found that soft skills—self-control, curiosity, the ability to form trusting relationships, and so on—are the most crucial foundations for success both in school and in life,” Elicker wrote on his campaign website. Read more here.

Harp, a state senator, unveiled the first component of a five-part education plan Thursday, calling for more report cards grading schools’ success. Her campaign handed out the rest of the plan at a 5:45 p.m. rally outside Varick. The rally drew a half-dozen people, who briefly chanted, “Toni! Toni!” when the press arrived.

Fernandez, a former City Hall economic development director, released his education platform Friday. His platform is likely to be palatable to charter proponents in the church Friday: He called for “recruiting high-­performing school management alternatives” at failing schools, including charter management organizations and “innovative partnerships” like the Elm City Montessori school. 

Fernandez also called for clearing up an “overly complicated and confusing” registration process for enrolling students in school; addressing a “disturbing” achievement gap between Latinos and their white and black peers; and launching a national marketing plan to attract high-quality educators. Click here to read his whole platform.

A live blog follows:

6:24 p.m. Candidates are schmoozing in the basement. The church is filling up. Lots of excitement.

6:43: Fernandez can’t get his mic to work. Something’s wrong with the wire. “The scissors in Justin’s jacket look very suspicious,” he quips.

The crowd is filling in. “It’s about to be standing-room only,” whispers moderator Ayana Harry.

6:45: Pastor Morrison welcomes the crowd. Education is the most important civil rights issue of our time, he says. “The faith community can no longer be silent on this issue.” Morrison has become very active at the Capitol and locally speaking out on the issue. He spoke at Hillhouse’s graduation ceremony. He calls education “a matter of life and death”—of kids getting shot or fulfilling the promise of their lives.

Morrison invites a robust debate, “but please remember where you are tonight”—in the sacred hall, there are some words you shouldn’t say.

It will be interesting to see to what extent candidates converge around a common agenda tonight.

Here are the rules: Intros. Then questions. Candidates each have two minutes to respond to each question, with no rebuttals. No audience questions—just one that was preselected. If any candidate strays from the education theme, or directly addresses another candidate, moderators will jump in to intervene.

6:53: One-minute intros. Carolina jumps up from his stool, on which he has hung a white towel reminiscent of a boxing fight. He said he’s “under attack” on his tenure at Hillhouse. He gives a glimpse of his rebuttal: 60 percent of what happens in school is a result of factors outside the school’s control, he argues.

Elicker jumps up, too. Last time he was here he was singing, he notes.

Fernandez starts with a narrative of a hypothetical 5-year-old in New Haven who has his or her fate determined by “the luck of the draw of a lottery.” That’s “immoral,” he said, drawing some mmm-hmmms of approval. Carolina had contended he was the only one with kids in New Haven public schools; Fernandez points out that his own son attends the public schools. (My bad, Carolina says.)

Harp starts out forceful. She walks right up to the first pew and shouts. She calls for “accountability.” She’s winning the crowd quickly. She gains applause for this line: “The new slavery is the lack of education, and we’ve got to do something about it.”

Holder-Winfield starts with a personal narrative—he grew up struggling in a poor school in the Bronx. He touted his education credentials—working on early childhood literacy and school governance councils at the state Capitol.

Keitazulu, a Newhallville plumber, shoots straight. He mentions his outrage at meeting a kid at Lincoln-Bassett School who told him he comes to school just “to eat” because he doesn’t have food at home. Keitazulu grew up going to this church. He seems to be connecting with the crowd here.

Nemerson, a former Chamber of Commerce president, is going to have a tougher time connecting. He comes off as wonkish. Calls for “systemic” changes. Doesn’t grab the audience with a story.

7:03: What should a mayor do about all the kids, most of them black and brown, who are stuck in failing schools?

Nemerson is the first to mention the “c” word, charters. He calls for bringing in more charter operators to run failing schools. “We have one charter operator now. We should have more.”

Keitazulu: “The lottery system doesn’t work. Our school system needs a total reconstruction from the bottom up.” Teachers are blamed too much, he says—pushing back against the common line of argument of the charter/reform/accountability movement, which focuses on teacher effectiveness as measured by growth on standardized tests. He says instead of teachers, parents are to blame for letting kids “run wild.”

Holder-Winfield: A lot of teacher prep programs don’t teach reading well. He touts his early literacy program, piloting in five cities (not New Haven). “We have to talk about the foundations” of learning. He said a good mayor needs an overall view—including familiarity with state policy. He sets up Harp nicely.

Harp calls for “results-based accountability” of how education money is spent. The state invested nearly $200 million over 10 years in a reading program, but reading scores went down, she says. Need to make sure our tools have been measured and are “evidence-based.”

Fernandez: We need to evaluate our administrators the same as we evaluate our teachers. (Is this a dig at Carolina? I’m not sure.) If an administrator fails at taking over one role, “we should not move them over” but “move them out.” He vows to end patronage, where jobs in the school district are handed out to “friends.” Implicit criticism: outgoing Superintendent Reggie Mayo used the school district as a patronage system, creating a black middle class that in turn supported Mayor John DeStefano’s many reelections. School systems aren’t meant to benefit adults, but kids, he said.

Fernandez gets applause here for the patronage remarks.

Elicker picks up the anti-patronage theme: He argues, however, that a hybrid Board of Ed would be more accountable that the current board, which is appointed by the mayor.

Carolina’s in the hot seat now. School patronage is an issue, he says. But he says the real culprit comes way earlier—in early childhood. Lots of low-income city kids get off to a “horrible start,” lagging way behind in reading. He’s launching his defense of Hillhouse: Most of kids come to Hillhouse on a 5th grade level, he said. “Despite decades of negative data,” I chose to take the job.

Now Carolina takes aim at Harp: “Some people” have had the power to make decisions for 20 years, and have not done so, he said. (He’s running overtime.)

7:19: Second question: The other “c” word—choice. Two-part question: “Should parents be able to choose what type of school they send their child to? What role do you think public schools of choice should play in New Haven?”

“That’s a loaded question,” Carolina says. He makes an equality argument. When kids get kicked out of magnet and charter schools, that dumps problems on “one school,” aka Hillhouse, which absorbs more than its fair share of difficult and transient kids, Carolina argues. He doesn’t come out against charters, but he calls for spreading the burden around between all schools.

Elicker (pictured): “Parents should have a choice.” He calls for more charters like the Elm City Montessori school, which will be run as a unionized school within the school district.

Fernandez comes out most strongly in favor of charter schools, specifically those run by Achievement First (AF). “Parents are making that choice already” to enroll in AF schools. Look at the schools that are oversubscribed: Elm City and Amistad, two schools run by AF, he notes. (He doesn’t mention the eight traditional public schools that were harder to get into than Amistad for kindergarten.) We need to create more options like those schools, he argues. “We need to take everything that works and make it bigger.”

Harp: Public charter schools “taught us that poor kids can be taught.” The culprit in New Haven schools isn’t administrators, or teachers, “it’s the system.” We need more accountability, she argues. She says the current school board doesn’t have a transparent budgeting process; you can’t tell how much is spent on education at a given school. (She doesn’t mention the school system has overhauled its budget, and now gives a detailed breakdown of each school’s budget.)

Holder-Winfield supports charters and choice. He takes aim at Elicker’s call for “character education.” (Elicker taught for one semester at a private high school in Woodstock, Conn., focused on character ed.) “Character education programs do not work.” Holder-Winfield says until we address issues related to poverty, like kids showing up hungry to school, character education won’t get us there.

Keitazulu returns to blaming parents for letting kids run wild. He sees kids running around on the streets. “Where is your parents? Where is the truancy officer? Where is somebody” he says, with a dramatic pause. (Lots of laughter and applause. I don’t think he was trying to be funny, though.)

“Always a hard act to follow,” confesses Nemerson (pictured). He’s the only candidate who stays seated while talking.

Nemerson calls for more autonomy for principals and more collaboration.

Moderator Harry re-asks the first part of the question: “Should parents be able to choose what type of school they send their child to?” She confirms that all candidates answered “yes.”

7:36: Question: What is the connection between the economic situation in the city and the educational situation?

This question is right up Nemerson’s alley. He’s the former chair of the Chamber of Commerce. He calls for New Haven to compete better with other towns on economic development, which will translate to better schools; he doesn’t offer many specifics.

Keitazulu: “I’m the only candidate who understands how the real world works.” (Laughter.) He calls for training kids to work, through two vo-tech programs. Our kids have a “no-job” problem. Not every kid is going to college. Kids need to learn Spanish and prepare for careers.

Holder-Winfield (pictured) takes issue with Nemerson’s trickle-down idea of economic development. “Some people think that if you expand and grow, then everything will get better.” But some communities get left behind, Holder-Winfield argues. (He credits Keitazulu with keeping focus on New Haven’s poor.) He argues that kids need a foundation in literacy before getting prepared for jobs: “Businesses want people who can think.”

Harp: Over 65 percent of people who work for the city live outside of the city. Why does it have to be that way? (Applause.) One huge problem is that New Haveners can’t pass their civil service exams… If we want New Haveners to land those jobs, we’ve got to focus on education.

Fernandez: In his time as city economic development chief, he heard repeatedly from business owners that they couldn’t hire New Haveners because they weren’t prepared. There’s a “horrible cycle” that needs to be broken. Great schools will break that cycle, he argues: “But it starts with our willingness to” admit what’s broken.

Elicker: Just met a parent who’s leaving for Milford to attend better schools. Improving schools would keep those people in the city.

Carolina brings the conversation back to Hillhouse to defend his record and emphasize his education chops. Hillhouse is working on solutions, he argues, with a teacher prep program and a public safety academy for high school kids. He calls for 10, not 5, extra points on civil service exams for New Haveners who apply for city jobs. (Applause.)

7:51: Question submitted by the audience. What would you do to boost parental involvement?

Carolina, curiously, takes aim at teachers: Because so many of our teachers live outside the city, “there’s a cultural disconnect” between teachers and kids. “We can no longer accept people coming into the city” and just teaching and going home.

Elicker said the Board of Ed makes it tough for parents to navigate the system: To enroll in a magnet pre-K program, you have to go to one building; to enroll in Head Start, you have to go to another building. He calls for a “No Wrong Door” policy that would let parents enroll their kids by walking into any school. He also calls for a change in attitude, where parents will be respected. “That attitude starts with me. I am one of the most responsive” aldermen in the city. Just ask around.

Fernandez calls for more transparency, so parents can figure out how much money is being spent, how well a school is performing, and what the school climate is.

Harp (pictured) calls for supporting “parent universities,” which were under the threat of budget cuts by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Holder-Winfield highlights his successful legislative campaign to require schools to set up school governance councils, teams of parents and teachers who are supposed to be empowered to oversee a school. “I’ve been fighting with New Haven” over the city’s failure to implement the exact model required by state law. (New Haven has asked for a waiver to allow existing parent groups to be used as a substitute.)

Keitazulu credits Morrison for Morrison’s charter school proposal. He calls it a good example of “bringing the community together” in the name of good schools.

Nemerson comes out in favor of a longer school day and a longer school year. (Some murmuring. I can’t tell if people are agreeing or getting restless to go home?) If we open our schools for longer hours, parents will be more involved, he argues.

Closing statements: Not much time to say anything. (30 seconds each.)

Harp: “The reality is we have a lot of money that we give to New Haven schools.” The answer is accountability, not more money, she implies.

Carolina emphasizes his work “in the trenches.” I am prepared to hire “even those here,” his fellow candidates, to help find a solution, once he’s in the mayor’s seat.

Ayana Harry wraps it up: There’s a general consensus around choice, she says (though Carolina was a clear outlier there).

[She meant her remarks in a narrow sense: All candidates answered “yes” to the question, “Should parents be able to choose what type of school they send their child to?”]

8:13: Morrison urges the crowd to approach the candidates with any more questions. “Don’t say Pastor didn’t give you the opportunity.”

8:14: Carolina breaks the rules to pipe up and point out that he is not in lock step with the others on choice. [He appears to have interpreted Harry’s remarks more broadly, to be about charters, too.]

“I would not want money taken from New Haven public schools to go to anything but New Haven public schools,” Carolina says.

After the debate, Carolina was asked to clarify his remarks.

Carolina said 63 percent of all New Haven high school kids who transfer schools mid-year end up at Hillhouse, Carolina said. “Those are kids from incarceration, failure in charter schools, failure in magnet schools. They all come to us.”

“I’m not anti-charter schools. I certainly support their right to come into existence. … But I do not support the idea of taking money” away from traditional public schools to fund charters.”

He said he would not oppose Morrison’s plan to create a new charter school in Newhallville. “But I don’t support a large expansion of charter schools that begin to replace public schools.”

He said he is “concerned about expanding a system of haves and have nots.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 21, 2013  7:58pm

Holder-Winfield supports charters and choice. He takes aim at Elicker’s call for “character education.” (Elicker taught briefly at a private school focused on chacter ed.) “Character education programs do not work.” Holder-Winfield says until we address the root causes of poverty, like kids showing up hungry to school, character education won’t get us there.

I see why.He is in the pocket of the Charter Schools along with his fellow politicians.

Strange Politics: Tracing Campaign Donations Part I

Dacia Toll, CEO, Achievement First

Like all good CEOs, Toll donates more often.  In fact, more than 25 donations to state level candidates show up, including 2010 campaign contributions of $100 to Hartford State Representative and charter school advocate Doug McCrory, $100 to New Haven State Representative Gary Holder-Winfield and $100 to New Haven State Senator Toni Harp.  Toll also gave $1,750 to that State Treasurer candidate in Rhode Island and $250 to a losing auditor candidate in Ohio.  Others she has given to in the past include State Representative Andrew Fleischmann, losing gubernatorial candidate John DeStefano and winning gubernatorial candidate Jodi Rell.
In federal level races, Toll has also given to Richard Blumenthal, Rosa DeLauro and Massachusetts Democrat Alan Khazei.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 21, 2013  8:00pm

Fernandez comes out most strongly in favor of charter schools, specifically those run by Achievement First. “Parents are making that choice already.” Look at the schools that are oversubscribed: Elm City and Amistad, he notes. We need to create more options like those schools. “We need to take everything that works and make it bigger.”

Yea take a long at Achievement First.

Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students

Civil Rights Complaint Said Too Often Students With Disabilities Suspended, Given Demerits

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 21, 2013  8:08pm

A charter school is a public school that operates outside the New Haven school system under its own state-authorized charter. In return for the extra state scrutiny, they get state funding and extra autonomy. Morrison and Varick are awaiting state permission to open a pre-K to 4 school

Sorry not true.

Are Charter School Public Schools? I’m Afraid Not.
by Alexander Hoffman,’m-afraid-not/

posted by: Dwightstreeter on June 21, 2013  8:53pm

Despite the built in limitations of trying to get thoughtful information from 7 candidates simultaneously, after sitting in on 2 of these forums, I am extremely impressed with the quality of these citizens who have put themselves out their to have their beliefs and their backgrounds scrutinized.
  In this wonderful little patch of the country that is New Haven, there is still a chance for democracy to work.
  All the candidates deserve our respect and our thanks for participating. Being a candidate is hard work. Each of these events is an opportunity to learn a bit about the problems here and the possible solutions. It’s also a way to be challenged in our own perceptions.
  This is an exciting time to be in New Haven and to see if the process to elect a Mayor can meet the needs of the people.

posted by: anonymous on June 21, 2013  9:00pm

There is no real evidence that “school reform” is working or will work in New Haven. What is happening, in New Haven and other cities like it, is rapid gentrification which is driving improvements in school outcomes (both in public schools as well as charters) relative to the plummeting performance seen in many economically struggling suburbs.

Gary Holder Winfield is correct when he says we need to look at poverty and segregation as the drivers of poor school performance. Invest in fair housing and transportation (instead of in things like widening Whalley Avenue, one of DeStefano’s greatest errors, which Harp did little to stop), and make our State’s regressive tax code fairer to working families, and all of our schools will come roaring back.

posted by: David S Baker on June 21, 2013  9:01pm

Did any candidate say why, after participating in two lotteries and having officially registered well before deadlines I still have no idea where my child is being sent to school in two months? 

This last second nonsense does not leave a family much time to move if they decide they need to bail does it?  Guess I’ll have to subdivide my house and rent for a while.  Thankfully this town treats absentee landlords like living gods.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 21, 2013  9:40pm

Educate This Notes:

1. After 25 years in office, Harp is now calling for “accountability” and saying we have to do something about the “the new face of slavery…” - a plagiarized phrase. Why the rush? Did she have a sudden conversion like DeStefano?

2. Mini-me Fernandez calls for an end to the patronage system. Really? Really? lol come on.

posted by: Xavier on June 22, 2013  12:11am

Hmmmm too much detail.
No lottery, school choice, improve schools, evaluate and discipline administrators, transparency, accountability, poor results after $200 million investment, bad schools= no job….

Ok sounds like the Senator had the place and won the debate.

One City Henry, always looking good, nailed some good points, shows he is on top of things, and he has the youth and vitality on his side.

This is going to be Harp v Fernandez in a slug feast that will leave a lot of bad blood.

One City Henry, classy and committed.

posted by: Brutus2011 on June 22, 2013  8:10am

Carolina clearly understands education here better than all the others.

Charters, most not all, are wolves in sheep’s clothing because they seek to deprive public schools of funding while cherry picking kids thus creating a bifurcated system where the public schools have to deal with far more difficult issues.

Frankly, any candidate that either does not see this or does and still continues to unequivocally support private equity charters should not be elected as mayor.

KC, right on.

posted by: Amityboy on June 22, 2013  8:57am

This debate was badly moderated. The candidates were asked questions that allowed them to move easily to prepared soundbites.

posted by: Allan Brison on June 22, 2013  10:43am

The definition of charters schools in the article is deficient. They are actually taxpayer-funded, but privately run for profit.

posted by: Webblog1 on June 22, 2013  12:02pm

I doubt Carolina’s conclusion that:

“Too many teachers live outside the city and come to New Haven just to teach. Because of that, “there’s a cultural disconnect” between teachers and kids”.

Many of these same teachers were reared and attended the New Haven school system, and for that reason, like Carolina,they chose to work in New Haven.

There is a cultural disconnect because of parents who have adopted their own standards of child rearing and the language associated with the new deviant sub-culture, which, does not mesh with the school taught culture.

Keitazulu was the only candidate brave enough to call out the parent as the primary party responsible for the child’s behavior at home and at school.

“Keitazulu blamed parents for letting kids run wild. He sees kids running around on the streets. “Where is your parents? Where is the truancy officer? Where is somebody”.

Keitazulu’s conclusion was not challenged by any of the other candidates.

Nemerson said…“Always a hard act to follow,” confesses Nemerson”. “True dat”.

posted by: VosS on June 22, 2013  4:38pm

Only in this comment section do we see any criticism of charter schools in New Haven. On what basis do the candidates support charters?

Why is it so difficult to find any fault with schools that serve so few students and ultimately draw resources and efforts - whether financial or theoretical - away from the public school system?

posted by: Razzie on June 22, 2013  4:50pm

Carolina’s attempt to scapegoat the students and teachers at Hillhouse simply don’t make much sense to me. In the 3 years he has been principal the HH results are terrible, even when compared to the other New Haven high schools:
If we look at the most recent CAPT scores performance of Hillhouse vis the other 8 high schools in the New Haven system you will see some rather dismal results.

Based on 2012 CAPT results the relative standing of HH was as follows:
Math: @ Goal [Last]  @ Proficiency [Last]
Science: @ Goal [6th]  @ Proficiency [Last]
Reading: @ Goal [6th]  @ Proficiency [Last]
Writing: @ Goal [Last]  @ Proficiency [Last]

From the just completed School Survey the teachers and students of HH showed sharp disapproval of Carolina’s performance:

“In the latest school survey, only 12 percent of teachers said they would recommend Hillhouse to their friends, compared to 66 percent across all high schools. And only 10 percent of teachers said that discipline and order are consistently maintained at the school, compared to 72 percent citywide.
Only 38 percent of Hillhouse teachers said they “trust the principal.”

From the New Haven Promise scholarship annual report, the number of Promise Scholarship applicants for this year declined (-12%) from last year. (Hillhouse was one of only two high schools showing a decline in applicants—from the 13 schools reporting. In fact, Riverside HS and New Horizons showed increases in Promise applicants).

Carolina talks about new transfers-in as somehow accounting fr his schools sorry standing among the other New Haven schools on the widely accepted performance indicators the NHPS uses to evaluate schools (and Principal’s) performance. I sincerely doubt that HH has so many transfers-in that it would seriously alter those results. Coming in last is coming in last, however you try to spin it. No Scapegoats.

posted by: Tom Burns on June 22, 2013  7:39pm

Not knowing what is happening on the ground in the NHPS at present leaves the candidates a bit lacking—I am sure that whoever wins we can get up to speed quickly—Together we proceed, no matter who wins—together is the operative word—As the VP of the NHFT I want to be perfectly clear that we will not accept any more charter schools (last one being the Montessori School) This is not Hartford or Bridgeport or Indiana or Dc or Philadelphia…
Why would we let another charter in until we see how Domus and Clemente are faring—Achievement First has its schools and they will not have anymore in New Haven—Renaissance is here because Achievement First wouldn’t take Clemente or any school for that matter playing by the same rules as our local public schools do—-We will not accept the launching of any new Charter Schools in New Haven—maybe in 4 years if Renaissance shows us something—until then forget it-UNACCEPTABLE—In the meantime all the ministers and the people who attend their churches can volunteer as mentors to our children (that would really make a difference)I would gladly work with the church leaders to get this started right away—I have not been privy to this application and teammates don’t surprise each other—so lets put it on hold- we have enough of our own experiments already—We have a plan that we have diligently worked on everyday for 4 years and that is where our focus needs to stay—we don’t need anymore distractions—just effort and hard-work at the initiatives we have already undertaken—The NHFT and I personally will not be a part of the slow dismantling of Public Education (it has been done quicker in other parts of the country)in CT. It is very evident where the SBE and Malloy want to take us—all the pieces are in place—but it AIN’T going to happen here—because here we care about every child—I repeat: No more charters—4 year moratorium until they prove themselves somewhere (using the same playing field) In solidarity-Tom

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on June 22, 2013  7:47pm

Harp: “The new slavery is the lack of education, and we’ve got to do something about it.” Wrong: The new slavery is allowing people to believe that they are dependent on the government. Black activist Star Parker calls this Uncle Sam’s Plantation. “What should a mayor do about all the kids, most of them black and brown, who are stuck in failing schools?” Why does no one mention vouchers? Oh, right: they’re all Democrats, and vouchers are anathema to unions. Keitazulu: “Our school system needs a total reconstruction from the bottom up.” Yet all of the candidates give mere variations of the same tired “solutions” we’ve heard for decades. Except vouchers.  Keitazulu “says instead of teachers, parents are to blame for letting kids ‘run wild.’” That’s a rather broad generalization; nevertheless, vouchers would place both control—and responsibility—for education upon the parent. Harp says that “The state invested nearly $200 million over 10 years in a reading program, but reading scores went down”. And we’ll waste another $200 million and more until we discard the entire system. “Carolina takes aim at Harp: ‘Some people’ have had the power to make decisions for 20 years, and have not done so”. Actually, she has: she’s helped put CT’s economy dead last in the nation & has had a major role in steering our state govt. towards bankruptcy. Elicker:  “Parents should have a choice.” But still no mention of vouchers.  “He calls for more charters like the Elm City Montessori school, which will be run as a unionized school”. Oh. THAT’S why no mention of vouchers.  “Holder-Winfield supports charters and choice.” Yet vouchers would provide the ultimate parental control of choice. Fernandez: “’it starts with our willingness to’ admit what’s broken.” And admitting that none of these candidates have offered us anything new. “There’s a general consensus around choice”—as long as it doesn’t include vouchers—or anything else that actually would be innovative for New Haven schools.

posted by: lrnoff on June 23, 2013  7:08am

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee has it right. I’ve long believed exactly what he says about school choice, but never knew how to express it so perfectly.
The only reason one school should be different from another is if it offer children a specific area of interest.

posted by: Curious on June 23, 2013  8:40am

Harp continues to be a dyed-in-the-wool politician.

Tapping into black anger, into deep emotions on racism, blaming “the system”, looking for more handouts from government…these are things that black leaders have done for decades that are not very good at changing the world for the better but are exceedingly good at getting those black leaders re-elected.

@ Sam Ross-Lee, I too have commented on NHI pieces only to have them edited after my comment was sent in, and NO statement at the end of the article that it had been changed, and when, and how.  That’s TERRIBLE journalism.

posted by: anonymous on June 23, 2013  9:14am

Razzie, have you ever looked at the demographics & student need at Hillhouse compared to the other 7 schools? Until then, your ranking is pretty meaningless. A school in Greenwich where every parent is a doctor or lawyer is always going to have better scores than a school where many students’ parents didn’t finish high school, especially if you, as Tom Burns puts it, “play by the same rules.”.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2013  9:49am

@Christopher SchaeferIs this the same Star Parker who gets her hand out from the right wing Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s college campus lecture program and who hangs with Sarah Palin.Also is this the same Star Parker who Celebrates Mark Sanford’s Return to Congress who used taxpayer dollars to pursue an extramarital affair.Give Me A break.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on June 23, 2013  9:57am

No one correlated the gradual downhill slide in the performance of schools and children, to the violence that everyone in the education circle has been forced to add to the education equation in the last 30 years. There is a direct connection, and it has been the heaviest burden to the efforts of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and civic leaders. When the violence stops, educational results will improve rapidly and dramatically.
    Right now, comparing the results of all school districts, successes versus failures, and then reviewing those areas with the most violence versus those without, makes it very evident why districts that are struggling cannot come up with solutions through programs of their own. The problem exists outside their control, and no one seems to want to connect these tow facts.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2013  10:13am

@Christopher Schaefer.As far as school vouchers they pose a serious threat to values that are vital to the health of American democracy. These programs subvert the constitutional principle of separation of church and state, and they threaten to undermine our system of public education.Even Thomas Jefferson, one of the architects of religious freedom in America, said,To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.School vouches would force citizens Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists to have their tax dollars pay for the religious indoctrination of school children at schools with narrow parochial agendas. In many programs, 80 percent of vouchers would be used in schools whose central mission is religious training. In most such schools, religion permeates the classroom, the lunchroom, even the football practice field. Channeling public money or tax income to these institutions flies in the face of the constitutional mandate of separation of church and State.Thomas Jefferson also lobbied the Virginia General Assembly to implement a system of publicly-funded schools.

Jefferson on Public Education: Defying Conventional Wisdom.

Also Public schools must accept everyone regardless of disabilities, test scores, religion, or other characteristics; private schools can show favoritism or discrimination in selecting students.Private schools can establish any criteria they want for selecting or rejecting students. Thus, they can discriminate.Also case and point say you get a $5,000 voucher it may make the difference for some families, giving them just enough to cover the tuition at a private school.With some private schools charging over $12,000 annual tuition, however, such
families would still have to pay thousands dollars to make up the difference.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on June 23, 2013  10:15am

Toni Harp is absolutely correct when she said “The new slavery is the lack of education, and we’ve got to do something about it.” Who can (with all honesty) dispute this?

When one has a deep seated bias towards Toni Harp it’s easy to misconstrue her words. 

Toni is a mother first.  A mother that has raised three wonderful children who were taught to think for themselves and to always carry yourself with dignity and respect for others regardless of their financial status. 

Children who grow up with the inability to read and think rationally, become indentured servants to society and thus become dependent on others to chart their course in life, rather than chart a course for themselves.  This is the essence of what Toni is conveying.

In response to Kermit taking a shot at Toni, if you can blame Toni for what (according to you) “Some people” have had the power to make decisions for 20 years, and have not done so, he said.”  Then I guess it’s accurate when others detail his failed leadership at Hillhouse. 

My mother always told me “it isn’t about excuses, it’s about results.”  While I agree with some of Kermit’s assertions regarding charter schools, I take issue with his insatiable appetite to blame everyone including the custodians as to why Hillhouse under his tutelage is faltering shamelessly.

I’m sure schools across the city that had a more positive scoring percentile also had teachers that lived outside of the city.

If Hillhouse were ranked number one across the city with all positive numbers, would Kermit give these same teachers credit, or keep it all for himself? Hmm!

True leadership admits to eras and assumes complete responsibility.  If you can take credit for the good, then you have to take blame for the bad. 

This comportment of Kermit, is a prelude of what will happen if he were elected mayor.  Blame the dog catcher for your neighbors baking dog.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2013  10:21am

@ Christopher Schaefer.Bottom line is that School vouchers undermine two great American traditions universal public education and the separation of church and state. Instead of embracing vouchers or neo-vouchers, communities should dedicate themselves to finding solutions that will be available to every American schoolchild.

P.S. My bad are not school vouchers a government hand out.

posted by: FacChec on June 23, 2013  12:17pm

Sorry folks, but the major focus of this debate was not charter schools. Carolina mentioned charters in relationship to “dumping of students in high schools. This was not the predominate issue as some have proclaimed.

The dominate issue was over policy, accountability and the Mayors role in influencing a new course for education.

Judging by the remarks from the candidates’ and the readers here, it appears the education system, run by Mayo and DeStefano for the past twenty years, has been a total failure.

Maybe, but no candidate has said that publicly, although the straight shooter Keitazulu, has intimated as much.

So how do all the candidates remarks and positions taken translate into actionable items leading to five year improvements.

Fernandez says “If there is no improvement in his first term, you can not re-elect me”.

It’s a sure bet Henry that you will not show marked improvement in your first term, nor will anyone else, since the new superintendent will have already been chosen, and a new Mayor will not have control over the board for at least two&one; half terms.  Only two commissioner term will expire in the next four years. See the link here for Board of education: OF EDUCATION

See what I’m saying Henry..!

Therefore, if the candidate really wants to separate themselve from the pack, She/he will have to deliver better nuts and bolts plan, far different from what has been offered here; and show how it will pass the BOE and the recalcitrant BOA in a first term.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on June 23, 2013  12:48pm

The NY Times recently reported that charter schools in NYC did not do a better job of educating students than a conventional public school.
  How about we stop busing, let the kids sleep a a bit later, put the money into neighborhood schools and end the lottery.
  As for Keitazulu’s idea that we educate students for the job market, I’m glad that didn’t happen in my school or I’d be an unemployed factory worker.
  Education is for the individual and should create choices as to a job or career path. Yes to vocational training. Not everyone needs or should have a college education.
  But everyone should be trained to think and learn how to make choices.
  My kids went to a so-called good school and I found it conventional and boring. They survived because they had parents who read to them at an early age and supported their interests.
  Poor families lack the resources of middle and upper middle class families. Support the parents and they will support their children.
  And if the schools are nearby, there will be more contact between the school, the teachers and the parents.
  Yes, restructure this system. It’s clear that no one likes the current one.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on June 23, 2013  1:51pm

@ ThreeFifths re. vouchers. States that have them have varying laws, some (E.g. Maine, Vermont) forbid vouchers for religious schools. In Ohio “Private schools cannot charge tuition above the value of the voucher to students with household incomes under 200% of the poverty guideline”. In Wisconsin “Schools cannot reject program applicants for any reason other than not having space available”. So the only accurate “generalization” one can make about school vouchers? It’s an idea that never has been tried in CT. Comparison of state laws: Vouchers in Sweden:

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2013  8:20pm

@Christopher Schaefer.Read Vouchers in Sweden: Scores Fall, Inequality Grows

Professor Levin writes:

In 1992 Sweden adopted a voucher-type plan in which municipalities would provide the same funding per pupil to either public schools or independent (private) schools.On December 3, 2012, Forbes Magazine recommended for the U.S. that: “…we can learn something about when choice works by looking at Sweden’s move to vouchers.” On March 11 and 12, 2013, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences did just that by convening a two day conference to learn what vouchers had accomplished in the last two decades. Interest in the subject had been piqued by several developments including the dramatic growth in private school enrollments and a fairly precipitous decline in Swedish performance on international tests. Results in reading, science, and mathematics had fallen at all grade levels from 1995 to the present in the international studies.
Read the rest.

In fact Vouchers have Failed in California and Michigan.Also did you know that Sweden prohibits home schooling, requires all children from age one to go to state-run day care

How about the Finland model prohibiting all independent schools.How about how Finland lets public school teachers enjoy nearly complete freedom and autonomy.Also in finland School choice doesn’t exist everyone goes to the neighborhood school. Students learn at least three languages.  There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success

The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.

Anu PartanenDec 29 2011,

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on June 23, 2013  8:26pm

This says it all.

Three-Minute Video Explaining the Common Core State Standards.

posted by: Nashstreeter on June 24, 2013  12:41am

You’d think everyone, from the Governor, to Stefan Pryor, to the Mayor, to Reggie Mayo would be mortified that they can’t run a decent school system. That they have to call in “experts,” or for-profit “nonprofits” to do the jobs they themselves don’t seem to be able to do. Like only certain “special” people can run a school? Well, why don’t we taxpayers just hire those “special” people ourselves and bypass the middleman?

The question suggests the answer. It’s all about the middleman. We’re shoveling money at education entrepreneurs because their operations are opaque and because they will do whatever it takes to make their school performance numbers look good: drill-and-kill, teach to the test, kick out the hard-to-teach kids, let only the college-bound students graduate. This is truly sick.

posted by: Brutus2011 on June 24, 2013  1:13pm

Incredibly well said “Nashstreeter”.-

It is all a sick game where the edu-managers laugh all the way to the bank-

And we citizens keep electing them.

posted by: Bill Saunders on June 25, 2013  2:14pm

If only our 1.5 billion dollar school building program delivered places to learn that looked like this— as a kid, I would have been excited for school.