Carolina Touts Hillhouse Progress

Paul Bass PhotoNot only are more students reaching graduation at Hillhouse High School; they are also staying in college longer.

Kermit Carolina revealed that information at a backyard meet-and-greet in Westville Sunday evening for his Democratic mayoral campaign.

He mentioned those facts as part of a pitch that he is the most qualified of the four Democrats competing in the Sept. 10 Democratic mayoral primary based on his performance the past three years as principal of Hillhouse High School.

“I’m managing and leading change every day in one of the most challenging neighborhoods in the city,” Carolina declared.

Some 35 neighbors and campaign supporters ...

... including prolific online news commenter Three-Fifths and Edgewood activist Eli Greer (pictured ) ...

... gathered at the home of attorney Bob Pellegrino (at left in photo with Carolina), who introduced the candidate to the crowd. Pellegrino said he has known and been friendly with Carolina for over two decades and always admired his commitment to young people.

Carolina stressed the importance of addressing the problems of young people growing up in difficult surroundings in New Haven. He spoke of how he has experienced the city’s challenges from different perspectives: He was raised by a single mother in the Elm Haven projects. He became a school principal; he and his wife, director of human resources at Naugatuck Valley Community College, live in upper Westville and feel the pressures of paying the city’s high taxes while preparing to send their two boys to college, he said.

As Hillhouse’s principal, “I’m surrounded by four of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city,” Carolina remarked. “Some of the students who come through the door, it’s challenging. I see where our young people are going astray.”

“I feel that I’m the most experienced candidate,” Carolina said. “Why do I say that? First thing, I think that none of the other candidates have managed more than 15 people. I’ve managed probably over 1,500 people on a daily basis … I have a little under 1,000 students. I have over 100 teachers in my building. I have paraprofessionals, security, police officers, cafeteria workers, deans …

“We’ve shown results. In the three short years I’ve been at HIllhouse, we have decreased the drop-out rate by 33 percent. …. We’ve increased our graduation rate from 42 percent to 57 recent and counting … We have tripled the amount of students who have passed the Advanced Placement exams. We have tripled the amount of parents in the building.”

He has now just received “some other great news,” Carolina said. “Our college persistence rate—meaning the amount of students that stay in college after year one—has increased from 68 percent to 82 percent.”

Former neighborhood Alderwoman Nancy Ahern (pictured) asked Carolina how many assistant principals Hillhouse has. The school has reduced the number from eight to five, Carolina responded.

Ahern said she believes the school needs just one.

“Have you ever run a school?” Carolina asked her.

“I went to a school—called Hillhouse,” Ahern responded. “It had a principal and a dean” back then.

Carolina said he agrees the number should be further reduced. He said he does believe the school needs more than one assistant principal; times have changed over the decades since Ahern’s day, he said, with students coming in with greater challenges.

He identified two ways to reduce further the number of assistant principals.

One way: Slice off the part of the job description that deals with “school climate,” or misbehavior. Rather than paying one assistant principal $125,000 a year for that aspect of the job, he can find two qualified “community members” to handle it for a total of $67,500, he said. He said he has started to do that with “dean” positions.

A second way: Stop “the dance of the lemons.” Carolina used that term to describe the practice of shifting underperforming assistant principals around to different schools rather than trying to fire them. He said he’d seek to end that costly practice.

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posted by: Hieronymous on August 26, 2013  9:45am

**Slice off the part of the job description that deals with “school climate,” or misbehavior. Rather than paying one assistant principal $125,000 a year for that aspect of the job, he can find two qualified “community members” to handle it for half the salary each, he said.**

So . . . same salary, twice the benefits?

[Editor: Clarification: Carolina followed up to say he pays a total of $67,500 for both dean positions.]

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 26, 2013  10:18am

I was there.In fact I went to the other mayoral candidates mayoral candidates Meet and Greet.I talk with the people at each meet and greet. But talking to the people at this meet and greet,Most of them seem to have a open ear about Carolina Platform.Plus also went to get my ticket to the up and comming debate.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on August 26, 2013  11:02am

I can’t view the Hillhouse “results” on the Independent and not ask why Mr. Carolina gets a free pass.  His school and those under his control have been accused of grade tampering and it is not my understanding that the full extent has not run its course.  See NHI articles:  Nor do they point out the racial disparity in graduation rates they previously covered:  Moreover, there was a recent intra-school poll demonstrating that teachers at Hillhouse wouldn’t recommend their own school and most are disaffected with its leadership.

However, if Senator Harp does something, her husband’s company’s back taxes or her son’s property management company, is often brought up.  If the paper is to be fair, it should be fair.  Report the news and editorialize baggage and all for every candidate.

Hillhouse may have done better at getting its students through graduation.  But so long as there has been a culture of grade changing, any such increase must be viewed with open skepticism and should be reported as such.

posted by: westville man on August 26, 2013  12:04pm

Atticus, I’ll give the distinctions between the 2 but I doubt it will matter to you:

Harp’s family record on back taxes and property conditions are proven and easily verifiable.

Carolina, after turning down King John’s request for mayoral support and a photo op 2 yrs ago, became the target of a politically motivated investigation by a lawyer who works for King John and then by Mayo who publicly claimed he wouldnt be invloved in it.  The findings were not only paltry, they are under dispute presently in arbitration and the courts. Clearly not a final adjudication.  The only tampering that went on was with Carolina’s reputation.

posted by: DavidK on August 26, 2013  12:08pm

I followed the Carolina story at Hill House and wondered how a gym teacher to got to be principal. I remember the investigation of grade tampering that focused on student athletes and how a remedial summer school course turned into 1st year English to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. But what most bothered me was his insubordination to his boss (Mayo). One may not like there boss but you don’t attack him in the media. If he gets elected Mayor would he blame and attack the voters?

posted by: Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil on August 26, 2013  12:28pm

I agree with Atticus.
The NHI has chosen to be silent on the issues surrounding the Kermit Grade Changing Scandal.  For reasons, I cannot fathom.  Yet, the NHI will reiterate the accusations a slandering of Toni Harp and her deceased husband.  Why?
There are more than a few students adversely affected by his grade changing.  Recently, the one who lost his full scholarship to UCONN, has decided to drop out of the prep school he was shunned to!  He is afraid to speak up because Kermit and his cronie have secured silence from his mother.  Print this NHI, I dare you to reveal the incompetence of this candidate, who attributes his candidacy to, “God, called me to run.”  Unbeleivable!

[Editor: Thanks for the note. We broke the original story about the controversy surrounding grade-changing at Hillhouse; the school board had tried to discuss it quietly at a pre-Chirstmas Eve Friday night unpublicized board meeting until we found out about it and reported the story. We then reported on it exhaustively for months. Well more than a dozen full-length stories can hardly be considered being “silent,” in my view. The stories are easily available and searchable in our files, as the above comments prove. We are in no way hiding that story; nor are we obsessing about it to the exclusion of all other coverage. Similarly, we looked in depth at the accusations made about Toni Harp’s family’s real estate practices, broke the original story about conditions at a senior complex, did a full-length investigation piece, then moved on. Those pieces, with both sides represented in full, are also easily findable on the site. In both cases we are choosing to write about other topics as well in these campaigns; we believe that many, many issues are at stake in this campaign. We are choosing to avoid making every story have to include and become overwhelmed by accusations concerning a much-reported on and discussed specific issue. I know that bothers partisans who despise and want to destroy a specific opponent and limit campaign discussion to a specific accusation they consider damaging. Their campaigns have websites and the ability to do that all they please. It’s not our job to assassinate the character or prop up the campaign of any candidate. We’re publishing a news website covering an entire campaign for all readers. ]

posted by: westville man on August 26, 2013  12:35pm

David K-  i was a lifeguard once but now have a doctorate and run my own company so I’m not sure what the first sentence of your post means..

If you care enough to- -read the rebuttal that’s available online at NHI.  It’s found under the article about the NAACP potential investigation of Mayo’s & others actions.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on August 26, 2013  1:11pm

To Mr. Bass and the NHI staff,

It was not my intention to state or imply that every article about Mr. Carolina should bring up the grade changing or the social climate at Hillhouse.  However, it was my perception that this particular article should bring it up because he is touting the graduation rate as a success after he lowered the attendance requirement and has been accused of participating in grade manipulation, and the school recorded one of the worst climates in the City.  Supplying that information would provide a reader with a frame of reference for his touted successes. 

I by no means insinuate that every article should include worthless information.  Indeed, I don’t think Mr. Carolina a true factor in this race.  However, I do think a fuller context is relevant in this particular case.

Obviously, intelligent people can agree on the worth of a few extra words.  It does not appear to me that every current reader of the NHI would’ve seen the prior articles on Mr. Carolina.  With that said, I defer to your professionalism and coverage and thank you for continuing to bring the news to New Haven.  And I do think you all have been doing a very good job with election coverage to date.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on August 26, 2013  2:15pm

First and foremost, I agree with Atticus to the letter.

This isn’t about name calling, this is about facts.  This paper has allowed Toni Harp to be served up on skewers, while making the other candidates look like choirboys. 

I don’t know Justin Elicker well.  But what I do know about him is that politically speaking, he is absolutely wrong for being mayor of New Haven.  Justin’s New Canaan style of politics, might not even work in New Canaan.

My knowledge of Henry Fernandes in whom I know fairly well is that, he’s a narcissist.  Moreover, I find it politically striking that both he and Kermit Carolina are running campaigns that are indistinguishable. Hmmm!

Kermit has run a campaign in my opinion couched solely in anger, sexism, characterchers, fabrication and comedy.  Hey guys! Where are your issues that encompases all of New Haven?

If the taxpayers of this city were to display complete honesty with themselves, then they would join me in support of the most qualified person to lead this great city of New Haven, and that person would be none other than that of Toni Harp.

Judgement plays an integral role not only in life, but understanding leadership.  Toni (since I’ve known her)  has never been the type of “kiss the baby” politician.  She goes about her daily life trying to seek in whom she can be of service.  You’re not always going to get a rise out her with flamboyant laughter or gestures.  However, what you will always get is honesty and genuineness.  That is what personifies true leadership.

My aforementioned, however, brief synopsis of Toni, isn’t meant to be a knock on the other candidates’ youth and inexperience. It was meant to convey a descriptive prelude to the style of person who will occupy City Hall next year.

As these guys have tried unsuccessfully to carve Toni up by calling her a plethora of disrespectful names, she hasn’t uttered one word condemning them in retaliation.

Why doesn’t the paper touch on that?

posted by: Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil on August 26, 2013  2:29pm

Dear NHI,

Thank you for the clarification.  As I have stated previously, I read your paper everyday!  I appreciate your reporting, but why haven’t you done a story on the athletes adversely affected by that scandal.  They are in plain sight, have nothing to do with the litigation, and have had their futures irrevocably changed for the worse by his actions. These athletes are innocent bystanders, who would be in college still, if Kermit Carolina had lead with integrity.  To silence a parent with “gratuity” by exploiting socioeconomic need is completely opposite of what Kermit Carolina is supposedly campaigning for!  Just like your reporter actively sought Kermit Carolina out after the debate where he made the allegations, as the article reads, to trespass on RM property and disturb elderly tenants in the middle of the night…why doesn’t the NHI actively seek out these young people who are now relegated to “who knows what”?  DO THE STORY and shut all the naysayers up!  The city deserves to know the truth and the results from the persons directly effected by these horrible acts.

posted by: westville man on August 26, 2013  2:53pm

Tell the “truth”

The reason is that Mayo and the so-called “whistle-blower” are the ones who ruined those young athletes careers, not Carolina. No grades were changed or tampered with. Read the report. A NAME of a class was changed to comport with the class name at hillhouse since there was no such class designation or district policy to guide teachers or administrators. 

to Atticus & BLJ- i repeat, you will be surprised (and disapppointed) that Kerm is alive and well after the primary. He’s in to win it.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on August 26, 2013  4:07pm


First, I think Kanye and Kim should’ve named their kids @west and then immediately filed for copyright protection of the name and purchased the domain name.  It would’ve been an ingenious idea.

Your belabored conversation with @Tell gets to my point: there is reasonable debate as to Mr. Carolina’s involvement in grade manipulation and its impact on students.  When you tout your credentials and record as an agent for progress, the good and bad should come out.  You should not be able to state without challenge that you were responsible for change when there is an arbitration hearing still pending and then likely a lawsuit after that. 

Candidates should be privy to that information during an article such as this.  That was my first and only point.  I am not disparaging Mr. Carolina or casting aspersions but merely ask that he be held up to the same standard of review he demands of other candidates.

As for your prediction, who cares?  Time will tell.  Until then, keep on doing what you’re doing.  Your comments are always welcome.

posted by: Razzie on August 26, 2013  6:17pm

Conspicuous in its absence from this article is any discussion of what the Principal proposes to do to improve Hillhouse’s academic performance. Since Carolina has been there, Hillhouse has failed to make adequate yearly progress in meeting its goals, and no significant staff or program changes have been announced for the upcoming year. Hillhouse has performed at the bottom of the list of high schools in nearly all statistical categories measured by the NHPS Board of Ed.

“I’m managing and leading change every day in one of the most challenging neighborhoods in the city,” Carolina declared. It would have been more helpful if the author had asked, and reported on, precisely what the “changes” are of which the Principal is talking about.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on August 26, 2013  6:29pm


I was their even recorded the first hearing…it was the most horrific display. I can honestly say that Carolina was targeted! And the whole thing was jaw dropping. I can say that I will stand by Carolina on this. The truth will come out and I to think Kerm will be vindicated.

still supporting Elicker :) But I love Kerm to.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on August 26, 2013  8:09pm

Yesterday I received a call from a political pollster. The questions asked were primarily geared toward placing Senator Harp in a negative light. No hardball questions or views were specifically asked about the other candidates. I guess that was to be expected from a poll paid for by a rival campaign.
A number of comments made about this article raise serious questions about this newspaper’s fairness in its treatment and coverage of each of the candidates. Mr. Bass’ explanations about prior reporting and fairness notwithstanding, many readers clearly see a double standard when it comes to investigative reporting by the NHI.
In that infamous and inflammatory debate held at Metropolitan Business Academy several weeks ago in which a number of personal and controversial charges and accusations were made by several candidates against each other, the NHI was urged by some readers to investigate the validity of ALL of the charges made that night. This was never done. Instead the NHI rushed in haste over to the Harp properties to investigate the “slumlord” charges and reported on the conditions there, but left untouched and unexamined the other accusations made that night. It seemed to be a fair request for the NHI to provide the community a service of fair and balanced reporting by FACT CHECKING every charge that was hurled around the debate room that night, but the NHI failed to honor that request. So here, many weeks later, questions still circulate around the community about why the NHI reports certain things and not others regarding those involved in this campaign. These inquiring minds simply want fair, equitable and balanced reporting.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on August 26, 2013  11:52pm

@ Westville man: “to Atticus & BLJ- i repeat, you will be surprised (and disapppointed) that Kerm is alive and well after the primary. He’s in to win it.”

My displeasure as it relates to Kermit deals specifically with politics and politics only.  Kermit is my brother…and I love to see him as well as Michael Jefferson, Scott X, Gary Highsmith and the rest of his team do extremely well.

However, I totally abhor the style of campaign the Carolina team decided to launch.  Instead of filing papers to run for mayor of the City of New Haven, they filed papers to run ONLY AGAINST Toni Harp. There is something sick in this T. Dawson style of politics.

I have been involved in politics since I was a kid.  So nothing politically surprises me Westville Man.

As Kermit according to you is “in to win
it.”  I am working harder to help him lose it.

posted by: True that on August 27, 2013  6:45am

@David K,

Carolina was never a gym teacher, though if he were, such a job would still require a college degree.  It is my understanding that Carolina was a Social Studirs teacher, Assistant Principal and the Princicpal of Hillhouse.  Carolina was also head basketball coach of Hillhouse Boys and Girls Basketball teams, leading each of those teams to state championships ( the boys team more than once.). Kermit had to get his bachelors and Masters degrees, as well as a sixth year in school leadership to be in the position he is in now.  This, as you should know, is no small task for someone who grew up in poverty.  As to the alleged grade tampering, the Independent rightfully states that the superintendent and Mayor quietly orchestrated a board meeting on December 23rd wherein the press was contacted to come to make these ridiculous accusations against Carolina.  Both the Mayor and Superintendent got more than they bargained for on that night.  The process regarding these allegations has not run it’s course, but what we do know is that Floyd Dugas, a contributor to DeStefano’s reelection campaign, earned tens of thousands for the investigation, and continued to rake in the dough for other work thereafter.  I would agree that the allegations are fair game.  I would also urge anyone who wants to know what happened to read through the Independent’s archive and find the PPT.  Carolina and Jefferson have so eloquently and meticulously destroyed the so called investigation that any reasonable person would conclude as they did that the whole thing was a fishing expedition that turned into a witch hunt.

posted by: westville man on August 27, 2013  8:33am

AS   thanks for weloming my continued comments ;>/ 

My “belaboring” only has to do with the continued misrepresentation and exageration of the so-called investigation against Carolina.  Many posters here (whom i will not name for fear of the dreaded NHI censor) spend half of their posts slamming Kerm with falsehoods. I choose not to let them go unchallenged.
I also do NOT choose to constantly bash his opponents, though there is fertile ground to do so.  I dont “pretend” to be someone’s friend, or like him, and then spew falsehoods.
Many here make predictions and assumptions that I disagree with.  “Who cares”?  i’m thinking some people do.
The rebuttal to the report is very powerful- it shows the report’s bias, conflict of interest, motive, sloppy investigation, contradictions and unsupported conclusions.
It’s not simply a “conspiracy defense”.
And a big thanx to True that- thanks for putting so eloquently what i’ve been trying to say.

posted by: obi on August 27, 2013  10:38am

@ Brian Jenkins > re: Mr.Carolina, “filed papers to run ONLY AGAINST Toni Harp.”  Isn’t it true he was in race BEFORE career politician Harp?  And would it be fair to say that Toni endorsed Rep. Winfield, then announced her candidacy, and next day trashed Winfield? Toni Harp entered after the fact to run against the OTHERS in race.  I hope you are not having a junior moment as they preceed senior moments.

posted by: DavidK on August 27, 2013  11:11am

@True that
Read the book Freakonomics. It describe statistical techniques to determine whether test grading was fraudulant. I felt that such a analysis was in order. You are right that the investigation was narrowly defined, in my mind, done to protect the guilty. Mayo gave him a break and was repaid with the back of the hand. Also since when is Basketball coach a career path to be Principal of a high school. In my days, a gym teacher performed this task.