Mayor “Not Scared” By $100M

IMG_6488.jpg$100,000? That’s a good start, said Mayor John DeStefano—toward the $100 million he hopes to raise for school reform.

DeStefano (at left in photo) was pleased Thursday about receiving the $100,000 that business leaders had promised to raise for his ambitious drive to remake public schools in New Haven and close the achievement gap. The mayor joined school and business officials on a deck of Quinnipiac University’s new sports complex to celebrate the milestone.

DeStefano used the occasion to announce a new goal: He aims to raise “north of $100 million” from the state, federal government, the private sector and philanthropists in the next five years to support the school reform effort.

“I’m not scared by that figure,” said the mayor. He pointed to the city’s school construction program, which cost $1.5 billion.

The city needs to “not be shy about our goals,” DeStefano said. “In many ways, we’re only limited by dollars.”

The first installment, $103,500, comes from 15 businesses and institutions. Jeff Klaus, education chair of the Regional Leadership Council, made good on a promise this summer to drum up the money from the business community. He got help from William Ginsberg, CEO of the Community Foundation For Greater New Haven, which is acting as a fiduciary.

The money will help pay for a study by a New York City-based group called the New Teacher Project. The group will spend four months in New Haven surveying teachers and principals and drawing up recommendations on how to: recruit, orient, train, develop, measure and reward teachers.

Teacher talent is of four planks of the city’s ambitious school reform drive, which aims to close the achievement gap by 2015, cut the dropout rate in half and ensure every student can go to college.

IMG_6506.JPGThe New Teacher Project (TNTP) was founded by Michelle Rhee, who went on to make national waves as the school chancellor in Washington, D.C. Its board of directors includes school reformer Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America. The group has worked with 21 districts in the country, including Newark and New York City. In New York, TNTP oversaw a teaching fellows program, and helped place teachers who were “excessed” when their schools were closed and reconstituted, said Crystal Harmon (pictured), a partner on NTP’s policy team.

TNTP is pitching in $100,000 to match the New Haven private sector’s donation to fund a $200,000 study. The scope of their work in New Haven will be determined at a meeting with the mayor on Friday. The general aim is to design a framework for the school system to attract and retain great teachers, DeStefano said. He said the study will likely be the first phase of a collaboration with NTP. He hopes to work with the group on setting up a teacher evaluation system, which needs to be ready to go by next fall.

Harmon applauded the mayor’s plans. “Your work has truly made New Haven a national pioneer” in school reform, she said.

DeStefano credited the teachers union with helping to make this possible. The new teacher’s contract, which met overwhelming ratification from the rank-and-file and awaits a final OK from aldermen, will introduce significant flexibility in how the district manages schools. The contract has put New Haven on the map nationally, earning praise from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as well as the head of the American Federation of Teachers.

IMG_6498.JPGDave Cicarella (pictured), president of the teacher’s union, welcomed the resources and affirmed his solidarity with the city. “We really feel that this school reform effort will take us to the next step,” he said.

Schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo thanked the business community for pitching in.

“We know that we cannot do it alone,” he said. “We’re going to need all of the stakeholders in this community.”

DeStefano said the money that businesses commit will return to the greater New Haven area when more students graduate from college.

Each high school dropout in New Haven earns $28,000 less per year than peers who make it through college, the mayor said.  Over a lifetime, those lost earnings amount to $1.5 million per dropout.  The school reform initiative aims to cut the dropout rate in half by 2015. If that goal’s attained, city officials calculate, they will have snagged a $400 million-plus return of activity in the region’s economy per year. The money will return to the economy because college graduates also shop more and buy their own homes, the argument goes.

That’s why DeStefano calls school reform a “wealth multiplier.”

“Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time”

IMG_6511.JPGKlaus (pictured), regional president of Webster Bank, amplified the call to improve the city’s schools.

“Public school education is the civil rights issue of our time,” Klaus said. “There’s no antidote to poverty quite like the elixir of education.”

He said the $100,000 commitment signals a new kind of relationship developing between the private sector and the public schools. The partnership will develop as a “direct result” of the school reform drive, he said.

After he stepped off the podium, Klaus recounted how that relationship has evolved. Over the past 10 years, there’s been “very little private philanthropy going into the New Haven Public Schools,” he said.

That’s not because the business sector wasn’t interested in school reform. Klaus said he’s been active for the last decade in recruiting businesses to help improve schools. They chose a different avenue: Klaus and city philanthropists have focused most on aiding the charter school movement through Achievement First and the Amistad Schools.

Like Alex Johnston, whom DeStefano just named to the school board, Klaus is a former critic who now finds himself on the same page as DeStefano on account of the reform drive.

“The leadership of the city has now chosen a path that the private sector can get behind 100 percent,” said Klaus.

DeStefano continued the pitch at a business luncheon Thursday afternoon.

In remarks at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the mayor noted that Connecticut has ranked dead last in the country in job creation since 1990. He noted that the recession’s nascent easing is being called a “jobless recovery” for now. It could prove permanently jobless unless the business community invests in preparing people to work in those eds-and-meds jobs, he warned. He urged businesspeople to invest in his school-reform drive, which got its first corporate $100,000 check earlier that morning from the Regional Leadership Council.

Yale’s Bruce Alexander picked up the school reform theme in his remarks upon accepting the Community Leadership Award.

“Having brought our community this far, it is fair to say ‘What is next?’ as we have hardly reached the Promised Land,” Alexander stated in prepared remarks. “There is still plenty to do ...

“My own candidates for ‘what is next’ include public school reform, so that this generation of our urban youth have, in this land of opportunity, choices about the future that are now often denied them, a circumstance that is surely among the greatest failings of my generation all across urban America.” (Click here to read Alexander’s full speech.)

Below is a list of businesses and institutions that pitched in for the $100,000 check:

$15K: The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Yale New Haven Hospital, New Alliance (Foundation and bank). $10K: Berchem Moses. $5K: Webster Bank, United Illuminating, AT&T, Bank of America, Higher One, United Way, Quinnipiac University, Southern Connecticut State University, Workforce Development Board. $2.5K: Svigals + Partners. $1K: Economic Development Corporation.

Total: $103,500.

Paul Bass contributed reporting.

Some previous stories about New Haven’s school reform drive:

Useful Applause: Duncan, AFT Praise City
Reformer Moves Inside
After Teacher Vote, Mayo Seeks “Grand Slam”
Will Teacher Contract Bring D.C. Reward?
What About The Parents?
Teachers, City Reach Tentative Pact
Philanthropists Join School Reform Drive
Wanted: Great Teachers
“Class of 2026” Gets Started
Principal Keeps School On The Move
With National Push, Reform Talks Advance
Nice New School! Now Do Your Homework
Mayo Unveils Discipline Plan
Mayor Launches “School Change” Campaign
Reform Drive Snags “New Teacher” Team
Can He Work School Reform Magic?
Some Parental Non-Involvement Is OK, Too
Mayor: Close Failing Schools
Union Chief: Don’t Blame The Teachers
3-Tiered School Reform Comes Into Focus
At NAACP, Mayo Outlines School Reform
Post Created To Bring In School Reform
Board of Ed Assembles Legal Team

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posted by: Voter on October 23, 2009  9:53am

After 16 years of doing nothing and an election in 2 weeks. Do you think we believe this?

posted by: community supporter on October 23, 2009  10:52am

This is sick sell out the kids instead of just doing what is needed. When money starts to speak for our children what are we saying?
I wonder how many concessions the private sector gets for investing in the poor peoples public education the city is selling out well they’ve been selling out. 

�There�s no antidote to poverty quite like the elixir of education.�

this commitment signals a new kind of relationship developing between the private sector and the public schools. The partnership will develop as a �direct result� of the school reform drive, he said.
That�s why DeStefano calls school reform a �wealth multiplier.�

posted by: sjbj on October 23, 2009  11:40am

If money were the answer, New Haven would be among the top school systems in the state. They spend more per student than most (all?—maybe) other municipalities in CT. WHERE /HOW do we spend OUR money?—obviously not in ways /places that help our children. How many $100K /year administrators do we need? Recent article in New Haven Register pointed out that there are more folks in Dept .of Ed making over $100K than in all the other city departments combined. Let’s spend some money IN the classroom, on resources that affect the children. Then we might see real change.

posted by: New and Improved on October 23, 2009  11:58am

Did these guys go to the Hamden to announce an initiative for New Haven.  What’s wrong with a press opt from the streets of New Haven?  What are they ashamed of?

posted by: matt on October 23, 2009  12:30pm

haha! Paul bass contributed reporting. Excellent.

posted by: Mr Grant on October 23, 2009  2:23pm

Mayor DeStefano has blown 2 billion of tax payers money building ivory towers he calls schools. Now he realizes that teachers and text books are important things. A quick learner is Johnny Boy. Another $100 million will be easy. The Register reported he raised $140,000 for his campaign when we have State funded elections. Fair to all candidates. Ever heard of influence peddling. We should call him Ponzi Johnni. Yes we will remember him. We will be paying for the next twenty years. Will we think he was a great mayor. He kept our kids uneducated so he could rule unchallenged.

posted by: bill on October 23, 2009  2:35pm

This seems like a case of good money chasing bad. New Haven already gets 46% of its money from the state and manages to squander it. You might as well flush that 100 million down the toilet as long as DeStenfano is the mayor.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on October 23, 2009  2:56pm

To all the critics - you’ve had your chance for years and years to elect someone else, or even put up a close competitor.  You haven’t done it, so your criticism just sounds whiney.  He doesn’t even have to pay attention to you, EVER, if the closest thing to an alternative candidate is either Ralph Ferrucci or Rick Elster.

If you don’t like the mayor, and he has worn out his welcome than find someone to run for mayor - or run yourself.  All you need to put a scare into him is get 12,000 votes in a city with over 50,000 eleigible voters.

But that’s not going to happen.  You know it and I know it.  So AT LEAST start to take the guy at his brand new words which are: “HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE SUCCESS OF OUR SCHOOLS”.

It seems to me that if you have had enough of this guy, then the very least that you want to do is to agree with him on this point.  Because if he doesn’t make sufficient progress in the schools over the next two years, you can nail him.  And if he DOES get some serious traction, then we’re all winners.

posted by: Brian V on October 23, 2009  4:22pm

Fix Schools- Well said

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 23, 2009  5:58pm

I wish this man would come up here and run for mayor.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 23, 2009  6:18pm

New Haven may have fell for this con game, But I see other states have not.I bet when mayo retires
he get’s a Job out of this.

posted by: angelo on October 23, 2009  8:59pm

Threefifths posts a 4 minute youtube and says “I wish this man would come up here and run for mayor.”  Really.  It’s that kind of thoughtful commentary that ensures that nobody will ever take you seriously.  You complain and whine, but can be convinced by a 4 minute give and take, by someone you probably know nothing about.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 24, 2009  12:49am


Threefifths posts a 4 minute youtube and says “I wish this man would come up here and run for mayor.” Really. It’s that kind of thoughtful commentary that ensures that nobody will ever take you seriously. You complain and whine, but can be convinced by a 4 minute give and take, by someone you probably know nothing about.

Tell me what King John has done for New Haven for the past years he been in office. Did you look at the video because if you did you would see the point he is trying to make in the video and that is how we can use money to fix the schools that we already have. I am also in the process of try to get him and so other people to come up and speak about how we can use the money we have to fix the schools that we already have in place.Rember washighton changes administration every eight years,What happens when a new adminstration says we are not going to fund this anymore than what happens to the schools. I don’t agree with fix the schools,But what I respect about fix the schools is that he will fight to get his points and ideas across. As far nobody taking me seriously you have by writing a response
to my comments.

posted by: queenie on October 24, 2009  12:37pm

mayor john can’t do no wrong….he is KING.yea right..

posted by: Next Thing on October 25, 2009  11:15am

Next thing we’ll hear that DeStefano was born in Kenya.  There is a bizarre weirdness developing in his detractors who seem largely to be present here on NHI.

Remind me exactly how someone who has to get elected every 2 years is other than the actual choice of the residents of the city.  Or how his policies are not apparently what the people of the city want.

If you don’t like his policies, go ahead and bash them but the comments here are so ridiculous that they probably actually do more to make you look like a loon then make him vulnerable.

He is not the king, he does not act like he is a king, and he gets re-elected consistently.

posted by: angelo on October 26, 2009  2:26pm

Next Thing - you are absolutely correct.  The fact that DeStefano gets reelected so easily is because the majority of the voters believe he is a good mayor.  The reason other wannabes make noises about running, but don’t, is because they know they will lose.  This forum, like most others, is not representative, because people are moved to write when they have something to complain about, not to mention that a few people use more than their share of air. The fact is, John Daniels was an absolute disaster, but since then DeStefano has governed with a high degree of competence.

posted by: Citizen on October 26, 2009  3:30pm

I wouldn’t chalk up King Johnny’s string of re-elections to popularity or successful policies. How about voter apathy? Let’s see what the typical turnout is? 20%? 30%? That’s not exactly a mandate IMHO.

posted by: angelo on October 26, 2009  11:49pm

there is little question that voters do not turn out for races they believe are not seriously contested.  In New Haven, voters do not think the mayoral race is seriously contested and they expect John DeStefano to win.  When Marty Looney ran, DeStefano won 2-1.  Since then, he has not had a strong opponent, for a good reason - noone thinks they can win.  Does anyone (ANYONE!) seriously believe that there are not a lot of people who would run if they thought they had a chance to win?  You can grumble in this and other columns, but the voters don’t care what you think and they prove you wrong every two years.  That’s not really an opinion so much as a description of the facts.