$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.
The 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.
Dave 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”
Klaus (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.
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