Mayor Toni Harp Monday blasted some members of the Board of Education for “battering and bashing” the schools superintendent instead of offering constructive ideas to improve schools.
She also said that recent shootings of New Haven teens have prompted a second look at how violence prevention programs are working at Hillhouse High School.
Harp made the comments on the weekly “Mayor Monday” on WNHH radio.
She defended her actions in declaring a Board of Education member’s term to have expired (read a story about that, with both sides of the issue, here), then tackled the question of whether New Haven’s new partially elected board is bringing progress and more democracy to the public school system.
Some of the members have spent too much time “battering and bashing” Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries, she said.
“I think the way in which Garth Harries has been treated by this Board of Education, not ever willing to look at the nubmers and the progress that’s being made and trying to use everything within their power to push him out without taking alook at the hard facts ... .They’re going to use things like evaluations ... They’re going to use things like when he was in a temper one time. he may have said some things to people that he regretted and apologized for. ...
“I’ve never seen anyone who really works hard and believes in kids take the kind of punsihment that he has taken ... I would say, if they had another idea about how to improve education for our kids, aside from bashing him at every opportunity, then I would say it owuld be worth it. But I haven’t heard those ideas. And it’s been nine months! I’ve heard about getting minority contracting. But I haven’t heard about what are we going to do to improve education in the knowledge-based economy for these kids. I just hear bashing of Garth.
Harp was asked about the argument that the new board has forced the schools to operate with more transparency and to pay more attention to making sure teacher slots were filled by the time the academic year started; and that longer and contentious public meetings are productive democracy in action.
“I would say what is best about democracy is if people want ot come into it to try to make things better. If they just want to tear down other people, if they just want to tear down the people they perceive to be in power and doing positive and productive things, then people need to look at that and make changes,” Harp said.
But she also praised elected board member Darnell Goldson for insisting that education officials follow parliamentary procedures. “He’s been a stickler for that. I think we’re better for that,” she said.
Click here for a previous story in which Caraballo and fellow board member Carlos Torres detail their concerns about the schools leadership.
She responded that the teens attend Hillhouse. The shootings prompted her administration to revisit its various efforts to work with troubled students, including Youth Stat (read about that program here) and the Family Alliance’s street outreach worker program.
“Gun violence is down in New Haven. There has abeen a rash of violence. The one young man who was killed was a high school student, was returning from the criminal justice system and for some reason he escaped our Youth Stat program. We think that’s very effective. Our folks at Youth Stat, and that includes our youth services department, all our street outreach workers … as well as probation, parole for our juvenile folks, our mental health providers, are all basically meeting around this gunviolence resurgence that really seems to have something to do with Hillhouse High School students,” Harp said.
“We are aware of the problem. We are working on it. I have every confidence that our police department and our other partners will get to the bottom of it.”
Back From The Mothership
Harp recently joined other Democratic mayors from around the country for a strategy session at Hillary Clinton’s national presidential campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. They discussed how to pump up energy in their cities to increase the turnout on Nov. 8.
Even though Connecticut is a blue state, Democrats need to work hard to turn out voters that day, not just for Clinton, but to retain control of the state legislature, Harp said. “We could lose the [state] Senate,” she said. If that happens, she said, crucial state fiscal aid as well as criminal justice and health initiatives important to the city could be at risk.
Click on or download the above audio file to listen to the full episode of WNHH radio’s “Mayor Monday,” which also touched on the new Canal Dock Boathouse project, Long Wharf’s New Premier Suites, and transportation.
Today’s episode was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C.