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Stratton Demands Probe Of $40M In “Illegal” Board Of Ed Spending

by Thomas MacMillan | Mar 27, 2014 6:56 am

(57) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, City Budget

Thomas MacMillan Photo Alder Michael Stratton took his critique of the mayor’s proposed budget to a new level Wednesday. It’s not just a bad budget, he said; it’s against the law.

Stratton (pictured), who represents Newhallville and Prospect Hill, made that accusation in a two-page letter hand-delivered to city Controller Daryl Jones and cc’d to the mayor, the top city lawyer, and the superintendent of schools.

Click here to read the letter.

The letter attacks the city’s longstanding practice of paying Board of Ed health care costs. Those costs are folded into the overall budget for city workers’ health care. Stratton, a trial lawyer, says that’s illegal.

There is no legal basis for the city’s health coverage of school staff, Stratton said. That practice is not enshrined in any written agreement, Stratton said. The decision to pay for Board of Ed health care was never subject to public debate or explicitly OK’d by the Board of Alders, he said.

“The controller should not release any funds without permission,” Stratton said. “So where is the permission?”

City spokesman Laurence Grotheer said that Jones will confer with corporation counsel and respond to Stratton’s letter. “Late this afternoon several members of the mayor’s staff received correspondence from Alder Stratton, which is under review as correspondence from any member of the Board of Alders would be.”

Stratton’s allegations come as alders consider Mayor Toni Harp’s proposed $511 million budget for the coming fiscal year, which includes a 3.8 percent tax increase.

Stratton said the city is paying about $40 million in health care costs for the Board of Ed. That’s money the city is not required by law to pay, he said. He said the city should stop paying for Board of Ed health care, and force the public school system to cut its budget.

The Board of Ed’s budget, at nearly $400 million, is far larger than it should be, he said. “I bet they could find $40 million in there.”

Stratton said he would cut the Board of Ed budget by consolidating high schools and firing administrators.

The city has “underpopulated” schools and too many high schools, Stratton said. “Do some consolidation.”

“I would go right in to central offices and cut dramatically,” he said. “Down to no more than 10 percent administration costs for the entire system.”

The city does not have line-item control over the Board of Ed budget; alders can only vote up or down on the school system’s spending plan. Pulling the health care payments would give the city leverage to force the Board of Ed to trim its budget, Stratton said.

“We can’t tell them to get rid of 75 administrators,” he said. “But if we stop making health care payments, we’re going to be in a much better negotiating position.”

In order to secure state funding for education, the city each year has to meet a minimum budget requirement. The city budgeted $18.3 million for the Board of Ed in the current fiscal year, not including health care costs. That number would go up $1.5 million, to $19.8 million, under the mayor’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

“By not revealing the health care costs we pay, it forces us each year to put cash in” to meet the minimum budget requirement, Stratton said. If you count the money the city spends on Board of Ed health care every year, the city has been spending far more than required to secure state funding. “We’ve been raising the contribution, thinking we had to do that. That’s been a complete hoax.”

Schools Superintendent Garth Harries released this statement Wednesday evening: “New Haven Public Schools has had a long, positive, collaborative relationship with the city and Board of Alders, that we believe has been in the best interest of both school children and taxpayers. We look forward to continuing our work together to invest educationally and financially in our children’s and our city’s future.”

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on March 26, 2014  7:03pm

“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!”

posted by: Serf of New Haven on March 26, 2014  7:18pm

It is so refreshing to have some board members assert their rights and demand fiscal accountability from the executive.
Is this the end of the ‘rubber stamp’ ???
The feudal monarchy of New Haven coming to an end???

Go Stratton!  You have many fans. Keep up the good work. Raise the bar higher for the rest of them.

New Haven is 500 million dollar machine and every penny needs to be accounted for.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on March 26, 2014  7:30pm

I’m starting to appreciate the effort being put into the review of the management of New Haven, that has not been so publicly, and articulately in my memory. I don’t know Stratton by he has my attention, and curiosity to see how much support he will eventually get from the taxpayers, and if support from the ordinary taxpayers, versus those that are on the teet in New Haven will win out.

posted by: Brutus2011 on March 26, 2014  8:04pm

Thank you, Alder Stratton.

BOE and NHPS mystery spending needs the light of objective inquiry.

You really should subpoena Mayo and DeStefano. I want to hear what they would say under oath.

If you need pro bono research assistance, I am at your disposal.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 26, 2014  8:29pm

Alderman Stratton,

Thank you for your excellent efforts on our behalf.

Have you read Mark Zaretsky’s article in this morning’s New Haven Register announcing the West Haven Planning & Zoning Commission delay of approval for NH BOE request to construct an $85.5 million school for regional Engineering and Science University Magnet School, or ESUMS, near University of New Haven for 500 students?

The construction description is beyond imagination. Six days of dynamite explosion are required to remove massive amounts of stone.

This project should be cancelled now

Who approved the $85.5 million construction project? Is there any reason why public referendum is not be required when such huge amounts of taxpayer dollars are spent?

ESUMS and all of the other Magnet Schools could be housed in a renovated facility in the old Gateway buildings on Sargent Drive. Such renovation cost should never approach the $85.5 million allocated to the West Haven project.

The link to the NHR article:

http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20140325/west-haven-board-hears-application-for-new-haven-magnet-school-near-university-of-new-haven

posted by: elmgritty on March 26, 2014  8:38pm

The non instructional employees at the BOE most certainly do work for the City, Local 884 and 3144.  The contracts are signed by the Mayor, City Labor Relations, the Local (884 or 3144) and AFSCME Council 4.

In fact EVERYONE works for the City of New Haven, BOE, Police, Fire, City Hall, Youth at Work, etc.  Everyone.

Check the W2 of ANY employee and it will have the same CITY tax ID # 06-6001876.

That means the IRS recognizes and classifies all employees regardless of location as CITY employees.  The IRS supersedes any state or local law.

The fact is 884/3144 employees work at the BOE, City Hall, Fire Department, Police Department, Parks, Libraries etc and so on.  Each defined as a Department, as is the BOE - one of many City Departments.

the Union contracts provide benefits to its member as agreed upon by the 4 signatures mentioned above.

http://cityofnewhaven.com/HumanResources/pdfs/2010-2015 Local 884.pdf

http://cityofnewhaven.com/HumanResources/unioncontracts.asp

Someone should probe the facts first about who works where for who before they go throwing flak at the Controller. 

If anyone wants to know where all the money goes at the BOE it’s the part timers getting paid super high hourly rates AND working way past the cap of 19 hours.

Again, check your facts.  This is New Haven.

posted by: IloveMYcity203 on March 26, 2014  8:44pm

@Dwightstreeter,

I have 6 air bags in my car, and I think I’ll need A LOT more for this ride.


Stratton definitely has my attention. Thanks NHI for the article! kudos

posted by: Citydude on March 26, 2014  9:14pm

I agree with the fact that if money is being spent irresponsibly, we have to find a way to cut unnecessary expenses and we all new that city of new haven administrators are not the best at doing this; having said that, I have to call out Stratton in regards about the sign that we will post after raising parking ticket prices. I wonder why he is soo agains parking tickets… Maybe a bunch of parking tickets we don’t know about… Maybe we should look into that

posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on March 26, 2014  9:17pm

Better be prepared for charter schools. “Never waste a crisis”

posted by: Theodora on March 26, 2014  10:18pm

To simply say “consolidate the high schools” shows that this guy has no education chops at all. Large comprehensive high schools don’t work and cost cities in so many ways. Very short-sighted. Very selfish. Very misguided. Very unconcerned about getting the best out of the city’s youth.

Stick to something you know.

posted by: alex on March 27, 2014  3:19am

The problem with crying wolf all the time is that you start to lose credibility. The problem I have with saying illegal this illegal that just to create leverage is that it continues this myth that New Haven’s education system is anything but understaffed and underfunded. Mr. Stratton should devote his considerable theatrical talents to more productive endeavors.

posted by: The Realist on March 27, 2014  6:53am

Go Mike!!! 

We are behind you all the way!  Thank you for your hard work on behalf of New Haven.  You are doing a great service.  We need more responsible, diligent people on the BOA like you.

posted by: 14yearsinNHandgone on March 27, 2014  7:15am

Mike Stratton, here is a question for you:

Is the City of New Haven required to put jobs worth over a certain amount out to bid?  If no, why not?  If no, can we get that out into law?

Many municipalities and federal agencies, in order to avoid even the appearance of corruption, will put any work over a certain dollar amount to bid.  For example, anything costing over $10,000 has to be out out for competitive bidding.  That way you don’t end up with an IT system set up by a friend of the city comptroller, who gets a kickback.

posted by: robn on March 27, 2014  7:21am

ECG,

The IRS has limited authority over any tax paying entity in the US. It does NOT have authority over state and local government.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on March 27, 2014  8:59am

Thank you, Alder Stratton.

OMG I almost dropped to the floor when reading this. And I hope these other BOF member are PAYING ATTENTION! When you are on the BOF this is one of the most important jobs of an Alder and needs to be taken seriously.
Mike is giving you the tools, I want to see how each of the BOF alders handles it.

Bravo Mike and others that were involved.

posted by: Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr on March 27, 2014  9:13am

From a fellow colleague, I know that your heart is in the right place believe me I do. There are many things that I agree, one of them being to not always go along with the programmatic bureaucratic ways of the system. Despite misnomers I was not a keg for anyone and independently ran for this seat and others joined on board when they realized the shift. I lost my first election because of my independent stances which were public and wanting to look deeper at the budget. Here is some advise: 1. Please read Comprehensive Reform for Urban High School. The smaller the environment the better the results. MANY STUDENTS FALL THROUGH THE CRACKS! Yes, there are so many improvements that need to be done and by no means am I saying that we have achieved success, but in historical context we have made great leaps and bounds toward that end. What should be investigated is neighborhood magnets schools so that we can stop busing students from one side of the city to another, that is where savings could be had. Research innovative ways to deal with the bonds that we had for financing all of these beautiful schools, which is what is driving property taxes up. Secondly, I have spoken and I asked the tough questions to Will Clark and Garth Harries, and there have been recent cuts to the budget, but contracts are the driving up costs. Are the salaries of administrators too high? In all actuality, in comparison to best practices of educational institutions, THEY ARE NOT!! I know you are a great proponent of looking at what other towns and cities are doing, this may be advisable. Also in actuality they have not filled positions administrative staff against the recommended student to teacher to administrative ratio. Now I agree I would like there to be further investigation as to the 40 million as these cost should be covered in the board of ed budget. I mean this in the sincerest of way, please do the research before blasting and bombing unnecessarily.

posted by: jdoss-gollin on March 27, 2014  9:19am

@Theodora:
I’m wondering why you say that “Large comprehensive high schools don’t work and cost cities in so many ways.”
Large comprehensive high schools offer a lot of things that smaller schools don’t, like diversity, more class offerings, etc. They’re not for everyone and it’s great New Haven has small schools as well—many students benefit from that—but I don’t think we should take as gospel that large schools are “bad”

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 27, 2014  9:20am

OccupyTheClassroom makes the right point.

While the BoE should absolutely have its feet held to the fire in terms of administrative bloat, Stratton’s language smacks of a strategy to corporatize the schools. Look at other cities and it is clear where this path leads. Cities like New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, and New York are closing public schools and opening charter schools. These are also cities where the black population is leaving in droves.

posted by: robn on March 27, 2014  9:47am

THEODORA,

Stuyvesant HS in NYC has 3,300 students and has one of the most successful academic programs in the US. Maybe not a completely fair comparison because their admission is via application/testing but it does show that large scale schools can be successful.
I personally think that parental involvement and classroom size are much more important factors.

To Stratton’s point though, the BOA lacks line-item control over the education budget because of state law and this must change, either through legislation or through this technicality he’s dug up. The education portion of our budget is @40% (the biggest by a factor of 2) and it needs to be controlled by local elected representatives. In the decade between 2001 and 2011, New Haven raised taxes 80% even through CPI inflation only went up 27%. Taxes need to now go in the opposite direction by any means necessary.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on March 27, 2014  10:27am

Whether this ends up being a legitimate problem or if it has some secret poorly documented reason for existing I’m glad Mike is looking.

posted by: HewNaven on March 27, 2014  10:45am

While I admire Stratton’s tenacity on this issue, he proves how clueless and callous he can be when he suggests we should just lump all our kids together in one building just to save money. Anyone who is even half paying attention knows that the trajectory of public education is moving in the opposite direction (i.e. smaller schools with smaller classes) with great results. He won’t be able to stop that momentum and I don’t think parents and educational professionals would ever allow such a reactionary measure.

posted by: webblog on March 27, 2014  11:28am

What I find most interesting here is the factually empty statement offered by Garth Harries.

“Schools Superintendent Garth Harries released this statement Wednesday evening: “New Haven Public Schools has had a long, positive, collaborative relationship with the city and Board of Alders that we believe has been in the best interest of both school children and taxpayers. We look forward to continuing our work together to invest educationally and financially in our children’s and our city’s future.”

Harries does not deny the charges by Stratton, instead, Harries talks about some nebulous collaborative relationship, but he does not detail what that relationship consist of, and if there is such a “long positive” relationship where is it on paper.

Since the Board of alderman approves the budget every year, this collaboration needs to be renewed each year.

No one has any knowledge of this benign relationship Harries uses as justification.

What does BOE president Dr. Torres have to say??

@ Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr on March 27, 2014 9:13am

I appreciate your comments, but as an employee of the BOE and one who shares in the fruit of the city’s health care payments, you are not completely unbiased in this matter.

posted by: EducatedParent on March 27, 2014  11:43am

With all respect to the Alderman, if his belief is that large comprehensive high schools are a good choice for the constituents he serves perhaps his children will attend these institutions in the future. At this point they have not and I suspect, will not.
You may have seen the signs “Drive like your children live here”- perhaps it should be “Make decisions in education as if your children attend there”.

posted by: Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr on March 27, 2014  12:41pm

@webblog feel free to check public records you will not see any healthcare plan in my name. Not that it is any of your business, I pay for my own private healthcare. Also let me know what bountiful fruits coming to me, and you will appreciate my comments even more. My concerns are for the children as a former New Haven Public School student.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on March 27, 2014  12:49pm

Though I don’t agree with all of Alderman Stratton’s points.  I do, however, agree that so far Mr. Stratton is fulfilling his aldermanic duties impressively in my view.

As legislators, alderman are supposed to follow the dollar to ensure on behalf of the tax payers that the money is being spent wisely and accordingly.

Clearly Alderman Stratton is his own man and dances to his own beat (classical I’m sure).  Many on the board would too love to show a level of independence, but for the fear of being in an unnecessary primary, they wish to keep their feet still with their hands over their mouths.

True leadership is demonstrated by taking a public stand for or against something, after doing your homework.

Some people may not like the positions that I espouse, but at least I take positions.

How can any alderman be against this inquiry?  If the findings come back to disprove Alderman Stratton, he still doesn’t lose, because he’s done his job as a legislator.  Conversely, if the findings come back proving he’s correct, then the tax payers of the entire city are all winners.

I love this guys tenacity and can only see great things happening for him politically in New Haven.

This is indeed the kind of leader I can see myself backing all across the city in two years.

posted by: webblog on March 27, 2014  2:07pm

Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr on March 27, 2014 12:41pm

Thanks for your comment alderman, but I detect a bit of testiness in your tone. The fact that you say you buy your own health care plan is admirable, but that does not stop the board from counting you, as an employee, and claiming you as their share of the co-share payment.

But this article is not about you, your comments about the children’s welfare are noble, even though others, like Harries, make that same claim in this article and others.

It appears to me that the point of this inquiry is to determine just how much the city contributes to the board beyond its statutory requirement under the State’s Education cost sharing formula.

You should continue to share your comments in this forum and in public debate before the board of aldermen, even though; you will have to abstain on any votes before the board of alderman, because of your employment status with the BOE.


I love this guys tenacity and can only see great things happening for him politically in New Haven.
@ Brian L. Jenkins on March 27, 2014 12:49pm

“This is indeed the kind of leader I can see myself backing all across the city in two years”.

I hope that Stratton is not using this issue as a spring board for future political gain, this issue is larger than Stratton and his political ambitions. If so, I will not support that proposition.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 27, 2014  2:34pm

Yesterday I posted comments about my concerns for the 500-student regional Engineering and Science University Magnet School, or ESUMS, to be constructed in West Haven adjacent to University of New Haven.

This morning I coincidentally encountered a lady who has direct knowledge of this project. According to her, the location is convenient for UNH professors to speak to the NH students. Is this the basis for spending $85.5 million?

In addition to the construction costs, how much will be spent on student transportation?

Yale is closer to NHPS and has countless programs to offer education assistance to our students at our request.

This school project is obscene and should be cancelled. It is a waste of money and a total embarrassment to our taxpayers. If I had not already given all of my money to the NH Tax Collector, I would bring legal action to stop this silly idea.

posted by: mstratton on March 27, 2014  3:33pm

If this happened (and I have done dozens of hours of work on this and am certain based on what has been provided by the city) we have an extraordinary fraud on our hands at the highest level of local government. Look at the budgets, an enormous effort is made to hide these payments. The total local contribution to education in the BOE budgets 18m. Yet they know this is not true. Then in the city budget the 40m in health fund payments to BOE is commingled with city employees and put in the column marked “non education spending”.  The BOE and finance leadership also has testimony and claims made in this year’s proposed budget that we must raise up this 18m local contribution to meet the state grant match. this is also clearly untrue and known to be untrue by finance. and they have done this is every budget for more than 5 years. Responding to Alder Brakeen I am sensitive to his concerns about education losing 40m,and we obviously need to make sure that kids aren’t hurt as we have our crisis in democracy. But this is putting the cart before the horse. Stealing money from the people is never justified. Important facts to remember is the BOE is totally independent from city control, we give them money but we have no control over where it goes. If we keep the money citywide, we can do so much good (universal community policing, city wide sports, rec, music programs for kids) BOE refuses to help us here. Second BOE has 23000 or more per kid (top 10 highest in state)  but spends only 4-9k per pupil at the schools. Where is the money going? 100m isn’t itemized at all! And there are more than 200 people making 150k plus in wages and fringes.Good education isn’t throwing money, its caring about each kid. I agree NO HUGE SCHOOLS—but look at Roosevelt High in Bronx—split into 7 separate schools inside one building—awesome results. Small schools don’t mean small buildings. Its about letting teachers really teach-and getting rid of centralized control—look at Common Ground.

posted by: ohnonotagain on March 27, 2014  3:53pm

Superintendent Harries statement completely ignored alder’s statement of legality about BOE health care and I imagine for good reason. Fasten your seat belts folks!

posted by: Theodora on March 27, 2014  5:29pm

@JDoss ... The two biggest high schools in the city of New Haven are certainly underperforming. One has more success among its highest-performing band because it tracks students by floor and one floor gets a superior education than the other.

As a result of that, there is an enormous achievement gap, racially and economically, within that school itself. That, to me, is not a success story. It benefits a small percentage of the students. I hope that changes with different leadership, but it would be hard to call a school with huge numbers of basic and below basic performers a winning combination.

And for Robn to bring up a school like Stuyvesant, which skims for the best and the brightest in NYC, a success story for comprehensive high schools stretches credibility. The reality is that NYC has the nation’s most segregated school system in the country. And it is indeed measurable. http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/ny-norflet-report-placeholder

posted by: HewNaven on March 27, 2014  6:29pm

mstratton,

Indeed, one should look at Common Ground. Then you should take another look. It is exactly the opposite of what you are suggesting. It is a 10-acre campus as far away from other NH high schools as can be. It is nothing like Hillhouse or Cross, and Common Ground students will tell you that is why they chose to attend.

posted by: Wooster Squared on March 27, 2014  7:24pm

Well played Alder Stratton! This is exactly the kind of thing our Board of Alders should be doing, which is holding the City acceptable to its citizens and taxpayers. The Board of Education has been operating in virtual secrecy and blowing up the city’s budget with it’s bloated staff and unchecked spending for as long as anyone can remember.

Why does a high school need a principal and 6 vice principals? I went to a school the same size as Hillhouse and we had exactly two administrators: a principal and a vice principal.

posted by: elmgritty on March 27, 2014  7:44pm

@robn

I’m talking about how the IRS serves levies to the City for everyone, not the BOE, PD, FD.  It does not work that way.  Like I said, the tax ID is what binds you to your employer. 

In this case, the Mayor, Garth, Esseman, Wright, Youth at work, park rangers, maternal outreach workers - you name it.  Every single person in the Budget is paid under 06-6001876.

End of Story.  There is no separation of Departments.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on March 27, 2014  8:16pm

Keep asking the tough questions Mr Stratton!

posted by: beyonddiscussion on March 27, 2014  8:31pm

Alder Stratton has to learn to be careful about throwing around charges like “illegal” and making sweeping generalizations on loose facts. But I’m glad he’s in the thick of it, asking tough questions that need to be asked. And he is doing a great job in driving the PILOT issue, which could be a gamechanger.

posted by: Theodora on March 27, 2014  11:38pm

Let’s look at Common Ground. It started with a largely minority, mostly low-income school. Now it is much different, meaning city kids are being shut out of the opportunity to go there.

I know it’s a charter and that it is a lottery system, but are the folks there exclusively recruiting the children of the latte-sipping East Rockers and Westvillians? I don’t think drawing any comparison to Common Ground is warranted. Too much to digest about the behaviors of those who run the place.

posted by: Brutus2011 on March 28, 2014  8:12am

My daughter goes to Common Ground and the school enrolls mostly minority kids. 75% of the students live in New Haven and 25% come from outlying communities.

Common Ground is a small school founded and run by a community organization, the New Haven Ecology Project. It is not a charter in the sense of an Achievement First or a Jumoke, etc. It is a true community-based school.

As a parent, I am keenly interested in my child’s school. Obviously, I chose to send her there. The school is small and the adults are able to keep a close eye on the student body which translates into better academics and a sense of well-being among the kids.

As a minority parent, I have no problem with latte sipping folks trying to get their kids into CGHS. If a kid and his parents are positive additions to our school then I say, welcome.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 28, 2014  8:50am

Alders, It would be appreciated if you formatted you comments in a more organized, readable way. Leaving comments as single block paragraphs does not help you get your point across.

In terms of making noise, I wonder if Stratton has been reading his Guy Debord…
“The basically tautological character of the spectacle flows from the simple fact that its means are simultaneously its ends. It is the sun which never sets over the empire of modern passivity. It covers the entire surface of the world and bathes endlessly in its own glory.”

posted by: robn on March 28, 2014  8:51am

THEODORA,

Minorities don’t put milk in their coffee?

posted by: robn on March 28, 2014  9:14am

SOA,

Guy Debord also wrote this,”

“In a world that has REALLY been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood. ”

posted by: HewNaven on March 28, 2014  9:22am

Alders, It would be appreciated if you formatted you comments in a more organized, readable way. Leaving comments as single block paragraphs does not help you get your point across.

It is pretty sad that the comments left by our two Alders are rambling, ranting, sometimes incoherent, and full of grammatical errors. Perhaps, they had something to say, but we’ll never know.

One can always do what I do: skip the comments that don’t make sense (even if they are written by an Alder).

posted by: JohnTulin on March 28, 2014  10:28am

Go Mike - you are only scratching the surface!

Theodora, latte-sipping?  For realz?  Oy.  For the record I drink tea and beer, and sip neither.

jdoss - thanks for the consistently intelligent and respectful commentary, we need more young people like you!

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on March 28, 2014  1:18pm

Theodora, you are absolutely incorrect about Common Ground. Any City kid that applied got in. What are you talking about? As a parent volunteer at Common Ground, I can tell you I see majority Black & Latino kids…from New Haven and they would take great offense at your now suggesting that they do not exist at Common Ground. I have no grasp of what you mean by “Too much to digest about the behaviors of those who run the place” I suspect your using coded language to suggest something other than integrity, honesty and professionalism. If that is the case you would do well to take a visit to Common Ground, go have lunch with the students and see first hand what the demographics look like… if indeed you are interested in truth.

As an African American woman I am no stranger to “coded” language… so if you mean Common Ground is recruiting white kids from the East Rock neighborhood, then say that and be prepared to back it up with facts.  Common Ground is a school that seeks to educate kids from all walks of life… not just “latte-sipping” off-spring, or inner-city kids… all of New Haven is inner-city.

Charter schools exist because there is a need for a different type of education and people want different choices. The questions that were raised were about the allocation of resources.  You cannot talk about allocation of resources for education with out talking about property taxes. Property tax reform is needed.

The size of a school is not the prevailing factor of its success or failure.  School in the lives of children take up 5-7 hours of a day. What happens in school is in direct relation to outside forces… poverty, joblessness, homelessness. Education cannot solve all social ills, it can however address some things… feed kids breakfast and lunch, make after school programing available, provide community outreach to families and communities, on top of reading writing and math. Some kids need a smaller school, some need bigger schools. Both are needed.

posted by: Theodora on March 28, 2014  6:24pm

Some honesty to the discussion. Using the State of Connecticut’s Educational Data & Research center, Common Ground was 78 percent low-income (free/reduced lunch) in 2002. Today it is 49 percent.

In 2002, Common Ground was 59 percent African American. Today it is 29 percent.

Yeah, CGHS is effectively getting the student body it wants. Quite saying I am wrong when I am again measurably right. No smoke screen. Facts from the State which are reported by your ever-whitening school.

posted by: Brutus2011 on March 28, 2014  7:21pm

to “Thedora:

Those statistics you cite are inaccurate by my observation and by my daughter’s experience as a student there.

Common Ground’s student body is comprised of very much of minority students. I go there bi-weekly and my daughter (a student) read your post and wondered how you could post such inaccurate information.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion but your representation of CGHS really seems to be a misstatement of fact.

We are of African-American descent and I must protest your characterization of CGHS as an ever-whitening school.

posted by: robn on March 28, 2014  10:17pm

THEODORA,

I call BS.
From the 2012-13 Common Ground Annual Report,
Page 23, 3rd line,
“Percentage of non-minority students maintained at 21%.”

http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/equity/charter/reports/Common_Ground_AR.pdf

posted by: Theodora on March 28, 2014  10:33pm

Brutus… Your observation is obviously, measurably, wrong. You are at odds with the history of your school, as reported by your school. You can either continue to observe through rose-colored glasses or do the research yourself. Once you do, you will be simply fooling yourself if you fail to ask HOW the school is recruiting.

A 30-percent decrease in low-income and African-American students is troubling and it certainly makes a reasonable person wonder WHY it is happening in a city that claims more than 50 percent African-American students.

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on March 29, 2014  9:06am

robn, How about one more Debord quotation? “Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.”

On charter schools, there is more than enough evidence that they “cream,” don’t actually perform better than public schools, and exist for the sake of making public, taxpayer money into private profits. The city of New Orleans is now 90% charter, and that is the model for ed reform people—and the mega-foundations that fund them—all over the country who are driving public school closures and expanding charter education. We voted against the Milton Friedman-inspired voucher idea, and now we are facing forced privatization.

I want to be clear that I am not saying Common Ground is “bad” (although the statistics quoted by Theodora are alarming), and my son frequently goes to their camps and loves it. This shouldn’t be a debate about one particular school, but about *systemic* change.

There are many excellent analyses of this situation, and I strongly recommend these three for everyone:
1) Charter Schools Are A Colossal Mistake: Here’s Why
http://www.alternet.org/education/diane-ravitch-charter-schools-are-colossal-mistake-heres-why
2) Jacobin’s Class Action
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/class-action-an-activist-teachers-handbook/
3) The Education “Shock Doctrine”: Disaster Schooling
http://isreview.org/issue/71/education-shock-doctrine

posted by: jdoss-gollin on March 29, 2014  9:52am

@Theodora,

Let’s not confuse the fact that Cross and Hillhouse have worse performance with the idea that comprehensive high schools cannot perform.

As you correctly point out, a lot of Common Ground’s gains have come because they have a less challenging student body than they did in the past. Cross and Hillhouse have, by every measure, more challenging student bodies than any of the small schools. They get the students who recently arrive to New Haven, who don’t speak English, who have learning disabilities, whose families didn’t help them sign up for the lottery, etc.

As I said, they’re not for everyone but big schools offer things that small schools don’t. Don’t throw them under the bus.

posted by: robn on March 29, 2014  6:24pm

SOA,

Maybe you would feel better about quotes if the ones you used were pertinent to the comment thread (like mine) rather than just ad hominem attacks (like yours).

For the record, I’m troubled by for profit school models. However, you’d be fooling yourself if you chose to believe that the NHPS system isn’t filled with unnecessary overpaid administrators who gained their appointment through political favor (because it is).

posted by: robn on March 29, 2014  6:55pm

PS

Charter Schools were brought up by commenters, not Stratton or anyone else in the news article.

posted by: Liz Cox on March 29, 2014  8:15pm

As Director of Common Ground High School, I’m happy for the chance to talk with our neighbors about who we are and what we believe in and to share the most current information about our student population.

As a state charter school, we are charged with being part of the solution to the racial, ethnic and economic isolation of students in Connecticut. Common Ground is committed to serving a racially, economically, and geographically diverse student body. According to the latest set of numbers reported to the state, 77% of our students are young people of color: 40.7% Latino, 32.0% African American, 22.7% White, 4% one or more races, and .5% Asian. 56.4% of these students qualify for free or reduced price lunch. 16.3% qualify for special education supports.

We are proud to bring together students from every New Haven neighborhood, and from 11 surrounding towns.  We are committed to the city of New Haven and its students, who come to us through the New Haven magnet school lottery, and we reserve 70% of our seats for them.

To build this diverse community of leaders and learners, we recruit at every area school that will give us the opportunity to talk with students who might want to join our community and mail school brochures to families of all 8th graders in New Haven. Because we think that it is very important for students and families to get first-hand information about our school, we host 3-6 open houses a year, shadow days for 7th and 8th graders, and a luncheon for eighth grade guidance counselors. We are also fortunate to be able to staff booths at the High School Fairs sponsored by NHPS.
 
We believe that every student in our community can reach high academic standards, succeed in college, and grow into powerful environmental leaders. Do we have lots to work on? Yes. Do we value that our neighbors hold us accountable for serving our community? Yes. That’s how we will keep getting better.

posted by: Don in New Haven on March 29, 2014  8:24pm

I just received an email from Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York as he is wrapping up their 2014-15 budget for the State. Some of his points apply to our situation in New Haven. Below I have given you an extract with points that may relate to our discussion.

An agreement has been reached on the 2014-15 State Budget that holds spending growth below two percent for the fourth consecutive year, continuing a record of fiscal discipline that has reversed decades of state budgets where spending grew at a higher rate than inflation or personal income growth.

The Budget includes $1.5 billion in property tax relief for New York homeowners that is linked to and conditioned on approved plans for local governments to become more efficient. In addition, the Budget puts forward the state’s largest investment in education to date, including:

*  An increase of more than 5% in school aid
*  Statewide, universal full-day Pre-k
*  A bond act to modernize classrooms
*  Signature reforms to fix Common Core implementation and protect students from unfair high stakes test results, as well as strengthen and support Charter Schools.

posted by: robn on March 30, 2014  9:38am

DINH,

Just in case readers missed it,

In the decade between 2001 and 2011, New Haven raised taxes 80% even through CPI inflation only went up 27%.

posted by: Theodora on March 30, 2014  10:02pm

Hello Liz Cox,

Thank you for the response.

I just want to keep things honest here. In a decade, according to the State of Connecticut’s school reporting data, CGHS has gone from 59 percent African American to 29 percentage African American. And it appears that the school has one staff member who is African American.

Is this acceptable to you in a district that is comprised of more than 50 percent African American students? Why is the school trending away from a representative student body? What measures the school taking to attract African American teachers and staffers? Does the school have a plan to ensure that African American students and families are welcome in numbers that are reflective of the student body?

posted by: robn on March 31, 2014  10:08am

THEODORA,

I call BS a second time.

New Haven, 2011 census:

Black 35.4%
White 31.8%
Latino 27.4%
Asian 4.6%
Mixed 3.9%

This is roughly in line with CGHS’s admittance.

By your logic, the racial makeup of a school would be mainly determined by the district. Isn’t this what desegregation was supposed to prevent?

posted by: Liz Cox on March 31, 2014  6:27pm

The diversity of our staff and students, and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, are top priorities for us at Common Ground. To that end: 

- We have implemented a recruiting strategy that ensures we have the capacity to visit all New Haven schools. 
- We continue to engage our staff and board in work to build a positive, welcoming, and equitable school culture—with the support and guidance of skilled consultants.
- We are growing the number of our faculty and staff who are people of color. Overall, the percentage of our high school staff who are people of color has increased from 28% to 44% since 2012; the percent who are African American has increased from 17% to 30%. Three of the four new teachers who came on board last year are people of color.

We are happy to talk about this effort in person. Building a school that welcomes and educates a genuinely diverse student body is serious, ongoing work, and we are happy to have partners working with us.

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