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Turnarounds Eyed For Lincoln-Bassett, Hillhouse

by Melissa Bailey | Dec 10, 2013 9:20 am

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

Posted to: Schools, School Reform

The school district is eyeing two low-performing city schools for potential state-funded “turnaround” efforts next year.

Lincoln-Bassett School in Newhallville and Hillhouse High on Sherman Avenue are the latest schools being considered for overhauls, school Superintendent Garth Harries announced at Monday’s school board meeting.

The announcement came in response to a request from the state for letters of interest from school districts seeking to send applications to the Commissioner’s Network of low-performing schools. The state created the network two years ago to send extra money, oversight and support to failing schools that agree to undertake certain reforms.

In 2012, High School in the Community, a teacher-run magnet school on Water Street, became one of the first four schools in the network. It launched a “turnaround effort” in which all the teachers except those in leadership positions had to reapply for their jobs.

In 2013, Wilbur Cross High School, the city’s largest comprehensive high school, joined the network as well. Instead of a traditional New Haven turnaround, where all teachers in the whole school have to reapply for their jobs and face different work rules if they stay, Cross launched a smaller experiment. It created two self-contained schools-within-a-school, one for English-language learners, and another for freshmen. The effort followed a three-year, $2.1 million effort to “transform” Wilbur Cross by splitting it into four “small learning communities.” Harries has acknowledged that the effort failed to create “strong and viable” small learning communities.

The school district is now considering making similar changes at its second-largest comprehensive high school, James Hillhouse High School, Harries said Monday. Like Cross, Hillhouse received a federal School Improvement Grant that called for splitting up the school into four small learning communities, or academies.

“There’s significant opportunity to strengthen the academy structure” at Hillhouse, Harries said.

“We also think it’s important that we address issues of transience, which we know are significant challenges,” Harries added.

Harries said the district is considering nominating Hillhouse or Lincoln-Bassett to take part in the Commissioner’s Network.

Major changes are already afoot at Lincoln-Bassett, a neighborhood school on Bassett Street. The school got a new principal this fall, and eliminated its 7th and 8th grades right before school started due to low enrollment and a budget crisis.

Harries stressed that the district has not yet determined whether or not to make those two schools into turnarounds. But he said he wanted to be open with the board and public about the possibility, because the state is asking for letters of interest from districts seeking to join the network. Once a district writes such a letter, the state must then invite the school to apply for a grant.

The state’s biennial budget includes $27.5 million to expand the Commissioner’s Network from four to up to 21 schools over two years. How much money each school gets will be “based on the model chosen, number of students served, and selected strategies as outlined in the schools’ turnaround plans,” according to state education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly.

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posted by: Career High School Parent on December 10, 2013  11:26am

And now that Kermit is back on board, maybe Hillhouse can indeed “turn around”

posted by: Razzie on December 10, 2013  1:26pm

The priority should be Lincoln-Bassett. It has a new, dynamic principal who seems to grasp the critical importance of her mission, and doesn’t treat it as just another paycheck or stepping stone to the future. It is also of strategic importance to engage the students with a new learning opportunity at an earlier stage in their career development. Why wait to begin the “turnaround” process until the students are entering their high school stage of development?

posted by: Career High School Parent on December 10, 2013  1:51pm

Soooooo…...We should just forget about the students on the 9-12 level? 

My feeling is that it’s never too late to turn a child around. Granted, it’s tougher with older kids but these are the kids who are dropping out, robbing people, shooting each other dead, joining gangs, selling drugs, using drugs, running to have babies and a welfare check…it’s never too late to say ” I care and want more for you”. These kids have been ignored by society, their irresponsible parents and even teachers in some cases….maybe, just maybe, if Kermit can comport himself as a professional, an educator, a leader…he will be able to turn things around.

posted by: Razzie on December 10, 2013  5:42pm

Career Parent—

We should be careful that we not tag all the Hillhouse students with the descriptions you gave. While those labels may fit SOME students, I know for a fact that the majority of Hillhouse students are extremely capable students who come from positive backgrounds and loving, caring home environments, and are not out “robbing people, shooting each other dead, joining gangs, selling drugs, using drugs, running to have babies and a welfare check”, etc. The vast majority have responsible parent(s) who do their best to provide for their children’s education and well-being.

I am not suggesting that we turn our backs on high schoolers simply because they have reached the end points of their educational process. Education is not a zero-sum game where we must choose to help one and toss the other away. I am suggesting that if priorities must be set for obtaining additional special funding, that priority should attach a premium to the lower grade levels where, hopefully the changes can come easier, to more students, and have a better chance of lasting success.

Additionally, Hillhouse is in its 4th year of the Carolina regime—and little noticeable effect has been demonstrated on relative academic performance. Without a solid and convincing Turnaround Plan being put in place, I am afraid we would simply be throwing good money after bad. I’m not saying Kermit CAN’T DO IT ... he simply hasn’t shown us yet that he CAN.

posted by: NewHavenPublic on December 11, 2013  2:31pm

Don’t fool yourselves.  The decision to privatize was made many months ago, (perhaps even a year or more).
Harries is a smooth operator.  He is going to get “the people” to tell him that these lucrative public school turnaround contracts should be given to private corporations.
Harries paved the way for Achievement First to do the takeover at Lincoln-Bassett by removing the more challenging 7th and 8th grades in last summer’s faked “BUDGET CRISIS”.
Time, and their actions, will tell.

posted by: Tom Burns on December 12, 2013  12:45am

To anyone who doubts Garths intentions—you are wrong—in New Haven we believe in PUBLIC SCHOOLS and Garth does also—there will be NO more outside privatizers allowed in our district—Garth believes in our educators, now that he has seen the amazing work and effort that all of our staff put forth every day—he has chosen to become our champion—(forget what he did in New York)—he knows he has a goldmine of teaching talent in New Haven and that with the proper leadership we will become a model all else will try to replicate—we already ARE the model and you parents have been blessed with the opportunity to attend New Haven Public Schools—second to none—and still striving to be perfect—your kids are in good hands—Tom

posted by: NewHavenPublic on December 12, 2013  7:14am

@Tom Burns - You say “there will be NO more outside privatizers allowed in our district”.

Does this mean you will agree to allow the Achievement First corporation to take over Lincoln-Bassett, a public school?

posted by: Career High School Parent on December 12, 2013  7:17am

I had the pleasure of being in Garth’s company on several occasions in the past 6 months. I honestly believe that he truly cares about this district.

posted by: Tom Burns on December 19, 2013  4:06am

To New Haven Public—Never—Achievement First has enough schools as is—Lincoln Bassett will get what it needs in a Public School fashion—“No outsiders”—we already have the best educators who will make the most difference—hear me Clearly and Loudly—no more outsiders will be considered unless we can’t do it ourselves—and WE certainly can—T

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