$70M Co-op High School Debuts

IMG_6016.JPGAs these students inaugurated their new school on the day of Obama’s swearing-in, their teachers told them something the president-elect has told the nation: that in this spectacular new building, much more will be expected of them.

Carlee Carvalko and Leyneshka Vazquez (pictured) helped to cut a yellow ribbon at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School Tuesday morning, as the school community gathered to celebrate the completion of the soaring new, $70 million school at 177 College St.

Co-op is the 28th school to be built or renovated under the mayor’s $1.5 billion citywide school construction program.

Filling the grand stairway, school administrators joined Co-op’s 446 students for a festive ceremonial group ribbon snip combined with a moment of reflection.

“Something new is emerging in the nation and around the world,” said Co-op’s principal, Dr. Dolores Garcia-Blockier, “and for us too a higher level of artistic achievement is going to be expected, especially here in this new building.”

The new facilities include a professional 350-seat theater, state-of-the-art video production studios, dance studios, choral and instrumental music rehearsal spaces. In them, Co-op students will learn to become more independent, Garcia-Blockier said. “In the past, for example, the kids produced art, and the teachers chose what to hang. With all these spectacular new walls to fill, the kids are going to take the next step: learn to be curators and organize their own shows.”

IMG_6011.JPGFor juniors Symphony Spell and Derick Pagan (pictured with Blocker), the day meant a new beginning, both in terms of facilities and the spirit.

Derick, a creative writing major, is thrilled that all the classrooms will have the Internet, whereas at Co-op’s old space, on Orange and Bradley streets, what computers were there were broken much of the time. He’ll now instantly be able to check out a line from Leaves of Grass.

“I feel I’m really part of progress now,” he said.

Symphony, a painter and ceramicist, said her dad was in tears today, on the occasion of the presidential inauguration. How is this going to affect Spell’s future as an artist?

“I already feel out in the world, much more respect for me,” she said. “I’m being judged much less, you know, by random people, because of race. That’ll mean I can go farther too.”

IMG_6012.JPGTheater major Ashley Novoa, sensing the energy of the moment, rearranged her backpack after security inspection (all high school kids must, alas go through metal detectors upon entering).

“Today is really a day for dreams,” she said. “For me here, it means more and more that I can keep my head up and follow those dreams.” Artistically, she said, with Obama as president, she felt she could be much freer in her art, and with the theater facilities at Co-op, exciting new means are available.

Co-op is an interdistrict magnet high school, designed by Caesar Pelli and built by the Giordano Construction company, with funding largely provided by the state. The building soars with a grand staircase and cathedral, sun-filled spaces that are good for a tanning as well as the human spirit.

Will the new architecture and state-of-the-artness of Co-op make a difference academically for the kids? Schools chief operation officer Will Clark gave a candid reply as the kids moved off to their homerooms, to check out their lockers, and to prepare for the obligatory fire drill.

IMG_6017.JPG“Research shows that what makes for achievement are teacher and administrator quality and time on task,” said Clark. “That said, for our kids, many from impoverished backgrounds, yes, this building says, as Dr. Mayo mentioned in his remarks, that we care about them and love them.

“Yet now the torch in a sense is passed to them to use these terrific new facilities. But, yes, I think the psychological effect of these surroundings is very real. And with kids who want careers in film or video, for example, now they have the latest stuff; they’ll be able to launch themselves in jobs from here much more easily. But first the kids have to go to work because the state tests are coming up in just two months.”

“And don’t forget,” said schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo, “the walls are white and clean. We expect them to be that way ten years from now!”

IMG_6020.JPGAs the visitors left the school, the school day began in earnest. Students in Sally Kaczynski’s theater history class took out their copies of Everyman and Woody Allen’s Death Knocks, the comic’s satiric take on the medieval classic.

In the two-story high theater classroom, with sun pouring in from floor-to-ceiling windows on College Street, they stretched their arms in an actors’ warm-up called reaching for the stars.

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: JP on January 20, 2009  12:44pm

Total waist of money and land.

posted by: robn on January 20, 2009  1:13pm

Totally great expenditure of money and use of land.

posted by: cedarhillresident on January 20, 2009  1:38pm

JP I agree. The school it self is a great school but we have so many right now. And funding is getting cut. So I agree on it because I believe in small community schools.
But with that said it is an amazing looking building. Every time I drive by I thank god they picked who ever designed it. It is a keeper.

one thing as a totally unrelated…how much is New Haven spending on the magnet school ads they are running right now??

posted by: JP on January 20, 2009  2:05pm

Can you give me one good reason a high school should be downtown let alone in the middle of crown street. Why do we even need a co-op art school go learn math and science, seems like we are encouraging kids to be bus-boys and waitresses with this thing.

posted by: Mom on January 20, 2009  2:28pm

JP- total “waste” not waist, maybe they have room for one more student?  :-)

posted by: jdavis on January 20, 2009  2:58pm

great school, great job, great use of land.  I would have prefered some retail or some other public areas on the ground floor, but besides that its a great building.  Downtowns should be a nice mix of uses… a high school is a perfect fit.  and i would hope that my kids pick the path of a “bus boy or waitress” if this is the education that they would recieve.  state of the art!

posted by: jawbone on January 20, 2009  3:21pm

Math, Science, and, yes, spelling are all part of the Coop High School curriculum.  That is state mandated.  The idea that these students will be going to a high school where they ONLY learn the arts is a fallacy. 
Sounds like you could use some evening adult-ed courses in ballet and spelling.  Maybe even civics.

posted by: JP on January 20, 2009  3:31pm

Thanks mom, my grammar/spelling is way below the high school level, But I don’t think the ceramics class would help.

posted by: robn on January 20, 2009  3:33pm


I’ll give you some of the many good answers for your questions.

1) An arts high school should be downtown becuase downtown is the center of the most intense scholastic and artistic activity in southern connecticut.

2) An art school is important because art is the purest manifestation of the creative act, without which, math and science could not progress.

posted by: City Hall Watch on January 20, 2009  3:43pm

Will Clark:
A $70 million school building does not say “we love you and care about you” any more than a $300 X-Box or yet another pair of sneaks tells my son I love him. Educating kids so they don’t have a life of poverty and can get a job, or create their own says more than a luxurious and extravagant school. I taught my son to earn the money so he could buy the X-Box and the extra pairs of sneaks both of which he just did. And by the way, my fellow taxpayers, the annual debt service just for the local portion of this school carries an estimated and additional tax burden of about $750,000 which is not part of the BOE budget.

It’s interesting you bring up the advertising for these magnet schools. Sources tell me public school enrollment in New Haven has dropped by almost 3,000 kids. That’s why there is an advertising campaign. I’m curious if there will be an audit of how well we are meeting the census estimates we projected when we got the money from the state for all these interdistrict magnet schools. It seems there was an audit a year or so ago where the state ran out of patience with us in this regard - like we projected an enrollment of 650 in a school and have never come close. They dinged New Haven taxpayers, as you would expect, with the shortage and asked for a reimbursement..again.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 20, 2009  4:06pm


New Haven kids deserve high quality school buildings.  But the use of the location was probably not the best and highest.  With the cancer center and the future redevelopment of 34 and Frontage Road, the school space could probably have yielded a better result for taxpayers if it had been preserved and then marketed for private development.

In general, the $1.5B cost of New Haven’s school improvement project has dwarfed just about every other school district renovation project in the country on a per pupil basis.  Is that something that you take pride in, or shake your head at?  It probably depends on whether you value architectural achievement over academic achievement.

One thing is for sure:  The focus on all of the new buildings has in many ways distracted the community from focusing on the failure of our city to make similar progress at closing the acheivement gap in the district.

There is no conflict in good, even great school facilities for New Haven students - and wanting our scarce real estate to be preserved for the best and highest uses.

posted by: Janice on January 20, 2009  4:15pm

I graduated from Co-op 2 years ago and totally disagree with the comment you made. First of all, only 1/4 of the day is spent in your designated art class, the other 3/4 of the day is spent learning math and science and all your other basic academics. I graduated and am now attending UConn, working on my degree in Political Science, with plans to go to law school. More than 80% of our graduating class is attending some type of secondary education. Its an arts school so it makes sense for it to be in the middle of downtown with better access to the Shubert and many Yale facilities. Some kids choose co-op because they want 1 on 1 teacher attention, instead of attending Cross or Hillhouse with a graduating class of probably 1000 students…I chose Co-op because at my town’s school if your not a cheerleader or football player you are no one. The arts and academic teachers are both great and the reason why I was accepted to many great colleges. With this new building, these very talented students can perform in something other than a gymatorium (cross b/w a auditorium and gym) No one complains when someone builds a multimillion dollar football stadium so their precious kids can become professional football players and then at age 35 be screwed. How is it a waste of money and land??  u tell me that

posted by: Netgear on January 20, 2009  4:50pm

“Total waist of money and land.”

Grammar before insults my friend.

posted by: anon on January 20, 2009  4:55pm

The best part of the building, besides the glass dance studio on the corner, are the retail stores on the ground floor. Those will tie the building into the urban fabric.

Unfortunately, we can’t say the same of the Gateway Community College plans.  That will be a disaster not seen in New Haven since the construction of Route 34.

The school is a beautiful new building, and the magnet program inside is no doubt good.  I hope our city can afford the $70 million cost - if it can’t, how about raising parking rates for rich suburbanites to $800 per month?

posted by: JP on January 20, 2009  5:29pm

robn, do you really think the kids will leave the school? Even if they do how many times can you go to the same 3 museums and who will pay for the law suite when one gets hit by a car. Didn’t the Dwight street school just get shutdown Why wasn’t this put in its place. It another piece of prime real-estate off the grand list. I still don’t see why New Haven would build an art school it would seem to me that’s what a private school would be for not my tax dollars.

Janice, Congrats on getting into UCONN that’s great but as far as the co-op goes you say “Some kids choose co-op because they want 1 on 1 teacher attention,” Why should I pay for 1 on 1 attention again that’s what privet school is for public school is 30 in a room and you should be happy about it. You say “I chose Co-op because at my town’s school if your not a cheerleader or football player you are no one.” Who cares you are there to learn not to stand out it a crowd and your comment about public high schools with multimillion dollar football stadiums is just nonsense. I could be wrong football is big in PA and FL.

posted by: norton street on January 20, 2009  6:07pm

look at the the british art museum on chapel street. louis kahn designed it to fit in with the street by placing retail on the bottom opening to the sidewalk. this coop school offers nothing to the majority of people only the students and faculty that work there. its a great looking building and im glad we got someone like pelli to design it but lets be real its not the best place.
and lets not even act like the old coop building was far from downtown its within easy walking distance to chapel street. route 34 would have been a better place for the school.

posted by: robn on January 20, 2009  6:13pm


Regarding your first point, i’ll give you one good reason and two good examples of why you’re wrong. If the private market was capable of making better use out of the COOP site, then the following private market projects would not have collapsed:

The Intercontinetal project which was 700 yards away from COOP and which was recently abandoned.

The Landino project which was about 10 yards awat from COOP (across the street) and which was recently abandoned.

Regarding your second point, I agree with you that a good facility is no substitute for good teachers. Where I continually disagree with you is that I believe that good teachers are no substitute for good parenting, something sorely lacking in this impoverished city.

posted by: anon on January 20, 2009  6:37pm

Very good points, ROBN!

posted by: robn on January 20, 2009  7:35pm


The school is a good deal…the state is picking up 90% of the tab.  If there is, as you write, $750,000 of annual debt service; in a city with 50,000 households, that 15 bucks per household. Put another way, thats 4 cents a day. What kind of a skinflint are you if you won’t pay 4 cents a day for a new school? hmmmm?

posted by: cedarhillresident on January 20, 2009  8:08pm

Ok I need to expand my comment. When I agree with JP on the waste of money and land, I really do believe we have to many schools, non taxable schools in this city.
As “city Hall watch”, expanded on my question of why are we spending money advertising right now…it is because we do not have enough students in all these schools, infact we have to pay the state back some of the money because of the lack of students! so we are not getting the funds from the state because of it. We have several other schools opening and being built right now on top of this lack of enrollment. So as a tax paying citizen what is so wrong with people questioning this??? Really? Why

I personally belive arts schools are very important, I put my kids in one. A large part of my family makes a very good living in this field (in one form or another) so it is very important. But we should not be talking about the curriculum of the school but the fact that can this city afford another one??

posted by: fedupwithliberals on January 20, 2009  8:39pm


“The school is a good deal…the state is picking up 90% of the tab.”

Yeah! Someone else is paying for it! Where do you think the state gets money from? How many other cities have residents that think the same way you do? Can you say “Deficit climbs to nearly $922 million”?

posted by: JP on January 20, 2009  8:52pm

It should also be noted that 56% of the city budget goes toward education and we have over a billion dollars in debt. Also the state pays closer to 60% then 90% of the construction cost. So again I ask did we really need a 70 million dollar art school.
For anyone who still says yes lets see how you feel when the city closes half the library’s, cancels funding for the shubert, and laysoff a large percentage of union workers.

posted by: City Hall Watch on January 20, 2009  9:20pm


These school costs cannot be viewed in a vacuum. To say it’s only $15 per household ignores all the rest of the $15s in the city budget. You could break down every expense in the city with the justification of it’s only $15. All those expenses have added up to an increase in my tax bill of $2,000 in just four years to an all time high of $6,300 annually. Aside from these new schools, which are having trouble graduating kids, keeping kids, and teaching basic skills needed in college and life, what have we to show for it? Nothing but a mountain of debt, platitudes and excuses.

posted by: robn on January 20, 2009  9:21pm

FUWL and JP,

Almost all towns have gotten state assistance for school construction. New Haven replacing its crumbling schools is just an extension of that trust all municipalities have shown to each other throughout the years. If you’re concerend about possible imbalance, this is no more or less fair than say ...building roads all over Connecticut with New Haven tax dollars that New Haveners don’t use.

This country wasn’t built with teary eyed pseudo-patriotism of the non-involved, it was built with elbow grease and money. You guys want to live in a vacuum, built yourself a rocketship…otherwise pay your damn taxes like everybody else.

posted by: walt bradley on January 20, 2009  10:05pm

$70 million for 446 students.  The city is shutting down bare bones buildings that would shelter homeless from below freezing temperatures, tax rates across the city are at record levels, when the snow melts robberies will be rampant and LEGAL citizens of New Haven are unemployed at depression level numbers.  There is absolutely no justification for this expendature.
I hope when we find a viable candidate (please sit down Mr. Green) they will make His or her announcement in front of this building.
Is there anyone listening in Fair Haven?

posted by: City Hall Watch on January 21, 2009  6:29am


Yes, all communities get help in building new schools, but the don’t dominate the agenda with $1.5 billion in construction; and they don’t build $65 and $70 million schools. That’s because their reimbursement rate is lower because they build what they need and can afford vs. what they dream while hoping others will send their kids to our schools under the magnet program. The cost of this school is $156,950 per student. Stunning.

posted by: Ttam on January 21, 2009  7:41am

To the students and teachers:

Congratulations you deserve it!  Thank you to the city for investing in the education of all of our students.

To the nay sayers I received an arts education in high school and have a college degree in music.  Now I have my own business, own a house in New Haven and pay taxes…

posted by: Selective Watching on January 21, 2009  7:42am

Watch:  I used to pay your posts some heed but can no longer ignore the selective use of facts and failure to concede legitimate points.

While you demand transparency and accountability you cite to “sources” to support your claims.  In your back and forth with other posters, some of whom appear to support public education expenditures, some who do not, the one constant is your demeaning comments about the students and staff.

Thankfully in CT education is a constitutional right and local unnamed gadflys and “sources” do not rule the day.

This particular building project which was approved by the BOE, the Citywide Building Committee and the Board of Aldermen has long been in the planning stages and is now a reality, 

While Clark will not concede a connection between buildings and test scores per se, it is clear from the excitement of the children and staff that this school has the great potential to make a dramatic difference.  The BOE has increased test scores across the Board.  While you want results at the snap of a finger, it is not that easy.  However, the statistical gains are dramatic and significant.  Career High School, one of the first School Construction Buildings, had some of the largest test score gains among High Schools and has been recognized by US News and World Report with a Silver designation,  16 schools in the state achieved this, 2 in New Haven, yet you still claim, “no results.”

Clark and the BOE leadership is right to focus on quality of instruction and time on task.  The District Plan focuses on these two issues specifically among a few others.

It seems to me that when I listen to them they always are careful to note the many challenges and the need to work harder and achieve more,

Folks like Dr. Ortiz have rolled up their sleeves and made plans to attack areas such as ELL (see Allan’s story on the subject) and are quantifying results with data, not anonymous sources with agendas, data.  If his programs work they will be expanded, if it does not work as well as anticipated it will be tweaked to focus on the areas of need in order to close the achievement gap.

Students are not leaving New Haven as stated by Cedar and echoed in the NHI chamber by others.  In fact, the numbers have remained steady from the State filings that I see.  Magnet School waiting lists are large and as buildings like COOP come on line more kids can be accepted from New Haven and surrounding towns meaning more money for New Haven.  By the way I assume that the commercial was state funded and part of the State’s desire to expand Magnets not some desperation move to fill vacant seats by New Haven although I will let Clark and Canelli answer that one for sure.

As I see it, there is no question New Haven needs to do better and the BOE seems committed to that goal with some good results to their credit.  In the mean time I, for one, do not begrudge the students a new building and tools for academic success.  Education is the key to our future and you cannot defund it and expect anything but failure.

posted by: MTP on January 21, 2009  8:56am

“Why do we even need a co-op art school go learn math and science, seems like we are encouraging kids to be bus-boys and waitresses with this thing.”

Really JP? Was this a statement you really thought about?

My first job was as a bus-boy at the old Rusty Scupper, and I bet you’d be surprised to hear that I have BA and I’m working on a Master’s. As a matter of fact…most of the my friends and work colleagues also work in the restaurant business at one point in their lives.

Are you from a city? Have you considered the benefits of developing future employees/employers that are familiar with working in a downtown urban setting?

Yes…City Hall has made some questionable calls at the cost of our taxpayers, but the school reconstruction projects shouldn’t be included on this “grand list”.

Just think…the waitress or bar-back at BAR could be your boss one day!

posted by: Bruce on January 21, 2009  9:02am

I think the school (and the school building program) is over the top, especially considering the frailty of our economy and the dire state the city is in.  Taxes are already through the roof and this will not ease the pain.  However, I do recognize that what this will do is get kids excited about going to school.  There is a lot of value to that.  I went to a fantastic arts magnet school (Educational Center for the Arts) and it was extremely motivating.  I doubt I would have gone to college otherwise.  I ended up leaving music as a profession and got into engineering, but I may not have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for ECA.  I think this school will do wonderful things for kids (like Janice) who do not get excited about sports or cheerleading.  We need arts schools.  Again, a bit over the top, but the kids are going to get a lot out of it.

posted by: Streever on January 21, 2009  9:48am


Great to see someone who actually lives in this situation commenting, but don’t let this lot get you down: they’re cranky, low blood sugar, & prone to ravings—especially when they aren’t using a real name.

I’m glad you got a great education & your school did well by you—I definitely believe these schools bring a lot, even in tough times.

I agree with Bruce—kids get a lot out of these schools. I wish options like this had been open to me, & am really glad to see they are opening up to more & more students.

posted by: JP on January 21, 2009  10:25am

Hey lets petition for a 70M dollar phys-ed school the kids really need it now with all childhood obesity and everything.

posted by: Bruce on January 21, 2009  11:11am

JP,  you may be joking but in 2002 they completed a $25 million athletic facility at Hillhouse High School.  Split cost = 22/78 (city/state).

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 21, 2009  11:43am

Streever et al.,

The old Co-op high school’s 2008 CAPT results for minority students are startingly low, even when compared to New Haven and State averages.

Black students at goal: 5.4%
Hispanic students at goal: 10.7%



I assume you think that the results are pretty bleak, as I do. The correlation between high school academic achievement, subsequent college graduation rates, and income over a lifetime is irrefutable.  There will be kids who will figure out a way to beat the odds, perhaps like Janice.  But sadly, the current numbers say that most of the minority students who currently attend the school will not have much of an economic future.

These tragic results do not need to occur. We know today how to get better outcomes. If we had spent even a fraction (10%) of the $70 million on proven academic interventions instead of on the phyiscal structure of the building, I think the scores could be much more positive.

Again, I think that facilities are important especially if the existing structures are decrepit.  But, do these academic results change anyone’s perspective about where we should be devoting our attention and resources?

posted by: JP on January 21, 2009  11:47am

Bruce, your right http://www.cga.ct.gov/2007/rpt/2007-R-0277.htm what in the world is wrong with this city. All BOE money should be voted on like they do in the Amity district at this point. Its clear the administration will built whatever and as much as they can as long as the state front most of the money. Obviously its not for new haven kids but to entice suburban kids to come to school here so that we get money from the towns they are from but we just cant afford this kind of insanity.

posted by: Ali on January 21, 2009  12:28pm

Complaining about why the money was spent “in such terrible economic times” is pointless. The project is done, and expectations of funds from the state were probably determined long before the project was started which was at least three years ago. If such a project were proposed today I too would be worried.

Let’s hope the facility is put to good use, the students appreciate it, and that it will draw some more kids into the school system.  Seems like that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

posted by: robn on January 21, 2009  1:21pm


Firstly, there are other municipalities with comparable reimbursement rates..look here and you’ll see…


Secondly, if you peruse the following website you’ll see very healthy school grants for many other municipalities over the past few years…

Thirdly, an arts school has higher per pupil costs than typical schools becuase it includes special facilities like preformance spaces with specialty seating etc…you can’t dance or put on a play in the ten square feet that you place a normal school desk.

Lastly, I can guarantee you that I have the same or greater tax fatigue as you…I just think that improved school infrastructure was long overdue and the state reimbursement is a fair deal that we were smart to take adavantage of….remember; this is coming from the same legislature that doesn’t let us tax 40% of the property New Haven.

posted by: City Hall Watch on January 21, 2009  3:01pm


I just looked over both of those sites, and while the reimbursement forumula is close enough to ours, nobody is proposing new schools like we are where a single school costs $70 mil - in most cases, the total amount of money paid doesn’t even equal $70 mil across the last 10 years. It’s cool that information’s online, but I’m not sure what comfort I’m supposed to find by reading it.

To Selective Watching:

Looking at the test scores for Coop posted above, makes my heart ache. 90% or more of the minority kids are not meeting basic requirements. This will guarantee that another generation of poverty, chronic unemployment and low self esteem is being birthed and fostered right before our eyes. Clark talks about the value of spending time on task - it sure seems that more energy is being spent on these new schools than on the classroom. Until you begin solving these problems in teaching these kids, you will continue to have chronic crime, unemployment, poverty, drop outs and subsidized housing together with an insufficient number of wage earners to pay for it.

posted by: cedarhillresident on January 21, 2009  3:58pm

Did Clark create this. or did he just inherit it? If it is the latter then their is only so much he can do to change it on his own. The citizens need to start speaking out. I hate to be the person that stands against the dictatorship of New Haven. I have seen some positives in NH schools. thing’s do not change over night. I wonder if the higher up posts at BOE where elected if things could change even more.
Still think we have to many schools that we are paying for in one tax or another. And then I keep hearing the the magnet trend may be coming to an end and that scares me! But hey if we have to shut down a few of the schools at least we have some nice building to liquidate.

posted by: robn on January 21, 2009  5:34pm


You’re comparing the expenditures of individual towns with a magnet school system serving an area with almost 30% of the population of the Connecticut. Apples and oranges dude.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 21, 2009  6:11pm

CedarHill Resident,

Couple of bones of contention:  What do you mean “overnight”?  This administration has been in place for 15 years. 

Also, an elected BOE could be better or it could be a lot worse than an appointed BOE.  It all depends on whether you have an enlightened mayor.  In Hartford, New York city, Washington DC, and now even in Bridgeport we have mayors who see the issue clearly.  In New Haven, not so much.

Lastly, I think there are some good things about magnets.  The fact that 2,000 kids a day come into town to attend magnets is exciting and emblematic of a healthy part of the system.  But th proliferation of magnets in New Haven has been used primarily as a capital funding source from the state.  There is nothing intrinsic about a magnet school that offers any improvement in closing the achievement gap.  The scores above prove that out. 

Magnets do make for great TV though, and who can dispute that Mr. Canelli makes an EXCELLENT spokesman!

posted by: Bill Saunders on January 21, 2009  7:48pm

My home town—New Milford, CT—recently build a giant new state of the art high school (buying up the land from a working farm)

The total construction cost was 47 million
(33% less than the art co-op)

The student population is 1500 and growing.
(3.4 times more than art co-op).

So, at comparative value, the new art co-op cost 5 time as much per student, on a per student basis, as a similarly designed high school in the suburbs.

New Milford even nixed the in-ground Olympic sized pool to bring the project in budget.

posted by: john john on January 21, 2009  8:08pm

This is a disgusting waste of money.  I realize the city is “only” on the hook for 10-15 million, but in the current time and situation our city, state and country is in, it’s a very very poor use of money that is needed much more for more immediate things like, emergency housing and shelter for the homeless, soon to be homeless forclosed upon families.  Roads are falling apart, bridges are crumbling.  The money the city has put into this place could have bailed out city businesses and homeowners, it could have done much more in other places.

posted by: citystudent on January 21, 2009  11:13pm

I’d like to offer a different student perspective from Janice’s. I go to one of the two high schools in New Haven that aren’t magnets. The school was renovated in the last decade, but I can guarantee you that it did not cost anywhere near $70 mil.

The building isn’t the grandest, and there are some problems, but it serves its purpose. I don’t begrudge the Co-op students a new building, I just think it’s a bit excessive. The city could have scaled down the proposal if they had had the foresight to see the direction the economy was going in.

Now before you say I’m just complaining, I do realize that there is nothing that can be done about this now. Decisions like this that emphasize style over substance seem to be the way it is with this BOE (and more to my knowledge, the superintendent). I am actively involved in the student council at my school and the city, and we have met quite a lot of resistance when trying to get anything pragmatic done at the city wide level.

posted by: robn on January 22, 2009  8:56am


You’re comparing apples and oranges. Unless you think danceers can dance on top of their desks or ceramicists can fire up a 1000 degree kiln right next to them, the ratios of sqaure feet and cost per student just isn’t comparable between a typical high school and an arts high school.

posted by: cedarhillresident on January 22, 2009  9:40am

Do have to give Looney a heads up he is trying to protect the magnet schools in hartford…


posted by: JP on January 22, 2009  10:13am

robn, I don’t know what you are talking about with this space thing. I have never seen a high school without an auditorium and stage. I’ve never seen one with out a room for all of the art classes you are talking about. Again I submit an art high school is a total waist of money and was only built to get more suburban kids into the New Haven system.
I can’t wait for the first time they try to put on a play and they can’t hear the actors over the bars. How many drunk girls will use the building as a bathroom at 2:00am.
But hey I guess the kids will be able to get out of class and head right over to wherever the juice bar is that night. It should be great for business at Alchemy, five senses and Gothem.

posted by: City Hall Watch on January 22, 2009  2:18pm


It’s not all apples and oranges - and sorry to tell you, but New Haven does not serve 30% of the student population in Connnecticut. The actual percentage is only 4. According to the CT State Data Center at UCONN, there are 516,400 students at the end of the 2007/08 school year. New Haven is among the top five school districts seeing a decline in student population year to year. It along with school districts statewide is expected to see a 17% drop in overall enrollment through the year of 2020. According to the center, school enrollment is not expected to ever reach its high of 523,100 again.

Which then begs the question, and assuming the NH BOE braintrust already knows the above information which took me five minutes to find, why in the world are we building extravagant schools, hocking the future of our children with extraordinary levels of debt which consumes a larger and larger share of spendable local budget dollars, for a system that is going into long term enrollment decline? We are going to have massive schools, high operating costs, huge debt and a much smaller student body. We are already seeing it. 

Should we not be investing these dollars in curriculum, teaching methods and anything else that will get our children competitive and help them provide for themselves in a long term sustainable way?

posted by: robn on January 22, 2009  4:25pm


I didn’t write that the interdistrict magnet schools serve 30% of the student population of CT…I wrote that the interdistrict magnet schools serve an area with 30% of Connecticut’s population. This is significant in terms of regionalism, which is an abstract debate when it comes to town governance, but a reality in this particular facet of the school system.

posted by: Streever on January 22, 2009  6:41pm

“I have never seen a high school without an auditorium and stage. I’ve never seen one with out a room for all of the art classes you are talking about.”

You should visit some of the schools in New Haven man
it’s a joke

I’m glad the city is finally doing it’s part for the kids who grow up here

why should they have to go to some of the cesspools we have for public schools

I was at a school for the election—1st graders use the bathroom I saw—it was covered in the worst filth imaginable—the words/phrases written on the walls were absolutely disgusting—I don’t think kids can’t handle anything, but they certainly don’t need to read some of the crap I read.

I’m glad we’re giving them new schools that are attractive, well-designed, & have a broader appeal. I’ve been in many of them & have not seen the graffiti covering the walls—I can only assume that when you have a nice, attractive spot to be, you are more likely to respect it then when you go to school in a stinking bomb shelter.

posted by: Old Newhallville on January 22, 2009  10:09pm

Walt that was clearly a cheap shot and by the way his name is spelled Greene. Greene is a viable candidate and a man who has not been afraid to stand up for what is right. However, I doubt that he is interested. (I have worked on all his campaigns from 1987-present)The people of this city complain but never implement change. (yourself included) By the way what have you stood up for (myself included)besides spend our time blogging and never coming up front and being counted. Greene in the past has publicly stated that the vision of downtown was going in the wrong direction from the Shartenburg to the selling of prime real estate to non-profits. He is just as viable or more so than the sitting mayor who by the way dismantled the Q house along with Reggie Mayo’s help. However before you suggest that anyone sit down try standing up instead of just blogging. Yes he is a friend of mine and if given a real opportunity you would hear some very solid ideas from Greene as to the rebuilding of this city.

posted by: RichTherrn on January 23, 2009  8:50am

No one that knows the school or the principal would say that they don’t emphasize academic achievement as well as the arts.
The staff and administrators are constantly setting high standards for all the classes. Of course there is much work to be done, but it isn’t a question of school construction taking away from the hard work of staff and students to increase learning.
Even before the new building this was recognized:

In US News and World Reports 2009 Best High Schools published December 4th , Cooperative High and Hill Career were 2 of the 16 CT High Schools recognized as Silver Awards and New Haven Academy 1 of the 5 CT High Schools recognized as Bronze Awards.

No High School in CT received Gold. 604 Schools received Silver nationwide. There are 21,069 High Schools nationwide, and 231 High Schools in CT, putting Coop, Career and New Haven Academy in the top 9% in CT and in the US and Coop and Career in the top 3% nationwide.
-Richard Therrien
NHPS Science Supervisor

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 23, 2009  9:17am

Mr. Therrien,

How does one reconcile all of the awards and self-congratulatory accolades with the abysmal academic outcomes?

posted by: RichTherrn on January 23, 2009  12:49pm

You could certainly read the magazine for a description of their ranking methodology… it appears that they looked at students’ performance as above average in relation to statistically comparable schools, as well as college readiness. I wouldn’t characterize the outcomes as abysmal. Writing at the school is a high point.. (and we are working on the science!).  The achievement gap at Coop is narrowing, and the students there are improving at a faster rate than other urban high schools in CT. The ultimate decider of course, is that parents are very pleased with the school.. students stay AND advance grades and graduate and a large number of parents WANT to send students there.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 23, 2009  2:55pm

Mr. Therrien,

I respectfully disagree.

First, what about the minority student scores are not abysmal?  (Can we agree to use “at goal” as a marker instead of “proficient” please?)

I did try to discern the ranking methodology from the “School Matters” website without complete success.  Their stated philosophy is focused on parents, and apparently not too much on what happens inside the schools themselves.  It also seems that they grade using a “poverty index”, which appears to produce the effect of significantly lowering the bar for academic outcomes from urban schools with a large poor and minority population.

The result:  A SILVER MEDAL awarded to a school in which the vast majority of minority students are performing under goal.

Don’t you think Mr. Therrien, that some of the parents who choose to put their children in the school might have been swayed by pieces like this well-publicized report?

Mr. Therrien, you are usually straight forward with your responses to the criticsm in this forum.  I can understand that it is hard and I respect you taking on the spokesperson role.  I and others don’t mind if you defend your plans with thought and vigor.  We can agree to disagree, as they say.  But what IS objectionable are the distortions and whitewashing of the actual outcomes which seem to flow from others like a torrent of unending propoganda.  Don’t join them.

Why can’t you (collectively) just say what the truth is?  That these results are unacceptably low - and that you understand that.  And that you and your colleagues are trying to do your best to change the situation?  Then we can all stop fighting about where we are now, and instead focus on where we want to go?

Lastly, I am all for parent choice and agree that parents are an important constituency.  But public schools have a broader responsibility as well…one to the community to produce an educated citizenry.  And lots of us don’t see your results and your ongoing strategies in quite the same rosy light.

posted by: RichTherrn on January 23, 2009  3:48pm

Fix, I don’t mind that you disagree… or even if you dispute the methodology of the USNW article. I always try to put in facts that actually have to do with the topic at hand instead of a too wide general discussion about schools in general.
I (and most district officials) have never said student achievement at any school, or across the district, for any group, is good enough. IT IS NOT. Student test results ARE too low. WE ARE trying to change it. I state that over and over.  So does the principal of this very school, and several other district officials ALL the time. If you want to copy and past that into every public statement, feel free..

But, we have to acknowledge some advancements, and use some measures of comparisons to other schools and districts instead of throwing our hands up. I’m not going to answer my phone with “NHPS, we aren’t good enough” . We all (students, parents, educators) pick out those things that work, celebrate them, and try to replicate them with the resources we have.

Point me to a strategy that you think we aren’t pursuing (especially about this school) and we will be happy to look into it.

Specifically about test scores… realize that we look at more than 10th grade CAPT goal percentage, to evaluate a high school… we look at proficiency, demographics including special ed and ELL, retesters, SAT, social skills, promotion rates, etc…across many years as did that USNW article (I think!).

I’m just happy for the school in general.. given the amount of science supplies I helped to unpack, I know the kids will get some good science at least!
-Richard Therrien
-NHPS Science Supervisor

posted by: Tom Burns on January 25, 2009  1:13am

I enjoy the banter on this sight—-each of the regulars spout their particular position over and over—they make some good points—is there waste in education in New Haven—maybe, well how do we fix it? Come up with a tangible, workable plan and suggest it—don’t just complain. Mayor Destefano’s legacy will be School Constuction—that is evident—Dr. Mayo cares—that’s why he is still here—this is his home—-Mr. Therien is talented, competent and focused—-in a short period of time he will get the job done——In closing—most people here talk about test scores and the achievement gap—-is that whats important? Come on—-how about starting with character and respect——Do you really think that all students should excel in science and math—-WHY? I have been an educator and coach for over 20 years and I believe that every student needs to leave school with the rudimentary skills of reading, writing and arithmetic—-whatever else they choose to do with their lives is up to them—-Let’s all chip in and get it done——Together!

posted by: ParkStTaxPayer on January 25, 2009  7:11pm

a beautiful new building in the heart of the financial/retail part of New Haven, instead in the areas rife with poverty and despair, bring hope and dignity to students from all over the New Haven County region. Students learn best in bright, safe locations, and this new location is a few city blocks from New Haven’s transit hubs: Union Station and the Chapel St bus stops.

do you remember YOUR high school education? Wish YOU could have chosen the classes and the curriculum you wanted? Students at magnet schools apply for admission, are interested in the schools’ goals for them, and are encouraged to succeed.

Is a monetary value being placed on our childrens’ future? I’m excited that spot isn’t another night club or liquor store or Dunkin Donuts. It’s a vibrant use of the space, for the education and inspiration of a new generation. Hard work in a school that nurtures creativity can shape a child’s life for the positive. Let’s hope some of the leaders that emerge from this new high school join the ranks of elected government in our fair city! We need leaders with a fresh perspective, and leaders who can think outside the “box” of traditional (and tired, in my opinion) ‘read and rote’ method of learning.

hats off to the new students! those of us who actually live downtown are happy you’re here!

posted by: RichTherrn on January 26, 2009  5:20pm

Tom writes:
“Do you really think that all students should excel in science and math—-WHY?”

Tom…. yes, because the future they will enter demands it. To have anything less as our goal is not serving our students’ best interests.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on January 27, 2009  10:25am


You ask some great questions.

Unfortunately its not as simple as putting out an alternative plan.  Why?  Because for almost two decades we have seen LOTS of big improvement plans coming from the BOE with big goals, big objectives.  Unfortunately there is only marginal progress at best.  With all of the assets available to NHPS, we have managed to only slightly outperform our statewide peers, Hartford and Bridgeport in the race to the bottom.  Certainly not “across the board” as boosters often talk about. 

So at this point, could there be ANY credible improvement plan which should not include a change of current leadership?

Too tough a viewpoint?

I refer you towards the NHPS “BOLD GOALS” for its 2005-2007 district improvement plan:

1. By 2008, 95% of students will be ready to succeed by the end of kindergarten

2. By 2008, 95% of students will meet literacy and math standards

3. By 2008, the achievement gap will be nor more than 5% for defined subgroups

4. By 2008, 95% of students will demonstrate necessary social skills for success in school and life

5. By 2008, 95% of students entering 9th grade will graduate ready for college, post secondary ed

If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable.  I ask you, Where is the accountability?

posted by: citystudent on January 28, 2009  4:00pm

Thanks, Fix, now we can see what’s never going to happen. Part of the problem with these “Bold Goals” (despite their silly name)? They are ambiguously worded. What does “ready to succeed” even mean? It’s something that should be decided on a per student basis.

These goals are yet another example of the NHPS using a one size fits all approach to educating students who should be treated as unique individuals.

posted by: JAparent on February 5, 2009  12:33pm

I am an intradistrict parent who has been sending two children for the past eight years to New Haven for their education. My daughter is a freshman at Co-op where I assure you her major is in reading, writing and arithmatic and her minor is in creative writing. As for the location of the school, I find it absurd that this is even an issue. Most colleges and universities are located in the heart of every city across the country. When do we prepare our children for city life? At 18? For FIXTHESCHOOLS, it is unfair to hold a school system soley responsible for low test scores. Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven deal with very different types of students than their counterparts in the surrounding suberbian towns. In the inner cities you have more children who English is not even a second language, children who have one or more parent behind bars and children who are being raised by somone other than a parent and let’s not forget children like my son who are learning disabled, and who’s measure of intelligence is not always accuratley portrayed in a standardized test. You expect these kids to score in the top percentages? I’ll take well educated children over precious real estate any day.

posted by: Joanne D. on October 1, 2009  10:42pm

Beautiful School, however administration has serious issues.