All Is Forgiven

Paul Bass PhotoToni Harp wanted to go to the library. But she was scared.

She loved going to the library. “It was the one place my mother would let me go by myself,” she said.

But she owed a library book. And she couldn’t find it. She thought she’d get in trouble.

Finally, she had to head there: She needed to do research for a school assignment, and this was long before the Internet age. “It’ll be OK. It’ll be OK,” she kept telling herself. And it was: The librarians were kind as always. She paid a small fine. And she was back in the book business.

That happened six decades ago, when Harp was 9 years old and growing up in Utah. She still remembers how it felt.

She recalled that feeling as she urged New Haveners Monday to come back to the library with overdue books. Or worse, lost books. April, which is also national library month, marks a campaign called “All is Forgiven” at the New Haven Free Public Library. From now through April 21, all the public library branches are waiving fees on overdue books and CDs and cassette.

The libraries promise “we can work it out” as well if you’ve lost a book. During the campaign the libraries will waive the usual $3 fee for replacing lost library cards, as long as you bring in a photo ID and proof of address.

Harp also announced that all the city’s library branches now have free wifi service and 1 gigabyte Internet service.

Harp made the remarks during her latest appearance on “Mayor Monday” on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program.

Hillhouse Shift

Also on the program, she addressed the decision to hire a single Hillhouse High principal to oversee the whole school. Right now, three principals oversee four separate academies at the school.

Harp said the change grows out of a continued concern that inadequate communication has hampered the transition to the academy system at Hillhouse, She said that the principals who’ll lose their positions will be moved to positions elsewhere in the school system, either at other schools or as assistant principals at Hillhouse. She said the system may not need to create new assistant principal positions for each of the Hillhouse academies, because of retirements. So taxpayers may save some money.

Harp reiterated her support of the academy system itself, which has sparked some criticism from people who argue Hillhouse should be one school rather than several smaller schools within a school. Harp argued that the smaller schools enable students to receive more individualized attention and learn better. She said graduation rates have improved steadily at the school in recent years, as has the “persistence rate” of graduates remaining in college.

Critics who say the old Hillhouse system worked better are living int he past, Harp argued.

“The ‘70s, ‘80s, the ‘90s even, we weren’t educating all the kids” because in New Haven’s manufacturing-dominated old economy, students without high school degrees could earn good livings at factories.

In the new economy, students need to go to college or at least earn certifications and/or obtain some community college straining to obtain living-wage jobs, she said. As a result, the school model has to change.

“There are leaders who grew up when were just trying to educate the 25 percent. They thought that was a great system,” Harp said. “We can’t afford to do that anymore.” Even factory jobs require more advanced education and training than in the past, she said.


To listen to Harp’s full “Mayor Monday” episode on WNHH, which also covered the city’s new clean-up campaign as well as celebrations of Hillhouse’s track and basketball teams, click on or download the audio above, or check out WNHH’s “Dateline New Haven” podcast on Soundcloud or iTunes

Monday’s episode of “Dateline New Haven” was made possible in partnership with Gateway Community College.

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posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on April 11, 2016  10:47pm

There was much more wrong with the academy system than poor communication. If Harp had attended the aldermanic public hearing on Hillhouse, she count have had a direct dialogue with the scores of Hillhouse teachers, students, parents and alumni who argued their case against the three principals and three academies set up. If Harp would rather listen to the superintendent than the people who voted her into office to represent them, this will be another issue that will have to be addressed in the near future.
The facts are the system failed. It divided a school and its staff. Leadership was divided, confused and disoriented. Students did not have access to certain electives. All teacher vacancies were not filled. For months some students had no teacher. Teachers were frustrated, disrespected, lied to and demoralized. Students and parents were confused, angry and fed up with the frequent changes.
We were all fed a bunch a malarkey about better grades, better more individual learning, increased graduation rates because of Harries’ folly, while test scores demonstrated that many students were not college ready.
This academy system is not new. Hillhouse had academies 20-30 years ago with one principal. That term was not used then, but it was in practice. Hilhouse students have always had individual attention from dedicated teachers. To imply otherwise is an insult to those teachers!
People are weary of the mayor, superintendent and certain administrators saying that people who advocate for a traditional, classical liberal arts curriculum at Hillhouse are “living in the past,’’ nostalgic for a “golden age” of education long gone in America. Many New Haveners believe that a fundamental failure of American education today is a rejection of WHAT WORKED for questionable, speculative “new” education experimentation which has produced two generations of Americans who know far less and have fewer skills than their grandparents!

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on April 11, 2016  10:58pm

Page 2.
Another issue is that New Haven has a superintendent who has little academic training and fer years of experience as a professional educator and a Board of Education president who likewise is a novice in the field with no formal training as a professional educator. Harp tends to follow Harries lead and ignore or dismiss the dissenting views of veteran teachers, administrators and professional educational leaders who have worked and lived in this city for decades. When it comes to the top educational leadership, New Haven is under-served and poorly led.  The judgment of anyone who thinks that what was done to Hillhouse demonstrated effective educational leadership and wisdom should be questioned and challenged.
The public has questioned that judgment and change will nowcome to Hillhouse. There must be MORE to come. This struggle is not over. Hillhouse has issues with insufficient staffing, resources, technology, and curriculum which must be addressed and resolved BEFORE the next school year.
So New Haveners, Hillhouse teachers, parents, students and alumni this is simply the first round in an effort to provide what is best for the students and staff of this historic school. Continue to push, probe, ask questions, attend board meetings, public hearing, petition and write letters to all elected and appointed officials to make sure this school is run effectively and efficiently. COMMON SENSE dictates that we do so!