More School Closures Loom

Christopher Peak PhotoNew Haven might not be done shuttering schools.

Superintendent Carol Birks said that she plans to form a committee that will review the district’s physical plant and recommend which schools to keep open next year.

Birks, who has spent her first few months trying to get the budget in order, presented the idea to the Finance & Operations Committee at a meeting this week at Gateway Center. She said the committee would facilitate more community input, if the district faced another deficit from the state and city’s flat-funding of their education contributions.

“We are listing this on the agenda because everything is on the table to mitigate this current budget crisis we are facing,” said Jamell Cotto, who chaired the meeting.

Facing a $19.4 million budget deficit this year, Birks made the quick decision within two months of starting the job to close Cortlandt V.R. Creed High School, an inter-district magnet located in temporary quarters in North Haven, and consolidate three alternative programs into one “opportunity high school.”

The shuttering of three buildings happened after the open-choice lottery had already closed, leaving parents to fret that their children would get lost in the reshuffling. In the end, the district was able to expand seats to place nearly all of the students at their preferred alternatives, but not without anxiety about the year ahead.

This time, “we can get ahead of our choice process so that families are aware and we can be sure that we are respectful in the way that we decide,” Birks said.

Birks added that no specific schools have been targeted, but a citywide conversation needs to happen, even if it takes several months and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We are going to, this fall, convene a team of stakeholders to look at our schools,” she said. “It’s an extensive process. It usually takes 18 months in order to consider whether a school is going to be closed or not, looking at demographic studies and birth trends and engaging as many stakeholders as possible so that people are aware of our decision-making process.

“I’m going to be very transparent, generally districts spend a lot of money — around $500,000 — to do this work, and I know because I’ve worked in a district who did this twice,” she went on. “We want to make sure that we have the right technical support — I’m not saying we’re going to spend half a million because we don’t have it — but we’re going to see if we can engage some of our university partners and such.”

During Reggie Mayo’s long tenure as superintendent, New Haven went on a building spree. Cashing in on state funds, the district rebuilt nearly every single school.

The district is currently spending $35.6 million to erect a new home for the Strong School on Southern Connecticut State University’s campus, where it will be renamed the Barack H. Obama University Magnet School.

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posted by: opin1 on September 7, 2018  10:06am

If they closed Booker T Washington they could probably sell the building for a good amount of money since its on the State St corridor (could be converted to apartments or condos like a smaller Corsair). If that’s a good school (I’m not familiar with which schools are high performing) they could close another school building and move Booker.  Just an idea, I also don’t know the condition of the building, etc.

posted by: Dennis Serf on September 7, 2018  10:08am

The last paragraph in the artcle tells us exactly how serious the City is with respect to saving money for the taxpayers.

The district is currently spending $35.6 million to erect a new home for the Strong School on Southern Connecticut State University’s campus, where it will be renamed the Barack H. Obama University Magnet School.

Dennis Serfilippi
Stop the madness. Go to
https://newhaven.nationbuilder.com

posted by: 1644 on September 7, 2018  10:39am

opin:  Isn’t Booker T a charter school?  Isn’t it in the former St Stanislas School?  My observation is charters (and sometimes magnets like NHA) are often located in former parochial schools.  I suspect the building may be rented, not owned, and in any case I believe charters are responsible for finding their own homes.  Note:  Booker T is one of the district’s highest performing schools, in site of a high needs and not diverse student population.  Some commentators like 3/5’s have attacked its success because it’s a charter.

posted by: 1644 on September 7, 2018  10:44am

opin:  As the comments make clear, Booker T didn’t beat the suburbs but it is competitive with them. I wonder is the secret is Green Onions for breakfast. That would get me going.

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/booker_t_and_the_mgees/

posted by: newhavenishome on September 7, 2018  11:12am

Follow along folks-A school district currently in deficit is forging ahead with plans to build a new 35.6m, of which their share is 10m.  That same school district is stating that there will be further school closings in order to close said deficit.  Ummm, the solution is right there for all to see. Why do we continue to ignore the obvious? DO NOT build anymore schools!

NHPS- Defying logic daily.

posted by: 1644 on September 7, 2018  12:25pm

The deficit is in the operating budget.  The school construction is being financed by borrowed money, which does not come out of the BoE’s operating budget, and which can be dissolved in bankruptcy.  Moreover,  the construction generates and provides a return on political contributions and support from architects, engineers, construction companies and construction unions.  So long as bond buyers are foolish enough to lend New Haven money, why not take it?  It’s not like the city will need to pay to back.  if will scoop and toss until lenders get smart, then declare bankruptcy or have the state take over like Hartford did.

posted by: mmrmike1 on September 7, 2018  12:51pm

@1644, Green Onions sounds good for breakfast but ’ Time is Tight’.

posted by: opin1 on September 7, 2018  1:13pm

@1644, thanks, I didn’t know that. If its very high performing I take back the suggestion. Just thinking if they were to close a school, all things being equal, closing one in a high-rent area where they could sell the building and make some money and have a strong addition to the grand list for years to come makes more sense than closing one where you don’t get those benefits. (I’m not familiar with which schools are charter, which aren’t, or who owns the buildings).

I agree with others, the Strong School on SCSU shouldn’t have been built. We didn’t need another building. Would rather the money have gone towards teachers, student activities, programs, materials, etc (or simply to reduce our borrowing).

posted by: darnell on September 7, 2018  1:59pm

Building the new Obama school will provide us with the room to close 2-3 other schools. The capacity of the current strong school is less than 300. Obama will have the capacity of something like 550. We will be able to close Strong, at least one other school, and perhaps absorb students from a third. And we will close several schools which are well over their lifespans and add another with a 50 year life. That doesn’t even include the other benefits like partnering with Southern CT and the state. So building one new school, closing 2.5-3 older schools, and putting our students on a college campus seems to be a win win for the schools system and the city.

posted by: mechanic on September 7, 2018  5:01pm

I hope the district considers students who have been displaced by this year’s closings.  New closings should have little to no impact on students from Creed and the alternative schools who had to change schools this year.

posted by: Dennis Serf on September 7, 2018  5:04pm

darnell - where do we see the net impact on the taxpayers? please share the detailed analysis and financials with the rest of us.

posted by: 1644 on September 7, 2018  7:21pm

Dennis:  The BoE plan should be in its grant application for the state share of school construction funds.  I don’t see it on the NHPS website’s “key documents”, but a request to the BoE should get you the grant application and supporting documents, including an enrollment study and analysis of why the district needs a new school, which older schools will be shuttered as obsolete, etc.  At this point, I would also expect that the BoE members have ran the specific numbers regarding interest costs on the new bonds versus maintenance and staff savings from closing the older schools.

posted by: NHPLEB on September 8, 2018  6:42am

@ darnell:  You better get that partnership with SCSU in an ironclad contract. When ESUMS moved over by UNH,  the university was supposed to let them use their library and partner for other sharing. The library is off-limits to ESUMS (which now has NO LIBRARY), fields are off limits,  and ESUMS couldn’t even hold their annual 2018 graduation ceremony at the UNH gym.  But UNH is negotiating to rent ESUMS class space after school.  What kind of “deal”  is that and who is negotiating for NHPS/NHBOE????!!!!

@ all:  New Haven went ahead with the boondoggle new school on SCSU campus to snag money from the State.  They will scrape their share from NH taxpayer hides and the nearly the bankrupt State will snag its share from State taxpayers. Any sane,  competent leaders would have stopped the program,  even though it would cost money to stop the bond issue and reimburse the lenders.  This is SCOOP and TOSS by another name and bond purchasers will make money at our expense!

Wake up ,  NH!    PS—this deal was done before Dr. Birks , so please don’t blame her!!!

posted by: Noteworthy on September 8, 2018  9:07am

Truth Notes:

1. Darnell: The basis for the Strong School was NEVER consolidation. EVER. To say so now is wrong and frankly, grossly misleading.

2. Citizens have begged for years to stop the school construction. We’ve asked for consolidation. We’ve asked for efficiencies. It was all ignored. Now, when nearly all the schools are rebuilt at a cost of nearly $2 billion, we face the ugly truth. We can’t afford all these schools and they most were not built to house more kids than used to go there when they were much smaller.

3. It doesn’t take 18 months to close and consolidate schools. It only does if you have to worry about FOTs coming after your head.

4. The NHPS budget is still $8 to $10 million over budget. How are you going to close it? More schools should have been closed this year. You’ll live to regret it. And taxpayers will too because the NHPS will never close this deficit and they’ll hand us another deficit, just like last year, the year before that and this year, it will be done with the mayor’s blessing.

5. It will be paid for with debt. The NHPS needs a deficit mitigation plan in the next 30 days - without it, the entire board should resign - including the mayor.

4.

posted by: robn on September 8, 2018  11:26am

DARNELL,

550 minus 300 equals 250. What 1.5-2 other schools have a combined capacity thats as small as 250?

posted by: Blitheringidiot on September 10, 2018  1:13pm

to do this work, and I know because I’ve worked in a district who did this twice,” she went on.

This is very troubling. Was Birks brought in BECAUSE someone wanted schools to close? Or did they know that schools NEEDED to close? Or that they wished to put the district in to the position of HAVING to close schools?

Is she a cleaner? A closer? Here for a few years to do the dirty work?

posted by: NHPLEB on September 10, 2018  2:45pm

@ Blithering…..  you are correct.  She is here to close , clean up,  and hand over the public schools of New Haven to the private charter interests.  This is all NH has left to offer the vultures:  our children and the money that comes attached to them.  It is a sad day we have come to.  And it’s not just here.  They’re coming for all we have left; all over the country

posted by: Karla Marx on September 10, 2018  3:31pm

You know that public education has jumped the shark when a district suggests they should spend half a million dollars to figure out which schools to close.  Teachers, social workers, guidance counselors, and librarians are in the wrong business. Spending their days with young people!  Ha!  Go get a consulting gig. That’s where the money is. 

Apparently now public schools exist as a way for philanthrocapitalists to earn a few bucks while they simultaneously make recommendations to shut them down.

As Dr. Birks says in the article: “I’m going to be very transparent, generally districts spend a lot of money — around $500,000 — to do this work, and I know because I’ve worked in a district who did this twice.”

The Yale School of Management Deathstar Vultures are waiting in the wings to be the “university partners” on this one.  Is Garth still on their payroll? 

I’m sure he can’t wait to let everyone know what he’s been up to!  Sparkler:  To close the achievement gap, we have to start at birth.

Check out his newest for-profit venture:  This pilot, a collaboration between the State of Connecticut, Help Me Grow® and Sparkler, will empower parents with a first-of-its kind smartphone-based developmental screening and promotion tool into while integrating with existing support systems.  Specifically, the project seeks to improve early child development outcomes through enhanced developmental screening, surveillance, promotion and linkages at the intersection of home, childcare and pediatric settings for children ages zero to three.

Buckle up kids. They’ll stop at nothing to profit off of poverty and injustice.

posted by: dad101 on September 10, 2018  8:51pm

If anyone truly belives that partnering woth a university is beneficial taking one look at the brand new ESUMS. NOTHING about being partnered with UNH is beneficial with the exception of the reduced costs for taking classes(which all of the other universities around the area also offer ) and for seniors graduating from ESUMS who attend UNH they will get a discount if they attend there. UNH doesn’t allow E SUMS to use its facilities, the students aren’t welcomed there because they are minors and it leaves too many potential problems. All of the technology that was supposed to be available, the library, the athletic fields, gym etc..100% off limits. They don’t subsidize anything for esums, non of its programs etc. so if anyone counting on SCSU doing anything with the states budget looking the way that it is good luck all smoke and mirrors!!!!!!

posted by: dad101 on September 10, 2018  8:59pm

PART II As for closing schools reality check for the number of students and the number of buildings NEW HAVEN IS THROWING money out the window faster than an air conditioner on in in a car with windows and sunroof open! The schools with the largest numbers are the least energy efficient least equipped schools in the city . Their numbers exceed multiple magents added together. But again here is someone looking to spend money WE DONT have to do a STUDY that common sense already answers.Looking to hire more administrators for MEADOW street while releasing teachers and counselors(both of whom are direct assets to the students themselves. We spend money on buses that other districts laugh about( almost as much as some of their school budgets) because we are simply shuffling children of all ages across one side of town to the other rather than just making sure that every school has the exact same equipment unless it does have a specialty. We splict families up JUST LIKE ICE. How can one parent attend open house report cards or graduation if their kids cant even go to the same school?