College Corps Dispatched

(Live blog included) The city is counting on students like Marc Lewis and a brigade of volunteers as it launches a second and equally ambitious component of a “promise” to help New Haven kids go to college.
Melissa Bailey Photo

Lewis (pictured at top), a senior at the downtown Cooperative Arts and Humanities Magnet High School and an aspiring Supreme Court justice, got trained last summer as a peer leader at his school as part of a pilot program with a not-for-profit called College Summit.

Now the city is expanding that program as a second part of its New Haven Promise program.

Mayor John DeStefano and Yale announced last week that the Promise program will guarantee up to full college tuition for city high schoolers who keep a 3.0 average and show up to class. Wednesday, DeStefano he revealed part two of Promise: The “New Haven Promise Partnership.”

The Partnership will create a “College Corps” of volunteers, including local graduates. They will go “door to door” to work with families to get their kids ready for college. It will help applicants with the nitty gritty of applying, including how to write essays.

The Partnership will also develop a new pre-K through 8th grade curriculum aimed to prepare kids better for high school and therefore college, and train high school teachers and a local “College Corps” of local undergraduate volunteers to guide students through the college process. DeStefano previewed the announcement in a speech at Yale Tuesday. Click here for more details.

To get the job done, the city plans to enter a multi-year contract with a not-for-profit outfit called College Summit. DeStefano said the contract will cost $290,000 in the first year, and up to $650,000 in future years. He said he has committed to raising private money to pay for it.

J.B. Schramm, founder and CEO of College Summit, said College Summit will be working with parents and students in grades pre-K to 8 to make sure they’re on track for college-going. It will work more intensively with high-schoolers to get them ready for college. That includes: academic goals, setting a career goal linked to college, understanding vocabulary and expectations of college, “self-advocacy” and financial awareness.

He said Yale will host a four-day training session with 150 rising high school students next summer, so they can return to their high schools and act as leaders encouraging peers to go to college.

Marc Lewis was one of those peer leaders as Co-op High entered its second year of a pilot program with College Summit this year. A West Haven resident, he’s not eligible for Promise. But he is amply equipped to spread the word about college-going.

Lewis said he grew up with a single mom. In a four-day training with College Summit at Amherst College, he set his own goals for college and learned how to help his peers follow suit.

New Haven “lacks the college-cultivating atmosphere,” he said. In school this year, he has sought to inspire younger students who aren’t focused on academics or college.

“I want to be their rock,” when they falter on their path, he said.

He said he aims to teach his peers that “you can still succeed, whatever your environment is.”

“I’m successful, and I haven’t had my father” in my life, he said.

Lewis said he’s setting his sights on Columbia University to launch a career in law. He intends to attend Yale or Harvard Law School, then work his way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The College Corps concept was explored in a 4 p.m. panel at Yale. A live blog follows.

Schramm and DeStefano are here with by Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, on the panel. Jeff Brenzel, dean of undergraduate admissions for Yale University, will moderate.

4:04: Brenzel does introductions. DeStefano’s here at Yale in his new role as a Chubb fellow. The fellowship, established in 1936 by alum Hendon Chubb, is awarded each year to three or four public service notables. In earning the title, New Haven’s mayor joins the ranks of former President Ronald Reagan, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, author Norman Mailer, actor Robert Redford, and former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland.

4:06: The crowd is pretty sparse here. Some students from the Coop Voices news site are here snapping photos. Some Yale folks, school officials, a parent activist. Speakers are up on the auditorium stage. Nice floral carpet and soft theater seats.

4:10: Weingarten’s union represents 1.5 million people nationwide. She is making her second appearance in New Haven in 13 months to applaud the city’s school reform drive. She visited last year in the wake of the landmark teachers contract, which stuck out for its collaborative nature. Weingarten (pictured) has been villainized nationally as an obstructor to education reform, most notably in the popular flick Waiting For Superman.

Will she find a safe Haven here?

4:13: Schramm introduction. He’s a Yale alum. Founded College Summit in 1993. He got inspired while working in a teen center in the basement of a low-income housing project in Washington, D.C.

4:16: DeStefano plugs an event tomorrow that’s key to make way for the college scholarship component: Getting the state to pass a DREAM Act that would allow Connecticut residents who are undocumented immigrants to get in-state tuition at state colleges and universities. Right now, they have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is about $10,000 at the state universities and $24,500 at UConn. DeStefano’s planning a 11 a.m. presser at SCSU about getting that law passed.

4:20: DeStefano: How do we institutionalize school change beyond the tenure of the mayor? (Not that he intends to leave anytime soon, he jokes.) The “College Corps” will do that. Volunteers from churches and businesses will spread the message. “I want to send people knocking on doors in neighborhoods.” He’ll tap into the incredible wealth of undergraduates who have just gone through college admissions. Out-of-town undergrads will partner with adult volunteers who are from those neighborhoods.

“Ulterior motive,” said DeStefano: To institutionalize school change beyond his tenure as mayor.

4:24: Sharon Palmer, president of the state AFT, is sitting in the front row. DeStefano says the union-board of ed relations are still strong, after the teachers contract. We’re doing “pretty damn well,” he says. Palmer nods yes.

4:31: Schramm: Starting in 9th grade, College Summit will work “intensively” with high school students. Teach them to understand the financial value of college. Set career goals. Learn how to be a self-advocate. He says Promise is “bold” because it’s asking everyone in the city to get on board. College Summit high schools are successful when young people become “drivers” of culture in the schools.

That’s where the 150 high school seniors come in. They’ll be selected as peer leader evangelists. They’ll get trained on Yale campus on how to fill out their own college apps, then bring the message back to the schools. They’ll raise expectations in a way that only students can. (Theory: You can’t just tell kids to go to college, they have to be on board and change the school culture.)

4:38: Weingarten: AFT hosted 35 districts for a session with union leaders and superintendents on collaboration. The one district that we highlighted was New Haven. Dave Cicarella, the New Haven local of the AFT’s head, isn’t here because he’s in California spreading the world about New Haven’s school change campaign. New Haven has become the national “poster boy” for school change that’s collaborative.

4:43: “Not Kumbaya,” but the parties problem-solve together. (She’s really holding New Haven on high. Earlier, she applauded the mayor for his vision and aspirations for the schools. Can New Haven benefit more from this spotlight? In the hallway, DeStefano asked her if she could help him get funding to promote/further the collaborative New Haven-teacher union relationship.)

4:44: She ends her remarks with “Bravo, New Haven!” Now we’re on to the Q and A.

4:47: Moderator shares a tidbit: President Obama gave part of his Nobel Peace Prize money to College Summit.

Moderator Question: After all the talk, what galvanizes a city to come together around this?

4:50: DeStefano: Though the city’s so diverse, we have common values. Large segments of the community responded well to the part of Promise that’s about earning benefit. Also, New Haven has social tolerances. Historical look: New Haven has been passionate about HIV/AIDS, immigrant rights.

4:56: Weingarten: Teachers already want to be organized around hope. There are lots of ways teachers feel disappointed or betrayed, because they don’t get trust or voice. Teachers want to be trusted, want to engage in their work. How often have you seen teachers roll their eyes at the proposal of the next fad of the moment, curriculum of the week?

New Haven’s not about that, she says. Teachers took shared responsibility in their teacher contract to “transform the school system.” New Haven has followed through on the Promise, as promised… following through is an important part of galvanizing teachers to act. (She’s pretty hopeful about New Haven, no cautionary words, doling out a lot of praise.)

Schramm: How do you get students galvanized? He’s asked.

4:56: Running out of time. No public questions yet. Schramm is telling a story about working with kids in Virginia. Students are not the vessels that we pour our curriculum into. You’ve got to “put out the challenge” to them. Don’t just ask them to run a Sadie Hawkins dance. Ask them to tackle the dropout problem. Students are the largest untapped resource in improving education. Let them “tap their power.”

Weingarten’s gotta go. Any more questions for her?

5:01: Yale’s Mike Morand: Glad to be in New Haven, instead of Washington, D.C., where unions are at war with administration. What can we offer to the national landscape of antagonism? What’s to come in the next two years?

5:02: Weingarten’s pessimistic nationally. She says she expects a “scream-fest” of “high-octane rhetoric” nationwide. How can New Haven help?

You’ve got a powerful narrative here in New Haven. Take the show on the road, so that this type of collaboration becomes the norm, not the exception, nationwide.

5:04: Q: How do you measure success of Promise?

DeStefano: Cut the 27 percent dropout rate in half in five years. In the class of 2008, only 211 kids would be eligible for Promise scholarships. In four years, we want to increase that 10 percent per year. Another measure of success: More people living in New Haven. (More taxpayers for me! said earlier, with a smile.)

5:10: What will the relationship between New Haven and the feds be?

DeStefano: Administrations will come and go. This is about New Haven. The important thing will be what choices the state—“Hi Rep. Toni Walker, how are you?”—makes in the upcoming budget. He’s going to pitch the state on how important the school change effort is for violence reduction and wealth creation.

5:13: Weingarten gets a last word. Yes, Washington is important. But after all we did in New Haven, the reform-minded work didn’t fit into the feds’ vision of what is needed to turn around schools. That’s “patently ridiculous.” (She’s referencing how New Haven missed out on federal i3 grants.)

Parting wisdom: “Just ignore the pack and keep doing what you’re doing.”

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posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 17, 2010  7:19pm

Folks,  Do you think that this long wet kiss between the president of the largest teachers union in the country and New Haven is a signal that our district is doing all that it should and could be doing for students?

Let’s put it another way: If you were African-American living back in 1860 what would you think if Abraham Lincoln, instead of declaring a civil war on the evil institution of southern slavery, had stood up on a podium arm in arm with Jefferson Davis and sang a few bars of “Dixie”? 

Folks - The UNION is not interested in helping students!!!

posted by: Blarney on November 17, 2010  7:33pm

Oh…“peer leader evangelists”?  Really???  Please stay away from my high school students. Our family can handle this as we are both college educated. I know you are trying to do good, but it is not for everyone. Don’t force your solution on those it does not apply to…please!

posted by: Joanne Sciulli on November 18, 2010  12:55am

For those involved in the Promise Initiative, and anyone interested in supporting New Haven students who face the greatest challenges in preparing for college, I encourage you to learn more about New Haven-based “Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs,” founded by the amazing Chaka Felder.  Since 2004 they have worked tirelessly to “change the lives of under-represented college bound students and empower, equip, and encourage them to obtain a post-secondary education.”

Check them out at

posted by: Fix Yourself on November 18, 2010  1:51pm

Fix the Schools,

It doesn’t take a teacher or a union member (I’m neither) to be appalled by your comparison of the AFT and slave owners.

You used to contribute a valuable perspective to these online discussions. Maybe you’ll get back there someday. But not by this kind of gratuitous and offensive name-calling.

posted by: junebugjune on November 18, 2010  5:14pm

My thoughts exactly Fix Yourself couldn’t have put it better.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 18, 2010  5:15pm

Fix Yourself,

I’m sorry if I offended you.  It is a distressing comparison that I make and certainly the situations are not the same in a number of real ways. 

However, if you believe as I do that in the world of today, access to a high quality K-12 education is the only realistic way to escape a life sentence of poverty - then the analogy is undeniable.

In 1860 we had a group of politically powerful white people whose economic livlihood was derived entirely on preventing a large group of politically powerless black people from making their own life choices and escaping a life of hard poverty and despair. 

Now in 2010 we have a group of politically powerful white people whose economic livlihood is derived entirely on preventing a large group of politically powerless black and latino people from making their own educational choices in their lives and having a chance to escape a hard life of poverty.
The achievement gap IS economic slavery. And by fighting against the liberation of thousands of children in New Haven from the monolithic, destructive, failed school system which has produced generational poverty for decades, the teachers union and others have effectively stripped away the sense of productivity, pride, and actual years of life away from people.

Where does the comparison breakdown for you?

posted by: Tom Burns on November 19, 2010  2:53am

Wow Fix—...-Our union takes the chance and you lump us in with others—WHY?—-Your words have no merit—-I ask that you tell our readers who you are and what your relationship with charters is—-...-How dare you equate us with those who would enslave our brothers and sisters in the past—-...——-Tom

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 19, 2010  10:40am

FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 18, 2010 4:15pm

The achievement gap IS economic slavery. And by fighting against the liberation of thousands of children in New Haven from the monolithic, destructive, failed school system which has produced generational poverty for decades,

I agree that the achievement gap is economic slavery.But this is due to the fact that you have corporate vampires,Hedge funds and bankers who have turn school reform into profit.

Albany charter cash cow: Big banks making a bundle on new construction as schools bear the cost
Juan Gonzalez - News

Friday, May 7th 2010

Wealthy investors and major banks have been making windfall profits by using a little-known federal tax break to finance new charter-school construction.

The program, the New Markets Tax Credit, is so lucrative that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.

In Albany, which boasts the state’s highest percentage of charter school enrollments, a nonprofit called the Brighter Choice Foundation has employed the New Markets Tax Credit to arrange private financing for five of the city’s nine charter schools.

And we can’t not forget these vampires.

The Faces of School Reform
By John Tarleton
From the January 29, 2010 issue

How about you main man fix Joel Klein who everyone talk about how he will close the achievement gap and look at how he has sold the students out.

Joel Klein’s job with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. a sellout of everything he supposedly stood for
Michael Daly

Thursday, November 11th 2010,

Say it ain’t so, Joel!

Tell me you’re not really stepping down as schools chancellor in the middle of the academic year to become a token Democrat in what truly is a vast right-wing conspiracy.

Tell me you are not signing on with a corporation that contributed $1.25 million to Republicans who consider school-funding cuts only necessary and tax cuts for the rich vital.

In taking the job with News Corp., Klein actually said, “I’ve long admired News Corporation’s entrepreneurial spirit and Rupert Murdoch’s fearless commitment to innovation.”

He got a job with one of the biggest corporate vampires of the planet.And now king bloomberg is replacing him with another corporate vampire.

Bloomberg Took Secret Path to a New Schools Chief
Published: November 10, 2010

Check out her money.;
the teachers union and others have effectively stripped away the sense of productivity, pride, and actual years of life away from people

Did you know how the teachers unions came about.The teachers unions started in New York City and came about beacuse of McCarthyism who said that teachers were part of the Communist Party.In fact there is a documentary call Dreamers and Fighters.

In fact I see these days coming back for teachers.

Check this out Here is what happens to teachers who don’t have a union.In fact she now teachs in the public school system.

First-grade teacher Sauda Johnson docked $9,700 for missing two days of work at charter school
BY Rachel Monahan

Thursday, October 7th 2010


This speaks the truth.

Brian JonesTeacher and activist
Posted: October 15, 2010 01:15 AM BIO Become a Fan Get Email Alerts Bloggers’ Index
Charter Schools and Civil Rights: What Kind of ‘Movement’ is This?

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 19, 2010  12:42pm

Tom,  I do lump you in with the statewide AFT and the CEA.  Here’s why. 

To your credit your local DID agree to some progress in introducing student performance into teacher evaluations.  For that, you should be congratulated that you’re not the CEA. 

But for an idea (accountability) that is so universally accepted in our society across every other industry, field, strata, this notion of public school teacher accountability has been too long in coming, and there is still a big question in my mind as to how diluted the effect of using this criteria will be.  I guess we will have to see how many teachers end up being identified as needing improvement or worthy of retirement.

But Tom, the biggest gripe that I have had with your union is one that I have stated repeatedly on these pages for years - without an answer from you.

Why do you and your members fund statewide efforts to crush charter schools?  Why not just worry about your own unionized schools and stop trying to keep high-performing charters from growing?

As I said before, the day that your Local stops contributing to the statewide AFT’s efforts to undermine equal funding for ALL public schools - and stops funding lobbying efforts against school choice -and stops funding systematic harrassment of Achievement First schools and others - and you stop making false claims about who attends charter schools or what the motivations of its leadership are, - that’s the day I won’t lump you in with the others.

Jeff Klaus,

- Community banker;
- Community volunteer;
- Resident of New Haven;
- Proud graduate of New Haven public schools (WCHS Governor!);
- Former President and volunteer of the New Haven Public Education Fund;
- Co-funder of The New Teacher Project for NHPS;
- Founding committee member of Amistad Academy, Achievement First, and ConnCAN.
- Member of the Governor’s Education Cost Sharing commission;
- Member of the Gateway Community College Foundation;
- Unabashed supporter of high-performing charter schools;
- Married to Dacia Toll one of the lovliest people you’ll ever meet, and finest educators in our country;
- Proud parent of a 17-month son and future NHPS student;
- And someone who is going to fight like hell to make my son’s school and EVERY child’s school in New Haven a GREAT school.


posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 19, 2010  12:45pm

3/5,  The achievement gap was around long before the corporate “vampires” got into the game. And the gap has only recently begun to get smaller mainly because of efforts by folks like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Arner Duncan, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee.  Give credit where credit is due.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 19, 2010  6:49pm

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 19, 2010 11:45am

3/5,  The achievement gap was around long before the corporate “vampires” got into the game. And the gap has only recently begun to get smaller mainly because of efforts by folks like Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Arner Duncan, Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee.  Give credit where credit is due.

Sorry but both the The achievement gap and corporate vampires have been aroud at the same time, in fact both are box spring and mattress.Since you talk about slavery remember it was a crime for a slave to learn how to read.If the slave was caught with a book they were put to death.Frederick Douglass learn to read by tricking the slave master children as they did there homework. The slaves that worked in the house listen to there master talk and would steal there books at night and teach other slaves to read and write.And you had corporatist who made profits off of slavery
like they do today.So my main man fix the The achievement gap for people of color started during slavery and the corporate vampires made there profits offthe backs of those slaves.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 19, 2010 11:42am

Community banker

LOL!!!!!! your a banker.I just look you up,At one time you worked for bank of american.Tayou talk about slavery.Bank of american is one of the biggest corporate vampires during slavery.

The Slavers of Wall Street: Investment Banks and Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade – OguEjiOfo Annu

Now you are at Webster Bank.Does webster bank have a pending case about bank fees.

Webster Bank Sued Over Overdraft Fees
BRIEFLYMay 13, 2010|By KENNETH R. GOSSELIN, The Hartford Courant

You are part of some big time corporate vampires. How do you sleep at night knowing that you work for a Industry that was part of the reason for them losing there homes.How about the bail outs.You get the point.How about credit unions taking over the banks after all the credit unions are doing a better job.LOL!!! Man fix.You need to change you name to fix the banks.

Give credit where credit is due. At what interest rate.LOL!!! But for real You have to ask If Joel Klein was so good,They why did he step down two months into the school year.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 20, 2010  6:04pm

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 19, 2010 11:42am

- Married to Dacia Toll one of the lovliest people you’ll ever meet, and finest educators in our country

If this is the case,They how come your wife is not on the panel? I did some checking.Your wife is the co-founder and co-CEO of Achievement First schools in New Haven Bridgeport and Hartford Connecticut and Brooklyn, New York.Wow you should have her on the panel.In fact you know me I did some more checking and Your wife Bio is very heavy.

Wow she is a Rhodes Scholar like your main man Alex Johnson.Hey fix Do you know the history of the late Cecil Rhodes.Did you know that Cecil Rhodes himself spent much of his life trying to institute white rule in Africa, and the racist nation of Rhodesia (today Zimbabwe) was named after him. He also set up a cruel trade in diamonds that persists to this day. He never intended for his scholarship to provide educational opportunities for the needy or deserving. Rather, it was to be an investment in promising individuals and future leaders. The selection criteria was not extended to include women until 1977. That’s right fix Cecil Rhodes owns De Beers the vampire diamond company.

Tom,  I do lump you in with the statewide AFT and the CEA.  Here’s why. 

Well me and Tom can say the same about you.Banker and a Lawyer LOL.

Hey fix do they do this here?

posted by: Tom Burns on November 24, 2010  12:42am

To Fix ...—
Thanks for giving up your anonymity—-someone told me who you were awhile ago. I never met you and have had no personal conversations with you about education, but I am available if you so desire—-you see, we could come to a compromise and stop all the vitriol—your wife has done many laudable things and should be commended—I have only heard positive things about her and you are justified to be proud of her accomplishments—she has certainly helped many children who needed what she provided—I personally respect her initiatives and her accomplishments—FYI

My concerns are when does it end for the Moskovitz’s of the world—how many millions of dollars are enough for individuals in the charter school charade——anyway—your wife is a Rhode Scholar and you seem to have something upstairs also—together we can make a difference—divided we won’t—let’s talk—Alex Johnston and I have had a few sit downs that were worthwhile—-how do we co-exist?—I think we can and should—but the expansion of charters is just a business proposition (what happens when the charters get all the kids?) I know you are smarter than some of your statements on these blogs—-and I have a new admiration for you, now that you have identified yourself—and you do have an impressive vitae and seem to be invested in this city——but what about our educational system(lets get on the same page)—-This union and our teachers are second to none(we have taken all the risks and are willing to take more)—and we are ready for the challenge—Seriously, would love to meet you—860-227-6668—All the best—Tom