Divided Ed Board Selects Birks

Christopher Peak PhotoBy a 4-3 vote, New Haven’s Board of Education selected Carol Birks as its choice to become the next superintendent of schools — at the end of a raucous meeting that signaled that she would begin the job with the challenge of winning over a sizable sector of skeptics.

The vote took place at a tense special meeting held at Beecher School, where it was standing room only. Four cops were assigned to keep the peace, but that didn’t stop one board member from challenging another to a duel and students from threatening to walk out of class next week in protest.

The meeting lasted two and a half hours. The first two hours consisted of parents, students and other members of the public blasting the expected choice of Birks over the two other finalists for the position, Pamela Brown and Gary Highsmith.

Only two speakers explicitly endorsed Birks for the position, while 30 came out against her. (Click here for a story detailing the three finalists’ backgrounds and applications.) Opponents said they didn’t want to see Birks get the job because of alleged connections to charter schools, support for student-based budgeting and emphasis on standardized testing data.

Mayor Toni Harp and fellow board members Jamell Cotto, Darnell Goldson and Frank Redente voted for Birks. Redente, who had been under intense public pressure to change his vote, did not show up in person to the meeting; he phoned his vote in.

Board members Carlos Torre, Ed Joyner, and Che Dawson voted against Birks.

“Shame on you! Shame on you!” members of the crowd chanted when Goldson cast his vote for Birks, as he yelled it back at them. “Shame on you!”

Birks hasn’t accepted the position yet, and she’s been seeking advice about whether she should. If she does want the job, she’ll still need to undergo a background check and negotiate a contract, subject to the board’s approval.

Qualifications for the Job

Mayor Harp spelled out her reasons for supporting Birks in an open letter to the community posted Monday afternoon on Facebook.

“In my view, she emerged as the candidate best prepared to be effective in the position beginning on day one; she’ll bring to the district exceptional leadership qualities,” Harp wrote.

“I am drawn to Dr. Birks’ familiarity with New Haven Public Schools: she coached principals in the district, she endorses its commitment to restorative practices in disciplinary matters, and she shares my goal for students to achieve across-the-board at grade level, to maximize their chances to succeed. More than other candidates, Dr. Birks demonstrates a clear grasp of complex public education budgeting and the unique, yet interrelated funding responsibilities of the local, state, and federal governments. As public sector funding continues to shrink, and because of the crucial role financing plays in bridging the state’s achievement gap, every possible funding opportunity must be identified and pursued.

“Finally, my endorsement of Dr. Birks is the result of lengthy, in-depth interviews with the finalists, during which I got to know each of them. My choice was determined with the best interests of New Haven Public Schools in mind, solely so it can provide the best possible opportunity for all the students and families it serves.”

During an interview on WNHH radio’s “Mayor Monday” show earlier in the day, Harp said that the other candidates had spoken at least as much as Birks about focusing on student test data.

Birks, who was not present for Monday night’s vote, currently works as chief of staff for Hartford Public Schools. She has responsibility for overseeing administrative services, like labor relations for the 4,000-member staff; assisting with the $417 million budget; and leading a $100 million project to co-locate three academies in a renovated building. The job pays a $170,000 salary. Previously, as Hartford’s assistant superintendent for four years, Birks developed a training academy to support the growth of principals and administrators.

At the meeting, several educators argued Birks embodied the privatization of public schools, citing her experience at for-profit education consulting firms (Supes Academy, Global Partnership Schools) and her position on the board of directors for a charter school network (Achievement First Hartford Academy). As in New Haven, Achievement First in Hartford has a board slot reserved for a member of the Board of Education.

Teachers from the New Haven Educators Collective objected to the plans they heard Birks describe at last week’s community forum. Natalya Braginsky argued that expanding the administrative team at Meadow Street would come at the expense of nurses, guidance counselors and social workers in schools, while opening new charters, like Elm City Imagine or Cofield Academy, would divest funds from traditional public schools, where they’re most needed.

Nurys De La Cruz, a teaching assistant at Columbus School who spent 28 years in New Haven schools, called Birks “a corporate person.” She said Birks lacked classroom experience. (Birks taught language arts in Bridgeport from 1996-1999; Brown taught bilingual classes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas from 1978-1984 and 1986-1987.)

“Three years of experience teaching? I have more experience!” De La Cruz said.

The two speakers who explicitly supported Birks were clergymen: Rev. Roger Wilkins and Rev. Kelcy Steele. Steele, pastor of Varick Memorial AME Zion, sits on the board of local charter school Booker T. Washington Academy. “I believe that no one cares about our children more than this board,” Rev. Roger Wilkins said.

Voices Ignored

It took the school board a year to pick a new superintendent after it pushed out the previous superintendent, Garth Harries, last fall. Retired former Superintendent Reggie Mayo has been filling in on an interim basis since then.

As the search neared its end, community members rose up to say they felt their input didn’t matter — contrary to board members’ statements that they cared about holding more forums to hear what folks had to say.

That disappointment was presented most poignantly when Marc Gonzalez, the son of the late board president Daisy Gonzalez, criticized the process during the public-comment session. His mom’s role was to advocate for parents, he said, and he argued that that board now ignored those voices by selecting Birks rather than Brown.

Thousands of parents and students expressed a clear preference for Brown in petitions and public meetings over the past week. In an Independent “True Vote” poll, 67.5 percent of the over 1,200 respondents preferred Brown or Highsmith; just 13.7 percent favored Birks. An online petition against Birks also garnered 950 signatures, some from out of town; on printed sheets, those names filled the back walls at Beecher on Monday.

“This is not a matter of questioning qualifications or the potential ability of any of the candidates, but rather is about how this board asked for community and student involvement and is not listening to what they have to say,” said Gonzalez, a junior at Hill Regional Career High School. “[Daisy] would never let education become political.”

Harp and Goldson stared ahead and scribbled on papers as Gonzalez spoke; Joyner, who had tears in his eyes, covered his face.

One of the city’s most disenfranchised groups, Gonzalez said, is New Haven’s Spanish-speaking community. In 2015, Latinos became the largest demographic group in city public schools (making up 43 percent of the student body), yet their voices are often absent from the discussion — in part, because previous superintendents haven’t been bilingual, he said.

Luis Santiago, father of two students at Columbus Family Academy, said that it bothers him that parents like him who speak only Spanish were left out of the search process and had no way of getting involved. Speaking in Spanish, five of the seven board members didn’t know what he was saying. Then, in broken English, Santiago added, “How does it feel for this board not to understand?”

Students Walk Off

The school board’s two student members, Jacob Spell and Makayla Dawkins, who don’t get to cast votes but who did sit in on the board’s interviews with the three finalists, publicly supported Brown.

They presented petitions Monday night with over 800 signatures collected in a single day from high school students at Hillhouse, Career and Co-Op, all opposing Birks.

Both reps called out their colleagues on the board as hypocrites who were letting politics get in the way, prompting audience members to take to their feet.

“Are we just getting lip service and being shushed by our elders, saying our opinions matter when it really does not?” Dawkins asked. “Let’s act our age. We need someone who’s the most qualified. Keep the politics out of our education.”

“I’m willing to listen to adults, learn from adults, and I respect all adults on this board. But I’m not afraid of adults,” Spell said. “I can sleep at night, knowing that I’m fighting for what the students want, so I hope each and every board members can sleep at night too, knowing they aren’t doing the right thing.”

Multiple parents also took issue with city Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett’s recent comments to the Independent (in this article), in which he said that the two student representatives could have been “swayed by other adults in the room.”

“If anybody is probably the most authentic, it’s children. ‘Real knows real,’ in the words of Gary Highsmith,” said Kirsten Hopes-McFadden, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at ESUMS. “The people that are going to be persuaded and bought for a bag of potato chips are the adults. Children are going to do what’s right. They have not been jaded by all the political corruption.”

She added, “Please take leadership from the children.”

Njija-Ife Waters, one of the two parents who served on the search committee and covered her mouth with duct tape in protest during the meeting, said the school board’s actions would come back to bite it.

“You rolled your eyes at me; you smirked at me; you did all those things to me, as one of those parent representatives pushing you to make the right decision,” she said. “Now picture this: All of your teachers walking out the school, all of your students walking out the school. We’re going to walk out, and you tell me what you’re going to do next.”

Dawkins said students are planning walk-outs at high schools across the district on Monday, Nov. 27.

Duel Challenged

After two hours of pleas for them to change their minds, the board members narrowly cast their vote for Birks.

Goldson said that the board couldn’t rely on crowd sizes in its decision-making, arguing that a public crowd came to Harries’s defense before the board fired him. (At that meeting, a year ago, Harp’s defenders included school administrators, charter school advocates, the Rev. Boisie Kimber, businessmen like the head of the Chamber of Commerce, and teachers union reps.) That statement earned Goldson boos of disagreement.

Joyner cut Goldson off before he could get any further, saying that discussion should relate only to debate about picking Birks.

“Stop interrupting me!” Goldson said, after Joyner interjected a second time.

The room broke into full chaos, as the audience drowned Goldson out by chanting, “Shame on you!” As he picked up again, Goldson shot back at Birks’s detractors for “publicly lynching this lady.”

“It was shameful what people did,” he said. “You have disrespected this African-American woman, and I will not sit by silently while you continue to do it.”

The two student representatives walked out, and Joyner moved to call the vote.

Right after the 4-3 result, Torre asked for the floor.

”Tonight this was a turning point in New Haven public schools,” he declared. “The future of our students’ education is now in the hands not of those who dedicated their lives and careers to education, but in the hands of those who dedicated their lives and careers to politics.”

“This was a done deal,” Joyner added.

Joyner that he didn’t agree with the board rejecting a previous candidate in the process whom he supported, Orlando Ramos, a Hispanic regional superintendent in Milwaukee, because he’d gone bankrupt. The, he brought up decade-old dirt on other board members, claiming that Goldson and Cotto had had personal financial problems similar to Ramos’s. Cotto has twice filed for bankruptcy, according to court records.

Goldson threatened to file a lawsuit; Joyner lunged toward him and challenged him to a duel at Bowen Field, Hillhouse’s football field. Security broke up the board members, and the meeting was adjourned.

Angry parents swarmed around Cotto, saying he’d sold out the community he vowed to represent.

“I think we did the right thing,” he said, as Columbus parent Fatima Rojas called him a “disgrace.”

Cotto headed for the exit, but stopped to explain his first major decision on the board to a reporter.

“She’s the best,” he said of Birks. Why? He opened a folder to a handwritten list of talking points, which he read, saying Birks would focus on the “needs of the whole child,” partner with all people, institute “best practices in education,” and “change belief systems.”

Cotto added that he’d heard from a sizable constituency who wanted Birks to get the job. He said that he couldn’t produce any emails or text messages as proof, but he added, “We have plenty of letters.”

Bartlett, the mayor’s liaison on the school board, said Birks had her work cut out for her to “get converts.” But he said he believes that the community will get behind her as the new superintendent once she has a chance to “explain what her vision is and how to create change.”

“I have every confidence that she can and will do that,” he said.

Bartlett added that Birks will institute a “new era” for New Haven’s schools. He said he believes Birks will initially focus on strengthening the district’s programs for English-language learners and engaging parents — two weak spots magnified by the search process. Opening new charter schools, he added, would not be at the top of her agenda.

“I don’t think there’s any appetite for any charters in New Haven,” he said. “We heard that loud and clear.”


Click on the above Facebook Live video to watch the meeting.

Previous coverage of the superintendent search:

Wanted: Schools Chief To Rebuild Trust
Infighting Puts Super Search On Hold
Super Search Gives Nutmeggers 2nd Look
“Tonight Has Been An Embarrassment”
2 Superintendent Candidates Withdraw
Read Their Resumes
Supe Candidates Split On Charters
Student Rep: School Board Should Reconsider
Opposition Mounts To Birks
Highsmith: No Deal For #2

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posted by: GroveStreet on November 20, 2017  9:44pm

A very bad night for students, teachers and families of New Haven. Hopefully when we get together to do this again in two years, we will have a different, less self-absorbed, mayor.

posted by: Brutus2011 on November 20, 2017  10:06pm

I hoped this would not happen again but I kind of knew it would.

Harp/Birks better not dare play the teacher blame game ...

Time to start grooming a candidate to defeat Harp in two years…

posted by: Cove1 on November 20, 2017  10:38pm

The adults In this are a total joke , why would any one want to come and work in New Haven.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 20, 2017  10:45pm

Cotto Vows To Advocate For Parents.

So my question is: How would you be part of the solution to see that our children, teachers, our paraprofessionals will have an educational leader, an instructional leader who understands what the city of New Haven needs?” Brackeen asked.“I know we need a superintendent yesterday,” Cotto replied. “What got us here, I’m not concerned with. What I’m concerned with is how we get through this, how we come up with a solution so that we can select a superintendent, more specifically one who understands New Haven schools, one who understands the community, the people that have walked the streets.”Brackeen had a final question: Would Cotto make a public commitment to continue the legacy of Daisy Gonzales and continue to meet with parents all over the city and be their voice on the board?

“Absolutely,” Cotto replied.


Mark 8:36 KJV: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
No shame hast the Judas Goat!!

posted by: watchfuleye on November 20, 2017  11:02pm

Smh smh.. I am not surprised! When I saw the article days ago that the Board was voting on Birks, I knew there was no change going to happen. know the players involved. However we as a community did not go down silently.. Goldson and Joyner are so dramatic. They push each others buttons on purpose.

posted by: RichTherrn on November 20, 2017  11:04pm

As I’ve said, students, their parents and the public shouldn’t lose faith.
New Haven Public Schools is full of dedicated educators who work
for kids EVERY DAY.
Don’t forget that no matter the current issues or controversies, there are many great teachers in this district who will continue to do an outstanding
job teaching their students! Wonderful principals will continue to lead their schools and work with the community.
Hard-working administrators and staff across the city, from central office to buildings,  will support the mission of preparing
our students for the future in everything they do.
That is the aim of the adults in this district, and they will continue to strive towards that goal.
-Richard Therrien, NHPS Science Supervisor

posted by: elmcityresident on November 20, 2017  11:58pm

All about money for harp people are so blind by her nice guy antics
I can not stand goldson that a greedy man how do he get to make decisions on our kids education when his is in private schools

posted by: Billy on November 21, 2017  12:04am

So much for Mayor Harp having any claim to being a representative of the people. Democracy was defeated tonight. It will rise up again to vote Goldson out. And Harp after him.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 21, 2017  2:18am

This says what happen to the parents.

Malcolm X



posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on November 21, 2017  6:55am

I do not understand what all the opposition is to charter schools.  Personally, I home school my children and would never let them enter a school system that to all indications is deprived and morally corrupt, let alone completely inept at teaching.  I commend the new superintendent’s willingness to address this blaring reality by bringing in charter schools and school choice. It is the only liberal thing to do. As a suggestion, I think the city should seriously start here: https://www.hillsdale.edu/educational-outreach/barney-charter-school-initiative/

posted by: Callisto on November 21, 2017  7:01am

1. Garth in red
2. The 3 charlatan preachers illustrate the “reformer’s” doing an end run around parents, teachers and kids (and accountability) to sell the charter snake oil from the pulpit. JE$U$ $AVE$
3. Cotto sold out everyone he promised to represent and is simply a tool of Harp.
4. The Dems are now Republicans that just work for different companies; they are the party of management not of the working class
5. The teacher’s union could have and should have resisted this atrocious hire that will bloat central office and harm its constituents. Silence implies consent

posted by: GroveStreet on November 21, 2017  7:35am

Now I read that the students will walk out of school today and I have two thoughts:

1. The mayor had an opportunity to unite the city last night. She elected to divide it.

2. The mayor could have given voice to the voiceless. She elected to ignore them.

She is not a leader and last night was a turning point. Time for good candidates to consider a run for the office.

posted by: Peter99 on November 21, 2017  8:17am

This is what happens with one party rule when your vote is taken for granted. We need a viable alternative to the party in power which we can all get behind an support or change will never take place. The primary option is not a good one because the folks at the top control the process. Call us independents or whatever, but lets break away. I know this has been tried in the past, but it is time to really get serious and build a grassroots system that supports the new party. The system is broken and the people must now show the courage to fix it. It will not be easy, but it must be done.

posted by: Nancyteach on November 21, 2017  8:47am

Goldson stated to the crowd that a year ago that same crowd was there defending Garth Harries and if the Board had listened to them Garth would still be here….not only is that statement a lie, Goldson should remember that it was the Board’s untimely removal of Harries that cost the city millions and millions of dollars when by losing the TIF grant at the last minute.  So Goldson needs to look himself in the mirror and stop playing the blame game.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on November 21, 2017  9:20am

For me, as a grandfather with three grandchildren attending New Haven Public Schools, I made my preference public by encouraging this board to select Mr. Gary Highsmith. 

The board in my view had an opportunity to convey a weighted message by saying to students citywide, that you can attend New Haven schools and someday rise to be superintendent.  Well that opportunity has been lost with this vote, for now.

I never met Mrs. Birks.  And now that she has been selected, I wish her nothing but huge success.  I believe it is unfair to her (Mrs. Birks) to display this heightened level of enmity towards her as if she has failed students when she is yet to step foot in a NH school as superintendent.  Where’s your dignity NH?

posted by: Paul Wessel on November 21, 2017  9:22am

@Richard Therrien - thank you for keeping the faith and reminding us all of who works with our kids everyday.

posted by: Flunky on November 21, 2017  9:24am

I’m disgusted.
We don’t need to hear commentators here pretending to care about kids when all they care about is themselves and their jobs.
We didn’t need a group of people dressed in one color to “support” a candidate, like an adult cheering squad. It doesn’t matter what the sorority does, that’s ridiculous for this process.
We didn’t need the board of ed members insulting and calling each other and the public out, they both should resign immediately.
We didn’t need people going into hysterics because their neighborhood candidate didn’t get picked.
What we needed and deserved was a professional and serious process to pick a professional and serious leader.
We didn’t get that, and everyone is to share in the blame.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on November 21, 2017  9:32am

This mobilization of parents, teachers, and students was simply amazing—well-orchestrated, passionate but restrained, diverse in every human dimension, focused, and rightly confident in its moral high ground.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you the parents are uninvolved, the students disengaged, or the teachers only collecting a paycheck.  It was insulting for Reverend Wilkins to suggest otherwise.  I am so proud that my family is part of this New Haven education community. 

But, the fastest way to disengage parents is to give them the impression that the sacrifice of their scarce time, effort and energy is superfluous, wasted with no hope of effect.  Maybe some would actually prefer to disengage these parents, but we will stay strong, pay attention and act up whenever something threatens the well-being of our children in schools, the teachers who care for them, or their families at home. 

And Rich Therrien, thanks for writing exactly what we needed to hear this morning: the people in the buildings are still doing their good work every day, regardless of whose name is on the letterhead.

posted by: New Haven Mom on November 21, 2017  10:02am

I am deeply saddened by the events of last night. I have been a New Haven schools parent since 2008. From what I’ve seen, the Board has become completely dysfunctional under Mayor Harp’s leadership. It is an embarrassment to our city and community. As a parent, I don’t really want to get “involved.” No thanks. What I want is for my children and ALL children to receive a great education in the public schools. In order for us to move forward as a district, we needed a unanimous choice for superintendent. I’m sorry it didn’t happen. Looks like we’re going to be consumed with hostile infighting, threats, contentious meetings, back-room sorority deals, and public protests for some time to come. There is however one bright spot in all of this: I sincerely appreciate the youth voices in this debate and congratulate the students on their leadership. They give me hope, not for New Haven in the present moment, but for the future of our country.

posted by: alphabravocharlie on November 21, 2017  10:11am

And the news leads with the dust up between the two BOE members. This conduct is reprehensible, especially from those who are supposed to set a positive example for students. They have turned the City, the BOE and the school system into a laughing stock.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 21, 2017  10:23am

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on November 21, 2017 5:55am

I do not understand what all the opposition is to charter schools

Charters schools have mixed performance.

Charter Schools suspend black students at high rates and have been accused of pushing out certain students.

Charter Schools have been accused of lacking financial transparency and accountability

Studies have found that Charter Schools   are more racially and economically segregated than public schools generally,”

As a suggestion, I think the city should seriously start here: https://www.hillsdale.edu/educational-outreach/barney-charter-school-initiative/

Take a look at the history of the Charter School you are talking about.

They get help and money from Hillsdale College.

In Hillsdale College, a ‘Shining City on a Hill’ for Conservatives


Hillsdale College has 2nd-most conservative students in America


Hillsdale College Connection Reveals Trump’s Extremist Education Agenda


posted by: newhavendad1 on November 21, 2017  10:34am

This whole thing has been embarrassing for New Haven. I can’t believe anyone would want the job and to have to work with this board.  The whole Board should be ashamed of itself.  The right thing to say is what Brian Jenkins said below, “I supported one person, the other person won and I wish them the best of luck.”  I also appreciate what Mr. Thernn said—NHPS is better than the nonsense shown last night and what really matters and teachers and staff in the schools.

Mr. Joyner should resign for the way he ended the meeting.  Really? Are we going to accept that an elected official threatens someone and gets in their face? All of the yelling and disagreeing is bad enough, but what the video shows in the last minute of the meeting is enough for a person to step down.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 21, 2017  10:37am

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

14Then one of the Twelve, the one called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?” And they set out for him thirty pieces of silver.

I keep telling all of you.You are being sold out by Judas Goat Leaders.The sad thing is you wil keep on voting them in.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on November 21, 2017  10:40am

The picture of Harp’s face as Joyner and Goldson prepare to duel (I hope you brought your dueling pistols!) is amazing. This whole process has been impressively ugly. It’s amazing how engaged people get in education, but barely care about other facets of government. I guess when you have kids, you’ll do anything to protect them.

I have no idea how people are so certain who is or isn’t the right fit for this job. It sounded like two weeks ago everyone was certain that Highsmith was Harp’s local horse and now suddenly the fix is in for Birks and it’s all a sorority thing.

Anyway, I hope Birks turns out to be great and a huge success even if everyone hates her. At some point, democracy has to work based on the premise that you can’t always get what you want, and the loudest voices aren’t necessarily the right ones. We appoint people to the Board (or Alders or Congresspeople, etc.) to represent our interests and just hope that they have the vision and judgment to carry out our interests.

Best of luck to Ms. Birks, sounds like she’ll need it.

posted by: JamesBhandary-Alexander on November 21, 2017  11:19am

Students should have the power to vote on the school board. Their words and actions show why.

“I’m willing to listen to adults, learn from adults, and I respect all adults on this board. But I’m not afraid of adults,” Spell said. “I can sleep at night, knowing that I’m fighting for what the students want, so I hope each and every board members can sleep at night too, knowing they aren’t doing the right thing.”

Some of the adult school board members, on the other hand, are not there yet and the only reason they should keep their votes is that they were elected.  Students and parents need to take the school board elections more seriously and run their own candidates to replace them, and at the end of the day the whole school board needs to better represent the entire community.

More great reporting on this issue, NHI.

posted by: 1644 on November 21, 2017  11:23am

A duel at Bowen Field is a wonderful idea.  Ticket sales could help off-set the latest state aid reductions.  Pistols or rapiers?  I expect rapiers would be more entertaining, and command higher ticket prices.

posted by: Anonymous Bosh on November 21, 2017  11:28am

I hope folks’ll give her a chance. Maybe she’ll surprise to the upside. Could happen.

posted by: Fairhavener on November 21, 2017  11:41am

Betweentworocks wrote: “I guess when you have kids, you’ll do anything to protect them.”

Geez, this is short sighted. Kids become adults man. Therefore we should all be invested in their futures.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 21, 2017  12:50pm

After hearing the candidates speak and reading their applications/resumes posted online, my choice for the job was Dr. Brown.  After watching the proceeding at the BOE meeting, I would not wish this position on any competent person.

I hope that Dr. Brown finds a satisfying position that will support her and appreciate the intelligence and experience she brings to the table. 

It has often been said that we get the leaders we deserve.  Last night was confirmation of that timeless aphorism.

The Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: FacChec on November 21, 2017  1:02pm

Cotto first action vote on the BOE betrayed his own pledge to the parents and to himself in the name of sell all out politics.

The Kangaroo hop:

Cotto spoke first. Describing himself as “a parent, not a politician,” he suggested that more voices need to be involved in the school board’s governance. He promised that his first action, if elected, would be creating an oversight committee of parents. After receiving regular training on the budget, cultural competency and restorative practices, this panel would have the chance to exert veto power over board decisions.


posted by: Owlette on November 21, 2017  1:44pm

I want to start by thanking Marc Gonzalez for speaking last night to the BOARD and especially to COTTO who is supposed to be the parent voice as Daisy was and remind them what his mom would have taken into consideration before making such an important vote. THE STUDENT AND PARENT VOICE Even though it went to deaf ears I say,” SHAME ON YOU!” I hope there is some type of consequence for the behavior displayed last night by Darnell Goldson who disrespected all of the community and some of his fellow board members including the Student board members. He sat there mocking and ridiculing the community as a whole, the very same person who was so forceful in delaying the process by lying portraying he felt the communities voices weren’t heard. While all along he was buying time for the mayor to add her appointees to the board and to get re- elected. Thank you to the Student board members for being so brave to stand up for their peers and for showing the adult members how they should behave. COTTO never held discussions with parents to get our input and he never met with students to actually listen to what they needed and wanted. So please refrain from saying that you will follow Daisy’s love for her community because your vote last night didn’t reflect that. You have disappointed your community the one you claimed to be a voice for. Another amazing thing that came out of last night was the awesome stance our community displayed in the name of our school community! My hats off to the community group that came together and made sure their voices were heard. I loved that it wasn’t just parents who formed this group it had a representation of all our community.

posted by: Thankyouforlistening on November 21, 2017  2:21pm

Poor representation of social emotional control from both parties!
From a parents view - the frustration is voices aren’t heard, 1,000+ signatures (5%+ of the 22,000 customer base) isn’t enough to gain traction for a seat at the table (its all a dog and pony show- to ask for input but ignore the input just to put the check in the box that parents were “engaged”) we need less road shows and more actionable work being completed and done
From the boards view - the four who votes against what parents and three other board members - making the best choice from the candidate pool, who would work collaboratively with The city and would be able to handle administrative abilities of the job. 
There are times people don’t agree and this is most definitely one of them!


posted by: Noteworthy on November 21, 2017  2:50pm

This Dog Don’t Hunt Notes:

1.  I don’t have a dog in this fight. I pay more than $16,000 a year over and above my taxes to put my child in a Catholic High School primarily because the NHPS suck on too many levels to even count. Kids graduate but a majority of them can’t perform at grade level. Once great schools like Edgewood are now mediocre; ESUMS spent $85 million on a new school and yet, kids still have trouble with math and the management of that school is a joke. So I pulled my last child out of this sxxxstorm.

2. That said, the chaos, acrimony, distrust and politics surrounding the NHPS BOE is a disgrace of epic proportions. The ouster of Harries was deserved; the re-hiring of Super Mayo who single handedly was responsible for minimal performance over many years was rehired at a princely sum of $700/day was a waste of money and time.

3. But the selection process was among the worst ever witnessed - featuring adults behaving badly. Chief among them is Mayor Toni Harp who despite four years in office, has yet to deliver one scintilla of what she originally promised - uniter, not divider; collaboration not conflict. This is what happens when you put a professional politician who is used to hiding, hindering and hateful decision-making in charge of a city vs. the state. Her rotten decisions can be watered down under the Dome - but that lack of skill and inability to critically think through problems and execute a sound decision is what lead to this horrible display of egos, mania and mayhem.

4. On the same front page as this story - is one where she boasts of big ideas like 80% will be at grade level performance and re-building Dixwell. Her lapdog can’t even build one building on time, on budget but she’s going to take on all of Dixwell and deliver education results this city has never seen in its history.

5. This is nothing short of political BS. Who pays? Taxpayers and their children.

posted by: FlyinLuchador on November 21, 2017  2:54pm

Regardless of the decision made, the fact that ADULTS on the board and in the crowd behaved the way they did is a disgrace. It pained me to watch the video. Let’s not confuse passion for immature behavior. What kind of examples are we setting for our students? Let’s hope the way things are done in the NHPS changes for the better. Ultimately, it is our children who are affected!

posted by: Fairhavener on November 21, 2017  3:07pm

There is no way Toni Harp—as leader of this city—shouldn’t be on the hook for this.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 21, 2017  4:40pm

Study facial expression of Jamell Cotto as he speaks with parents.This is the facial expression of Jamell Cotto.


posted by: Kids_First on November 21, 2017  8:36pm

Witnessing the fiasco of a meeting last night shook the very core of my soul as I weeped at the notion that this is what our children in New Haven have to represent them in the name of the Board of Education.  It is clear to me that Dr. Birks was going to be the obvious choice particularly when I noted the split of votes.  Harp and her followers (including Goldson who clearly is committed to his own interests) all voted for Birks.  It is amazing to me that the district was willing to overlook the fact that Birks was dismissed from her post only one year after attempting to lead a Bridgeport Public School.  Let’s not include how Bridgeport is just as degenerate of a public school system as New Haven is on its way to becoming.  I looked at her resume and have not seen one moment of professional success that qualifies her for this position.  To me, she was the comfortable choice because she is a die-hard supporter of the mayor and is a documented financial supporter of the campaign.  I won’t get into the fact that there is a social conflict of interest being that they both are members of the same sorority.  I don’t think that is the largest factor though I think it was a factor.  It amazes me that the community, the students, the parents and the teachers made it clear that they do no support Birks but the BoE think they can by-pass the voices of the ones they serve to vote in favor of their own self-interests. I am appalled that this is the system that is being paraded like a reality show on VH1 and the children are left without solid leadership.  I am not a prophet but I do know for a certain that the Board will regret this decision by this time next year.  I hope New Haven wakes up and gets Harp out of office soon.  To me, she’s a more eloquent and poised version of the nation’s president.  She’s not interested in the souls of the community.  She is only interested in the dollars she can produce for her own legacy once she’s done squeezing the life out of New Haven.

posted by: watchfuleye on November 21, 2017  9:29pm

Goldson is not innocent and I wish people stop acting like he is a victim! He causes just as much confusion, rudeness also! And lies! Personal gain etc.. he put his hands all dramatic for nothing for a show! Another thing is how come Birks hasn’t address the community’ yet? Perhaps address the opportunity, trying to make people more comfortable something not a peep.. this is why the public doesn’t feel she is right its her demeanor among other things.

posted by: Latina on November 21, 2017  10:51pm

@New Haven Board of Education;
I cannot believe the conduct of these professionals acting like this publicly. This is shameful for our city and public school system. At the end, children are the ones affected. Please resign from the boad Joyner and Darnell, and apologize to taxpayers.  You make our system look worst. Do not expect students, teachers and community members to respect you and vote for you.
Alders- please speak to these two members publicly and a disciplinary action should be taken against them for this craziness.
Principals and administration- please do not invite these members to speak during graduation events or any other event.

posted by: new havener on November 21, 2017  11:34pm

as if any student, anywhere, would work harder for a superintendent…whether they knew the person or not. to think otherwise is delusional.

so long as the super is qualified, and can manage chaos, they’ll be fine. the city? not so much….it’s chaos is perpetual.

posted by: LookOut on November 22, 2017  1:58pm

jeez - a lot of this has to point to leadership (Harp)....New Haven is suffering from the same divisiveness problem that the country had to deal with under Obama.  Not healthy.