Two weeks after refusing to approve administrative hires, the Board of Education unanimously agreed to hire Madeline Negron as a new director of instruction for the district.
Negron was one of two administrative hires approved at the latest board meeting Monday night at L.W. Beecher School’s auditorium, along with Luis Menacho as the new principal of John S. Martinez School.
Two administrators and one board member are also leaving New Haven this summer.
The board was on its best behavior at the first full meeting following a heated retreat June 20 that featured a shouting match and left one member in tears.
Board meetings since January have stretched from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. or later. Monday’s meeting ended at around 7 p.m.—a solid hour and a half, including public comment.
At a board meeting two weeks ago, Superintendent Garth Harries had proposed Negron for director of instruction and Karen Lott for chief academic officer, expecting board members to approve them. At that meeting, board members Darnell Goldson and Ed Joyner pushed against hiring new central office staff, until they saw plans for reorganizing central office to account for necessary budget cuts.
In the meantime, Lott withdrew her name for the chief academic officer position.
Harries resubmitted Negron for director of instruction Monday night. This time, it passed—unanimously, with little discussion or debate.
Directors of instruction supervise and coach school principals; each is assigned to a set of several schools. This year, five directors of instruction were assigned to support 42 schools.
Board member Goldson said he gave in and agreed to support approving the hire when other members assured him the reorganization of central office for the fall would remove another director of instruction, leaving the schools with four instead of five.
“I never had a problem with the person,” he clarified after the vote. He just worried the position would bloat central office, he said.
Harries said the appointment was approved this time because he and the board have “focused on having the discussions that we need to have,” about how to save money and reorganize central office. He said Negron’s appointment was necessary, in order to start the process of filling her former position as principal of Career High School.
Martinez School gained a new principal in Menacho, who had been the school’s assistant principal under former Principal Myrna Montalvo. In the fall, Montalvo will lead the new Reginald Mayo Early Childhood School.
“The message was very very very clear from that community” at Martinez that they wanted Menacho to take over as principal, Harries said. They told him, “‘We have the strength and leadership we need from within the building.’” His starting salary is $143,649.
Another school lost its principal, as the board approved the resignation of Nadine Gannon, principal of King/Robinson Magnet School. She will be the new principal of Hamden High School, according to this article in the New Haven Register.
New Haven also lost its Broad Residency intern Siddhartha Chowdri, who has worked with Chief Financial Officer Victor De La Paz since 2014. De La Paz resigned this summer to take a job at Achievement First charter network.
Chowdri’s internship is finished, and he is moving to work in the finance and operations department of South Carolina Public Charter School District.
He urged board members to consider hiring another intern through the Broad Residency, which he said is full of “committed, talented, passionate people” who decided to change their career paths and “commit to public education.”
A Parting Appeal
The board also lost one of its own as Kimberly Sullivan, a recent graduate of Sound School, ends her term as non-voting student member. Sullivan and Hillhouse High School rising senior Coral Ortiz were the first student members on the board, after a 2013 referendum amended the charter to design an ed board with elected and student members.
Ortiz said she was “inspired by Kim’s insightful questions” and ability to “put away personal biases” and “think about what’s best for children.” Though the two didn’t always agree, Ortiz said, she valued Sullivan’s leadership.
In her last student report to the board, Sullivan urged members to address all the students who “go missing” in New Haven. She held up a paper that listed Silver Alerts for 100 missing kids as young as 8-years-old. Some of them are honors students, she said. “You may not know them, but they’re my friends.”
Her main goals were honing mastery-based learning, addressing student drug use and enhancing college guidance for students. “After I graduate, I’m still going to fight for those things,” she said.
Sullivan will head to the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music for a double major in music education and trumpet performance.
Board members took turns praising Sullivan’s maturity and outspoken nature. Mayor Toni Harp, president of the board, reminisced on the time before the student position was created, when Sullivan sat in the audience of board meetings and contributed opinions as public comments.
Harp thanked her for using her voice even though “some things you brought to us were really difficult to hear.”
Hyde School rising junior Jacob Spell will join the board in July, having won the high-school popular vote in April.