Holder-Winfield Files, Calls For National Schools Chief Search

The quest to succeed retiring New Haven Mayor John DeStefano officially became a two-man race Friday, as school reform remained a top campaign issue.

Democratic state Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield of Newhallville filed papers to form his official mayoral campaign committee around 10:30 a.m. at the City Clerk’s Office.

He joins Democratic East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker as an official mayoral candidate, with other prominent New Haveners expected to announce soon if they’ll jump in, too. (Read about that here.) Democrat DeStefano announced Tuesday that he’s retiring at the end of 2013 after a record 20 years in office.

In his retirement announcement DeStefano urged voters to press candidates on school reform.

After filing Friday, Holder-Winfield said that he will indeed put improving public education at the top of his campaign agenda along with public safety and local job-creation. He has authored numerous school-reform bills in the state legislature, including one parent-empowerment law that put him at odds with city officials when they ignored it.

This coming year will see a transition not only at City Hall but also at the Board of Education when the schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo, a close DeStefano ally, retires after more than 20 years in charge upon the expiration of his contract on June 30.

“Garth will be the interim [superintendent]. I accept that,” Holder-Winfield predicted, referring to Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries, whom the city brought in from New York to oversee school reform and eventually succeed Mayo. But, he added, only if an intensive national search takes place for a permanent schools chief.

Holder-Winfield stressed that he believes that person may well be Garth Harries —but that the city needs to discover that through a thorough search process.

Board of Ed officials did not offer a response to Holder-Winfield’s comments by the time this article was published.

Elicker took a similar position when asked about the succession Tuesday night, when speculation began running rampant about the post-Mayo Board of Ed and the future of New Haven’s nascent school reform drive.

“I wouldn’t completely dismantle what they’re doing,” Holder-Winfield said Friday about that drive. Rather, he said, he’d seek to focus more on early childhood education, with a concentration on reading; and more on dealing with the traumas kids bring into school with them. Young children have often experienced multiple traumatic events in their lives, which makes it harder for them to learn, a key reason for Connecticut’s gaping urban-suburban and racial achievement gaps, he said. “Even when they get dealt with, they get dealt with improperly, which compounds them.” He spoke as well of developing school “building leaders” who have “the autonomy to do their job” while also being held accountable for results.

Click on the play arrow to watch, and here to read about, Holder-Winfield’s explanation to his church about why he’s running for mayor.

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posted by: Fair and Honest on February 1, 2013  3:11pm

All due respect to Gary, but I’d rather keep him in Hartford and capitalize on his experience there.
It would make a great double team to have Gary in Hartford and somebody with local, on the ground experience here in New Haven as mayor.

posted by: Brian Tang on February 1, 2013  4:20pm

Rep. Holder-Winfield sounds like he has a pretty solid grasp of this issue. I’m impressed. At this point, it looks like we have two outstanding candidates in the running. I honestly think both Rep. Holder-Winfield and Alderman Elicker would make pretty fantastic mayors. So far they both appear to be smart, qualified candidates who are pretty much on the same page. I’ll be curious to see how they define their differences and whether those will prove to be substantive or just cultural. That is not to say that cultural differences don’t matter; I just feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of having to make political decisions based on them. Because that requires applying value judgements to cultural differences. And that can be “problematic,” as the college kids say these days.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 1, 2013  5:34pm

Gary Holder-Winfield is in the pocket of those who are trying to push the corporate plutocracy Charter Schools along with Dan Malloy who help sellout the teachers.

posted by: Webblog1 on February 1, 2013  6:12pm

By the NHI…
“The quest to succeed retiring New Haven Mayor John DeStefano officially became a two-man race Friday, as school reform remained a top campaign issue”.

Actually this is a three man race as of the posting of this article.
The Independent in it’s haste to provide favorable coverage to Elicker, as it did with Kerekes, in the 2011 campaign, overlooks Mr.
Sundiata Keitazulu, a Newhallvillle plumber, who the NHI previously reported had filed to run for mayor.

Please NHI,try to restrain your bias political preference and maintain a spectrum of neutrality throughout this election campaign.

posted by: Anders on February 1, 2013  6:54pm

Elicker and Holder Winfield are both superior candidates to DeStefano, but I really would Like to see KEREKES run again. He’s not a career politician like them, and he would keep taxes down.

posted by: Brutus2011 on February 1, 2013  7:17pm

“Fair and Honest” makes an interesting point.

I would agree if Gary could take out the current guv in the primary and win the general election. Gary would be an outstanding governor—in fact, I get goose bumps at the prospect as unlikely as it is.

But short of “Governor Holder-Winfield,” I think “Mayor Holder-Winfield” would be a positive step forward for New Haven.

But I am not good at politics. I just hope that whoever wins, serves the citizenry better than the previous administration and its appointees.

The emperor really is naked. I don’t why we citizens always see the splendid new clothes. Or as they say today, why we continually hold our cups aloft for more Kool-Aid?