Housing Authority Targets The Achievement Gap

Paul Bass File Photo(Updated) The city housing authority has hired a new top administrator with a new mission: To ensure more kids in public housing succeed in school.

The housing authority hired a familiar face, Emily Byrne, back to New Haven to do the job, entitled “special assistant for education policy.”

Byrne began her career here as a driver for former Mayor John DeStefano’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign. She went on to be a top mayoral aide under DeStefano at City Hall, and to lead a college scholarship program DeStefano created called New Haven Promise, before heading to Hartford to take a policy position with state education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

In her new job at the housing authority, Byrne will help the housing authority create “innovative programs” to target the achievement gap between students who live in low-income housing and those who don’t; help public housing families support their kids’ education; and help kids with “opportunities” after high school.

“The cycle of poverty can only be broken by offering our youth the very best supportive programs that will help them excel in education. With Emily’s extensive experience and commitment to the New Haven community, I am confident that she will prove to effectively further advance ECC/HANH’s mission by helping our youth reach their highest potential through education.” said Karen DuBois-Walton, the housing authority’s executive director, in a statement.

Byrne will report directly to DuBois-Walton.

Update: The job carries a salary of $100,000, according to DuBois-Walton. Byrne began her job on Feb. 18. The position, previously held by Lavonte Bryant, is technically called “executive project manager II.” Bryant, who earned a comparable salary, vacated the job to become the director of procurement, DuBois-Walton said.

After Bryant’s promotion, the housing authority refashioned the job to focus on education. DuBois-Walton said the housing authority aims to take advantage of its federal Moving To Work status, which grants the authority flexibility to create innovative programs with its federal funding, to fund new education programming.

DuBois-Walton said Byrne will first try to gather data on educational outcomes of housing authority kids. Right now, DuBois-Walton said she has no information on how those kids are doing in school, or whether they are enrolled in special education, or talented and gifted programs. Byrne will work with the school board to gather aggregate data on housing authority students; then create new programs to help them. The housing authority already has a grant application pending with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund such programming, DuBois-Walton said. Byrne will use her connections at the state and through New Haven Promise to try to raise money for new programs, DuBois-Walton said. Byrne will also work to ensure housing authority children get access to quality pre-K programs, enroll in New Haven Promise, and have access to job training programs if opt not to go to college.

In a press release, Byrne said the housing authority is “positioned to be a leader among housing authorities nationwide to improve academic achievement and increase students’ success. This is an incredible opportunity to advance educational outcomes for New Haven’s young people and I’m excited and honored to support their new endeavor.”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 19, 2014  7:03pm

A housing authority spokeswoman could not be reached for comment regarding Byrne’s starting date or salary.

Like I keep saying.Tammany Hall!!!


posted by: The Professor on February 19, 2014  7:58pm

The move by the Housing Authority is an interesting one indeed. Nice to see the Authority taking an active role in helping to close the achievement gap.

Even more interesting is the alliance being built between the schools and the Authority, and perhaps a political alliance between Harries and DuBois-Walton.

posted by: Billy on February 19, 2014  10:52pm

Congratulations to Ms. Byrne, and I wish you all the success in the world in this new position. Your success can mean the future success of many of our children.

The question of Ms. Byrne’s salary is of the utmost importance. I hope the NHI will ferret that out. In an organization where the top dog makes an exorbitant salary - certainly not pay for performance, given that roofs are falling in and families with children are going for months without heat in HANH properties (both in recent months in Westville Manor), I hope that Ms. Byrne was tempted back to New Haven for idealistic, rather than purely financial reasons. Furthermore, I hope this is the beginning of HANH actually getting it’s house in order, please pardon the pun.

posted by: Melissa Bailey on February 20, 2014  10:43am

For those who were asking: We updated the story with the salary, which is $100,000.

posted by: newhaven55 on February 20, 2014  11:03am

if this was an existing position, who previously filled it? What was their pay? When was it created?

[Editor’s note: Thanks for the questions. Please see story update in bold.]

posted by: Daniel Fitzmaurice on February 20, 2014  4:55pm

Welcome back, Emily, from all of us at the Elm Shakespeare Company!

The summer camp that we host for children at Quinnipiac Meadows is a major highlight of our education programs. It is such a gift that HANH recognizes the role art plays in fighting the cycle of poverty.

We look forward to working with you soon!

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 20, 2014  6:36pm

This lady will earn $100,000 to help the Housing Authority create “innovative programs” to target the achievement gap between students who live in low-income housing and those who don’t.”  Are you kidding me?

If you truly wish to see a change, just the put the money in after school programs.

In my recent articles I have tried to be somewhat lenient on the HA regarding some issues.  That has come to a screeching halt. 

Under this money cesspool in which those that work in contrast to their contracts, the lack of accountability in particularly in the West, is sickening.  “On Sept. 18 in the apartment of Debbie Hill, the head of the Tenant Resource Council at Westville Manor. A chunk of her kitchen ceiling fell down, sending two kids to the hospital. Hill had asked the HA several times to repair her ceiling.”  This complaint went ignored until the actual ceiling fell and sent to children to the hospital.  That’s just one of many.

The property manager who received the multiple complaints, not only was not removed from the site, but he never received any suspension for such dereliction of duty. 

If a property manager can get away with such an awful performance, why should he improve?

So if you truly wish to research the reason why public housing kids for the most part are lacking academically, you need not look far. Just visit the conditions in which these kids are living under and are being ignored by the top brass and the immediate feeble supervision of the property manager in the west.

After much patience and thorough research done on my own. I have come to the denouement that, clearly the overarching problem for the Housing Authority is you have individuals in leadership positions that have been relegated to the Housing Authority from the fmr. DeStefano admin. who had absolutely zero if any public housing experience.  I refuse to say that they don’t care about the plight of the tenants, but I will say that they do a horrible job proving that they do.

posted by: Field Hand on February 21, 2014  1:43am

Once again, John Destefano is still controlling the City of New Haven. It’s very clear that Karen Walton is still very loyal to Destefano by hiring Byrne and making other nonsense decisions, i’m sure this is just another political payback that we have been witnessing. I’m sure there were other more qualified people for this position. Still the New Haven way “It’s not what you know it’s who you know” New Haven’s theme song! Mayor Harp, the city of New Haven is depending on you to stop the DeStefano political misconducts please think twice about keeping Destefano’s people on, there loyalty is to him not you! I voted for you Harp because I believe you have integrity and are very politically seasoned, please don’t disappoint your citizens of New Haven we believe you.

posted by: Indigo on February 21, 2014  10:35am

Byrne’s salary exceeds that of many City of New Haven department heads. It’s an absurd and unnecessary expense for our cash-strapped city. Imagine if just a portion of this $ was invested in supporting and amplifying programs like the Quinnipiac Terrace Homework Club, an educational program for housing authority youth run entirely by neighborhood volunteers. Such an investment would move us much closer to achieving the goals ostensibly sought via this appointment.

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on February 21, 2014  12:11pm

Doesnt the funding for HANH programs/activities come from federal dollars via the Department of Housing?Here’s the reality people.  Your income will be taxed and that money will be used to fund programs and services.  Rather than believing that public employees should take a vow of poverty in order to quell your outrage, how about considering how this effort may actually improve the city.  We know that crime is directly tied to poverty, education,  and family stability.  I’d rather my tax dollars go toward helping a kid build toward their future than paying for their stay in juvie. We know there’s an economic achievement gap that effects every kid in the classroom. As for Jenkins’ comment after school programs are often time fillers that focus on recreation rather than supplementary education.  Give it a year.  See if it works. If not, then complain.
In the meantime,  who knew HANH paid SO well?!

posted by: mimi415 on February 21, 2014  5:43pm

The Quinnipiac Terrace Homework Club, was designed and implemented by Housing Authority staff 6 years ago. About a year after it’s inception, committed volunteers from the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association agreed to help tutor kids in the program. This effort builds community and is an example of one of many cost-effective ways to help close achievement gaps in communities as such. I agree that investing a little more into programs like the Homework Club is a great idea.

posted by: Serf of New Haven on February 22, 2014  11:46am

Shuffling around the chairs on the titanic before it sinks.
Grab whatever isn’t nailed down before she goes down.

I want to hear a few NHI stories about this bloated ineffective government trimming some fat, not adding to it.

Looks like we have another lifer to pay for permanently attached to the government udder. Love the resume though, a whose whose on failed programs overcomplicating a system that needs less complexity and not more. The achievement gap is wider then it has ever been so lets deprive money to the needy by extracting it from those barely able to make ends meet so we can add another layer in the bureaucracy and confuse core missions even more.

Lets stay focused. The achievement gap should be with education not housing. Too many overpaid chiefs and not enough indians.

That’s how it goes though. She live in New Haven