Birks Directed To Rescind Layoff Notices

Thomas Breen PhotoChristopher Peak PhotoThe mayor and Board of Education president called for a course reversal on handling expected layoffs by the schools superintendent — who was noticeably absent as they publicly criticized her as a newbie stumbling through an important decision-making process.

The call was issued at a Monday morning press conference held at City Hall.

Mayor Toni Harp and ed board President Darnell Goldson called at the press conference for Schools Superintendent Carol Birks to rescind the layoff notices she sent out June 22 to over 1,100 part-time New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) employees.

Standing alongside Board of Ed Vice President Jamell Cotto, Board of Ed Secretary Dr. Tamiko Jackson-McArthur, and Board of Ed member Frank Redente, Goldson said that, according to MUNIS, the school system’s employee database, only 764 part-time employees worked for, and were paid by, NHPS during the school year that just ended in June, not 1,100.

Goldson said 386 of the 1,153 people who received layoff notices two weeks ago did not work for NHPS last year. Instead, those people were previously employed by NHPS, and their names simply had not been removed from the list of actively employed part-time personnel in MUNIS. He said another three of those part-time personnel do not have a last paid date listed in MUNIS.

Harp said Birks’ action went against what they thought was an agreement to prioritize protecting employees who work directly with kids in the classroom as the Board of Ed proceeds making needed layoffs in the face of a $20 million projected budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning Monday.

“Make no mistake,” Harp said during the press conference; “1,153 public school employees are not going to lose their jobs.”

Thomas Breen PhotoGoldson said that means that the school system currently employs only 764, not 1,153, part-time personnel. These people work in positions ranging from athletic coaches and clerical workers to bus aides to part-time teachers. He said those 764 part-time staffers did indeed receive layoff notices a few weeks ago, and that the full board did not hear about these layoffs until several days after the notices were sent out. He said the board is now ordering the superintendent to rescind and reexamine those 764 layoffs. The reason, he said, is the central role that many of those employees play in student education.

“We have also learned than an overwhelming majority of the 764 employees have direct and consequential contact with our students,” he said. “Though the question remains whether or not removing these employees from our schools may save the district some money, it is not clear to us that it will improve educational outcomes for our students and may actually have a negative effect.”

Goldson referred to the superintendent’s actions on this layoff issue as a “stumble.”

“The superintendent is not just new to New Haven and this school system,” he said. “She is also a new superintendent.”

Birks — whom Harp and Goldson led the charge to hire this year — was not present at Monday morning’s meeting. Goldson and Harp said she was at a previously scheduled meeting related to the part-time employee layoffs.

Board of Ed member Ed Joyner was also not at the meeting. He was the only Board of Ed member not to sign onto the board’s Monday morning call.

Neither Birks nor Joyner responded to several calls requesting comment on this article.

According to a handout provided by the mayor’s office, 126 of the 764 part-time employees who received layoff notices are part-time teachers who work over 150 hours per year. Another 50 are part-time teachers who work under 150 hours per year. The remaining nearly 600 active part-time employees include clerical workers, bus aides, paraprofessionals, athletic officials, and non-certified instructors.

Goldson said the board will order the superintendent to rescind her previous layoff notices for the school system’s 764 active part-time employees, and then send follow up notices to those personnel informing them that her office will perform a “more thorough analysis” of each individual position and determine on a “case by case basis whether or not those roles will fit the board’s desire to increase educational outcomes for our students.”

Birks started as schools superintendent in March 2018. Goldson and Harp spoke out forcefully for her hiring amid controversy over the process.

“We want the superintendent to explain to us how removing those part-time employees provides educational outcomes for our students,” Goldson continued. “That’s the number one goal.”

He said he understands that the layoffs were likely more related to the superintendent’s efforts to close the prospective $20 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that began July 1. But, he said, the superintendent still has to answer for the impact that these layoffs would have on the school system’s core education services.

He also said the board will order the superintendent to focus on completing her reorganization of the NHPS central office and to focus on preparing the district for the beginning of the new school year in September.

Goldson said he did not know how much the 764 active part-time staffers currently cost the BOE to employ. Birks’s new analysis of these positions should include projected savings for positions that may be eliminated, he said.

Harp also dealt with the issue following the press conference on her latest “Mayor Monday” program on WNHH FM. “We thought we had an agreement with the superintendent” on preserving positions that involve direct work with students, as many of these part-time and special-funded positions do, Harp said. “We had no idea” those notices were going out late last month to so many people.

“In our discussions with us, it was never really clear to us a number. ... It caused a lot of turmoil in the community. It never had been a process that had been followed before. It wasn’t ever altogether clear what that number would be of people going back.” It turns out that some 400 people who received notices hadn’t work during the past school year at all. “There was no real sense they were needed,” Harp said.

Harp cautioned that some layoffs are indeed coming in the school system because of the budget deficit. “This is a $20 million problem.”

Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch the full episode of “Mayor Monday.”

Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch Monday’s full press conference.

 

This episode of “Mayor Monday” was made possible with the support of Gateway Community College and Berchem Moses P.C.

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posted by: Noteworthy on July 2, 2018  1:33pm

Disdain and Undermining Notes:

1. That any of these people at this press conference are even standing there - heads held high,no remorse, no shame - is in itself a disgrace.

2. Darnell Goldson’s education budget is a fxxxing disaster - it is millions and millions of dollars out of balance for the fiscal year that just ended. During his tenure, he didn’t do a damn thing to mitigate it, nor did the other board members and the biggest offender - is Mayor Harp herself. She not only didn’t lead the charge to reduce school spending in previous years - and right size the NHPS - she didn’t do it for the entire freaking city!

3. There are some half dozen budgets at least that are out of balance - that are running deficits - and the city, barring a miracle from Yale - will post a whopping $14 million operating deficit this year despite raiding the debt fund.

4. What they are doing collectively is undermining the authority of the superintendent.

5. Some of those laid off are likely their friends, political cronies and other connected people.

6. Why in the world are people’s names and payment availability even still listed as active employees? WTF.

7. And none of these people have been paid - since when? Harp famously engineered her favorite pet Jason Bartlett to get some of that education largess as her special liason.

8. Direct and consequential impact on students? Once again, the mayor and Goldson, her new golden boy, are playing games over control of the payroll. Goldson was a poor alderman - a poor CEO, and now he’s the end all of school management - hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditures. Right.

9. The board and the mayor - should shut up, sit down and provide guidance and structure. After that - they should get the hell out of the way. Or this is going to end up as big a clusterxxxx as the search that yielded Super Birks appointment.

10. The level of incompetence from this sorry crew is epic.

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 2, 2018  1:38pm

Is this the Keystone Cops version of government?
    Maybe the paid consultants who designed and rolled out Birks debut can help her in her role as Superintendent.
    It didn’t take the Mayor long to run over her new appointee with a bus, did it.
    Warning: Birks could be the next Dr. Okafur.

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 2, 2018  1:48pm

What ever you do, don’t lay off the person responsible for keeping the ‘employee database’ up to date!

posted by: ClassActionToo on July 2, 2018  1:54pm

When everybody is in charge, no one is in charge. The NHBOE and Harp are so incredibly unprofessional.

posted by: Not Worthy on July 2, 2018  2:03pm

As we said very loudly re Birks about a year and a half ago: Not. Ready. For. Prime. Time.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 2, 2018  2:28pm

Not:

Birks is ready. The board and Harp aren’t ready for Birks or for the hard decisions that have to be made re: the educational disaster in this city. Aside from Joyner - is there a board member who is deep into education? That this sorry bunch felt the need to denigrate and undermine Birks so publicly reflects more on them than it does on Birks. Why complain about layoff notices to all those hundreds of people still in the records as employees - if they aren’t actually getting paid? The juvenile delinquents have power. Pathetic.

posted by: Westville voter on July 2, 2018  2:35pm

The fact that the BOE does not even know how many part-time employees it has (off by more than 1/3!) is not Birks’ fault. It is an indication of the severity of the disaster she has inherited. It is imperative that the BOA, BOE, FBI, someone completely audit everything at Meadow Street! If the overpaid administrators there can’t count people, they surely can’t count money either. Birks needs to start firing people before she becomes the scapegoat for their incompetence.

posted by: manofthepeople on July 2, 2018  2:36pm

Thank you to Superintendent Birks for trying to be the only responsible adult in the entire Education department of New Haven.

Will the rest of you please let her do her job!

posted by: RHeerema on July 2, 2018  2:40pm

If you’ve worked with union contracts before (and perhaps NHBOE board members have not?), you know that there are frequently significant layoff notice periods. Superintendent Birks was showing foresight to get these notices out—along with a public statement that many would be rescinded. That said, she’s a new superintendent. Sending 1,000 layoff notices is a politically-sensitive action. She should have notified the Board. Plus, that personnel database must need a serious look-see!!!

posted by: repmd on July 2, 2018  2:49pm

This incident encapsulates the many problems with the budgetary practices of the BOE and most likely the city’s budget also. The lack of accurate up to date data makes it almost impossible to be fiscally responsible. The Superintendent should have a forensic audit done in order to access that status of her budget. At the start of each year, they budget for a full compliment of teachers but open school with many vacancies. In each pay period, the unspent salaries accrue. Even if they use substitute teachers who are paid at a lower salary, there are surplus funds in the salary line item. Dr Birks needs her own staff to investigate the budget and not depend on Will Clark. Dr Birks this is only the beginning of your problems.

posted by: CamilleS on July 2, 2018  2:50pm

“According to a handout provided by the mayor’s office, 126 of the 764 part-time employees who received layoff notices are part-time teachers who work over 150 hours per year. Another 50 are part-time teachers who work under 150 hours per week. ”

Seems like one of these numbers is a mistake. Since there’s only 168 hours in a week, I’d assume most part-time staff work under 150 hours.

posted by: Pardee on July 2, 2018  3:00pm

How much is Birks buyout going to cost us? Add that to the $14,000,000 deficit.
Just when you think it cannot get any worse…

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on July 2, 2018  3:13pm

>>> “The board and Harp aren’t ready for Birks or for the hard decisions that have to be made re: the educational disaster in this city.”

This wasn’t one of the “hard decisions.”  The $12 million estimate of savings was simply fantasy, especially if hundreds of those workers were not even on the payroll.  Instead, part-timers save the district money.  Many work directly and effectively with children for a low rate, and it was encouraging to hear Darnell re-commit to keeping as many cuts away from the students’ learning as possible.

posted by: LookOut on July 2, 2018  3:14pm

Wow - what a mess….if Harps and her embarrassing BOE don’t push Birks out, I wouldn’t be surprised if she resigned.  Why would anyone competent want to be part of this circus.  Please, let’s get rid of the clowns.

posted by: robn on July 2, 2018  3:34pm

GIGO…Garbage In Garbage Out…garbage being the misinformation fed to Birks by the iverstaffed and underuseful central office.

Birks was just trying to do what spineless politicians can’t seem to do and that is cut the budget down to something the taxpayers of New Haven can afford.

posted by: newhavenishome on July 2, 2018  3:38pm

Shame on Harp and the BOE! So quick to throw the new person under the bus. I didn’t think it was possible for me to disrespect them even more. They have hit a new low.
So, a simple database can’t even be maintained, but we shell out more and more each year to municipal employees. If the data is wrong, how can any budget assumptions based on said data be accurate?
Incompetence runs rampant, and it is Toni’s fault. FWIW, issuing annual layoff notices that then get rescinded is a pretty common practice in union environments. Dr. Birks didn’t really do anything wrong. Hey, I guess we get a clean database out of the latest debacle.

posted by: Intheknow on July 2, 2018  3:40pm

None of this is a surprise! Birks is never going to learn because she doesn’t want guidance. All she is concerned with is bringing her friends from Hartford to New Haven. All of those Hartford/Bridgeport people she paraded in front of administrators last week was unconscionable and threatening. Birks needs to be about the children of NHPS, not herself. She’s gearing up for fights with the Administrators and Teacher Unions. Thank you, Darnell for stopping Birks in her tracks. Again, I pray for NHPS. Birks is way out of her league and she is surrounding herself with others who are out of their leagues.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on July 2, 2018  4:09pm

M-I-C-K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E!

posted by: Noteworthy on July 2, 2018  4:13pm

Jill:

The $12 milluon may not have been real. who cares? Given the finances this bunch oversees,  the ghost employees and lame budget practices- nobody would know.

Case in point: school busing. The NHPS just negotiated a busing contract that will cost more than the 3% increase. By millions.But hey, they’ll manage.

As for sparing the children - get over it. For the children has been the go to excuse for not cutting budgets, closing schools and being responsible adults. The kids will live and get over it.

posted by: vpaul on July 2, 2018  4:16pm

I wish the reporting were a little sharper. For example, were 1,153 positions carried in the budget as paid positions? Whereas only 700+ actually worked? We need a closer reference to the budget, and the effects such actions have on it. If they were not in the budget, why did the superintendent take such action?
    Give us some pertinent information, please!

posted by: Molly W on July 2, 2018  5:02pm

Can we puh-lease get an external audit of the NHPS budget? This isn’t even to say that it should be used to prove anyone wrong- let’s just all be on the same page.

posted by: AnnieMac on July 2, 2018  5:53pm

So Dr. Birks lays off almost 400 people who don’t work for the BOE.  She makes 240,000 dollars per year.  She did it as a political stunt to win over the constituency and she got caught.  She’s playing the New Haven taxpayers as fools.  If it were 5 or 10 people who were sent letters of layoff in error, it’s understandable…but 382?  That is just incompetance through and through.  If the HR Director was involved, then she must be dismissed.  Our taxes pay for workman’s comp. insurance, etc. for these ghost employees.  And what about the cost of the certified letters that were sent to them and now more letters rescinding have to be sent.  So much for shrinking the deficit.  Birks reeks of arrogance.  In the words of John McLaughlin…bye bye.

posted by: AnnieMac on July 2, 2018  5:56pm

To newhavenishome:

Birks has been working for 4 months.  She makes 1/4 million dollars per year.  The honeymoon is over.  She had a responsibilility to know who works for the district before laying them off.  She did this to herself and she got called out for it by the BOE.  The board was correct to do this, and now Birks should be censured and suspended without pay.  If Birks wants to run the district like a business, then she needs to be reprimanded as if she worked in a business.  And that’s suspension without pay.

posted by: 1644 on July 2, 2018  6:31pm

Was there an official meeting of the BoE?  The Superintendent works for the board, not for the Mayor or the Board Chair, who have no individual authority to direct her to do anything.  If there was a gathering of a quorum of BoE members who discussed this,  then it was likely an illegal meeting in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.  If Goldson wants to direct the Superintendent to do something, he should call a Special Meeting of the Board to discuss it.  She works for the Board, not for him.

posted by: FacChec on July 2, 2018  7:10pm

This same motley crew, minus Jackson-MCarthur,  led by Goldson, unanimously choose Birks as the new superintendent over the objections of the parents and the public. To demonstrate how cost conscience they were at the time in undertaking a pay raise for the Supt. from $197K to 235K, even thought Birks had stated her intentions towards central office increases and staffing reductions to fill an impending budget deficit. Harp liked Birks so much that she proposed to the recalcitrant Alders for their impending unanimous approval, a $6M bail out of the BOE’s 17/18 budget. Harp is taking the money out of debt payments to pay deficit financing of the medical benefits GF line item, with more than 1/2 going to pay the BOE’s deficit Health Benefits. Fast forward to today’s announcement where Harp and Goldson, who knew two weeks ago of Birks layoff plan, call a press conference,  not a board policy meeting, to denounce Birks “Goldson took particular aim at Birks’ handling of the layoffs, calling it an “unnecessary distraction” that was “avoidable.”  He also called Birks’ actions a “stumble.” The Mayor says we thought we had an understanding” “In discussions with us, it was never really clear to us a number. ...
Just how to you square the FAC that Goldson called an out of order agenda item which listed the executive session as the last item, but then offering a motion seconded by Harp to go into executive session first and leaving the public waiting more than two hours, where-as neither Birks or the Mayor or Goldson said a word about their “understanding.” Goldson has the gull to announce at a press conference that the BOE will order the superintendent to focus on completing her reorganization of the NHPS central office and to focus on preparing the district for the beginning of the new school year. Here, both the Mayor and Goldson were too willing to call out Birks in a presser, but not in executive session, or in front of the public. Political manipulation of the 764.

posted by: WildwildWestEducator on July 2, 2018  7:18pm

Don’t be fooled! There is a $20million ga. Where is it going to come from, especially when transportation is going up 3%. Those who are part time, could be tutors and pre k paras. Not every school has these positions.  Be real, there are people with high salaries that are hidden. There are schools without principals, there is another school supposedly being taken over by the state. Don’t focus on the non educators trying to tell the educators what to do. Remember a few weeks ago when Mr. Cotto put his foot in his mouth, but talking about closing Edgewood, Barnard and a few other schools…. Leave the education issues to the educators. This is why the board of education should have educators on it, they know what they are talking about.

posted by: robn on July 2, 2018  7:36pm

1644,
Ditto

All others,
The fact that Birks can’t get accurate information from her subordinates about employee count is an even better reason to send the entire central office into retirement, dynamite it, and start from scratch.

posted by: AliceB on July 2, 2018  7:47pm

This is outrageous.  The mayor and the President of the BOE going out of their way to humiliate the Superintendent of Schools makes me sick.  This could have been handled in so many other ways; better ways.  Superintendent Birks does not deserve to be treated in this manner.  Is this the new way of dealing with people in the city:  Seek to Humiliate those who are smarter and have more integrity and that way you feel better about yourselves?? 
If I were Dr. Birks I would leave now because it will only get worse and, believe me, she will be so much better off somewhere else.  Harp and that other one have shown their true colors and they “ain’t pretty.”

posted by: observer1 on July 2, 2018  8:11pm

The city bigwigs will never reduce expenses. The only thing they are good at is spending money and increasing our taxes. They never met a dollar they did not want to spend. We need a new mayor, BOE and BOA. As long as we are at it lets get rid of the police and fire chiefs also.

posted by: southwest on July 2, 2018  8:11pm

My God did anyone asked theses people were they qualitified to do the job..The Mayor is beginning to sound like Trump,flip flopping all over the place and throwing poor Birk under the bus like she do to all her qualifying staff… The city is at its worst that I’ve seen in a long time..but they keep voting these people back in that include the Clueless Alderpeople who is definitely likeing qualification ..we are in trouble people take your head out of the sand…

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on July 2, 2018  8:41pm

How curious and near diabolical is it that all of the people who wrote scathing comments about the Superintendent refused to use their real names.  How interesting that NOTHING in this article or in the comments make even passing mention of the previous administration that the present administration is struggling to deal with. 

It is nothing less than cowardly for a person to throw rocks from behind a made-up internet name.  If you’re willing to use Dr. Birk’s name, then you should be willing to use yours.  Further, for those who take her to task, how can you not see that the budget deficit is not something that she created, but she has taken on the responsibility, by accepting the job, to fix.

While I agree that a report before the full board would have been prudent, I can’t see how the denial of her plan now becomes the exclusive and independent decision of the Mayor and one other member of the Board, Mr. Darnell Goldson. 

The other members of the Board, though handpicked and controlled by the Mayor, are supposed to be the representatives of the people of New Haven.  An appointed position does not make that fact any less valid.  But, the city’s appointed and other elected member of the Board seem left out of the loop on this critical incident.  Why is that?

What is beginning to happen to Dr. Birks is a beginning, indeed.  The hounds have been released.  The detractors, throwing rocks and hiding their hands in the media, are not yet in full-force, but they are apparently gearing up. Unless Dr. Birks falls fully in-line with the prevailing thoughts of the status quo, she will be run over and soon dismissed, and they will surely use this incident as one of the primary reasons for refusing to renew her contract. 

The Superintendent’s job is an executive one.  She should not be micro-managed by a crew of hand-picked cronies whose primary qualifications in public education are their ability to follow the Mayor’s commands. 

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: new havener on July 2, 2018  8:50pm

From a distance, it appears the Mayor and the BOE are determined to keep the gravy-train going as long as possible. There is a long line of takers in the number slated for possible layoff.

I’ll give props ad credit to Ms Birks for recognizing the immediacy of need in closing no-performing and useless schools, and paring down the sprawling School system.

The city isn’t going to fix itself if the Mayor doesn’t want it to…and it doesn’t look like she wants to.

posted by: Bikeman on July 2, 2018  9:00pm

Welcome to New Haven Dr. Birks.  I heard Goldson’s interview and let’s say it didn’t build my confidence in his abilities.  New Haven is never short of moments like this.  It seems impossible that Dr. Birks can make and announce a decision like this without anyone in power knowing about it.  At least she tried.  And she will never try again.  We need a different direction in town, but I doubt New Haven’s power structure will allow that.  Momentum for change is bubbling, but we don’t have an alternative yet.

posted by: 1644 on July 2, 2018  9:07pm

southwest:  Good catch on the Trump-like management qualities.  Echoes of Trump/Sessions: undermine your own guy, somehow thinking it makes you look good. At least she didn’t hold a big news conference when she fired her hand-picked hires of Paca, Blue, and James.

posted by: Bikeman on July 2, 2018  9:13pm

John Stoehr’s article in The Register was on point about Mayor Harp.  She didn’t want to campaign to become mayor so she turned it over to the machine to handle.  She’s never tried to connect with the people of New Haven and as result of her recent decisions, she has spent her political capital.  This recent intervention just adds more fuel to the fire for change.

posted by: BevHills730 on July 2, 2018  9:28pm

Noteworthy you defend rapists and pedophiles, while attacking families.  You have no business commenting on any story that involves the welfare of children.

posted by: Whataperdicament on July 2, 2018  9:41pm

“In the know” you hit the nail in on the head. To me, I think she’s trying to justify hiring (4) Asst. Superindentents, (1) Deputy Superintendent and a Chief of Staff by eliminating/lay off as many people as she can.  It’s all about the numbers. Apparently we have gotten out of the business of educating our children. Forgetting the fact that these, one day, will be our future leaders.

posted by: Edragon49 on July 2, 2018  10:23pm

I know someone who held a part time position with the BOE about 5 years ago for 18 months,  they have not worked for the city since then and yet they received a letter last week saying that their services would no longer be needed…how is it possible for the city to send a layoff letter to a former employee 4 years after employment ended…unbelievable,  time for change.

posted by: RahRah on July 3, 2018  1:04am

You all seem to enjoy doing the ‘Razzel Dazzle’ trying to deflect the reality of what is really happening at central office. People crying constantly about how overstaffed and inefeicient they all are. Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Perfect example is the fact there isn’t anyone in the position to monitor Munis anymore! Do any of you know how many people work in the data department? To my knowledge ONE or TWO maybe! As is the same for HR! Lack of staff! This is just one reason that MUNIS isn’t kept up, no one has the time to even look at it. Also, this ‘department’ (asked to make an orgaanizational chart what a joke), is also responsible for State reporting, Power School and SchoolNet to mention just a few. Blue sheets tell you when people are hired, retire, layed off, etc. Is there anyone monitoring that in MUNIS obviously not, and that is simply because of being UNDERDSTAFFED!

WHY are you only talking about the part timers that were laid off? WHY aren’t you talking about the absurdity of laying of Supervisors and Directors, leaving their staff with no one to report to, not to mention the stress of not knowing what will happen to them! Absolutely no communication with Central Office Staff whatsoever! Where is this transparency all you ‘Razzel Dazzelers” talk about? By the way most of the part timers laid off were paid thru Special Funds not General Funds, this money was budgeted to pay these people which now leaves money that will go back to the State because it was done at a time you cannot revise the budgets! That is what happens when you have the blind leading the blind. They are trying to save Millions by laying off people dedicated to students academic achievement making $15 an hour to $30 an hour and cutting their 19.5 hrs a wk to 10 hrs! WHAT CAN A TUTOR DO with 10 hours a week? And to add insult to injury you lay off Certified (Highly Qualified) retired teachers who are told ‘your services will no longer be needed’. REALLY!

posted by: fastdriver on July 3, 2018  6:59am

WOW! WOW! WOW! For a while now, I have been saying that there NEEDS to be a FORENSIC AUDIT of the BOE records! I wonder how MANY of those people listed as still employed were PAID by the city? Am I wrong when I say that budget amounts take into consideration how many employees you have working for you? If hundreds have not been working, then the $$$$ amounts for them are wrong and should not have been included in the budget! How many OTHER errors are there in the BOE RECORDS? Let’s hire a few more incompetent people to get the job done!

Reading about what is going on in this city is like watching the Three Stooges! The only thing is that we seem to have MORE than three stooges in town! What a disaster. Lack of communication seems to be rampant in New Haven!

More upsetting then reading the news in this article, is reading the responses! OMG! Has anyone ever head of proofreading what you wrote to see IF it is grammatically correct AND makes sense? It was painful and embarrassing to say the least.

Tick-tick- what next?

posted by: NHPLEB on July 3, 2018  7:08am

Anyone who thinks this has anything to do with kids is so sadly mistaken!  This is about money and power.  Corruption in this small city is astounding! Mr. Lee is correct that the machine will not let Birks do her job.  It will also stop any challenge to its own power.  Mayo hand-picked Harries ; DeStefano blessed Harp;  now Harp chooses.  Woe to any who try to turn off the gravy train.

As to alternatives:  Switch your party affiliation to Republican or Green and build those parties.  The Dems in NH are NOT DEMOCRATIC: they are AUTOCRATIC and their stranglehold on power can only be stopped by another party.  The people must rise—-  don’t wait for those who comment here (me included)  to save you—- we work for Yale,  the BOE, the City of NH.  We will be ruined if we speak out publicly.  Should we stick our necks out?  Yeah but so could everyone else.  Together , we could make change.  Fragmented, we can do little but lose our jobs and homes.  That’s a high price.  Moving is easier.

posted by: Intheknow on July 3, 2018  7:10am

@Rev Ross-Lee

I hear what you are saying about those of us who choose not to make our identities known—we have families to feed and we fear repercussions. I guess it’s no different than you espousing the greatness of Dr. Birks and you have never worked with her. How is that fair? The Dr. Birks whom you defend is the same person who stood before her staff and stated that ‘Boo-Boo and dem’ did not matter, so she laid them off. SHE DOES NOT CARE FOR THE NEW HAVEN COMMUNITY! She is the same person who wants to hire 900 people and pay them exorbitant salaries to do the job taxpayers are paying her $245,000 to do—she just wants to be on the BALCONY (her words). She is the same person who rules with an iron fist without getting to know anyone and what they do. She is the same person who screams at employees on the phone and in person. She is the same person who denied principals’ vacations that were already paid for in advance. She is the same person who consistently throws her staff under the bus. She is the same person who LOVES Charter Schools or did you forget that. The parents, teachers, community and Dr. Joyner did not want her hired because she came from two FAILING school districts. It’s clear that she KNOWS who she wants in those positions—rejects from Hartford/Bridgeport and her sorority sisters. None of which is qualified to hold those positions. The CFO will be Mr. Hil, the current part time CFO who was fired from Hartford. Do you think that’s what is best for NHPS? Is she a proposed new member of your church?

posted by: JCFremont on July 3, 2018  8:32am

Why blame Birks, the system is rigged for any type of needed change and will destroy anyone trying to make hard choices. Sure buy out Birks, reinstate Temporary Mayo and blow money on another exploratory committee, hire someone new, let them hire a staff then whack’em in the knee caps, rinse and repeat.

posted by: Olorin on July 3, 2018  8:38am

The average tenure of an urban schools superintendent is 1.5 years. Am I on board with Dr. Birks’s program? No, not yet. But she should be given the leeway to try, a respect that Garth was not given. Otherwise, she will be the second in what will be an increasing list of short-timers that will drive this district into the ground (cf: Hartford, Bridgeport, and countless others, nationwide.) The problem is not the person sitting the superintendent’s chair. It’s the board. It’s the mayor. And therefore, it’s us.

posted by: BlueDogMom on July 3, 2018  8:50am

National embarrassment….when I speak with those out of state and they tell me they have heard about the lay-offs in New Haven schools and what about the new school being built and named after President Obama? How can you honor him with a school when your city is so broke you can’t even pay teachers? That’s a good question but I have no answers for them. No business, not even those from China, are going to relocate anywhere near this disaster. And you can put all the bike paths you want to and from all the new and proposed construction projects-it will not make this political mess more attractive as a home for anyone. Think about it, prime real estate season and this is the news potential home buyers hear-raised taxes, reduced teaching staff and unprofessional mayoral press conference. Everyone promising to hang that for sale sign out because they are disgusted with this city better roll up their sleeves and help make this situation better because who is rushing to own here?

posted by: robn on July 3, 2018  8:53am

I attended a nearby suburban graduation picnic recently and met a dentist who, bya ll appearances, seemed to have no skin in the game of New Haven politics. Knowing that I was from NHV and that I was concerned about the school system, she related a story that one of her friends witnessed; that of Supt Birks touring a school and, having passed a TA sitting in an empty room reading a paper and drinking coffee, and then returning an hour later to find the exact same situation, firing that TA on the spot. Being that this seemingly common sense dentist had absolutely zero motivation to engage in hyperbole or fabrication, I thought it safe to assume the story was true.

THAT, is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

posted by: CarefulReader on July 3, 2018  8:54am

In Carol Birks’ own words when she accepted the supes job: “My door will always be open, and parents and families will have an opportunity to engage. I will make students’ voices a priority and parent outreach a commitment.
We get better when we work together and we’re going to need the collective strength of everyone in the community, especially educators, keep New Haven on a path of continuous improvement for each student. “
-Carol Birks
November 2017
Media release.
‘Nuf said.

posted by: concerned_neighbor on July 3, 2018  9:22am

Dr. Birks was hired to right the ship. Ostensibly, she is promised a free hand to bring the NHPS under control. The first step she takes to bring the finances under control is immediately and publicly criticized by the very folks who hired her. More than a criticism, Dr Birks is “directed” to reverse course. Yikes. Why work for NHPS and BOE in a leadership position when all the Mayor and the BOW want are stooges.

N.B. All this business about 1100 or 740 or whatever number of part time employees is a big red herring. NHPS needs to cut. Prior to Birks’ tenure, Central office doesn’t know who worked when. In the interests of completeness, they issue notices to everyone because you know if they left someone out, they would show up, demand to be paid and create a federal lawsuit out of it. To suggest otherwise is just a weak attempt to smear Dr. Birks. To be sure, she will get paid and when the Mayor and BOE send her packing, she will land a higher paying gig and those hiring her will remark at her tremendous resiliency for putting up with the seedy politics, backroom dealings and micromanagement of NHPS by the Mayor and the BOE.

posted by: James Sunderland on July 3, 2018  9:51am

Wow this is honestly stunning. All parties involved have proven themselves to be completely incompetent.

a. These layoffs are exactly the kind of thing Birks was promising during the disaster of a search process the BoE and Mayor lead. Guess they’re having second thoughts now that they have to swallow the medicine.

b. That Birks did not do her homework about who is actually working for the city is very worrying. Makes me worry about future drastic actions that she is willing to take.

c. Certain commenters here seem utterly unconcerned for the children of New Haven and how they are impacted by this. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is a disaster years in the making, but what and where to cut is not a simple black and white issue and the future of New Haven should not have to suffer for the mistakes of those who came before them (both the harp admin and earlier.)

posted by: 1644 on July 3, 2018  10:31am

From my made-up internet name, I say Birks has six months before she is “sent packing”, aka, comes to her senses and flees, with one years salary and benefits as severance.  Regardless of the wisdom of the layoffs,  the public trashing by the very people who brought her in means her position is untenable.

posted by: darnell on July 3, 2018  11:15am

Have all of you forgotten that the BOE cut nearly $7 million from the budget a month and a half ago, which included layoffs, school closures and getting out of leases? We don’t have an aversion to layoffs, in fact we, along with Birks, are actively discussing future cuts and savings, such as furloughs. And, as we discussed at this press conference, layoffs of full and part timers are still on the table. We emphasized that we want to see guys that do not impact student learning, and want to make sure that these don’t. The BOE has led the process.

And BTW, if anyone wants to really understand the dynamics at play here, I would suggest that you: 1. Review the record as to who voted for and against Birks recommendations for school closures a month or so ago, and; 2. review the record and comments when Harries was Supt.

1644, there was no illegal meeting. I drafted a statement which I then sent to each member individually to review and comment. Once I completed a version everyone was comfortable with, I then write it called each member to determine if a PC was desired, and then set the date. A meeting never occurred.

posted by: Intheknow on July 3, 2018  11:23am

As the Superintendent, why didn’t Birks tell each principal to scale back their part time staff by 10 to 15 percent. They would have to lose non-essential part time staff. How hard is that? Oh, the principals DID submit their part time staff and their duties but it was IGNORED! I guess all of the people who think the layoffs were brilliant won’t mind having: no crossing guards, no bus monitors, no bus aides, no staff to receive preschoolers at 7:30 am, no one to answer phones in offices, etc…while Birks’ Central Office staff gets bigger.  Please note, the way the Board treated Birks is the same way Birks treats her staff—ask anyone! Many upper level staff did not know their jobs were in jeopardy until their jobs were posted! Birks had NO communication with those people! How is that a way to run an organization? Would any of you like to be treated that way? Respect works both ways.

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on July 3, 2018  12:27pm

@InTheKnow,

You wrote the following words: “I guess it’s no different than you espousing the greatness of Dr. Birks…” The “you” in your statement refers to me.  Please, if you wish to back up that statement with facts, copy and paste the statement that I made that justifies the comment quoted above.  I’ll wait. 

While “InTheKnow” is scrambling to make sense of what s/he said, I’ll say this: Between the final two candidates for the Superintendent’s position, Dr. Birks was not my choice.  I said so on this news site, using my real name. 

After the BOE overwhelmingly decided to give Dr. Birks the job, as it was their right and responsibility to make such a decision, my next stance was to support their choice as much as I could.  I am not unaware of the pitfalls that exist for any person, and especially a new person, in that position here in New Haven. Nor am I unaware that a number of those pitfalls are manufactured. 

The manner in which the incident reported above has been handled by the Mayor, and the Board President is untenable.  As a citizen of this municipality, I spoke up about it.  I’ve done so on several issues, and in defense and criticism of several people. My reasons for doing so have nothing to do with members of Immanuel Baptist Church.  I am a citizen and a Pastor in this city.  I have every right and every responsibility to say something about these issues.  And I will continue to do so.

The irony of your final sentence that suggests that my reason for speaking up has something to do with the new Superintendent’s potential involvement with Immanuel is that the last Superintendent was, in fact, a member of Immanuel.  That fact did not prevent me from speaking my mind about some of the discrepancies with the NHPS or the BOE.  Maybe you should be more careful about making what appear to be stereotypical statements, i.e., church leaders are always/only doing what we do because we are trolling for new/more members/converts. 

Rev. Ross-Lee

posted by: newhavenishome on July 3, 2018  12:53pm

Darnell-it isn’t so much the fact of whether anyone grees with layoffs or not. It is the manner in which you and Mayor Harp chose to publicly slap down a new employee.  Did she make a misstep? Perhaps so. That is besides the point. Calling a press conference to throw her under the bus shows that you and Harp do not have any sense of true leadership or emotional intelligence. You come across as arrogant, controlling and self serving.

posted by: FacChec on July 3, 2018  12:55pm

Darnell, just twenty four hours ago you and the Mayor were quoted by the NHI as saying..

..Mayor Toni Harp and Ed board President Darnell Goldson called at the press conference for Schools Superintendent Carol Birks to rescind the layoff notices she sent out June 22 to over 1,100 part-time New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) employees. You said then her actions were a distraction and furthermore…“Goldson took particular aim at Birks’ handling of the layoffs, calling it an “unnecessary distraction” that was “avoidable.”  He also called Birks’ actions a “stumble.” The Mayor says we thought we had an understand.

In your post today on July 3, 2018 11:15am   you made contradictory statements; “We don’t have an aversion to layoffs, in fact we, along with Birks, are actively discussing future cuts and savings, such as furloughs. And, as we discussed at this press conference, layoffs of full and part timers are still on the table.

The question therefore is:
How can you have already discussed layoffs of full and part timers, at the same time you soundly rebuke Birks for sending out notices to persons who were not actively on Munis. It seems to me that you and the Mayor should have called a public meeting first, since you did not discuss Munis during the executive session on June 22nd in order to investigate the fault with munis and the responsible staff members, before calling a political presser condemning Birks. Condemning her for faults of Munis that you and the Mayor admit was built in incompatibilities when Birk’s announced her plan and the personnel accounting of lay-off by you and the Mayor at the presser.
As of today, the public does not know the actual lay-offs figures and the political correct interpretations of those lay-offs by you and the Mayor. Don’t make this a political circus, get it straight man!!

posted by: 1644 on July 3, 2018  1:05pm

Mr. Goldson:  The process you describe sure sounds like a meeting to me. Did you clear your actions with the FOIC?  I strongly suspect that it would say you held an illegal meeting.  You discussed a public matter with many members of the board and made a decision.  Because the meeting was illegal, the action you took, directing Birks to rescind her layoffs, should be void.

FOIA defines a “meeting” as: “any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency, any convening or assembly of a quorum of a multimember public agency, and any communication by or to a quorum of a multimember public agency, whether in person or by means of electronic equipment, to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction or advisory power.’ Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-200(2)
https://www.rcfp.org/connecticut-open-government-guide/i-statute-basic-application/d-what-constitutes-meeting-subject-law

posted by: 1644 on July 3, 2018  1:28pm

Were I Mr. Joyner, I would be filing an FOIC complaint.  If you want to discuss public business with members of the BoE, you need to do so in public, not through the secrecy of e-mail (all of which are public records, by the way.)

posted by: FacChec on July 3, 2018  1:32pm

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:

https://www.nhregister.com/news/article/New-Haven-schools-get-fiscal-auditor-13045431.php

posted by: Patricia Kane on July 3, 2018  3:08pm

It is stunning to see public officials not understand basic FOIA procedures. 1644 is right on.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 3, 2018  3:16pm

Darnell -

You cut $7 million dollars from next year’s budget. It’s not enough and it’s way late. Your BOE budget was millions of dollars in deficit mode.

Your drama filled press conference and all the correspondence leading up to it were dishonest, lacks transparency and were designed to keep the press and the public in the dark.

You’re not smart enough to engineer this on your own. Harp had a big hand in it, clearly. It is in keeping with the lack of honesty, disclosure and forthrightness that has become the hallmark of the Harp House. The $500,000 in executive raises while running an unresolved $30 million deficit is emblematic.

This is not about the children. it is about power, subterfuge and circumvention of FOIA. It’sreally about making sure all the favored pets have jobs.

If this is your best leadership, then resign. You and Harp flunk.

posted by: darnell on July 3, 2018  3:22pm

1644,

1. There was not a meeting, which would have to include four members.

2. Dr. Joyner was emailed individually just as all the other members were.

3. We specifically stated in our written and oral statement that at the next board meeting we would direct the Supt. Go back and listen to the tape, or if you like I can send you a copy of the written doc..

FacChec

You should get your facts right. We said two things.
1. The process was flawed.
2. The board should have had input before it was done, and
3. We plan to cut away from classrooms. It appears that many of these employees are in the classrooms.

Newhavenishome
Sorry you see it that way.

posted by: AliceB on July 3, 2018  4:02pm

After reading all of these comments I can only think of that wisdom from the Bible about those who set out to dig a hole for someone to fall into only to fall into it themselves. Looks like the majority of the board is tumbling into a very big hole.

posted by: FacChec on July 3, 2018  4:34pm

@ Darnell:

You wrote…FacChec

You should get your facts right. We said two things.
1. The process was flawed.
2. The board should have had input before it was done, and
3. We plan to cut away from classrooms. It appears that many of these employees are in the classrooms.

my response is a simple one… these three line items are not my facts, they are yours, please read your last three statements recorded by the NHI starting with this article:

https://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/board_of_ed_1100_layoff_notices/

1. He said(you) those 764 part-time staffers did indeed receive layoff notices a few weeks ago, and that the full board did not hear about these layoffs until several days after the notices were sent out. Actually you knew about these lay-off plans at least on 6/22 here is your exchange with Birks..Goldson said that there had been a “lack of communication” between the superintendent and the board, which he plans to address at a future meeting.

Birks acknowledged that the district could have been clearer in its communication with part-timers. While she’s only been on the job only since March, Birks said the letters could’ve gone out earlier. Birks added that she believes she’s been “clear all along” that cuts were coming.

2. same as #1 According to Birks she had been clear that cuts were coming. If so, then you had ample time to discuss this issue with Birks and the Board during the executive session on the 26th. After the session you said nothing about impending lay-offs or the possible affect on the classroom..

3. You said “WE plan to cut away classrooms” This statement is a strong indication and admission by you that you were made aware previous to June 26th of June.

Check it out before you post again.

posted by: 1644 on July 3, 2018  4:49pm

Mr. Goldson:  (1) You do not need a quorum to constitute a meeting.  (2) In any case,  I note four board members at the press conference: yourself, Mr. Redente, Mr. Cotto, and Mayor Harp.  That’s four right there, plus you say you e-mail Mr. Joyner, and asked for his input.  So, I don’t see how you can say you did not have four members meeting if you e-mailed three or more other members to solicit their input and help draft a statement.  In fact you admit that you e-mailed ALL members of the BoE, and asked for their input.  I don’t understand, given that you say you e-mailed the board on this matter, that you say you didn’t meet with them.  Do you really not understand the statute?  Just because you used e-mail rather than met in person, doesn’t mean you did not hold a meeting.
e.g.,: http://www.ct.gov/foi/cwp/view.asp?a=4162&Q=544018
Docket #FIC 2013-367

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 3, 2018  6:31pm

“as they publicly criticized her as a newbie stumbling through an important decision-making process.”
>>And thus we continue the New Haven tradition of scape-goating the new hire who is supposed to fix the mess left by predecessors—and by the current administration.
“Goldson said 386 of the 1,153 people who received layoff notices two weeks ago did not work for NHPS last year.”
>>OK, OK, fine; let’s compromise: rescind the layoff notices sent to those 386.
“Harp said Birks’ action went against what they thought was an agreement to prioritize protecting employees who work directly with kids in the classroom”.
>>TRANSLATION: it went against an agreement to protect employees who are committed to maintaining the political status quo.
Goldson: “We want the superintendent to explain to us how removing those part-time employees provides educational outcomes for our students. That’s the number one goal.”
>>I’m confused; I thought Birks’ number one goal was dealing with a $20 million education budget deficit.
Harp re layoffs: “It never had been a process that had been followed before.”
**Which explains the 11% tax hike.

posted by: Latina on July 3, 2018  6:48pm

The superintendent made an impulsive decision about letting go that many workers. It was best to look at the list and review who was needed. She needed to consult with the board if she was going to let that many people go. Including bus monitors, cross guards etc. As a tax payer, I understand we may not need all the part timers but she needed to carefully review the positions and consult with them. We need to realize that Birks inherited this and is not all her fault. She is under pressure so people have some mercy.

posted by: 1644 on July 4, 2018  10:56am

I hope Birks didn’t buy. From the clairvoyant Mr. Goldfield:
Carl Goldfield on December 19, 2017 1:34pm

My bet is that the compensation the City will pay for a superintendent over the next three years will be nearly double her salary. She is going to be hounded out in no time regardless of whether she is doing a good job. She will receive the balance of her 3 year pay package and then of course the City will have to pay her replacement.  It states the obvious to observe that the fights on the Board have nothing to do with education and will continue.  Thank goodness we now have a (partially) elected school board.  Unless she has developed a devotion to our fair City apart from her employment, my recommendation to her would be “rent and don’t fret about unpacking those boxes.”

posted by: PingPong on July 4, 2018  1:03pm

Rescision of the notice does not change the current right of the 764 to unemployment benefits. Only AFFIRMATIVE written assurance of similar hours in the new school year will cjange this.

One wonders if an ALJ might find the Board at this point incapable of providing an assurance that is reasonable, but the Board should try as issues larger than unemployment loom.

posted by: Truth is Truth on July 4, 2018  8:52pm

What is the hoopla is about regarding part time workers? First of all, layoff is not applicable to part-time workers. They are always at the will of the district to rehire them for the ensuing year. It has always been that way. As principals, we were usually told to inform our part time workers that they cannot start work without the approval of the Superintendent. We usually have to send in new rec for hires for them every year if we needed them. If summer comes around and they are needed to work in programs, they have to apply. Their jobs were never secured. The only jobs that continue are those of unionized workers. The only misstep in this fiasco, is that the Superintendent needed to talk to the right people. I don’t know who is advising her as she makes these moves. Sending out letters were not necessary. PLEASE TALK TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE DR. BIRKS!!!

What Dr. Birks didn’t know is that she is messing with the political base of the politicians.

posted by: wendy1 on July 4, 2018  9:33pm

TRY HOMESCHOOLING…..

posted by: Seth Poole on July 6, 2018  10:48am

“We want the superintendent to explain to us how removing those part-time employees provides educational outcomes for our students,” Goldson continued. “That’s the number one goal.” 

“Number one goal” since when?

Goldson said he did not know how much the 764 active part-time staffers currently cost the BOE to employ. 

This is important information to gather before a press event.

“It turns out that some 400 people who received notices hadn’t work during the past school year at all. There was no real sense they were needed,” Harp said.

How did she get this number?  Was there really a need to publicly discredit the new Superintendent while she is actively cleaning us the messes made by the very people pointing fingers?

posted by: Blue94 on July 6, 2018  5:48pm

Harp needs to spend a solid month in NHPS primary & elementary classrooms.  She would quickly realize the importance of the “part time” workers.

@robn - That’s quite a story from your friend. Or should I say tall tale?