Principal Transferred Amid School Rescue Plan

Thomas MacMIllan PhotoIn the wake of a blistering state audit revealing deep troubles and a divided faculty at Lincoln-Bassett School, the Board of Education removed Principal Yolanda Jones-Generette from her post Monday night.

The board transferred Jones-Generette (pictured), who had overseen Lincoln-Bassett for one year, to become the new principal at Barnard Magnet School, where she worked previously. She’ll replace outgoing Barnard Principal Michael Crocco.

Janet Brown-Clayton will take over as principal at Lincoln-Bassett, the pre-K to sixth-grade school in Newhallville that is becoming part of a statewide “commissioner’s network” of struggling schools undergoing a hoped-for transformation. Brown-Clayton served as assistant principal at the school during the 2012-13 school year.

Edgewood School and an “academy” at Hillhouse High also got new principals at Monday evening’s school board meeting.

In remarks at the meeting, Jones-Generette made it clear that it was not her decision to leave the school. Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn criticized Superintendent Garth Harries for not communicating with the local community about his decision to transfer Jones-Generette. Harries, who attended the Board of Ed meeting via speakerphone, defended his choice in an email statement after the meeting.

Jones-Generette was appointed last year to lead Lincoln-Bassett last year. She replaced retiring principal Ramona Gatison to lead one of the lowest-performing schools in the district.

A state audit earlier this year revealed the school faces significant problems. Those include student behavior, a low level of “rigor” in classes, teacher absenteeism, and safety issues. The audit found the staff was divided on whether Jones-Generette was solving the problems or making them worse.

Earlier this month, the state Board of Education voted to approve a turnaround plan. Lincoln-Bassett was one of five schools to join the state Commissioner’s Network of failing schools to receive extra state money, support and oversight in exchange for agreeing to an overhaul. The plan includes a test run of Mayor Toni Harp’s idea of opening schools early in the morning and keeping them open into the evening.

“Yolanda Jones-Generette has performed as well as she could in the circumstances,” Deputy Superintendent Imma Canneli said at Monday’s meeting.

Addressing the board, Jones-Generette delivered a long list of her efforts and accomplishments at the school. She got choked up as she recalled “hearing the voices of my beautiful students singing our new school song every morning.”

“The superintendent’s vision is for me not to lead the next phase of Lincoln-Bassett,” she said.

After the meeting Jones-Generette, who throughout recent controversy over the school regularly chose not to answer public questions, declined to comment on whether she felt she had finished her work at Lincoln-Bassett. “I’m just looking forward to going over to Barnard and leading from there,” she said.

“I feel very strongly that our superintendent should have spoken with me and the community” about his decision to transfer Jones-Generette, Alder Clyburn (at right in photo, with Ward 20 Democratic committee Co-Chair Barbara Vereen) told the board. “I think that we should have been respected. We didn’t know that our principal was being pulled. He kept that from us.”

“Alder Clyburn is a strong advocate for Lincoln-Bassett and I have been very clear on her support of Yolanda Jones Generette as the principal,” Harries said in an email statement. “That said, I made the decision to transfer Ms Jones Generette based on what I think is in the best interest of students at both Lincoln-Bassett and Barnard.

“The timing of tonight’s appointments was strategic to allow new principals to begin planning for next year and to let turnaround work at Lincoln-Bassett continue in earnest with new leadership.

“Alder Clyburn and the other alders in the city are important partners for the school and the district as a whole. I respect the work that Alder Clyburn has done to the support Lincoln Bassett to this point, her perspective on the future of the school, and what I hope is her ongoing partnership to support the students of Newhallville.”

Brown-Clayton (pictured), the new principal at Lincoln-Bassett, told the board she’s ready to build on the “tenuous” work Jones-Generette began. She said she plans to focus on “rigor, relevance, and relationships.”

Brown-Clayton, who was raised in the old Elm Haven public-housing high-rises on Ashmun Street, said she started her relationship with New Haven public schools as a kindergartener in 1961.

Brown-Clayton has served as principal in a Georgia school and this year worked at Brennan-Rogers, another of New Haven’s turnaround schools. She’ll earn $138,725 per year at Lincoln-Bassett.

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posted by: DRAD on May 20, 2014  9:17am

“I feel very strongly that our superintendent should have spoken with me and the community” about his decision to transfer Jones-Generette, Alder Clyburn (at right in photo, with Ward 20 Democratic committee Co-Chair Barbara Vereen) told the board. “I think that we should have been respected. We didn’t know that our principal was being pulled. He kept that from us.”  Maybe. . .maybe Alder Clyburn deserved a courtesy call, but - am I reading this article correctly? - the Committee Co-Chair?  Not at all - in fact if Harries were to have checked with or coordinated this kind of decision with Barbara Vereen - I would suggest that he be dismissed.  Ward Co Chairs should not be anywhere near personnel decisions - isn’t that obvious?  But no - it’s not obvious - ‘cause we have 30 alders (so glad that a city running an persistent and pernicious deficit had time create the world ‘alder’ - it’s not like there real work to do) and 60 ward chairs who all think that they are each some kind of mini-mayor.  Maybe this was “kept” from you, because you have no idea what it take to run a School; maybe letting you “in” would have politicized an honest attempt to help a struggling school with questionable leadership - oh, I see, you managed to politicize it anyway.

posted by: heightster70 on May 20, 2014  6:15pm

This is just rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic

posted by: Q-Bridge on May 20, 2014  9:26pm

DRAD is right on the money. This has nothing to do with “respect”. Harries is basically overseeing a corporation that is in the business of providing an education to children in a very difficult environment. Difficult decisions need to be made solely by the person in charge. Unfortunately he made the wrong decision. All he did was move the problem to another school.

posted by: Seth Poole on May 20, 2014  9:48pm

I admit that I have no point of reference with regard to the performance of Principal Jones-Generette and Superintendent Harries could not have chosen a better person as her successor.  Mrs. Clayton is “Elm City” to her core and worked tirelessly for decades to help improve the learning environment of our city’s young people.  I am proud to say that I am a former student of hers and her approach toward the education of our children is an overdue remedy that I hope that the children and families at Lincoln Bassett embrace whole-heartedly. 

Now all we need to do is shut down the firing range so that the kids can learn without gunfire in the background.

posted by: budman on May 20, 2014  10:12pm

Two things, first NHI, your pole question is ridiculous.  You can’t make a blanket question of keeping schools open those hours without addressing who is going to be there. Do you expect teachers to be there all those hours?  Teachers have to do thirst prep and grade their papers. This just proves that you know nothing about being a teacher

Secondly, we hire a superintendent of schools to run a system. He does MIT have to ask permission from an alderperson on making personnel changes. Does she have ant experience in running an education system?  If not, she she not pretend she knows better than the experts. Allow people to do the job they are hired for and we will have a better system.  If anyone wants to take that role, then get the education required to make those decisions and apply for that job.

posted by: Xavier on May 20, 2014  10:36pm

One City Henry had a vision for our schools and rightly tried to put the brakes on the rapid hiring of Mayo’s replacement.

If we can get rid of poorly performing teachers, what do we do with principals who fail to lead, who divide, and undermine meaningful reform? Oh, we just transfer them. Nice. How many principals and vice principals do we have and at what cost financially and academically?

posted by: Brutus2011 on May 21, 2014  8:59am

First, teachers I know who have worked with Ms. Jones-Generette have nothing but good things to say. I am not sure what went on at Lincoln-Bassett but it sounds like Ms. Jones-Generette was dropped into a situation that was not of her doing and was not afforded enough time to turn things around. If anyone should endure criticism for the situation, it should be the former principal AND those in the central office who protected that individual.

Second, NHPS needs a dramatic re-structuring with an eye to decentralization and an emphasis on the classroom rather than the boardroom.

What is needed is resources aimed at the classroom—not above the classroom as is the status quo.

Third, do we really want our public schools to become social engineering institutions? If so, it is going to cost a whole lot more and taxes will soar accordingly.

My view is that if we go that route we will go broke and nothing will really change.

And I don’t think even One City Henry could help us then.

posted by: Xavier on May 21, 2014  9:20am

“Brown-Clayton ......She’ll earn $138,725 per year at Lincoln-Bassett.”

The NHPS has been the reason that many African-Americans have been able to move into the upper middle class. While laudable, there are very very complicated relationships that make very very complicated a system of accountability.

ONE CITY HENRY realized this and he was right to ask that the brakes get put on the replacement of Mayo. One City Henry, his signature won a Pulitzer. One City Henry, the most interesting man in New Haven.

posted by: NHInsider on May 21, 2014  7:37pm

Ms. Generette was placed in a school that had been out of control for years.I am shocked and disgusted this swap is happening. Ms. Generette brought a new light into Lincoln Bassett. Gone was the screaming teachers, she reached out to families to make the school part of the community again, staff smiled instead of scowled as they have for the last decade. Some teachers did not like having to follow the curriculum or the new rules, but many of those teachers were dumped there because they could not work elsewhere. Ms. Generette finally had given the school a new light and had it set on a new course.  She inherited the worst school in the district and made significant strides in bringing it up to par. Did Harries think this would only take a year to fix? If I had to guess someone did not like her and she’s being shoved out not for lack of performance but the usual BOE politics.

posted by: just my 2 cents on May 21, 2014  10:43pm

This whole thing is A BIG FAT LIE that people should wake up..
If the staff didnt like the way things were going..they should have asked for a transfer..If you cant hack it..Go to another school..there are plenty around the district..
How does a superintendent make a change to a school while you are in the middle of a turnaround process..
Why would you allow staff members( and the numbers dont lie for years) to conitnue to keep their jobs while the school never performed up to par..
Sure it may have been a place for kids to come to when all other schools where filled, but for years nobody said anything or raised a fuss..please people..WAKE UP..
IF you cant hold the people who committed these acts of educational neglect before Ms. Generette got there accountable..they are just as guilty..
Dont blame the PRINCIPAL—MRS. JONES-GENERETTE for trying to make a change..
The real culprits are the teachers and the staff who did nothing.I’m not referring to the ones who did teach(something) but the ones who failed to make any progress..
If the teacher did make any the community what you did.. If you didnt..that should be on your mind every night..did i do enough to teach my kids..if you didnt..fix the problem..GET RE TRAINED—LEARN DIFFERENT WAYS..BECAUSE YOUR WAY IS NOT WORKING IF THE KIDS ARE NOT LEARNING..
I would love to see what will happen with the new policies in place with the new principal.. If the staff didnot like the previous principal(Mrs. Jones-Generette) what makes you think they will listen to the new one..
Will they truly adhere to the state mandate or just complain that the system is flawed,no one gave me a chance..give me a break..
I have seen others in the district do a fantastic job with the passion that they have for the kids..its just a shame that we do not encourage them more..
Just my two cents..

posted by: FirstAndForeMost on May 22, 2014  1:22pm

I love the dialogue that has went forth thus far but I am admittedly disturbed by the tone of this conversation. One thing is clear people do not like change. I can admit I cringe at the idea of change. But let’s stay focused to the issue at hand, “Our Children”!! Keep in mind this is our main priority. I am speaking on direct experience with All those involved, starting with the old staff at Lincoln Bassett dating back to 1997. Okay the reality is this school did not turn into a low performing is school in 1 year, it has been degreasing in performance long before Principal Generette even came on the scene. So the finger pointers should look back at how long this school has been a Tier 3 school. I commend Principal Generette for her hard work and dedication in trying to turn this school around, but let’s be real this is a team effort and unfortunately it does not seem like this ousted principal had a team to complete this task.

posted by: Teachergal on May 22, 2014  2:37pm

I always get defensive when people, like the last poster, blame the teachers for the problems in education. Most of us are hard working, dedicated educators who very much want our students to succeed despite many odds. One of those includes inexperienced leadership. Why would a school with so many problems, Lincoln Bassett, be given an inexperienced principal when there are so many with experience d ones o choose from. Principals have no problem moving teachers around from grade to grade why can’t that happen with administration? Or are all the good administrators leaving New Haven?

posted by: Xavier on May 22, 2014  5:46pm

Sorry to repeat myself, but I the recent comments just dramatize the point all the more- this is politics. And for better or worse, we can not ignore that elephant in the classroom. Teachers union, highly compensated administrators, and local political bosses are all trying to exert influence here.

The NHPS has been the reason that many African-Americans have been able to move into the upper middle class. While laudable, there are very very complicated relationships that make for a very very complicated a system of accountability.

And in the end, while all this gets worked out, children continue to suffer for our errors.

One City Henry now back at LEAP will hopefully build a group of parents for as new engagement. One City Henry’s business card simply says, “I’ll call you.” One City Henry will be calling, hopefully we will answer this time. One City Henry, the most interesting man in New Haven.