School Board Meets On Mayo’s Departure

Melissa Bailey PhotoThe school board met behind closed doors Tuesday night to discuss details of Superintendent Reggie Mayo’s pending retirement.

At issue: Whether Mayo will leave office when his current contract expires June 30. Or whether the board will give him a six-month extension so he can retire along with his close politically ally, Mayor John DeStefano, on Jan. 1, or some time in between.

Board members held the executive session Tuesday night to discuss Mayo’s plans—and, by extension, the fate of the school system. Board members, including DeStefano, emerged from the executive session 50 minutes later saying that they were not prepared to take a vote—and saying nothing else. Mayo refused to answer questions about the subject. A vote would have been necessary to grant a contract extension; it’s unclear whether board members gave Mayo any oral guarantees.

Mayo, New Haven’s superintendent since 1992, has long said he would retire when Mayor John DeStefano retires., DeStefano made a bombshell announcement on Jan. 28 that he won’t seek an 11th two-year term.

Three weeks later, Mayo has refused to comment publicly on his own future plans. Upon DeStefano’s announcement he told friends he would be gone by summer. Since then talk has surfaced about the possibility of his receiving the contract extension to have his departure coincide with DeStefano’s.

Meanwhile, amidst an ambitious and nationally watched reform drive, people have been left to wonder who will lead the 20,000-student school district on July 1, and whether there will be time for a national search for a replacement.

“We have nothing to announce at this moment,” board Chairman Carlos Torre reported after the executive session. “Within a week or so you will be hearing additional information.”

Asked what options the school board is weighing, DeStefano said he had “no comment.” He said Mayo “has not made an announcement yet.”

Other board members said they decided Torre would speak for the board on the matter.

“We simply discussed the contract,” he said. “It’s not secretive. We just did not get to a conclusion.”

Before Tuesday’s discussion, Torre said the board had not yet discussed plans to find a new superintendent.

Asked if there will be another closed-door session at next school board meeting, Torre said that depends on any announcements Mayo will make in coming days.

Mayo’s pending departure is the latest in a string of recently announced retirements by men who have run New Haven’s most powerful institutions for decades. For the first time this century, new voices and perhaps new ideas will take their places. In addition to DeStefano, Yale President Rick Levin is retiring this year. Even the man behind the New Haven Register’s editorial page for the past 36 years, Charles Kochakian, just retired. (Not to mention the pope.)

Mayo has served a long legacy in New Haven schools: He joined the school district as a teacher in 1967 and became superintendent in 1992. He makes $226,921 per year. His three-year contract ends June 30. Click here to read it.

Mayo declined comment Tuesday.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear who will be running the school system in five months. Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries (pictured), a rising star in the reform movement, was brought to town in 2009 to oversee a school-change drive and eventually to take over running the district once he developed local relationships and trust. He remains a strong possibility for taking the reins after Mayo leaves, though two mayoral candidates have called for a national search.

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posted by: robn on February 20, 2013  9:55am

One contract extension…and an industrial sized paper shredder.

posted by: HhE on February 20, 2013  10:05am

Could the NHI please do a comprehensive piece on Assistant Superintendent Garth Harries?  What is his education?  What, if any, experience does he have in schools?  Thank you.

posted by: anonymous on February 20, 2013  10:25am

“He makes $226,921 per year.”

What is his actual compensation after other benefits are considered?  This is an important question to weigh as we consider replacements.

posted by: Curious on February 20, 2013  10:31am

...and how is it that a taxpayer-funded local government body can have closed-door meetings?

posted by: Kevin on February 20, 2013  1:09pm


Under the state’s open meetings law (CGS Sec. 1-200 et seq.

“Executive sessions” means a meeting of a   agency at which the public is excluded for one or more of the following purposes: (A) Discussion concerning the appointment, employment, performance, evaluation, health or dismissal of a public officer or employee, provided that such individual may require that discussion be held at an open meeting;...

there are a number of other circumstances where a public body can go into executive session, such as discussing strategy for labor negotiations.

posted by: Brutus2011 on February 20, 2013  1:48pm

This is a watershed moment for New Haven’s kids and all kids who come to NHPS.

It is clear, to me anyway, that continuity of management is how things are done in public school districts and especially here in New Haven. This applied before the DeStefano-Mayo era, during, and may apply after.

Why or how?

A substantial portion of the city’s budget goes to the public school system—close to one-half or about what, 270 million dollars per annum? Money is the why and information asymmetry by the local political leaders is the how. 

It is no wonder that private investment sees public education dollars as an attractive business opportunity given the local school districts bungling of public ed funds. The bureaucrats, like local politicians and their appointees, have managed to keep the school system(s) relatively opaque (kind of reminiscent of the CDO and derivatives markets)so the public doesn’t know what is truly going on or where the ed dollars are really ending up?

I will bet my favorite putter that Mayor DeStefano,Superintendant Mayo, and BOE President Torre are desperately trying to figure out how to hold all the secrets in once new people are elected and appointed.

Both Alderman Elicker and Representative Holder-Winfield are smart and are probably not willing to toe the old line of the mayor and his people. I’m sure the Achievement First folks are behind the scenes wondering if the deals with the DeStefano ed cartel will be honored by the new mayor and his appointees.

For the sake of our kids and our collective futures, I hope either Elicker or Holder-Winfield will resist pressure from the city’s powerful elites and change the city’s education management to reflect the bottom-up rather than the old model of top-down. In this way the classroom will no longer be starved of desperately needed resources while the layers above the classroom will be eliminated to allow funds to reach our children. When that happens just watch how NHPS will be a genuine national model rather than the phony one it is now.

And this is exactly what the DeStefano-Mayo cartel does not want—the light of day shining from those of us who “lead limited lives.”

posted by: East Rockette on February 20, 2013  4:44pm

Robn, I love you.

I have never forgotten an exchange I once witnessed between Dr Mayo and a NHPS schoolchild. Dr Mayo had just given a great sounding speech about how each hour of art in the classroom corresponded to a rise of x% in any given child’s average achievement, behaviour, confidence, etc.

The child asked, bravely and quite reasonably, “How come we only get one hour of art a week then?” The Superintendent’s response in its entirety: “Bless your heart.”

Long service is one thing. Looking forward to a new Superintendent with a coherent theory of education and a willingness to engage with everyone in the school sector. A person’s a person, no matter how small.