Schools Chief Wins Contract Extension

Aliyya Swaby PhotoAfter more than three hours deliberating in executive session, the Board of Education rated Superintendent Garth Harries “effective” at his job and voted to extend his contract another year—despite calls from members of the public to wait to vote until newly elected members join in January.

At Monday’s board meeting at Martinez School, Harries received an average score of 3.06 out of 5 in his performance evaluation, forming a downward trend since his first evaluation put him at 3.5 in February 2014.

The board voted, with just two no votes, to have its chair, Mayor Toni Harp, negotiate the terms of the one-year contract extension with Harries, which would end June 30, 2018.

“This was one of the most difficult decisions any of us has ever made,” said board member Carlos Torre. “It was one of the most honest I’ve been involved with.”

Harries’ second evaluation—which got him a 3.25 rating—in June 2015 was the first time he had been evaluated over the course of a full year since he first took the job in 2013.

The board also bid farewell Monday evening to members Alex Johnston and Susan Samuels, whose terms end this month—before two new elected members Edward Joyner and Darnell Goldson take their seats in January.

Board members employed the same rating system used to evaluate the district’s administrators and teachers, with a scale of 1 to 5 for each performance area. Those areas are: student impact; collaboration and engagement; transparency, access and equity; and vision and leadership.

Harries received a score of either 3 or 3.25 for all four areas, with 3 meaning “effective,” a 4 meaning “strong” and a 5 meaning “exemplary.”

Click here to see the report.

The evaluation juxtaposes the superintendent’s self-evaluation for each area along with the board’s rating and commentary. Both mentioned the increase in graduation and college persistence rates as signs of effective leadership.

Despite those gains, the report states, “we cannot be satisfied given the tremendous ground that must be gained on the SBAC. Similarly, SAT assessment results provide a sobering view of the level of academic achievement and college preparation. You must redouble efforts to accelerate student progress overall through the implementation of School Reform 2.0.10.”

Harries agreed in his self-evaluation that the results on the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced exam were “unacceptable.” He argued he has “used the results as a call to action in support of our students—whatever limitations the tests have, they still underscore the needs of our students.”

The report praised Harries for proactively reorganizing his leadership team to align with reform goals, “engaging with students,” keeping the budget in line and making “positive strides” in terms of “customer service” and “responsiveness” to board members.

It noted room for improvement in clarifying how he intends to spur student achievement “in practical terms,” called for faster decision-making processes, and asked that he work to resolve longstanding conflict between the teachers and administrators unions.

Student Members Shut Out

Non-voting student board members Kimberly Sullivan and Coral Ortiz were not allowed to participate in the executive session. They spoke with Torre and Johnston before the meeting to relay their comments.

Sullivan said at the meeting that student members should have been able to see the superintendent’s self-evaluation before they made their comments, a chance all other board members had.

“We shouldn’t be asked to have equal say if we don’t have equal knowledge,” she said. Torre and Johnston said they could have done better informing the student members during the process, while following the board’s bylaws on how to involve non-voting members.

After a board vote, Mayor Harp will negotiate a one-year extension of Harries’ contract to June 30, 2018. Board members Che Dawson and Alicia Caraballo voted against the extension. Dawson declined to comment on his reason. Caraballo said she felt it was too soon to renew the contract.

“I just wanted more time and more evidence to see in terms of some of the areas of concerns I have around leadership and management and communication and so on. I didn’t feel comfortable in adding another year to his contract and really just wanted to focus the year and a half in seeing some improvements in these areas and then making a decision whether we were going to extend his contract,” she told the Independent after the meeting.

The board also voted to amend the contract so the consideration of an annual extension would take place in November and would have to be decided by December. It voted to change the timing of the annual evaluation cycle to start in September, so “we’re at a synchronized evaluation process,” Johnston said.

Teachers’ Request Ignored

The New Haven Educators’ Collective, an activist teacher group, collected 260 signatures on a petition asking the board to defer the vote until January 2016. “In recognition of this progress toward a more democratic Board of Education, and out of respect for the newly elected members, we believe that no critical decisions should be made prior to the inauguration of our two new elected members,” the petition reads.

Harries said it was appropriate for the board that hired him and first evaluated him to make the decision on his contract extension.

“The point is not to politicize. The point is to have a Board of Education actively involved in the evaluation,” he said. The new members will be “involved in the goal-setting and in the evaluation going forward.”

Harries presented Samuels and Johnston with framed student artwork as thanks for their time served on the board.

Mayor Harp said she “respects” Samuels’ work and learned a lot from her. She said Johnston, founder of the pro-charter group ConnCAN, never used his position to promote “some things that are very controversial,” but rather used his talent to help district students, she noted.

Starting in January, board meetings will take place at L.W. Beecher School at 100 Jewell St.

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posted by: NHGreen02 on December 15, 2015  8:46am

So the Superintendent is not considered to be even near “strong” in any aspect of his job and is trending negatively in his evaluations, but yet the Board can’t wait three weeks to give him an extension for two years from now?

A disgraceful move by the Board. I hope the new members do the right thing and make him accountable for this sham.

Just yesterday we learned that he is holding 126 empty seats at the city’s choice schools so that he can please suburban parents. To worry about suburban kids over the best interests of those who live in the city is despicable.

What a board of ignorance. Stir it up, Ed.

posted by: ElmCityVoice on December 15, 2015  8:52am

Che Dawson and Alicia Caraballo were right to vote against an extension. One, Harries’ scores went down!! which is not acceptable for kids, so why should it be for the superintendent? Most important, not waiting for the new board members (really, one month?) is the height of arrogance. Were the mayor and Torres afraid of the outcome with the “peoples” choice members? This is the kind of decision that creates anger and cynicism. Too bad. It was an opportunity lost.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on December 15, 2015  9:17am

In early 2014 the district website posted a survey about the superintendent’s performance for parents and community members to fill out and voice their opinions.  They didn’t do that this time, or did I miss it?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 15, 2015  10:13am

One word.JUDAS GOATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


A Judas goat is a trained goat used in general animal herding. The Judas goat is trained to associate with sheep or cattle, leading them to a specific destination. In stockyards, a Judas goat will lead sheep to slaughter, while its own life is spared.

posted by: Statestreeter on December 15, 2015  10:28am

So essentially Harries will be working with a board that if the vote where held after January 1 he would NOT have gotten a contract extension because the motion to give him one would have failed 4-3. What’s the rush to extend a contract that doesn’t expire until June of 2017 to begin with. Now wonder Harp wants that 8th vote on the BOE.

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on December 15, 2015  12:17pm

The subtitle for this article should be, “When What We Demand From Students is Higher than What We Demand From Administrators.”

A “C” average disqualifies most students from receiving scholarships/grants but seems to be sufficient for earning administrators extensions and bonuses.

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on December 15, 2015  12:40pm

True democracy has been dead in New Haven for more than six decades. Few living in New Haven today can recall a day when we had two real political parties, two real choices. We have grown accustomed to one party rule and a dictatorship of the Democratic party. So it should not be so shocking to us that our local government and our government officials rarely listen to us. But that is really our own fault for not being more aggressive as a people.
We should never fall into the trap of confessing, “You can’t fight city hall.” We own city hall, all the schools, streets and neighborhoods of the city. All political leaders and appointees are our employees. Not Yale’s or Yale’s unions or the charter school lobby’s. We always tend to forget this.
Many people wanted the BOE to wait until January when the new board members would be seated to take action on the superintendent’s contract. The people were ignored! It was a reasonable, logical request.
Many people have many questions about the superintendent’s leadership. This has been the case since he was hired. Many of us question the mayor’s loyalty and dedication to him even in light of the fact that his service has not been exemplary.
Why are we settling for less than exemplary work from a school superintendent rated 3 to 3.5 out of five? According to most calculations that translates to a grade of D- to C-. Why would a BOE reward such a mediocre evaluation with a contract extension?

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on December 15, 2015  12:42pm

Part 2

Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” The parents and citizens of New Haven need to heed Douglass’ admonition. They need to be more active, more vocal, more involved. The future of our children and our city depends on it. People tend to think the superintendent and the BOE are educational experts. They are not. There is much wisdom, knowledge and experience in our community, untapped and unvoiced. It is time to rise, speak up, show up and make demands. We should never accept mediocrity from educational leadership. We expect better and should demand better.
When the request of hundreds of citizens is ignored by the mayor and the BOE, we need to know the reason why!
Make way for democracy at home as well as abroad!

posted by: SteveOnAnderson on December 15, 2015  1:11pm

So, basically the BoE decided to ignore & undercut all of the newly agreed upon democratic mechanisms in order to push through Harries’ extension. My understanding is that pushing through Harries’ contract renewal is the reason why Mayor Harp made her sudden move to be president of the Board a couple of months ago.

There is clearly a layer of decision-making going on behind closed doors, and many of the signs sure seem to point to the Broad-Gates-SBAC-ConnCAN-charter schools network. I sure hope the newly elected members of the Board are able to shine a light on the shadows so we have a better sense of what’s going on.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on December 15, 2015  1:43pm

Can someone tell me why Harries is bad for this job? Besides wanting to hold someone accountable for the depressing student test scores, what is he doing wrong?

What makes for a good Superintendent of Schools? Dr. Mayo held the post for 22 years, seemingly without controversy. How was he so much better than Harries?

And if Harries is below par, why is Mayor Harp so solidly behind him?

posted by: Noteworthy on December 15, 2015  4:12pm

Harries keeps his rich job, will likely get a pay raise and barely rate a “C” in job performance, a grade that is worse than the last time he was rated. The NHBOE pushed this vote through excluding the student members and before the new members could be seated. Taxpayers and students deserve this? We don’t deserve better? This is the best we can do? Great message for the students and the teachers - be barely average, get on the public teat, and keep your job. Nobody expects better.

And so another chapter of low expectations is written. Read it and weep. And then go to Saturday classes.

posted by: DRAD on December 15, 2015  4:34pm

I wonder. . .did anyone (who actually lives in New Haven, mind you) who has posted outrage and and sanctimony today attend this meeting? My thinking is that effecting true change requires something more than “sharp witted” posts on the Comments Page.

posted by: NHGreen02 on December 15, 2015  4:40pm

Since someone asked, Harries is bad for the job because he puts himself and his ambitions first. He isn’t at all focused on the students who live in New Haven. He has tried — behind everyone’s back — to funnel money to charter schools who spend most of their time badmouthing NHPS. He has no respect from his principals and teachers. He has built a staff of do-nothings, paying them all $100k and more to… well… do nothing. He listens to no one but himself, which is a bad thing for someone with horrible instincts. He scores a “C” and has not a single mark close to “strong” in an evaluation of a board that knows him best. And his two close allies are leaving the board and being replaced by two men who understand his lack of competence. Are we looking at a 2.5 rating next time?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 15, 2015  4:48pm

posted by: DRAD on December 15, 2015 3:34pm

I wonder. . .did anyone (who actually lives in New Haven, mind you) who has posted outrage and and sanctimony today attend this meeting? My thinking is that effecting true change requires something more than “sharp witted” posts on the Comments Page.

Why should we attend.The deck is already stacked.I know mayor Harp was going to vote him back in.The question needs to be ask why do you keep voting them in?

posted by: Jesus G on December 15, 2015  4:51pm

As a current student in NHPS,

You’d imagine or hope to see role models honestly in those running our BOE.

I understand most of these members are elected but the idea should also be to listen to those in the system. It’s common sense in democracy. It’s PUBLIC education we’re talking about in a PUBLIC meeting and the members should listen to the PUBLIC.

Given the superintendent had his contract until 2017, and not 2016, what’s so hard to wait till a month.

As well as anyone who’s going downhill on reports should immediately given a wake up call. Post pone the renewal. Give it till 2016. Then after that report.

Something they’re factoring in is the idiotic test of SBAC. It’s a new test based on a computer that is run by a private company to make us (the students) statics.

So I’d say listen. Make teachers, administrators, principals, parents, and even students evaluate Garth.

posted by: OccupyTheClassroom on December 15, 2015  7:14pm

Customer service.

Yup, this is how students and others are viewed. As consumers. Shaking my head.

Not learners. Not human beings.

Customers.

Neo-liberal, free-market shock doctrine.

Have you been wasting that crisis, Mr. Harries? Because that’s what it sounds like from the board. They want you to REDOUBLE your efforts. That crisis is slipping out of your hands.

Like Arne Duncan said, Katrina was the best thing that ever happened to the New Orleans school district.

Too bad we don’t have hurricanes like that here in CT, huh?

SBAC is being laughed at (except by the board…they WANT those test scores so badly).

Common Core: yawn…they can’t even get math right.

SAT was just re-tooled so that isn’t useful.

Graduation rates? Everyone knows that’s just smoke and mirrors.

Great teachers are told that they should want more money and leadership positions. Great teachers are told to get out of the classroom and DO SOMETHING WITH THEIR CAREERS!

The teval system makes me feel horrible. Makes me feel like a number. So it is meaningless. It hasn’t made me a better teacher. In fact, I think it has made many of us FEEL like worse teachers, though we are not.

A consumer? A customer?

No sir. I’m a human being.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 15, 2015  9:20pm

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on December 15, 2015 11:42am

Part 2

Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” The parents and citizens of New Haven need to heed Douglass’ admonition

And MARCUS GARVEY said ON “Negro leadership and what it means”
“I would not exchange two five-cent cigars-even though not a smoker-for all the Colored or Negro political leaders, or rather misleaders, of our time. The fraternity is heartless, crafty and corrupt. They exist for themselves only and give no honest thought to the future, nor the condition of the people, except to exploit the aid condition to… their political benefit.

posted by: BalancedJustice on December 16, 2015  12:37am

I concur fully with Noteworthy, ElmCityVoice, Connecticut Contrarian, and Thomas Alfred Paine. What was the rush to review and extend Mr. Harries’ current contract? It does not expire until 2017! Why not give the new BOE the opportunity to vote on the contract renewal?
It seems that the only questions still to be answered are:
1) What deal did Mayor Harp make with Yale University why she has to keep Garth Harries for a certain number of years?
2) How much is Mr. Harries contract really costing the City of New Haven?
3) To whom exactly is the Mayor beholding?
4) Why was the BOE election system changed if the Mayor was simply going to find an effective way to circumvent the election results anyway?
This is truly disappointing for our children.  This is an educated Mayor; she understands the value of education; one has to believe that she wants what is best for New Haven’s children; yet, she seems trapped in a web of politics. The result is that thousands of poor children in NHPS will continue to get the short end of a political deal.
Garth Harries will go on to a brighter future; it has been ordained. Our children will never get these years back.  Many of them will go on to being ill-prepared academically without an education foundation upon which they will be able to build a future as economically endowed as Mr. Harries’.  It is painful to watch and it does not have to be this way. People trusted and still trust Mayor Harp.  Why is this happening?  What is the deal that she cannot break in the interest of thousands of poor black and brown New Haven children?

posted by: Brutus2011 on December 16, 2015  12:38am

One opinion posted above has alluded to a layer of decision making behind closed doors within NHPS management.

I hope everyone goes back and reads “steve on anderson” comments.

This is the fundamental problem—NHPS administrators have an entirely different agenda than the rest of us.

“Kids First” is a slogan fabricated to deflect and obscure whatever is the real management organization’s objectives are.

One only has to read the education article archives of the NHI to see that nothing of substance relating to student achievement really happens.

Invert the management of our schools and turn it over to the teachers.

What do we have to lose?

Is not the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over expecting different results?

posted by: Noteworthy on December 16, 2015  6:58am

DRAD:

Attending or not attending this meeting would have had zero impact on the decision. Frankly, attending any meeting has zero impact on any decision the city makes. These votes are for the most part, cooked in advance and public hearings and input serve only as window dressing on the process. The public has been trained not to attend, those who do, are given three minutes to speak, many times after waiting hours to do so. During the budget process, city department heads spend hours demanding more money and don’t even stay to hear what the public comments are. Ironically, the biggest departmental spenders, the ones with PR people, wanting PR people and Master Tweeters are the ones to exit the fastest.

posted by: Jill_the_Pill on December 16, 2015  9:10am

“3) To whom exactly is the Mayor beholden? “

Chief Charter Mackerel Dannel Malloy.  ;)

posted by: Samuel T. Ross-Lee on December 16, 2015  12:38pm

Really?  THIS is the story you decided to write given the disrespectful and insulting behavior of the BOE Monday night?  

No mention of the fact that the meeting room was full to capacity at 5:30, the reported time of the meeting, and barely half of those people were there after the board came out of the back room to start the meeting nearly 3 1/2 hours later, effectively delaying an open meeting until the lion’s share of interested citizen were forced to leave.  Is that not newsworthy information. 

Shouldn’t the public be informed by this mythical “fourth wall of government”, the media, of the fact that the Chief Executive of our municipality and other members of the board decided, at the behest and “opinion” of one of her paid staff members, the city’s Corporate Council, to overlook the letter and the spirit of the voters decision which is now an undeniable part of the city’s constitution (the City Charter) to create a BOE comprised of 7 (not 8) members, two of whom were recently elected, and whose votes will be vitiated by a Mayoral appointment of an 8th member?

The Mayor’s attorney, expressing a legal opinion (not a judicial decision, by the way) in favor of her actions and an error in process, concluded, in effect, that the letter and intentions of the voting public are less important than the executive’s desire and the human error of the charter revision committee.  How, I ask this publication’s masters, is this not worthy of news coverage and public discussion by the citizens you purport to serve, but who could not attend (or stay for) a 5:30 meeting that didn’t get under way in public until over 3 hours later? The one year extension of the Superintendent, though not ideal under the circumstances, will not have the lasting effect of a clear violation of the voters’ will by our elected officials.

The shenanigans of our city politics are made worse by the ineptness and/or collusion of our local media for sure.   

The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee

posted by: Thomas Alfred Paine on December 16, 2015  10:26pm

The comments of Rev. Samuel Ross-Lee about this story disturb me:

“Really?  THIS is the story you decided to write given the disrespectful and insulting behavior of the BOE Monday night? 
No mention of the fact that the meeting room was full to capacity at 5:30, the reported time of the meeting, and barely half of those people were there after the board came out of the back room to start the meeting nearly 3 1/2 hours later, effectively delaying an open meeting until the lion’s share of interested citizen were forced to leave.  Is that not newsworthy information.”

The fact that a public meeting which citizens attended to express their opinions on a controversial issue began over three hours late and was not reported as a public concern in this article is alarming. Most people understand that the BOE is not really interested in public input in their agenda for education in New Haven. They wait to the end of their meeting to open the floor to the public. They want to limit public comments to three minutes. They fail to meet in centralized locations for easy access for most residents. They do nothing to facilitate or welcome public participation in the process.
Board members knew a large crowd was planning to attend this particular meeting.  How strange that they delayed their start more than three hours! How disrespectful of the public.
This is supposed to be a democracy. The taxpayers have a right to be heard and the elected officials have an obligation to listen and seriously consider what they hear. Citizen involvement should be encouraged, not discouraged. The delay appears to have been calculated!
This was our government in action. The people have a right to know the Board shabbily treated the public. And the PRESS has an obligation to report every important aspect of the story. This was an important part of the story. Why was it omoiited?

posted by: Crazy on December 16, 2015  11:58pm

I guess the mayor tour of Hillhouse was just a political tour. Things are still wrong leadership need change know like school board. Still waiting for change.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on December 17, 2015  1:23pm

@ Samuel—thank you for speaking up!

Those are ugly facts you just shared, and I hope the NHI will do a follow-up article about the process, (or lack thereof), of this meeting…

posted by: nonGarthian on December 17, 2015  7:23pm

So inappropriate.  An effective superintendent is just not good enough.  Most of the administrators he leads are strong or exemplary, but he’s only effective.  The children of New Haven deserve a strong or exemplary superintendent.  Less is unacceptable.  Thank you Che and Alicia for your courage.  Johnston, don’t let the door hit your behind on your way out…and don’t do us any favors by coming back.