Teachers Union Prez Pens “Imagine” Critique

Melissa Bailey File PhotoThe president of the teachers union sent a letter urging union teachers not to support a proposed Board of Education financial partnership with Achievement First (AF) charter on an experimental new school.

The union president, Dave Cicarella (pictured), a critic of the proposal, wrote and published the letter on the union’s website last week. It calls on teachers and district leaders to hold AF accountable for transfer policies that send students with behavioral problems into neighborhood schools mid-year.

AF CEO Dacia Toll said in an earlier interview that she hopes to get the school—Elm City Imagine—approved by the district before the lottery application process ends March 13. AF approved signing a three-year lease for a temporary school building at its January board meeting and held a informational session for parents.

Superintendent Garth Harries told the Independent earlier that the Board of Education had planned to vote on the proposal at the Feb. 9 full board meeting, but the vote has been postponed. “From my board’s perspective, it’s more important that we make the right decision,” he said.

Cicarella has been clear he thinks the “right decision” means leaving any partnership with AF behind.

“We remain at the center of the School Reform movement nationwide and charter schools are under fire. So they now want to attach themselves to us to gain acceptance and legitimacy,” Cicarella wrote in the letter.

“Instead, the NHFT, New Haven BOE, and NHPS should insist that Achievement First adopt all enrollment and transfer policies identical to those of the NHPS in all schools across their network so we can then review the student achievement data at the end of the next school year and succeeding years. This will provide hard data for our analysis and allow transparency for informed decisions.”

Click here to read the whole letter.

AF spokesperson Amanda Pinto sent a statement in response to the letter: “For years Achievement First has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, a positive and productive working relationship with New Haven Public Schools.  AF schools participate in the district lottery, we have a joint principal training and residency program, and our staffs enjoy strong working relationships and a shared mission.

“Achievement First is committed to providing all children—regardless of race, economic status or ZIP code—with a high-quality education. That said, we’re committed to doing even more, and to further aligning our enrollment practices with NHPS.  In fact, AF has supported changes to the enrollment policy for years, but we simply cannot make all these changes unilaterally.  These changes require cooperation with NHPS and we applaud Superintendent Harries’ leadership to create more uniformity across the district.  It’s the right policy for kids whether they go to traditional public schools or public charter schools.”

The school’s proponents say it will test new ideas for running schools better, while also addressing the mid-year transfer problem and helping the Board of Ed deal with overflows at some of its school. Click here for a story about a detailed presentation AF recently made to parents about the school.

For previous coverage:
Charter Plans Detailed; Parents Weigh In
Elm City Imagine Sparks Debate
NHPS, AF Team Up On Experimental School
Elm City Charter Eyed For Futuristic “Conversion”

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 29, 2015  10:00am

Alex Johnson and Che Dawson are pro charter schools.They should not be voting on this.

posted by: Walt on January 29, 2015  10:13am

Garth appears somewhat open minded on this topic and admirably not controlled by the Union,

Every study I have read supports the idea that

the Charter Schools do a significantly better job educating kids than the regular schools, but the protest re being selective in whom they select or retain has some   legitimacy.

The Union appears interested much more in its   own continuance than the kids’  futures as I see it.


The Board’s involvement with both types of schools seems best for the students.

posted by: JohnTulin on January 29, 2015  10:38am

This is a real test for NHFT leadership.  Many rank and file teachers warned of this, the gradual increase of charters and charter control of the NHPS, when NHFT launched their own School Reform with the NHPS.  NHPS teachers were assured that by partnering w/ the BoE on Reform they would be getting out in front and doing their way - keeping the charter usurpers out of New Haven.  Some critics predicted what is happening now.  Interesting…..

posted by: NHLearner on January 29, 2015  11:31am

If AF wants to be made part of NHPS, and want money from NHPS, they also need to be completely transparent as to all their financing ... Not just the 990, but disclose their entire organizational structure, their parent organization, donors, grants, staff, etc… Same as any other district. After all, they are asking for money…
What is their contingency plan if they are not part of the district lottery? What happens if the state legislature doesn’t grant more charter seats for 15-16?
If they are part of the district, will their teachers and administrators be certified? What if they are not?

posted by: Paul Wessel on January 29, 2015  12:35pm

This ideas does seem fraught with complexity - and looks a lot like the kind of deals that end up with a lot of finger pointing if they fall apart. 

As I understand it, Achievement First is a private, non-profit corporation that receives public and private funds to run schools.  As private schools, albeit receiving public funds and run by a non-profit corporation, they run under a separate set of rules and legislation.  Indeed, the whole premise is that freed from the constraints of the public school system, they are freer to innovate and perform.

New Haven Public Schools is a publicly-run, publicly funded operation.  Its leadership is appointed by the Mayor, who we elect, and soon we will elect some of that leadership.  It has huge constraints laid on it by federal and state governments, a history of litigation, and union contracts.  It is the default provider of education for New Haven children, and also the provider of last resort. 

Achievement First hired Ideo, a design firm that developed Apple’s mouse, to develop a new model for schools.  Based on earlier reporting, this is the first roll out of that model, essentially a beta test of the design.  Implementing such a program is destined to require a lot of mid-course corrections, and management will need a free hand to do that.  This looks very much like the kind of program that charter schools are designed to do, unfettered by the political and bureaucratic constraints of traditional schools.

It does not strike one as an easy project to collaborate on, nor one to easily accommodate the vastly different management cultures of NHPS and Achievement First.  It also seems like the kind of project that Achievement First should be able to private raise funds to launch. 

I’d be nervous about wading into these waters if was the Mayor or the Board of Education.  Am I missing something here?

posted by: Razzie on January 29, 2015  1:52pm

Alex Johnston, Che Dawson, Darryl Brackeen, Sean Matteson ...what do these people have in common? They are all employed by AF or its lobby organization Conncan. They were also high ranking public officials during the current and former mayoral administrations. Dawson, Brackeen and Matteson are relatively recent hires who moved from the public to the private enterprise arena. Johnston, Dawson and Brackeen will now be charged with deciding whether their current private enterprise employer will receive public money to carry on their work. As strategic hires, I would say that’s money well spent by AF/Conncan. Can Garth Harries be far behind?!!

This episode highlights the need for New Haven to examine it’s Conflict of Interest policies and its restrictions on public officials who get caught up in the “revolving door”. I’s not saying private enterprise employment should be banned; but we clearly fal short of best practices under the current setup.

Its great to see Cicarella wise up.  But there is little doubt IMO that the new charter will get its money.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 29, 2015  2:06pm

posted by: Walt on January 29, 2015 9:13am

Garth appears somewhat open minded on this topic and admirably not controlled by the Union,

Every study I have read supports the idea that

the Charter Schools do a significantly better job educating kids than the regular schools, but the protest re being selective in whom they select or retain has some   legitimacy.

Not true.Did you read this.

Charter Schools Might Not Be Better


Research suggests that most charter students would do just as well in a traditional public school.

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/on-education/2009/06/17/charter-schools-might-not-be-better


My bad I forgot these reports.

Report: Many Connecticut charter schools ‘hyper-segregated’

By: Jacqueline Rabe Thomas | April 9, 2014

http://ctmirror.org/2014/04/09/school-choice-many-schools-hyper-segregated/


A new round of segregation plays out in charter schools

By Sarah Butrymowicz.


http://www.minnpost.com/education/2013/07/new-round-segregation-plays-out-charter-schools

posted by: Walt on January 29, 2015  4:36pm

When 3/5 starts posting studies which claim Charters might not be the best for all( which, contrary to the Unions’  hard positions,  also implies that the   Charters may really be good for all)I think we may be saying almost the same thing

Then 3/5, a far out supporter of special favors for minorities complains that too many minorities   who have chosen and applied t the Charters as good for their kids and believe that,the Charters will offer their kids their best chance for good training have had   their wishes and dreams fulfilled by being welcomed by the Charters,  I am a bit   confused.

Does 3/5 really want to take their prize from them prize away from them as it appears ?

Doubt it,

I reject the Union’s apparent approach that the Charters are just leeches trying to get public monies that should go only to unionized schools

Do not claim to know the answer but I hope the City and the Charters accomplish some compromise for the best education for our kids

posted by: Blue on January 29, 2015  5:11pm

@ Walt—Why don’t you post even one of the studies you supposedly have read?!  You chastise three-fifths but at least three-fifths posts links to support his claims.  You, Walt, sound painfully ignorant.  I’m not a fan of NHPS or the UFT, but there is absolutely no doubt that public, neighborhood schools receive “tough” students from AF schools during the school year.  Every AF student my teacher friend received had a behavioral problem at his/her AF school.  That is not a coincidence.  AF schools may or may not cherry pick students.  But it’s plainly evident that their worst-behaving students usually wind up in public, neighborhood schools.  AF officials will say AF doesn’t expel students, and that may be true.  But they do have a “convenient” habit of badgering parents of behaviorally-challenged students with constant phone calls, reports, etc.  These parents ultimately become so frustrated, they pull their kid out of the AF school.  Problem solved for AF.  The public, neighborhood schools are left to deal with the “problem kids” while AF can boast that it doesn’t expel students.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 29, 2015  5:36pm

posted by: Walt on January 29, 2015 3:36pm

When 3/5 starts posting studies which claim Charters might not be the best for all( which, contrary to the Unions’  hard positions,  also implies that the Charters may really be good for all)I think we may be saying almost the same thing.

No we are not saying the same thing.You need to read how charter schools got started.

The Original Charter School Vision


By RICHARD D. KAHLENBERG and HALLEY POTTERAUG. 30, 2014


Did you know it was the teachers union which started the Charter schools.

ALTHOUGH the leaders of teachers unions and charter schools are often in warring camps today, the original vision for charter schools came from Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.

In a 1988 address, Mr. Shanker outlined an idea for a new kind of public school where teachers could experiment with fresh and innovative ways of reaching students. Mr. Shanker estimated that only one-fifth of American students were well served by traditional classrooms. In charter schools, teachers would be given the opportunity to draw upon their expertise to create high-performing educational laboratories from which the traditional public schools could learn.Mr. Shanker was particularly inspired by a 1987 visit to a public school in Cologne, Germany, which stood out for a couple of reasons. Teams of teachers had considerable say in how the school was run. They made critical decisions about what and how to teach and stayed with each class of students for six years. And unlike most German schools, which are rigidly tracked, the Cologne school had students with a mix of abilities, family incomes and ethnic origins. Turkish and Moroccan immigrants were educated alongside native German students in mixed-ability groups.

Part one.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/31/opinion/sunday/albert-shanker-the-original-charter-school-visionary.html

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on January 29, 2015  6:00pm

Part two.

@WALT.Did you know that Common Ground high school was one of these charter school started by teachers.In fact the teachers took a trip to africa to model the plans for the school.

Then 3/5, a far out supporter of special favors for minorities complains that too many minorities   who have chosen and applied t the Charters as good for their kids and believe that,the Charters will offer their kids their best chance for good training have had   their wishes and dreams fulfilled by being welcomed by the Charters, I am a bit   confused.

Putting words in my mouth? I have never said I am a supporter of special favors for minorities.WhatI have said is the Charter schools are corporate takeovers of Public Education.And It is.Just take a look.

The Faces of School Reform

https://indypendent.org/2010/01/29/faces-school-reform


I reject the Union’s apparent approach that the Charters are just leeches trying to get public monies that should go only to unionized schools

Sounds like you are a union hater.


Do not claim to know the answer but I hope the City and the Charters accomplish some compromise for the best education for our kids

Then you should do more Research.

My Bad I forgot.If Charter Schools are so good,How come they are not in the White Communities?

‘Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?’

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/education/at-explore-charter-school-a-portrait-of-segregated-education.html?pagewanted=all

posted by: ElmCityVoice on January 29, 2015  7:06pm

Thank you Paul Wessel. Everyone should read his post again. Indeed, why doesn’t AF raise private money to fund this endeavor? Further, just how much private money does AF receive? Why won’t they disclose? What private donors, corporations, hedge funds? It would help everyone if this issue was transparent. Why is it necessary to use money from NHPS to open a charter school? New Haven isn’t in the business of opening charter schools. We need to be looking at how to make the schools we have now better for our kids.

posted by: loquacious truth on January 29, 2015  10:30pm

It has always amazed this educator how the district discourages “tracking”, the channeling of students of different abilities into separate classes, yet we have no problem with a district that systematically “tracks” students into charter schools, magnet schools, and public schools. If Achievement First really wants a level playing field they need to eliminate the lottery system. This application process fosters a system of ” tracking” in that it’s less likely for Non English speaking parents, undereducated parents, transient parents, and uninvolved parents to apply for a charter school. And in the defense of these parents, it’s not from a lack of love but in almost all cases,a lack of socio economic means or lack of education. Which in turn channels more challenging students to public schools and more stable children into charter schools. And when students in one of those charters shows signs of instability, whether it be in their academic production or social emotionally , AF counsels them out and sends them to NHPS and has the audacity to call them selves a public school for ALL Children. Wake up call, ALL CHILDREN don make a lottery deadline,ALL CHILDREN don’t have parents with the educational means and knowledge to fill out your application. Now you want to partner up with NHPS after you have held rallies on the green and called ours schools failures. Funny how these failing schools have to save the kids you give up on year after year and some how you think we are the failures. AF, do us all a favor , look in a mirror!

posted by: Bigal on January 31, 2015  5:51pm

Kudos to Dave Cicarella who is showing his true leadership skills.  Some of us were worried when it appeared that Garth and the union were bedfellows.  But now the storm brews.  Garth is clearly doing something out of the best interest of NHPS students and Dave had the courage and intelligence to call him out.  It’s surprising that it took this long.

The partnership between NHPS and AF is of extremely low quality.  It gives Gemma Joseph Lumpkin a purpose and a paycheck and allows her to mask her incompetence.  But let’s look at some of the Garthian administrators it has produced.  Jenny Clarino…irrelevant.  Tara Cass…brings her baby to school almost every day.  Is that professional?  Jamie Baker…how can she be effective in 4-inch stelletoes and mini skirts.  Mark Sweeting…who?exactly.  Stephanie Parris Cooper…how many schools have you been thrown out of?

Now look at the nonGarthian new principals.  Sandy Kaliszewski and Shanta Smith.  High energy, high intelligence, kid-centered, dynamic change agents.

Charter Schools have a purpose and a right.  But they are not public schools.  They don’t serve the same population and they have flexibility to be exempt from laws that public schools are not.  New Haven has been generous by allowing them in the lottery.  We should not finance their experiments.

How about this for a partnership.  Have some AF teachers come to New Haven and see how they do.  Oh we did that!  Jim Celone and Kerry Maxwell each lasted one year.  One and done.

posted by: RichTherrn on February 1, 2015  12:22pm

To Bigal, Despite your feelings about Achievement First, it is not acceptable to malign personally NHPS administrators, all of whom were teachers before they became administrators. It is unprofessional and distracts from the issue in this article.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 1, 2015  4:21pm

Check this out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Garth Harries Leaves New York City, and This is a Good Thing.


http://nycrubberroomreporter.blogspot.com/2009/06/garth-harries-leaves-new-york-city-and.html

posted by: NewHavenPublic on February 2, 2015  10:09am

@RichTherrn .  OK, let’s focus on the issue in this story.  You are the director or science for New Haven schools.  Do you believe the New Haven public school district should subsidize Achievement First, a charter school operator?

posted by: Brutus2011 on February 2, 2015  10:29am

I’m sorry but I don’t buy any of this union criticism of the developing hybridization of AF and NHPS.

This hybridization was apparent right after Mr. Harries first came to NH as Dr. Mayo’s heir apparent.

Dave Ciccarelli and his managers are all seasoned veterans of New Haven education politics and have had a seat at the table from the beginning.

Are they really willing to give up their seat at the big table after all this time?

Why does the NHFT issue this letter now?

And, how many of the 14K thousand teachers will really take the time ponder the implications of the ongoing AF-NHPS hybridization?

I think not many teachers will even give the letter more than a cursory glance. Why? Teaching in many urban schools is very stressful and if you have a classroom and also a family then you have more than a plate full.

I still am amazed at how all the stories published by the NHI and all the new policies rolled out don’t focus on the primary problem in our schools—lack of a calm learning environment.

It is revealed as a fundamental problem because a major criticism of AF schools is that they eject “behavior problems” to NHPS and that NHPS is the legally mandated education providers of last resort.

Just read the above article and comments to see this.