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New Hartford Board of Education Appointees Discuss Priorities

Mayor Luke Bronin has named two Hartford parents to serve on the Hartford Board of Education.  These two nominations will be vetted by City Council tonight.  We asked them about their priorities and motivations – and they’re impressive.

 

Tiffany Glanville is a Hartford resident; two of her three children attend West Middle School.  With a J.D. from University of Pennsylvania Law School, she brings an outsider perspective to the Board, having practiced law in Chicago and Philadelphia and interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York City.  As a master gardener specializing in fruit trees, she currently leads a project to bring fresh produce to local hunger relief efforts and is president of the West Middle School PTO.  Here are her replies to our three questions:

 

Why do you want this job?!

I want to have a voice at the table during this time of great challenge and opportunity for our school system and city.

 

What’s an area of improvement at HPS you want to focus your energy on?

Everyone has been trying to figure out family engagement, including me in work I have been involved with on the individual school level, and I want to see HPS be a leader in getting it right.  Nearly every aspect of our school system has some intersection with family engagement, and I hope to work with the school district and with the community to help cultivate mutual trust.  I am also particularly interested in elevating the discussion around schools, community development and housing.  Thriving neighborhoods make for strong schools and thriving schools are a backbone to stronger communities.  I want to help bring together experts, leaders and resources in furtherance of this vision.

 

As you see it, what do you uniquely bring to this critically important work?

In addition to being a parent at a neighborhood school, my perspective on our school system has been greatly influenced by being a resident of Hartford and the mother of children of color.  These are vantage points from which I have experienced both hope and frustration and which, in combination with my legal background, have inspired me as an advocate for equity.  I look forward to bringing a unique viewpoint to the current board and to expanding my knowledge and lens for the benefit of all children in the city and our school system.  I have a great deal to learn, and am excited to dive in.

 

Karen Taylor is a Hartford resident who graduated from Weaver High School and has twins, a daughter and son, attending the University of Hartford Magnet School.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, in educational studies, with honors, and is a member of both the Sheff Movement Coalition and Greater Hartford NAACP.  Here are her replies to our three questions:

 

Why do you want this job?!

I am excited by the prospect of serving Hartford students and families, because I am a long time resident of Hartford’s north end and a graduate of a Hartford Public High School (Weaver). I gained much from experience in Hartford Schools. This is an important time in our city, and I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the initiative to strengthen our schools and communities.

 

What’s an area of improvement at HPS you want to focus your energy on?

An area of growth that I feel passionate about is collaboration between schools, families, and organizations throughout the city and within the region. We have many challenges, but we also have many initiatives, experts, and organizations throughout the city who are doing the good work to help meet those challenges. Access to quality education is not just an issue for schools. It is an issue to be addressed in conjunction with families, communities, businesses, higher education, housing, government policies, and so on. I would like to bring stakeholders together, get them in conversation, get them sharing, and get them collaborating on behalf of Hartford kids.

 

As you see it, what do you uniquely bring to this critically important work?

I bring a variety of unique perspectives to the Board and to this work. I am a north end resident and a proud graduate of Weaver High School. I am a doting parent of elementary-school-aged twins. I have been involved in the Sheff Movement Coalition, and my children attend a CREC magnet school. I recently earned a B.A. at Trinity in Educational Studies with honors. My life intersects with Hartford schools or the study of Hartford schooling at many points. My wide range of experiences allows me to truly hear people and connect with them in real ways about what motivates and what frustrates them. I plan to use my unique ability to hear and connect to bring the voices of parents and community members to the discussion table.

 

Mayor Bronin also has re-appointed Board Chair Richard Wareing and Vice Chair José Colón-Rivas – and has not yet named the fifth mayoral appointment to complete the nine-member complement.  The four elected members are Michael Brescia, Robert Cotto, Jr., Craig Stallings, and Dr. Beth Taylor.  Here is the Courant article on the four Board appointments as announced February 3rd.


Can We Suspend Suspensions? Restorative Justice Is a Positive Option

This week’s Hartford Board of Education workshop centered on the alternatives to student suspensions – ways to keep the most at-risk students from missing even more school.  There’s a certain logic to this: Who needs to be in school more than the most challenged kids?

The student data are significant.  In 2009-2010, Hartford led the nation in the per capita  percentage of Latino students it suspended – and was in the top 10 for suspending African American students as well, Chief School Improvement Officer Jonathan Swan pointed out.  The 2013-14 school year brought more than 5,800 out-of-school suspensions, on which Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez focused – and which the District reduced by more than 1,000 the following year.

HPS Director of School Climate and Culture Mario Florez Tuesday explained the concept of restorative justice – “when you do harm, how do you restore that harm?” – and led a robust discussion of how the District is providing a menu of options to restore trust among both the students who perpetrate – and those who are the victims of – incidents, as well as the school community at large.

An illustration of conflict resolution Mr. Florez offered:  What if you were socked in the face and suffered a broken tooth in a fight?  What if, in a community conversation with the perpetrator, you not only arranged for a written apology to your family but participated in approving voluntary community service in a local dentist’s office?

As a concept, restorative justice returns offending students to the community, while putting them in positions to “pay it back” … so others can accept them back.

While suspensions are certainly not off the table as options for principals, disciplinary matters are teaching moments, Dr. Narvaez advised.  A new disciplinary paradigm, Mr. Florez added, would be to change attitudes away from “you gotta get out” to “how can we help you grow from the situation” – and move toward building peer, teacher, and community relationships.

The alternatives to suspension embody conflict resolution techniques – and switch the emphasis from conventional thinking (centered on the broken rules) to a focus on the people harmed.  Going further, the traditional notions are that behavior is a matter of the child’s will and that attention should focus on the behavior and its external motivations.  Using restorative thinking, behavior is instead regarded as a matter of the child’s skills – and is focused on problem solving and internal motivation, Mr. Florez explained.  Here is the digital presentation.

Like most improvements, the impact of this new paradigm on educators and students will depend upon the fidelity and speed of its implementation.  We are hopeful, and welcome further details on how this new paradigm is cultivated throughout the city.

Here is the video of this important discussion of alternatives to suspension.


Mayor Names Wareing, Colón-Rivas and Two Hartford Parents to Board of Ed

Keeping his commitment to appoint more parents – and not himself – to the Board of Education, Mayor Luke Bronin yesterday named Hartford parents Tiffany Glanville and Karen Taylor to amplify that kitchen-table voice.  He also re-appointed Board Chair Richard Wareing and Vice Chair José Colón-Rivas, which will help maintain continuity and historical knowledge on the nine-member Board.

Conference of Churches CEO Dr. Shelley Best, Hartford Public Library CEO Matt Poland, and former Mayor Pedro Segarra (who took on the task as the fifth mayoral appointment to the Board), are the apparent departures.  One of the five mayoral appointments to the Board remains to be made.  Michael Brescia, Robert Cotto, Jr., Craig Stallings, and Dr. Beth Taylor are the four elected members of the Board, whose terms do not expire for another two years.

Dr. Best, past Board Chair Poland, and former Mayor Segarra consistently demonstrated careful study of the issues, diligence, and equanimity in their work, which was passionate and inspiring in so many ways over the years.  Dr. Best remains an incredible advocate for students and families in Hartford, and her unique perspective on racial, economic, and community justice is one we all must strive to maintain.  Matt Poland’s leadership of the Board during two-plus tumultuous years at HPS was an incredible burden and sacrifice.  His service to Hartford, as past Board of Education Chair and CEO of one of the top library systems in our nation, will never be forgotten. Nor will Pedro Segarra’s attentiveness to the issues of equity.

Here is the Courant article on the four Board appointments announced yesterday.


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