Category: Education Matters
Taking a Strategic Approach to Hartford’s Education Priorities

In addition to making sure the District is funded at half the City budget, Mr. Clarke said in a recent interview, his priority will be to call for a consolidation plan to be put in place.  “We can weigh in on school consolidation,” he said.  “Everybody knows about the issue and won’t deal with it.”

Given the growing recognition that not enough attention has been focused on neighborhood schools, it is time for the City to leverage resources to improve schools – especially in North Hartford, he maintained.

“I’m about leveraging resources so all of our neighborhoods receive the resources they need to make them more livable and sustainable,” he added, citing the need to couple educational improvements with increased home ownership and neighborhood quality of life.

While City Council certainly will leave educational matters to the Board of Education, he said, it does offer a pulpit for leadership on finances and unified support for children.

As well intentioned as they are, he reflected, community organizations and factions in the city “could be perceived sometimes as crabs in a barrel,” competing on adult issues.  “Instead, we have to think about what’s best for the children,” he said, emphasizing that operating in silos is a mistake – and collaborating more efficiently is a game changer.

Here is the MetroHartford Alliance Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs (HYPE) profile of Mr. Clarke.

Note: Education Matters will feature additional voices from our City leaders in the future.


Family Friendly Schools: How Many and by When?

The Hartford Public Schools launched a Family-Friendly Schools Initiative at a very well-attended meeting this past December, leading to a pilot effort under way at six schools to determine best practice.  As crucial as the effort is, the pace of implementation to make it stick has raised very good questions from parents and leaders we speak with often.

Before a full auditorium December 5th, Hartford Board of Education and District leaders received a keynote from Boston family engagement leader Michele Brooks – a parent complainant turned administrator there – who delved into how a welcoming culture could be customized for every school.  Here’s the link to our coverage.

Following up just last week on February 9th at the HBOE Parent and Community Engagement Committee meeting, District officials said feedback information from the hundreds of December 5 meeting attendees is being finalized – and that the Family-Friendly Initiative is being piloted at six Hartford schools: SAND Elementary, the Expeditionary Learning Academy at Moylan, Breakthrough South, the Asian Studies Academy, Milner, and Betances Early Reading Lab.

 

The pilot approach raised a number of questions at the meeting, including these three:

  • Board Member Craig Stallings, saying “They’re trying to establish things we’re not even debating,” wondered why the District would go so slowly.  “I just hope we don’t lose time planning the plan,” he said, adding, “As a parent, I need systemic change and support now.”  Each Hartford school, within a year, ought to set goals for making its environment more family friendly, he said.  Referring to the District’s restorative justice approach, he said it would be a perfect way to empower School Governance Councils as well as to make schools more family friendly (by reducing student suspensions and replacing them with penalties that satisfy the victims of offenses and thereby forgive perpetrators).  Here is our coverage of that restorative justice approach.
  • Tauheedah Jackson, HPS Director of the Hartford Partnership for Student Success, agreed that the volunteer, pilot, so-called pioneer schools should be scaled up from six – but wanted to know what capacity schools have – and how their resources currently are used.
  • The reflective comments of the one parent at the meeting are below.

 

Another Country Heard From

One Hartford parent was present at the committee meeting: Deborah Bigelow, who grew up in Charter Oak Terrace and is now program coordinator for the Hartford Parent University.

“Why do you have to pilot something that should be common sense?” asks Ms. Bigelow, whose son came through Betances and graduated from Prince Tech years ago and now owns his own business in Pennsylvania.  Her daughter is now a UConn freshman via Pathways to Technology High School.

As the one unofficial parent present at the committee meeting, Ms. Bigelow was on the same wave length as Mr. Stallings.  “I’m just curious about what the criteria are for a family friendly school,” she said Tuesday.

At the committee meeting, she recalled, it blew her mind that there were no parents there … except for her.  With respect to family friendly schools, she said, “I don’t understand why you have to pilot this. They keep inventing – it’s time to get the hamster off the wheel.”

The Bottom Line.  Task force and pilot fatigue among parents and community members has been Hartford’s baggage for a long time now.  With something as important as making schools family friendly, it’s hard to understand why that effort would be treated as an initiative or project, instead of more of an expectation at all schools.

It sounds to us like explaining exactly why a pilot project is necessary in this situation is the next step for HPS.  If parents (and even a current HBOE member) don’t understand the need for a pilot, then it’s going to be that much harder for families to support it, which will be necessary down the line.

Communications challenges at the school level are constant. Achieve Hartford! is proud to see the District focus on this super-important issue, but would love to see more information distributed with details on the pilots – and the thinking behind the format.


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.


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