The Hartford Board of Education this week tabled a plan for an academic renovation for Weaver High School, slated to re-open in 2019 with a new physical design that corrects the unfortunate correctional institution look and feel of that giant Granby Avenue building.  While plans for what was to go inside Weaver have been known for weeks, not enough communication happened within the Board itself about the merits of the plan for it to get voted on quite yet.  In addition, a lack of community voice present made it very hard for Board members to take action one way or another – reminding us that it’s not just how the Board and District communicate outward that matters.  It also has to happen in the other direction!

The plan presented would gradually close the Culinary Arts Academy and move High School, Inc., and the high school grades of the Kinsella Academy for the Performing Arts and the Journalism and Media Academy into the new Weaver High School, jettisoning earlier-announced plans. The vote wisely was tabled for a month.

Here’s a further rundown on the meeting, available on video here:

  • Undeniably, confusion exists over the future magnet status of the Journalism and Media Academy, given challenges the school has experienced in attracting suburban students, but finding clarity on that issue prior to next month’s vote on the school’s move to Weaver in 2019 may be a challenge.
  •  Blue Hills Civic Association President Nicole Porter fully supported the appointment of Principal Tayarisha Stone at Rawson Elementary School [Ms. Stone has previously been principal at the now closed, PCB-infected, and still proceeding Clark School].
  • Newly-approved Principal Kenneasha Sloley for the M.D. Fox School was direct and forceful in her views about how her experiences with Bosnian and other culture groups have prepared her to lead this school.  As she responded to Board member questions about her work at Naylor School in the south end, audience members applauded and called out such phrases as “Get on him, now, girl!”  Principal Sloley made it plain she was capable of answering tough questions.
  • Victor Cristofaro, a former assistant principal at Bulkeley HS, is a tri-lingual (English-Spanish-Italian) and special education resource teacher, approved for the principal post at the Latino Studies Academy at Burns.

So What Happened at MLK School?

At his town hall meeting June 14, Mayor Luke Bronin opened the meeting with the news that the Martin Luther King, Jr. School will remain open this coming school year, until plans for the future can be figured out.  He made it plain that keeping under-enrolled neighborhood schools has consequences for students and the education they receive.  “We need a smaller number of better buildings and better schools,” the mayor said.

“Even those who love MLK cannot deny that it’s desperately in need of work,” he said.  We agree, and hope that the recently launched Equity 2020 “task force” will not only provide direction related to consolidating school buildings, but also to placing students in higher quality seats throughout the city.

Magnet schools continuing to have many seats open is not okay; something we hope to see addressed as part of the Equity 2020 process, in which Achieve Hartford! will participate.  In the short term, the mayor, Board, and Superintendent made the right call in keeping MLK students, teachers and families all together in one building for another year.  Both building options seemed equally sub-standard; what matters now is extending the promise beyond one year.