Before his immigrant dad became a teacher in Hartford, City Councilman John Quentin Gale reflects, the advice given was, “’They don’t hire Italians to teach in Connecticut.’” But his dad nonetheless became a high school history teacher. Education roots run deep in this family – and so does the councilman’s alertness to tough issues.
Following his father’s devotion, with both his wife serving as a school nurse and his sister teaching in the city, Councilman Gale is a daily witness to seeing, in his own family, an inter-generational commitment to children.
In this third installment of our series on the education priorities and role for City Council (please see our past articles on the views of Council President T.J. Clarke and Councilwoman Glendowlyn Thames), we had the opportunity to learn about Hartford school history: Councilman Gale is president of the scholarship-giving Hartford Public High School Alumni Association.
Here are a few of his thoughts:
- Fiscal Role Is Not All. When he ran for mayor (before endorsing rival candidate and now-Mayor Luke Bronin), Councilman Gale for seven months walked the streets and knocked on the doors across Hartford, hearing about the processes of school choice. The Council role to set the budget for education is basic, as is the safety, health and welfare of residents, “but it shouldn’t stop there,” he says.
- Battle on Poverty. “We have whole neighborhoods where there is no middle class,” he observes, and so, perhaps, the long-term solution for Hartford and cities like it is an economic integration model, where every community has economic diversity.
- Finally Confronting Reality. The current budget crisis is in some respects a 50-year problem.
- Stability matters. Recalling the quarter-century terms served by past Hartford High principals, Councilman Gale points out, leaders were representatives, providing solid community leadership to counter “household chaos”. We need principals who stick around, he emphasizes.
- Broadening Student Experience. Athletic and arts programs for children provide order and must be maintained, he also believes.
“You’re a bulldog, I’m an owl,” he used to say to the Bulkeley graduates he met when going door to door. Then they would discuss getting together and dealing with the consequences – both intended and unintended – of housing and school segregation in Hartford.
On the bright side, Councilman Gale points out, his children – and youth today – are light years ahead in terms of their cultural understanding. That’s progress, compared to the bigotry his dad had to surmount.