Hartford City Councilwoman Cynthia Jennings has a two-pronged view of the Council’s role as regards education: First, it has a duty to raise and resolve issues; second, it must vigorously represent the constituencies electing them to serve. “But you need to know the system well enough to serve the people,” she emphasized.
In a recent interview – and in responses she wrote us to elaborate on her views with respect to the role and priorities of the Council in education, the Councilwoman made it plain that empowering citizens is not just a personal passion, but one that must be backed by action.
As an environmental and civil rights attorney, Councilwoman Jennings serves on the Hartford School Building Committee and chairs the Council’s Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Environment Committee. Here is her bio online; her major points of emphasis include two strands of thought in response to our questions.
On the Role of Council to help improve schools:
- Work with the Board of Education to:
- reduce educational disparities;
- increase Black, Latino, and male teachers in representative numbers;
- help prepare children for the state’s workforce so they can support their families; and
- bring “thoughtful input and discussion” when confirming mayoral appointments to the Board of Education.
On Education Priorities
- Take on the tough issues:
- Reinvent math education so as to teach youth – and adults – to do math, with respect to ending the prison pipeline and address high-need occupational areas;
- Train math trainers to improve those capabilities District-wide to overcome the school shortfalls “currently failing the majority of our children”, especially, as she advocates, given the importance of math in so many fields such as nursing, teaching, and engineering;
- Find ways to engage faith-based, community, and governmental partners to make sure City efforts make a difference for Hartford children; and
- Especially when Greater Hartford’s aviation or regional transportation hub needs are considered, the call for well-educated, workforce-prepared city children should not go unanswered.
Councilwoman Jennings notes the slogan of a 1972 candidate for the U.S. presidency – CongresswomanShirley Chisholm. Like Ms. Chisholm, Councilwoman Jennings declares that she is “unbought, un-bossed and unafraid.”
The Bottom Line. Councilwoman Jennings this morning pointed to the newly announced low SAT results in Hartford, particularly in math – one reason, she said, that she is teaching free train-the-trainer math classes in the city. The disparity cannot get any greater, she said, with so few Black and Latino students meeting or exceeding the standard in English Language Arts and Math, as compared to white students [see our article on the SAT results here]. “These numbers support the School to Prison pipeline,” the councilwoman said in an email.