A recent event hosted by the CT Center for School Change and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation brought together statewide education leaders to call into question how we organize our governance structure to ensure children are at the center and actually achieving academic goals. The questions raised included those as provocative as whether school boards are even necessary in urban education.
We take for granted the current structure of governance for Hartford Public Schools. And we are not alone. Local-, regional- and state-level leaders came together to listen, learn and discuss how school districts and boards of education might better organize so as to ensure all children get the quality education they deserve.
Using a case study of the innovative Say Yes! initiative in Buffalo as a jumping off point, attendees quickly brought to the table hard questions on leadership and effectiveness. How existing structures both help and hinder the shared goal of educating children is a worthy question. Perhaps tired of tip-toeing around the elephant in the room, someone asked the question: Are school boards still necessary in urban education? A follow-up question might be, what’s the legal alternative?
Other questions discussed: What can boards actually do to help under-resourced schools serve children better? And do board members even see themselves as having any power to change anything? Obviously, all of these questions apply to school improvement in Hartford – as well as to the issues bubbling in New Haven, Bridgeport, and so on, nationwide.
The Bottom Line. As we grapple with continuing leadership changes and all that is so unstable as a result, simply asking the questions is not enough.
For this reason, Achieve Hartford! will be hosting a forum to discuss models of governance in December, with the express purpose of identifying ways in which it could be restructured to better support needed change at the school and classroom level in Hartford, and better weather changes at the superintendent and City level. Stay tuned.