Board of Education cites bold leadership and successful track record as reasons for selecting Harries as next person to lead district and take its nationally watched School Change Initiative to next level
NEW HAVEN – The New Haven Board of Education on Monday evening named Garth Harries as the next superintendent of schools. The board chose Harries, who currently serves as Assistant Superintendent for Portfolio and Performance Management, from among three finalists who interviewed for the position last week and participated in a community forum at Gateway Community College on Saturday that drew 200 people.
The Board announced its choice for superintendent at a meeting Monday evening following a months-long community engagement campaign that started with public forums and focus groups and culminated on Saturday with a Superintendent Finalists Community Forum that drew 200 people, including parents, students, school staff and community members.
In announcing the board’s choice for superintendent, BOE President Dr. Carlos Torre said the board spent time considering each finalist’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as community feedback on the finalists, before reaching an agreement on whom to hire.
“Garth Harries has demonstrated a passion for this community, innovative leadership around school reform and a commitment to collaboration that is unmatched anywhere in this country. I am confident he will lead this school district in a bold new direction,” Dr. Torre said. “Throughout the process, I have been so inspired by the parents, grandparents, students, teachers, principals, staff and community members who came out to have their voices be heard. Today is an exciting day for New Haven.”
“I'd like to thank the men and women on the Board of Education who, with the best interests of New Haven's children in mind, conducted a deliberative, thoughtful, transparent and open search for the City's next superintendent,” said Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. “Our mission is clear: to provide our kids the competencies, tools and capacity to succeed in college and in jobs that will enable them to be happy and productive members of our society. New Haven School Change is an extraordinary reform initiative that is demonstrating increased student achievement and accomplishment in meeting that goal. Tonight's decision will ensure that our school district, working with students, parents, teachers, administrators and staff are all aligned to get this work done.”
Harries came to New Haven Public Schools in 2009 and is the architect of the district’s nationally recognized School Change Initiative, which seeks to raise student achievement to the state average or higher, improve the graduation rate and reduce the drop-out rate, and ensure that every graduate has the tools and knowledge to succeed in college, career and life. Since the launch of the initiative, the graduation rate has increased eight percentage points and student growth on standardized tests has outpaced the growth of Connecticut as a whole by twofold.
Harries has led teacher and principal talent initiatives for the district, including leadership development programs and the nationally acclaimed teacher and principal evaluation and development systems. In the fall, he secured a highly competitive $54 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund the New Haven Professional Educator Program, an initiative designed to develop, support and retain great teachers and administrators. He also oversees parent engagement strategies and led the creation of the Boost! program for wraparound services and the Citywide Parent Leadership Team.
Harries came to New Haven from the New York City Department of Education, where he led work on special education and on the creation of more than 300 new schools in a district of 1.1 million students and 1,400 schools.
Harries will replace former Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo, who retired this month after 46 years with New Haven Public Schools, the last 21 as superintendent. The board voted unanimously to appoint Harries for a one-year term, pending negotiation of a contract.
After the announcement of Dr. Mayo’s decision to retire this year, the Board of Education committed to engaging the community in an open and transparent search process. PROACT Search, the firm hired by the New Haven Board of Education to conduct the search, worked with district staff to orchestrate 30 focus groups and community meetings (including 6 public forums) to gain input from a wide cross-section of school communities. In addition, individual phone conferences were held and an electronic web-based survey was administered. The district also collected 255 paper surveys and submitted them to PROACT.
Saturday’s public forum was the culmination of a months-long community engagement campaign that ultimately gathered input from more than 550 parents, teachers, administrators, students and community stakeholders for use in the creation of a position profile and for the shaping of final interview questions.