Thursday, July 25, 2013
NEW HAVEN – Surrounded by students, educators, parents, local leaders and community partners, newly appointed Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries set the course for a new stage of School Change that aims to deepen, extend and accelerate improvements to public education in New Haven, giving all New Haven students a chance to rise to their own success in college, career, and life.
Superintendent Harries made his first public appearance and remarks as superintendent on Thursday at Fair Haven School, three days after the New Haven Board of Education unanimously appointed him as leader of the school district and its 22,000 students. 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.
On Thursday, Superintendent Harries thanked educators, parents and the community for their support, and then focused his remarks on how to address the urgency for change expressed by parents during the superintendent search process. He described a personal commitment to strengthening school reform efforts and giving all students access to the best education possible so that they will achieve success in college, career and life. He also laid out areas of priority and described initial steps for taking the district’s nationally recognized School Change Initiative into a new stage.
“We must build from the foundation we have laid, both over the last four year and the last 20 years, to give all of our students a chance to rise – to learn and grow and pursue their dreams. School Change is real and happening in our schools, but we need to deepen and extend our efforts,” said Superintendent Harries. “I challenge this school district, our parents, and the community to come together and push harder for the kinds of changes that will empower our students and launch them toward bright futures.”
In addition to challenging parents and the community to join School Change movement, Superintendent Harries laid out areas of priority to address in the coming year, aligned to the pillars of New Haven School Change:
- Students: Pursue the Common Core of State Standards in a way that pushes us all to think more deeply about and improve our teaching practice; at all grade levels and with all educators, invest time, energy, and attention in the personal development of students; build stronger systems to prevent disengagement of students, and support reengagement when necessary;
- Teachers, Principals, and Staff: Develop purposeful, supportive, and meaningful career development options for  all adults; ensure that all staff, not just teachers and principals but bus drivers, security guards, clerks, paraprofessionals and others are treated like part of the education team;
- Schools: Continue school improvement and school turnaround programs, while strengthening and tailoring the supports offered to schools; strengthen transparency and equity in the management of the system, including with enrollment processes and school budgeting;
- Parents and Community: Expand Parent University to school-based sites; develop deeper information sharing on student progress with parents and community partners.
Harries discussed the expectations he asked the New Haven community to hold for him, including an urgency for change, and a commitment to listen and incorporate feedback from all directions.  In exchange, Harries asked that the New Haven community commit to work together for students, despite whatever differences exist, and he asked for patience as he assumes the reigns from a 21-year veteran.
Finally, Superintendent Harries announced plans to launch a listening tour that will shape priorities for the district both in the short-term and long-term and provide a map for forging ahead with coherent, collaborative and persistent reform. Details of that listening tour will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Harries challenged the community to think about and give feedback in the tour on three questions:
- What are three things to change in the district and what are three things to keep?
- What do you want me to do, as an individual, and what are you afraid I might do?
- What else do I need to know? 
Superintendent Harries previously served as Assistant Superintendent of Portfolio and Performance Management for New Haven Public Schools and is the architect of the district’s 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.