Original Date: 
Mon, 2009-07-13

Contact:           Michelle Wade, (203) 946-8450  Cell – (203) 675-5132
NEW HAVEN – Early last week school and city leaders met with New Haven Public School parents at BRAHMS Hall on the campus of Betsy Ross Arts & Humanities Magnet School to talk about the emerging school change initiative and to listen to their thoughts, ideas and concerns.
Approximately 50 parents from various New Haven Public Schools met with Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. and Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Reginald Mayo, to hear more about budding plans for a drastic change in how students in New Haven are educated.  The plan is aimed at reducing the achievement gap by improving the number of students who score at goal on state CMT and CAPT tests as well as creating a system where every student has the opportunity, both academically and financially, to attend college.
This was one of a number of forums held in the past month.  DeStefano and Mayo also met with school administrators, teachers, local business leaders and local non-profit groups.  The format remained consistent at each session with acknowledgement of improvements happening in the schools, but a strongly expressed desire to achieve exponential growth in student success. Their goal, say Mayor DeStefano is “a district of great schools, not just a great school district.”  Attendees also heard from Garth Harries, the district’s new Assistant Superintendent who has been brought in to coordinate and execute the plan.  However, the majority of each session was allotted to attendees commenting on what they had heard, asking questions, expressing concerns and engaging in honest discussion with the panel.
Susan Papa, a mother of a 7th grader at Edgewood and a 10th grader at Wilbur Cross was “impressed by the city's effort to share information and request feedback at such an early stage in the planning.  Such meetings need to happen at schools throughout the city, however; more parents than just the 50 or so at the meeting on Tuesday need to be aware of the potentially dramatic changes proposed.”
In addition to their pleasure at being asked to participate in this way, parents were also happy to hear that expectations, on all levels, will be clearly stated and that increased ownership and accountability will be core elements of the plan.  They expressed concern about the Board of Education maintaining a healthy level of inclusion as they move forward, especially with teachers, so as not to create an oppressive and dictatorial atmosphere. They believe that teacher/administrator input and buy-in are important to success.  Additionally, they conveyed some anxiety about the competency of tests used in the district and their ability to evaluate a student’s true knowledge.  Both Mayo and Harries agreed to take their concerns into consideration.
Harries indicates that his strategy is to “have more conversations and begin creating collaborations with parents, administrators and teachers to inform this emerging plan.”   
City Hall and the school district are seeking collaboration and hard work from both administrators and teachers who will be doing the heavy lifting in this initiative, but they also need support from parents who can contribute to their children’s success by reinforcing at home what is taught in school.
Dr. Mayo noted that, “parents can be a key element in a student’s success, but regardless of the level of engagement, we as a district are committed to producing successful students.  We hope parents see the important role that they can and should play, and we will work to enable their involvement, but we will not allow a parent’s lack of involvement to be an excuse for failure.”