The Greater Hartford Branch of the NAACP Demands a Halt to All School Closings

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Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 9.33.53 AM(Photo credit: screen image of Greater Hartford Branch NAACP website)

Letter sent via e-mail from President Imam Abdul-Shahid Muhammad Ansari of the Greater Hartford Branch of the NAACP to the Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools; and cc: to administrative staff of Hartford Public Schools, Board of Education members, City Council & Mayor of Hartford, NAACP-CT President Esdaile & Education Committee Chair on Monday, October 17, 2016, 8:50 a.m. (Letter in PDF and full text below)



From: Greater Hartford NAACP


Date: Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 8:50 AM

Subject: Greater Hartford Branch of the NAACP Demand a Halt to All School Closings

Dear Dr. Schiavino-Narvaez:

In a time of severe budget cuts, Hartford’s school officials have focused their attention on closing schools with low performance in the hopes of cost savings, and improving system inefficiencies.  The Hartford Board of Education’s proposed closures are the result of both deliberate policy decisions and significant disinvestment in public education over time.  Following a national pattern of destructive education reform policies and practices, the Hartford Board of Education is proposing similar reforms resulting in school closures primarily in the north-end of Hartford, which is predominately comprised of low- income African-American and Latino neighborhoods.  This proposed action by the Hartford Board of Education will violate Title IV and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It also constitutes negative treatment and would have an unjustified disparate impact on African-American and Latino students.

This school closing plague is not unique to Hartford.  Across the country residents of poor communities in several cities such as, New Orleans, Chicago and Newark have filed Title VI complaints with the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights demanding that the Department investigate the racial impact of school closings in their cities.

The Hartford Board of Education has neither been forthright nor transparent with the community.  The Mayor, the Court of Common Council, the Hartford Board of Education, and the Superintendent of Schools assured the community that the Equity 2020 Advisory Committee would analyze school data across the city, (with input from the community), and  would develop a proposal on how the educational system should move forward.  This proposal was to be presented to the Hartford Board of Education for consideration.  Instead, the opposite occurred.

The hired private consulting firm drafted proposals for school closures and consolidations that were presented to the Equity 2020 Advisory Committee.  The north-end of Hartford will be negatively impacted with the proposed school closures.  Empty school buildings will become prime real estate for new charter schools.  We have observed the proliferation of charter schools led by interested parties seeking to profit from the vulnerabilities of a disenfranchised north-end community.

The Greater Hartford Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), could not turn a deaf ear to the cries of the parents and residents in the Hartford community regarding education and the closing of schools in the north-end of Hartford.  The adoption of multiple educational reform strategies has devastated our community schools leaving them grossly unequal compared to their Magnet School counterparts.  There has been a total disregard for Black and Latino culture and heritage with the closing of John C. Clark, Jr. School and the proposed closing of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School, Dr. Frank T. Simpson-Waverly School, and Thirman L. Milner School as these schools are named after prominent local and nationally- recognized African-Americans.

Based on our findings, we are deeply concerned and disturbed by the actions of the Hartford Board of Education, for systematically divesting in schools located in the north-end; leaving our students and families ill-equipped to compete educationally.  We must reclaim our schools and our children who are at risk of educational failure.  We must demand that the Hartford Board of Education and the Hartford City Council refrain from closing any schools in the north-end of Hartford and reaffirm the need for quality public education.

As such, we the Greater Hartford Branch of the NAACP make the following demands to the Mayor, City Council, Hartford Board of Education, and Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools:

  • Racist and discriminatory practices in our educational system, whether intentional or not, must stop;
  • Board of Education stop the closures of neighborhood schools; stop using closures as an educational strategy instead of providing the supports needed for students to be successful;
  • The Hartford Board of Education transform all neighborhood schools into quality elementary and secondary schools;
  • Respect our heritage and culture by maintaining schools named in honor of prominent African-Americans, (e.g. John C. Clark, Jr. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thirman L. Milner, and Dr. Frank T. Simpson-Waverly);
  • Stop the alienation of African-American and Latino community- based organizations with strong ties in the communities from being at the table and factored into the social, cultural, and academic practices within our schools;
  • Call for a moratorium on privately managed charter schools;
  • Stop the practice of disingenuous strategies, (e.g. community meetings and hearings offered only after decisions have been made outside of transparent processes), that puts profits before students and alienates the communities from neighborhood schools; and
  • The Hartford Public School district must immediately deliver a strategy which will result in the increased employment of African-American and Latino teachers.

Irreparable harm will be inflicted on this community by deliberate disinvestment, neglect and the closing of John C. Clark, Jr. School and the proposed closing of three additional schools in north Hartford by the Hartford Board of Education.

The Greater Hartford NAACP will seek the support of the Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches Scot X. Esdaile, President; Dr. Benjamin Foster, Education Chair and Attorney Darnell Crosland, Legal Counsel to get the approval of National Board of Directors to file complaints with the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Justice Offices for Civil Rights.

In the Pursuit of Freedom, Justice and Equality,

Imam Abdul-Shahid Muhammad Ansari,

President, Greater Hartford Branch NAACP

cc:  Scot X. Esdaile, President Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches

Dr. Benjamin Foster, Education Chair, Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches

Dr. José Colón-Rivas, Chief Operating Officer, Hartford Public Schools

Hartford Public Schools Superintendent of Schools Cabinet Members

Hartford Board of Education Members

Luke Bronin, Mayor of the City of Hartford

City of Hartford Court of Common Council

Published by

Robert Cotto Jr.

Robert Cotto, Jr. is a Lecturer in the Educational Studies department. Before his work at Trinity, he was a Senior Policy Fellow in K-12 Education for CT Voices for Children where he published reports on Connecticut’s testing system, public school choice, and K-12 education data and policy. He taught for seven years as a social studies teacher at the Metropolitan Learning Center for Global and International Studies (MLC), an interdistrict magnet school intended to provide a high-quality education and promote racial, ethnic, and economic integration. Born and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Cotto was the first in his family to go to college and he earned his B.A. degree in sociology at Dartmouth College, his Ed.M. at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and an M.A. in American Studies at Trinity College. He is currently completing his Ph.D. in education policy at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education. Robert lives with his wife and son in the Forster Heights area of the Southwest neighborhood in Hartford. Views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Trinity College.