A Guide to Understanding the Hartford Public Schools “Equity 2020” Committee

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HBOE October 18 2016 Equity 2020 Committee members LaKeisha McFarland, Natalie Langlaise, Shontá Browdy speaking to the Hartford Board of Education on October 18, 2016 at Hartford Public High School media center with concerns about consultant proposals to close schools given to the Equity 2020 Committee. 

What is the Equity 2020 Committee?

The Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools selected members of the Equity 2020 Committee to 1.) improve quality education for all students and 2.) create a facilities plan that will “streamline” the district, including school closing and consolidations. These two goals are in potential conflict.

Download (PDF, 228KB)

Learn more about the committee here: Hartford Public Schools “Equity 2020”

How did we get here?

In 2007, the Hartford Public Schools started an educational reform that relied on intra- and inter-district school and hyper-accountability using standardized test results. The “theory of action” was to close schools with low test results and expand school with higher test results. This theory of action is based on the ideology that public education is better when schools compete, and when schools don’t meet standardized test targets, then private enterprise can manage all or parts of school functions. As a market-oriented reform, these policies promoted competition between schools for students, space, and funds.

From one perspective, this reform was a well-executed way to destabilize the most vulnerable schools that would set up business opportunities for private enterprises to exploit (e.g. Achievement First charter schools, Capital Prep Schools, Inc., Teach for America, Opportunity High School-Our Piece of the Pie, Jumoke/FUSE). On the other hand, these reforms were poorly designed to ensure quality education for all students and left many schools severely under-enrolled through the process of unregulated/unplanned school choice and constant crisis from high-stakes testing.

Inter-district magnet schools were one of the components of the school choice strategy. The State created these schools to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic isolation. Magnet schools have been primarily used to fulfill the Sheff v. O’Neill court order and have doubled in enrollment across the state over the last 15 years or so. Magnet schools are public schools operated by either Hartford Public Schools, Capital Region Education Council, or local colleges, and can be considered a controlled-choice program. In addition, Hartford student participation in the Open Choice program has also increased.

(Note: When students leave to private charter school districts such as the segregated Achievement First and Jumoke Academies, this does not help in fulfilling any State integration goals. The growth of charter schools in Hartford is faster than magnet schools, but magnet schools have higher overall enrollment.)

The State of Connecticut oversees Hartford-area magnet schools and has limited planning for enrollment and implementation of this policy. Hartford students have enrolled in HPS and CREC magnet schools and that has caused some of the decline of HPS enrollment. But the HPS magnet schools and Open Choice have also brought in more than 4,000 students from outside of Hartford. This influx of regional students and dollars has mitigated the some of the financial and enrollment issues that Hartford faces. Magnet schools and Open Choice are one part, but not the whole story of how we got here.

In addition to poorly planned market-oriented reforms (e.g. school choice), Hartford and the region have fewer births and children than a decade ago. The City of Hartford simply has fewer children than past decades. The combination of school choice, poor planning, fewer children/declining population have combined so that some schools have low “occupancy” rates. With the budget crisis at the State and City level, there is increased pressure to save money. Closing schools can be viewed as a way for the City of Hartford to save money.

The schools that Milone and McBroom proposes to close are mostly Black and Latino non-magnet schools that the District and State diminished through unplanned school choice, taking away funds when kids leave a school, and overall neglect of program and building. (Remember, the HPS “theory of action” is that school choice and high-stakes testing would force schools with low test results to improve and get more students, or get closed and turned over to private managers.) As I mentioned previously, closing these particular schools (all but one are in the North End) would likely compound the historic, class-based neglect and institutional racism that these schools have already faced.

What were the proposals from the hired consultant to the Equity 2020 committee and Hartford Board of Education?

The company Milone and McBroom offered 3 plans for school closings and consolidations. Depending on the plan, MLK, Milner, Burns, Wish, Simpson-Waverly could potentially close. Weaver would be rebuilt and Achievement First private charter school would use the whole Lewis Fox building rent-free. These proposals were created by Milone and McBroom, not the full Equity 2020 committee membership.

Here are the enrollment findings:

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Download (PDF, 3.52MB)

Download (PDF, 6.69MB)

You can see the possible plans here:

Download (PPTX, 655KB)

Who hired Milone and McBroom and for how much?

The appointed Hartford School Building Committee hired Milone and McBroom to create enrollment projections for the Weaver High School renovation project (see the signed contract below). Since that time, the enrollment projections for Weaver have changed twice. In order to do an updated facilities planning, the Hartford School Building (and HPS staff) hired Milone and McBroom at a price tag of $180,000 and the City of Hartford has paid them $81,000 of that total to date using Capital Improvement Funds. Milone and McBroom have partnered with the SLAM collaborative to create the Equity 2020 plans. SLAM collaborative is the architect for the Weaver High School renovation project.

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What is the current and proposed HPS School Closing Policy

In September 2016, the Hartford Board of Education proposed a new school closing and consolidation policy. The revised policy would make it easier for the School Board to close schools and with less community input.

Current Policy

Download (PDF, 199KB)

Proposed/Revised School Closing & Consolidation Policy

Download (DOC, 58KB)


What are other groups’ opinions on the consultant plans?

The Greater Hartford Branch of the NAACP has called for a halt on all school closings, citing the potential for civil rights violations.

Mayor, City of Hartford

Download (PDF, 123KB)







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

To: Superintendent@hartfordschools.org,

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

Why did the NAACP propose a moratorium on charter schools? Will the Connecticut NAACP support this moratorium on charter schools? (Updated)

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Update: The NAACP Board has approved the moratorium on new charter schools. Read the Tweet below and a statement from the NAACP here.

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Continue reading Why did the NAACP propose a moratorium on charter schools? Will the Connecticut NAACP support this moratorium on charter schools? (Updated)

A note on leadership succession in Hartford Public Schools 2016

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Last week, Superintendent Beth Narvaez announced that she had accepted another position abroad and will leave the Hartford Public Schools within the next few months. The news was surprising to me and others in community.

As the district moves forward, it’s helpful to review the Board of Education’s rules regarding “leadership succession.” Many, but not all, school districts have some written policy on “leadership succession”, or the process by which a Superintendent is replaced in the event of an emergency, resignation, firing, etc.

Over the past few years, there have been two very different leadership succession policies for HPS – the first in 2010 favored internal candidates and the revised policy in 2013 favored a more open search. Below is the most recent version of the Hartford Public Schools’ succession policy.

Download (PDF, 50KB)

The policy suggests that a Committee of the Whole (all board members) meeting take place to evaluate the situation and come up a plan. Then, there are a series of steps to take for a new Superintendent search. Note that this policy doesn’t specify a national or local search, just a “search” process.

Like many Superintendent contracts, Narvaez’s contract requires a 90 day notice to the Board of Education to terminate the contract. With 90 days to plan, there is the possibility for a search.

Happy reading!