Committee on Children Public Hearing Addressing Varies Children Health and Safety Issues

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On Thursday, February 15th, at 1:00 pm, the State Legislative office held a public hearing titled “Committee on Children” public hearing, at the State Capital in Hartford CT.

From inside the Legislative Office.

The committee formed by two senators and about seven to eight representatives, discussed few bills that were described by the Chair as “Merit Bills”, meaning that these bills were not subject to vote, but instead have already been voted on and are being displayed to the public through the committee.

Even though the agenda of the meeting was published online, and had a long list of bills to go over, the committee overlooked some of the bills.  Act 3 “Establishing a Moratorium on the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds” was first raised to the committee by representative Urban, who appeared to lead the committee and was referred to as the chair by the Senat and the representatives attending. The bill mainly focuses on the use of Crumb Rubber at playgrounds and suggests banning Crumb Rubber until studies come out, “if the Crumb Rubber is proved to cause cancer” Representative Urban explained to a colleague on the committee, “then we sit back again and decide whether if we want to keep it or removing from playground. Chair Urban then moved on to the next act, which was Act 7, “Concerning Concussion Education for Coaches of Certain Youth Athletic Activities.”

Chair Urban raised the act for comments and concerns, and one of the representatives said “I am 100% in favor of this bill! Why would anyone be against any educational opportunity for the coaches on the field?!”. as the question remained unanswered since it was only for clarification purposes, Chair Urban asked again if anyone would like to raise any question, comment or concern, and some representatives followed up with rejection of the bill saying that it is a waste of time and that coaches won’t get the necessary knowledge out of it, which would waste their time and energy. one representative, sympathetically to coaches, argued that some of these coaches are volunteers and it does not seem fair to have them do things that they are not getting paid for. The chair then raised the act to vote on, and the majority of the votes were yes, including the senators.

In the end, and after discussing few more bills including, Act 11 “Concerning Children’s Programs” which passed to the majority of supportive votes. Act 12 “Concerning Children’s Health” which passed to the majority of supportive votes. And lastly, Act 13 “Concerning Children’s Safety” Also passed to the majority of supportive votes, Representative Urban called for a recess for five hours before coming back and finishing the agendas.



Simpson-Waverly Parents and Teachers Worried About Students’ Future

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“Please don’t close our school” – said the sign that welcomed parents and teachers arriving to the family information night at Simpson-Waverly Elementary School in the North End of Hartford on Thursday evening. The corridors of the building were covered in posters about Black History Month, and arriving families were offered dinner in the school’s cafeteria.

Simpson-Waverly will not open for the next school year: it is one of the first schools to be closed as part of a plan that reconfigures Hartford’s school system. The controversial decision was made by the Hartford School Board in January, and it is argued that it will save $15 million a year. The information night was held to help families and teachers understand the transition process.

“Families and parents, you know your children best. We want to support them in an individualized way to ensure a smooth transition and minimize disruption for students” – said Mr. Leo Watson, principal of Simpson-Waverly. Superintendent Torres-Rodriguez assured everyone that their priority is going to be making sure that “the kids are going to be OK”.

K-2 students will be transferred to S.A.N.D. Elementary School, while children in grades 3-8 will attend Wish Museum School starting in September. The principals from these two schools came to talk to everyone about their schools and their roles in the transition process. “Our work comes from a foundation of love,” said S.A.N.D. Elementary School principal, Mr. Gerado Heredia. He continued with telling parents that he wishes to dig deeper into what their children need, and pushed the parents to rely on others throughout the process rather than be isolated.

“With education, everything is possible” – started Ms. Kesha Ryan, the principal of the Wish Museum School, who also encouraged parents to get involved in the transition process, while acknowledging how hard this is for everyone involved. She closed her presentation saying that “every time we transition, our community gets better”.

At the end of the presentations, parents were informed by the Choice Office that the new placements will be based on grade level: placements in S.A.N.D. and Wish are guaranteed, but families have the option of enrolling in the lottery and choosing other schools. However, if choosing out-of-zone schools, the transportation of the students will have to be solved by the parents, and placements in other schools cannot be ensured.

The building of Simpson-Waverly

A common concern expressed by families was whether siblings in different grades would be split up, and that children will not necessarily going to attend the school they live closest to. One of the mothers expressed how she feels forced into this process, and that she feels parents should be given a real choice. She argued that it is not fair that the students are required to stay within the zone.

Teachers attending the meeting also expressed their concerns and fears for their students. One of them argued that parents should be given flexibility in their options, others said that it should be a priority to give families accurate information.

Although the meeting’s purpose was to ease parents’ and teachers’ concerns regarding the transition to new schools, it seemed that by the end of the evening, their worries remained, despite the enthusiastic speeches of the principals.


Committee on Children Discussion Regarding Policies Meant to Enforce and Increase Child Health and Safety

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Many cars, including news channel cars fill up the Hartford State Capitol and the Legislative Office Building’s parking lot on Thursday, February 15th, 2018. Many businessmen and women walk into the Children’s Committee meeting, expecting to hear upcoming policies that were created with the goal of protecting the children of Connecticut.

This events agenda listed many bills concerning many different things related to children that were up for discussion. It included bills mostly concerning children’s safety and health.

Once we were seated and the meeting was in session, Representative Diane Urban opened up the discussion by addressing the Florida school shooting. The representatives emphasized the importance of diagnosing and treating mental health, and mentioned the importance of school safety, protecting our children. Representative Liz Linehan says, “We do really need to think about school safety. We really can’t take anything off the table in order to protect our children”. The committee then called for a moment of silence.

When starting the discussion about the potential bills on the agenda, Representative Urban announced that bills 1 (Act Establishing the State Oversight Council on Children and Families), 2 (An Act Concerning Special Immigrant Juvenile Status) , 4 (Act Concerning a Transfer of a Child Charged with Certain Offenses to the Criminal Docket and the Grounds for Detention of an Arrested Child), 5 (Act extending the Reporting Deadline of the Task Force to Study Voluntary Admission to the Department of Children and Families), 6 (Act Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation), and 9 (Act Concerning Parental Choice in the Event of Stillbirth) were all raised because they had all gotten a unanimous vote.

Representative Urban then called Bill 3 (An Act Establishing a Moratorium on the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds) into discussion. Representative Urban explains that the issue with the tire rubber used on playgrounds for children is that it could potentially be causing cancer, but it is up to the EPA to determine this. The EPA report with findings was supposed to come out last August, but they never released it, and they are now saying that it will be out by the Summer of 2018. The purpose of this bill would put a moratorium on playgrounds until EPA study comes out. Once the EPA study comes out, representative Urban says that it will be up to the legislature to decide what to do from there. Representative Noreen Kokoruda makes the argument against this bill. She makes the argument that if we establish a moratorium, and we start spending money on installing this material, and then the EPA finds that it does indeed have negative health implications, we would have to spend more money on taking the material out of playgrounds again. She makes the point that, “we keep changing things each year, so why wouldn’t we wait for the study to come out so that we can work together”.

Another bill that was heavily discussed was Bill 7 (An Act Concerning Concussion Education for Coaches of Certain Youth Athletic Activities). Representative Kokoruda made an argument against this. She talked about how many coaches are volunteers, so she doesn’t think that it would be necessarily fair putting a mandate on those individual coaches if we can prevent it, but she does believe the coaches should educate themselves. In response to this, representative Urban revealed that coaches have gotten together and have agreed to do this. The concussion education for coaches would be watching a 30-minute video. Representative William Buckbee spoke up and said, “I don’t know one coach that wouldn’t devote 30 minutes of their day to further ensure the safety of their children”.

HPS Educational Expo Gives Parents Opportunity to Learn About School Selection Options

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At the Hartford Public Schools Fifth Annual Education Expo yesterday, over a hundred parents and families circulated the Hartford Sport and Medical Sciences Academy gym, browsing forty different public and magnet school options for their kids.

Upon entering the school, visitors were greeted by students from the school itself. Parents were given the option to explore the gym, filled with tables dedicated to different schools, or to take part in one of the student run tours of the Sport and Medical Sciences Academy (SMSA), which ran every 30 minutes. These tours rally gave the parents a student’s perspective of a day in the life, and allowed them to see what their children would be experiencing if they were to attend SMSA. Throughout the tour, parents were able to see students working in the computer labs and art studio. They were encouraged to go in and talk to the students, and get a taste of what their kids would experience in a typical lesson.

If parents and kids were not interested in SMSA, they had the option of going right to the gym, which had over forty different tables, each dedicated to a different school. Parents were free to walk around and talk to the representatives, and ask as many questions as they wanted. There were schools there that catered to every parent’s request, each trying to sell their unique principles and philosophies. The Montessori Magnet School, for example, runs differently than a traditional school. remain within a classroom setting with the same teacher for an entire developmental cycle, generally lasting three years. Social and academic curricula are provided with the intention of preparing children for the world through an inquiry-based model. Once have mastered the basic skills, they work to immerse themselves in extensive interdisciplinary research projects.

There was a very positive atmosphere in the room, all of the parents seemed excited to be there, and were curious about all of the options. A few families seemed overwhelmed will all of the choices, but as soon as they started talking to different representatives, they became much more relaxed. Other families seemed confused, they didn’t know where to start, what they were looking for, or what they wanted for their kids. For these families, the Expo was a great place to explore plenty of different educational opportunities, and to start to gain an idea and understanding of what they were wanted for in their children’s education.

Not only was this event targeting the parents, but it had plenty of activities for the kids too! There was face painting, a photo booth, popcorn, snacks, mascots and almost every table had a free give-away targeted towards the kids. “We really try to make this day about the kids too, after all, they are the ones who will be attending their chosen school in the fall”, said Alison Giuliano assistant principal of SMSA.

Overall, this event gives parents from all classes and background the opportunity to explore the amazing, affordable options Hartford Public Schools have to offer. Giuliano hopes that every family leaves here with a better understanding of the schooling systems, and a clearer idea of what they want their children’s education to look like.





HPS School Choice Expo Days Before Hartford Lottery Applications are Due

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Hartford, CT – Excitement, anxiety, and curiosity filled the halls of Sport and Medical Sciences Academy on Saturday, February 10, 2018, as parents and their children from across the Hartford region attended the 5th Annual HPS Education Expo. As the deadline to register for the city’s school choice lottery system approaches, parents are trying to determine which school, theme, and curriculum best match their student’s interest and learning styles.

This event showcases one of the direct results from the 1996 Sheff v. O’Neil CT supreme court result and the 1997 legislation, “An Act Enhancing Educational Choices and Opportunities.”  In an attempt to ensure voluntary racial integration, suburban parents can now choose from 19 magnet schools, and 9 district open choice schools in the City of Hartford.  Local residents have the added option of 17 district and 4 district charter schools for their children.

Those attending had the opportunity to speak with representatives from over 40 schools.  Mariana, a Hartford resident, and mother of 5th grader Alex, talked with representatives from Classical Magnet, Capital Preparatory Magnet School, and STEM Magnet at Annie Fisher, to find out more about the specific benefits each could offer her son.  She asked about busing options, curriculum, and sports programs available for her child.  Although it will be several years before her son is in high school, Mariana is already thinking ahead and trying to make the best choice for her son’s future.

Throughout the morning, Sport and Medical Sciences Academy students led tours of the facility, showing off the school’s state of the art sporting facilities and its many academic resources.  Elena, a Hartford resident and current 9th grader at Sport and Medical Sciences Academy, spoke highly of her past 2 years at the school, and confidently answer questions.   Technology was the hot topic for parents, who questioned about access to personal laptops, use of computer labs, and Smart Boards.  Throughout the tour, parents quietly discussed what Sport and Medical Science Academy had to offer, and how it compared to the other top choices they were considering.  Other concerns brought up centered around school tracking, access to honors and AP courses, and college readiness.

Leigh, a suburban mother of 11-year-old Kyle, talked about her son’s goal to obtain a full academic and athletic scholarship to a college.  Although the odds of her son receiving a full scholarship are near 0.3%, Leigh knows this school choice expo and lottery application process will be the first step to help her son achieve his dream.  Throughout the academy, the college pennants from graduated students hanged in hallways, exciting parents including Leigh.

After speaking with representatives and participating in tours, parents had the option to hear more about the school and application process in a short information session.  The buzz parents had was clear, however, the odds most Hartford residents face are not in their favor.  As a new round of students are accepted into their dream schools, while an even greater percentage of Hartford residents are left out of the magnet and charter school game, questions will rise once again about how fair this current open choice system is.

The deadline to sign up for the RSCO Magnet School lottery is February 29th, and the Hartford District Choice lottery has recently been extended until March 31st.   Click here to apply online.  To see which schools are near or in your district, click here.