Repackaging removal and dispossession at Hartford’s Batchelder School as “choice”

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Yesterday, I wrote about parents at Montessori Magnet (and other groups) using their power with the Hartford school district to take away a school building from Batchelder parents and students. Today, the district and one of the groups associated with the effort to take Batchelder will be at the school trying to convince parents to “choose” another school. The repackaging of removal and dispossession into school “choice” raises a number of questions.

What’s the background on this story?

To quickly recap, a few weeks ago the Hartford Board of Education voted to close Batchelder and a number of other schools. The officially declared purpose was to save money and re-invest in all schools. However, the data on this simply does not add up. Instead, in the case of Batchelder, the vote to close the school was actually a vote to take the school and give the building to Montessori Magnet parents, teachers, and students, all groups with more formal power.

What are the possible paths the Batchelder parents could take?

In the face of this removal and dispossession, the Batchelder parents have a number of possible paths. They could protest the move and take their fight to remain at the school to the Mayor of Hartford, who is also running a campaign for Governor of Connecticut, and his five appointees on the school board that form a majority and, in effect, control the Hartford Public Schools. They could decide to attend a desegregated magnet school run by HPS or leave the school district and attend schools through CREC or Open Choice, or even a privately-managed charter school. They could homeschool or attend a private school if that was their decision. Or they could choose to do nothing and the district would have to assign them a new school.

What is the school district selling Batchelder parents?

But that’s not what the school district is selling them. Instead, the school district, in collaboration with Hartford Parent University, an HPS contractor that lobbied heavily for this plan to happen, is repackagining parents’ removal from Bathelder into “choice” of a limited set of options.

On paper, the meeting tonight (February 13) at Batchelder school from 5-6:30 p.m. is being advertised as a “family information night”. The flyer (see below) says that parents can meet principals of their new “home” schools (not Batchelder, of course) and learn about these schools, the transition process, and “activities we have planned.” It goes on to say that school staff and the district choice office will attend to answer questions, “reserve your student’s seat next year”, and hear from you about your ideas and needs to support a positive transition for your child’s success.” The three schools listed as new “home” schools are Sanchez, Moylan, Kenelly, or McDonough Middle. The premise of the event is that parents now have a chance to “choose” their new school.

Isn’t that so empowering?

What questions does this event raise?

There’s a number of questions that this flyer raises. When the Board announced it would close Batchelder and give the school to Montessori, parents opposed the “closure” and requested information about why it was closed. As of this writing, parents (or teachers) have not received an written notification or justification as to why their school might close and be given away to another, more powerful group of parents. Before the Board’s vote, parents wanted information and they wanted their ideas to be heard. Why only now, after the school is set to taken away from them, are their “ideas and needs” considered?

Based on the video of public hearings, the Batchelder parents choice is to stay at Batchelder and continue at the school as it is. It was very clear that the community was unified in wanting to stay at the school and not see the building go to Montessori Magnet. Why is staying at Batchelder, their first choice, not on this list?

In reality, parents do not have to make any school choice selections. If they don’t make any selections and the District moves forward with removal, by policy and custom, the school district would simply place these students in the same four schools listed above. By convincing parents to actively “choose” by filling out a local choice application to attend schools that would otherwise be the default schools raises concerns. If voting to close the school is not enough, the district will empty out the school through a “school choice” process that induces anxiety amongst parents to find a new school. Once parents “choose” these other schools, will we be told that parents “want” to leave Batchelder?

As a result of the State’s settlement of the Sheff v. O’Neill (1996) case, parents can choose to attend desegregated schools, and in this case, that means magnet schools or the Open Choice program. However, this flyer only tells parents that their “home” school is one of four racially segregated schools, never mentioning the full list of magnet, non-magnet, or other options available to parents. While these schools may be appealing to parents and present different options, they are neither Batchelder parents preferred path of staying at Batchelder, nor all the options available to them. In fact, there are a handful of magnet options nearby as well, including Breakthrough and Mary Hooker magnet schools.

Batchelder parents and students are being removed and dispossessed in order to give Montessori Magnet parents and students the Batchelder building. For Batchelder parents, Montessori Magnet, a numerically desegregated school, is never listed as a possible option on this flyer despite the fact it will be within walking distance for at least 100 current Batchelder students. Batchelder is an example of mostly Latino school that is working for its students and parents. But the district intends to dismantle the school, then compel parents to “choose” more racially isolated schools. By excluding all of the relevant information about desegregated schools, is this event a form of steering to racially segregated district schools?

What do you think? 


In Hartford schools, which parents and students matter? A preliminary case analysis of Batchelder School and Montessori Magnet

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But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or “sub-oppressors.” The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men; but for them, to be men is to be oppressors. This is their model of humanity.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, Chapter 1


Continue reading In Hartford schools, which parents and students matter? A preliminary case analysis of Batchelder School and Montessori Magnet

In Hartford, do Black and Latino teachers matter?

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(Source:, CT SDE, 2018)

This week kicked off a Black Lives Matter Movement Week of Action in Schools. A key demand was the addition of Black teachers, which has become a national discussion. As a result of school closures, the Hartford Public Schools may be going in the exact opposite direction by closing schools with high proportions of Black and Latino teachers.

Several weeks ago, the Hartford Board of Education voted to close Milner, Simpson-Waverly, and Batchelder school. In addition to questions about following Board policy, actual benefits to parents, and arbitrary reasoning, there are issues with regard to a disproportionate impact on mostly Black, and to a lesser extent, Latino teachers.

Traditionally, Hartford has had one of the highest proportions of Black and Latino teachers in the State of Connecticut likely due to a combination of factors including job discrimination and a desire to work with Black and Latino students. In particular, Black teachers in Hartford have often worked in North End schools where there are large proportions of Black school children. However, since the mid-2000s, Hartford has lost substantial numbers of Black and Latino teachers. As I wrote a few years ago, the Hartford Public Schools’ decade-long decline in teachers of color could be the result of factors such as NCLB certification requirements, school closures and reconstitution, expansion of choice programs, and teacher temp programs like Teach for America. In short, when educational reforms happen that seek to disrupt governance and labor arrangements in schools with mostly Black and Latino students, then Black and Latino teachers often bear the brunt of these reforms given their historical positioning in these schools.

According to State Department of Education data, there were 1,992 teachers in the Hartford Public Schools in 2015-16. 462 of these teachers were Black and Latino. That’s about 23% of all teachers in Hartford are Black and Latino.

At the school level, there is a moderate to strong relationship between percent Black and Latino teacher and the percent of Black and Latino students. You can view the data visualization below to see how each school measures up in terms of percentage Black and Latino teachers compared to students.

At Milner and Simpson-Waverly, the proportions of Black and Latino teachers are much higher than most other schools in the district. At Simpson-Waverly, (mostly) Black and Latino teachers are 20 out of 34 teachers or 58.8% of all teachers at the school. At Milner, (mostly) Black and Latino teachers are 15 out of 35, or 42% of all teachers at the school. Far less impacted in this regard, Batchelder school has 20% Black and Latino teachers.

Simpson-Waverly and Milner have among the top five highest proportions of Black and Latino teachers in the entire school district. Closing all three schools impacts 44 Black and Latino teachers out of 462 Black and Latino teachers, which is just shy of 10% of all Black and Latino teachers in the district.  Closing these three schools potentially smashes the ranks of teachers of color, particularly Black teachers.

In sum, when schools with high proportions of Black and Latino students close, Black and Latino teachers bear a disproportionate impact of these closures including loss of jobs. In the case of Hartford, what will happen to these Black and Latino teachers and the relationship with their students if these schools close?

Note: 2015-16 is the most recent data on teacher demographics from the CT State Department of Education. So there may be changes since 2015-16 to now, 2017-18. Asian and American Indian teachers are included in the chart here. In addition to teachers, there are paraprofessionals educators,  specialists, and other staff in a school that shape the schooling experience. The Edsight does not currently have that demographic data available.

Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools: More Black/Ethnic History, Teachers, and Restorative Justice

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Today kicks off the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools  (February 5-10). According to the Rethinking Schools, this particular event stems from some action out of Seattle, WA in 2016. The demands of the Black Lives Matter at School national movement are:

End Zero Tolerance, and Implement Restorative Justice.

Hire More Black Teachers in our Schools.

Black History/Ethnic Studies Mandated K-12.

The demands are related to major parts of the national Movement for Black for Lives platform, including a federal right to education (Invest/Divest) and an end to school privatization/charter schools, school closures, and mayoral-controlled school boards (Community Control), all issues we are grappling with in Hartford, Connecticut. Here are the two statements on these issues from the national platform.

A Constitutional Right at the State and Federal Level to a Fully Funded Education Which Includes a Clear Articulation of the Right To: A Free Education For All, Special Protections For Queer and Trans Students, Wrap Around Services, Social Workers, Free Health Services, A Curriculum that Acknowledges and Addresses Student’s Material and Cultural Needs, Physical Activity and Recreation, High Quality Food, Free Daycare, and Freedom From Search, Seizure or Arrest
An End to the Privatization of Education and Real Community Control by Parents, Students and Community Members of Schools Including Democratic School Boards and Community Control of Curriculum, Hiring/Firing, and Discipline Policies

What happens if a school board does not follow its policy?

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Earlier I wrote about the HPS school closure policy and administrative regulations, Policy 3600 (2004). Then somebody asked, what happens if a school board does not follow its own policy?

Here’s one response from A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law by Thomas B. Mooney (2012, 7th Edition). In Chapter 1 on Board Organization, Authority, and Responsibilities, section (b) Development of Policies, Mooney writes:

“if a board of education adopts a policy and its agents act contrary to it, such action will likely be considered per se unreasonable, with the result that school officials may be liable for negligence or even violation of constitutional rights. Aside from statutory requirements, boards of education are well-advised to develop policies to guide schools officials in the daily operation of the district. A board of education has a duty to be consistent in dealing with students and parents. To do otherwise would subject the board to constitutional claims, because people have the right to equal protection of the laws from governmental agencies, such as boards of education…A written policy can be invaluable in such situations to guide administrators and to inform parents as to what the rules are.” (p. 106)

I’m not a lawyer, but this seems pretty clear.