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.


What is the Hartford Public Schools policy on school closure?

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While school boards have the legal ability to close schools, many school districts have their own policies on how to go about doing it. At the Hartford Public Schools, there is fairly clear policy on the process of closing a school. In contrast, suburban West Hartford Public Schools does not appear to have a policy on school closure in their policy collection. This suggests that school closure is something that happens in Hartford frequently enough to merit a policy that includes and protect parents from arbitrary decisions.

The HBOE Policy 3600 on school closure was last updated in 2004. To summarize, the written regulations (R-3600 (c)) require the Board to notify parents of a potential school closure, prepare a closing study using multiple criteria that is conducted by a committee (the selection process and requirement for a committee are vague), allow people close to the decisions (e.g. parents at the school) to have input in deliberations about closing a school before the final decision is made, and arrange public hearings on the topic. Generally, any final decision to act requires a vote to close a school.

To be more specific, the closing study must, “include direct involvement by those communities considered in the study.” Further, the study must consider the facility conditions, adequacy of the site, cost/savings, community considerations, and alternatives to closing the school. Once the closing study is complete, it is delivered to the Board of Education and there are two public hearings on the school closure proposal, one at the school and one at the Board of Education. See the policy document below.


Download (PDF, 199KB)

In 2016, the Hartford Board of Education leadership and Superintendent Narvaez proposed to change this policy. This proposal was meant to make it easier to close schools, including more vague language on the inclusion of parents in a decision to close or consolidate schools. Due to issues with the language of the policy, it was tabled in 2016 and never brought back to the Board for a vote. This was all tied up with the failed Equity 2020 committee.

Although never approved, the proposed policy would have called for a few similar steps to close a school. Those steps would have included an ad-hoc closure committee that was “representative of both internal and external stakeholders”. This committee would have to, “establish the specific school and facility review criteria, determine the stakeholder engagement and communications plan, and and develop the committee work and recommendations timeline.”

Download (DOC, 54KB)

A key aspect of this process (in the new or proposed policy) calls for people close to the decision (e.g. direct involvement by those communities considered) to have a say in whether their school would close or remain open. Also, the policy was meant to ensure that the decision was not arbitrary, based on vague or no criteria at all, and that any transition plans were well thought out, including transportation and other considerations.

In the case of recent vote to close schools, do you think the Hartford Board of Education follow this policy? What was your experience?