Choice Of Hartford District To Run Magnet School At MCC Inflames Turf War Between Community College And CREC
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
January 31, 2012
In a few short years, the Capitol Region Education Council's reach has expanded to thousands of Hartford students who attend its 15 magnet schools.
Now the Hartford school system intends to leap outside city borders to take over one of them — the Great Path Academy, an interdistrict magnet high school at Manchester Community College that CREC has managed since 2004.
Hartford's school board voted in January to authorize school administrators to negotiate a contract with MCC that would start in July. The board needs to approve any final agreement.
The selection process has inflamed an ongoing turf war between the state's largest community college and the Greater Hartford education agency.
Top CREC officials have rebuked MCC President Gena Glickman — even filing a complaint against her with the state Freedom of Information Commission and demanding that she turn over all records and emails related to the decision to pick Hartford public schools over CREC.
CREC administrators and members of Great Path's governing board charge that Glickman made the decision herself, short-circuiting a process that would have included the board's recommendation.
In a letter sent in early January, CREC Executive Director Bruce Douglas scolded Glickman for her "active role … even though you have expressed your antipathy toward CREC to various people at various times."
"In short," Douglas wrote, "we are concerned that you orchestrated a biased and inappropriate selection process in retaliation against CREC."
"A Collaborative Partner"
Glickman did not address specific accusations in a statement to The Courant but acknowledged receiving CREC's FOI request for documents.
"Any further discussion would be inappropriate at this time," said Glickman, citing the ongoing negotiations with Hartford. She added that "the decision to choose Hartford Public Schools to manage Great Path Academy is in the best interest of the students and the school districts with which we partner."
Glickman pointed to the school system's similar partnership with Capital Community College and Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford.
In a recent press release, Glickman also stated that she believed Hartford would be "a collaborative partner."
CREC indicated that its conflicts with MCC began after Glickman took over as president in 2008. She succeeded Jonathan Daube, the college's longtime leader who pushed for establishing a public high school on campus.
Great Path opened in 2002 and was originally conceived as an alternative school for students not reaching their potential.
Manchester public schools helped manage Great Path until CREC stepped in eight years ago to establish the curriculum and run day-to-day operations. The agency's contract expires June 30.
The "middle college" magnet school enrolls 247 students in grades 10 to 12 who can also take college classes on campus. About 30 percent are Hartford residents; other students come from Bolton, Coventry, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Granby, Manchester and Tolland.
As a Sheff school, Great Path aims to have up to 50 percent Hartford students under the court-ordered desegregation agreement. CREC receives a $10,443 state grant per student and an additional $3,300 in tuition from the school district that sends each student.
In 2011, Great Path's sophomores scored at about the state average for proficiency on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test.
Tensions have simmered over the topic of discipline.
Last year, MCC and Quinebaug Valley Community College lobbied for a revision to a Senate bill, "An Act Concerning Higher Education," that would give the host colleges of magnet schools the authority to suspend or expel high school students on their campuses for offenses that violate the colleges' student conduct code.
CREC's Great Path administrators decide on suspensions. Under state law, expulsions are handled by the local school districts that send students. Glickman and Quinebaug Valley's president, Ross Tomlin, testified that lacking disciplinary authority has led to students not being held fully accountable for bad behavior.
In written testimony opposing the bill last March, CREC argued that MCC has taken a heavy hand to teenage antics and referred to 63 incidents of police involvement at Great Path over a two-year period.
Among them were four separate cases in which an MCC school resource officer arrested a student for stealing juice, according to CREC. The college sought to ban the students from the cafeteria, while Great Path chose counseling and in-school supension.
"The proposed new language … may facilitate the continued criminalization of our youth at Great Path Academy," Douglas stated. The bill did not advance.
In addition, at some point during Glickman's tenure, tension arose between MCC and CREC over the school construction budget for Great Path's $32 million building on campus, which opened in 2009.
In Douglas' Jan. 5 letter to Glickman, in which he warned her that disposing of public records is a criminal offense, the agency head noted the dispute.
"I am concerned that your antipathy toward CREC is the result of actions taken by CREC with which you disagreed, including … CREC's reporting to the state Department of Education the appropriation of state funds designated for the construction of Great Path Academy for general college use, including the painting of administrative offices," Douglas wrote.
Sources said that CREC administrators believed $300,000 had been misappropriated.
Glickman did not address the funds in her statement. Neither did Douglas in a brief interview.
Brian Mahoney, the education department's chief financial officer, said Thursday that the state Department of Construction Services has not begun an audit of the school construction grant and is awaiting final costs and paperwork from MCC.
Despite the tension, CREC submitted a thick proposal in November to continue managing Great Path. Hartford schools also responded to MCC's September request for proposals.
Under the college's timetable, outlined in the request, the Great Path governing board was expected to recommend its choice to MCC no later than Dec. 9. Glickman is chairwoman of the board.
On Dec. 7, the board gathered for a meeting that included an executive session in which the recommendation was to be discussed, according to a copy of the agenda. Denise Gallucci, CREC's deputy executive director and superintendent of its magnet schools, argued in an FOI complaint filed this month against Glickman that the president illegally excluded her from the closed-door session.
Gallucci, an ex officio board member, contended that the recommendation should have been discussed openly. The state Freedom of Information Commission is reviewing the complaint.
Elizabeth Brad Noel — a member of the Hartford school board, the CREC council and the Great Path governing board — told Hartford administrators that Glickman informed the Great Path board that she decided to pick Hartford schools.
That led to some "very irate board members," Noel said at a recent city school board meeting.
Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto responded that she was unaware of the controversy. So far, the Hartford school system has acted as a bystander to the fight.
"It was a very intense process in terms of the level of questions we received," Kishimoto told Noel. "I'm quite proud of this team ... the legwork to represent Hartford. If there is a pending disagreement with the process, then I will wait to get that notification in writing."
Granby school board Chairman Cal Heminway, a member of the Great Path governing board, said Granby is now contemplating resigning from the board in protest.
"If the governing board has no particular influence in a decision as important as that, why bother having one?" Heminway said. "Might as well leave it to the president of the college. She's making the decisions."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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