Impassioned Exchanges At Malloy's First Education Forum
By KATHLEEN MEGAN
March 02, 2012
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's road tour to promote his education reform package began Thursday night in Hartford with a blast from a former Bridgeport Board of Education member angry over the state's takeover of the board.
"On Tuesday, the Supreme Court overturned your administration's illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education," Maria Pereira told Malloy in a packed room at the Village South Center for Community Life, "and I want to know if your plans to reform our schools are all about disenfranchising parents in schools all over the state like you're attempting to do in Bridgeport?"
Malloy responded with his own question: "How happy are you with the Bridgeport schools?"
During the hourlong forum attended by about 150 people, Malloy discussed his education reforms including plans to expand access to preschool in Hartford and elsewhere; to increase education cost-sharing funds by $50 million, including $4.8 million for Hartford; and to transform teacher tenure and improve teacher preparation.
The audience included Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford School Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, several legislators and a mix of teachers and school administrators, community and education activists and parents. Some came from as far away as Stamford and Watertown.
A Hartford teacher, Christine Ladd, asked Malloy what his education package would do for children who come to school hungry or without proper medical care and face "significant socioeconomoc issues. … This is where the achievement gap begins and where it must first be addressed."
Malloy answered: "How about longer school days? How about longer school years?"
Ladd and Malloy also exchanged words on the governor's plan for tenure reform, which ties tenure to a new multifaceted evaluation system, including student achievement.
Malloy said the new system ensures that teachers who aren't performing well will get the help they need to improve. "We can't replace you," Malloy said. "We have to provide help."
Malloy heard concerns about too much homework and inadequate programs for children with learning problems. Milly Arciniegas, a Hartford parent, voiced support for his package.
"I was a child who was failed," Arciniegas said, and she added her children went to low-performing schools. "I don't know what my children missed."
To the governor's question of whether Bridgeport schools needed improvement, Pereira conceded that they do, but she railed against an administration that removed an elected board and appointed their own seven members.
"For you to say that we don't have the intelligence to have Bridgeport voters do the right thing …," Pereira said. "This is democracy, not tyranny."
Malloy told her that "tryranny is sending the children to a school, year after year after year, knowing that it is performing at a rate that will not allow the vast majority of children … to compete."
Malloy said he doesn't want the state to be in the position of having to take over failing districts. "Your school board basically threw up their hands and ran away," Malloy said.
Malloy said the Supreme Court is "undoubtedly right" in its ruling this week that found the state violated the law by not requiring the Bridgeport Board of Education to get training before the takeover. "The prior [education] commissioner should have made sure that should have been done," Malloy said.
He said that one can "argue about process, but you can't deny that we're letting people down by the thousands ... in the largest school district in the state."
Additional forums are scheduled for Tuesday in West Hartford, March 13 in New Haven, and March 14 in Windham. Dates and locations are available at http://governor.ct.gov/educationtour.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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