Hartford Superintendent Proposes Charter Affiliation With Milner School
Kishimoto Recommends Partnership With Jumoke Academy
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
May 01, 2012
HARTFORD — — Superintendent Christina Kishimoto on Tuesday night recommended that the board of education close Milner Core Knowledge Academy after the school year and reopen it in August as a community school affiliated with Jumoke Academy.
Despite hard work at Milner, Kishimoto said, district data show a significant achievement gap between Milner and city schools. Even if Milner made annual four-point test score gains while the rest of the district plateaued, it would take up to 9 years to close that gap, Kishimoto told the board.
"This is a local charter that has an extensive knowledge of Hartford," Kishimoto said of Jumoke Academy, the North End charter school that serves 488 students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. She praised Jumoke's achievement record and its "expectation that students are scholars."
But several board members noted Milner's high needs population, including a quarter of students identified as English Language Learners, and questioned whether a Jumoke partnership would bring more services. Jumoke doesn't have "a magic wand," Luis Rodriguez-Davila said.
In addition, district policy states that board approval of a school redesign was needed by Dec. 1 of the current academic year, partly to engage the community in the new design.
"This is long after December 1 and I think it is unfair," said board member Elizabeth Brad Noel, drawing a few claps from parents attending Tuesday's special meeting in the Milner gymnasium.
Kishimoto conceded that her request is late. The board could take other options, she said, but that would delay action until the 2013-14 year. She called Milner the lowest-performing school in the city and state, and suggested that No Child Left Behind supersedes the district policy.
At the current pace, Kishimoto said, "70 percent of students will fail next year. ... We also have a federal law that allows us to take action."
"This school has a long, sad history of having failed many of our children," Mayor Pedro Segarra said later. "We have to take some level of responsibility for that."
Segarra called for "an open mind" on the partnership but also asked for more communication between the central office and the board. Board Chairman Matthew Poland indicated that Tuesday was the first time he had heard of Kishimoto's proposal.
While seated next to Kishimoto, Poland nearly seethed: "This board is not going to be marginalized. ... We are not going to simply rubber-stamp what comes to this board under the cloak of urgency."
A board vote on Milner would come "soon," Poland said, but after more discussion.
Earlier on Tuesday, the board adopted Kishimoto's $400.1 million budget for next fiscal year that will now be presented to the city council. The plan is $9.35 million less than Hartford's current schools budget.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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