Assured that Milner Core Knowledge Academy will be part of the Commissioner's Network, the board of education voted Tuesday night to form a "response team" that will work with the state on a turnaround plan for the city elementary school. The team will include Milner's school governance council, Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, board member Richard Wareing and Michael Sharpe, chief executive officer of the Jumoke Academy charter school.
The education reform bill that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law earlier Tuesday allows the state to intervene in 25 low-performing schools over the next three years, working with school systems to develop turnaround models that could include charter school affiliation.
Jim Polites, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, said Tuesday that network schools have not yet been chosen. "That process is starting," Polites said.
But Kishimoto stated unequivocally that Milner, a chronically failing school in the city's North End that Malloy highlighted in his reform push, will be selected. Kishimoto and Sharpe were called Friday to Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor's office, where they were informed of the decision, she said.
Milner will also get extra state funding as a network school, Kishimoto told the board. She said Hartford is awaiting more details from the state: "There is so much unknown right now."
Two weeks earlier, Kishimoto proposed closing Milner after the academic year and reopening it as a school affiliated with the high-achieving Jumoke Academy. Several board members bristled at the short notice and wondered how a Jumoke partnership would dramatically help Milner students, a quarter of whom are still learning English.
On Tuesday, board member Elizabeth Brad Noel said she was still uncomfortable with a swift overhaul of Milner. "I also realize the state is breathing down our neck," Noel said.
During one line of questioning, Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against creating the response team, tried to get Kishimoto to admit that Hartford's 2008 redesign of Milner -- when Kishimoto was the assistant superintendent of school design -- was a failure.
"It didn't work in a very important area: achievement," Kishimoto said. "We had great improvement ... in student climate."
The board Tuesday also approved converting Breakthrough II and the Betances Early Reading Lab to elementary magnet schools in 2012-13. State education officials had initially sought to pilot a Crandall "innovation" program that would bring suburban students to the city neighborhood schools, but that would have required funding that was excluded in the final reform bill.
The state has already opened a school lottery for Breakthrough II and Betances as magnets; applications are due May 25. City students who currently attend the schools would be guaranteed admission.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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