June 8, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
After twice voting against adding grades to Annie Fisher Elementary
School, the school board reversed itself Tuesday and voted overwhelmingly
to add a seventh and eighth grade to the school.
School officials plan to add the grades in September.
The move puts Annie Fisher back in line with board policy to
convert all elementary schools to pre-kindergarten through eighth
grade and phase out the middle schools in the city. The policy
was crafted by the state-appointed trustees who oversaw the schools
under the state takeover.
Board member Elizabeth Brad Noel, the board's staunchest opponent
to the pre-K to 8 model, was not present. Michael Williams, board
vice chairman, cast the sole vote against the measure.
Williams said that he actually supports the pre-K to 8 model
over the middle school model but that he wanted to be convinced
that the majority of parents who send their children to the school
were in favor of the conversion.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry said parents of sixth-graders
were queried, and the majority said they would rather keep their
youngsters at Annie Fisher for two more years than send them
to a middle school.
Williams said he was sorry that Noel was not present to argue
her case. But board Chairman Robert E. Long said that he had
expected Noel to attend, and that a consultant for the state
Department of Education had told him and Noel in separate meetings
that the board should convert the city schools to pre-K to 8
Long said that it made sense to keep students in their elementary
school through the middle school grades to cut down on the number
of transitions children make between schools.
The plan calls for the city to build an addition to the school
to accommodate the conversion. Williams questioned whether the
city had enough students to fill it up, because other neighboring
schools are going through the same expansion and conversion.
Henry said there will be enough students, particularly because
state law requires a shift in the way special education students
are taught. Next year those students must be included in classes
with their peers who do not have learning disabilities.
Long said it is better to
have a school that is too big than too small. The school can
always find ways to use the extra space, he said, such as using
empty rooms as "time out" rooms
rather than sending students home on suspensions.
When the board voted on the matter last month for the second
time, the school's PTO president spoke in favor of adding middle
school grades to the elementary school. And so did Sam Saylor,
a Weaver High School PTO member and president of Hartford Transitional
Learning Academy PTO.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at