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Parents Grill Kishimoto about Redesign of Milner

By Kerri Provost

April 20, 2012

Kishimoto met with parents at Milner yesterday to inform them that the school would definitely be redesigned for the 2012-2013 school year.

Last Minute Invitations

Flyers announcing Superintendent Kishimoto’s Thursday meeting with parents were sent home with students on Wednesday.

According to David Medina, the Director of External Communications for the Hartford Public Schools, “recurring telephone messages have been going out to parents since Monday and teachers have been speaking to their students about the importance of having their parents at the meeting. Moreover, the school’s parent leaders have known about the meeting since it was scheduled last week.”

A teacher from Milner has a different story: teachers were only given notice of this meeting on Wednesday. At a staff meeting Thursday afternoon, Eddie Genao, the School Quality Officer for Milner and Burns, commented that sending flyers out one day before a meeting was too late.

Additionally, there are conflicting reports about the phone messages; some received the call to faculty, staff, and families on Wednesday. Teachers received this voicemail message via email on the morning of April 19th, according to the timestamp.

Reception for the Redesign Announcement

At a faculty meeting last week, Kishimoto stated that the proposed redesign would involve turning Milner into a local charter or state charter run by Jumoke Academy. Last night, when speaking with some forty parents, she appeared to soften her plan, saying that she will still be proposing that it become a charter school, but suggested the possibility of Milner partnering with Jumoke to create an early learning lab.

This news was not received well by all parents in attendance, many of whom did not mince words when presenting their concerns about the proposed redesign.

Several parents wanted to know if uniforms would change; scrambling to come up with the money for a new uniform at the last minute is a real issue for Milner families, over 95% of whom qualify for free or reduced school lunch.

Parents were also concerned about the retention of a Special Education teacher who has provided effective interventions. Kishimoto assured parents that Special Education services would continue to be provided because the law mandates this, but she did not clarify what would happen to existing staff, Special Education or otherwise.

No clear answer was provided for those who wanted to know how union teacher jobs would be impacted. If the charter school is completely run by Jumoke, it would not be unionized.

Teachers however, have been told all year long that the future for Milner was unclear and many have already begun applying for employment elsewhere.

Despite the lack of forthright answers from Kishimoto about the future for teachers, the Policy for School Redesign/Repurposing (6190) adopted in 2007 plainly states that there “shall” be a:

Reconstitution of the leadership, faculty and support staff through reassignment of current personnel and recruitment of personnel committed to the new school model.

Teachers would be assigned to other schools in the district, while new teachers would be hired in their place.

Judging from the response of parents, teachers are not the issue at this school on Vine Street. Another parent wanted to know why the Hartford Public Schools could not adopt the Jumoke curriculum but retain its teaching staff. To this, Kishimoto said that such a plan would not work because people don’t want to change.

Parents also wanted to know why actions were not being taken to improve the school in others ways if it had been so broken as to require a redesign.

One of the few definitive answers to come from this meeting was that summer school would be taking place at Milner this year, which Kishimoto described as being a “well-funded school.”

Process of Redesign

On Tuesday, April 17th, at the Hartford Board of Education Public Hearing on the 2012-2013 Recommended Budget, a special meeting of the BOE was announced for May 1st on the topics of budget adoption and the “future plans for Thirman Milner School.”

To date, the Board of Ed has had no meeting about redesigning the current incarnation of Milner.

According to the Policy for School Redesign/Repurposing (6190):

The Board may take action to redesign or repurpose schools that have performed substantially below the proficient level for two (2) consecutive years without improvement and/or have failed to make adequate yearly progress under the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (20.USC.Sec.6316) for five (5) consecutive years.

If these criteria are met, the Board of Education “may take action to direct the Superintendent to plan and implement the redesign or repurposing” of that school “by December 1st of any school year.”

The Board of Education will be having its first meeting about the proposed redesign five months past the deadline that would allow for Milner to be redesigned for the 2012-2013 year.

The instruction policy states that “such schools shall cease to operate in their current form at the end of that school year, except for the purpose of transition or phase out in those instances where the new school model is initiated incrementally.”

Milner was previously shut down at the end of the 2007-2008 school year and reopened as the Milner Core Knowledge School in 2008-2009. During that previous redesign, the timeline indicated in the policy had been followed, as the Board of Education voted on the measure in mid-October 2007.

Special Meeting for Board of Ed

A meeting will be held on May 1, 2012 at 6pm to address Milner’s redesign. This meeting, open to the public, will be held at the Rawson School located at 260 Holcomb Street.

Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford. To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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