Video of Tom’s testimony to the Aldermanic Affairs Committee

Below is Tom’s testimony to the Aldermanic Affairs Committee:

Dear Members of the Board of Alders and Members of the General Public,

A hallmark of strength of the Board of Alders is how it has been strategic in its use of its authority to improve the state of the City. Recently, the Board of Alders has effectively used its power to call attention to important issues in our school system. 

The Aldermanic Affairs Committee now needs to use its power and voice to demand necessary changes from the Board of Education to delay or deny any re-appointments process until they are made. Re-appointments must be suspended until much more pressing matters can be addressed and community confidence in the Board of Education is restored. 

I ask that the Committee makes three necessary demands of the Board of Education:

#1: We need the Board of Education to share data as to what are the in-school causes of our underperformance in 3rd grade reading and our abnormally high chronic absenteeism, as well as a plan to address the underlying causes. It is not enough to blame the same pandemic faced by every other Connecticut city and town; we are dead last in the state — behind Bridgeport, behind Waterbury, behind each and every one of the 168 other cities and towns in our state.  Dead last. Thanks to the leadership of this Board of Ed and the Mayor of New Haven. The Board of Education and district leadership must focus on what we can change in our schools and not waste time on what we cannot control. A public and data-backed presentation on the school-based factors that are contributing to these alarming outcomes is long overdue.

#2: The Board of Education must include parent- and teacher-representative members in the Search Committee for a new Superintendent, as is known to be best practice. The current search committee only consists of Board of Education members – which is business as usual – as community members and teachers weren’t included last time either. Even the nominee before you expressed concern not to repeat history, yet our Board of Ed does this over and over and then moans publicly that we don’t get a new outcome. Yes, that’s the definition of insanity, and I am asking the Aldermanic Committee to put a stop to the madness. Given the lack of rigor seen on the Board of Education and what we know to be inclusive and effective practices, it is imperative that community members be included in the formal Search Committee so that those directly impacted by the choice of Superintendent can have a voice in the process. 

#3: For community members to have confidence, the community must also be welcome back — in person — to meetings, as is our tradition. While the pandemic changed the world, most of the world is back to work. Our teachers are in classrooms, our bus drivers drive buses, our schools of higher learning are humming along, our stores and hotels are open for business. The lack of any in-person public forum has contributed to the lack of trust among parents and the feeling that the Board is not accountable or transparent to the public. 

In all honesty, given the level of dysfunction on the Board of Education and the horrific underperformance of our schools, this body needs to use its power to demand these bare minimum policies from the Board of Education. Our current Board of Education should be under serious review by this body – not only the individuals who are appointed to the Board but how the Board conducts itself and exerts its authority. We need much more from our leadership – more transparency, more accountability, and more rigor. We desperately need better leadership and a thorough review process where parents and teachers can have a voice, not speedy re-appointment of existing leadership to a Board of Education that is failing. I hope that every Alder will consider what is best for our schools and make the decision to use their power to bring about the necessary changes within the Board of Education.

Thank you.

The event was reported in the Yale Daily News, New Haven Independent, and New Haven Register

Categories: Press