The story in today’s paper mentions a handful of ideas for correcting the racial imbalance in our schools, all attributed to unnamed officials:
* Establishing longer school days and longer school years for Smith and Charter Oak.
* Expanding student supervision from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. by creating more before- and after-school programs.
* Launching a new magnet theme at Charter Oak. Officials say the global studies theme is outdated now that most schools offer expanded language education.
* Changing Charter Oak to a K-8 school whose appeal would be smaller class sizes and programs for gifted and talented students. The school, like Smith, currently serves pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
* Working with the state and the Children’s Museum to build a new, regional magnet elementary school that would reserve a majority of its spots for West Hartford students, but also draw pupils from the whole Hartford region. School officials say the state would pay 95 percent of the costs for such a project.
* School officials also must weigh what to do with Norfeldt. Several officials questioned how much longer the north-end school, which serves a nearly 80 percent white population, and a significant population of special-needs students, will continue to offer its magnet program.
I’m especially intrigued with the Children’s Museum option, given that it needs to move and putting the new building in Elmwood would serve a variety of useful purposes. If it could be tied to a new school, so much the better (though I wouldn’t want to see the existing Charter Oak School abandoned because it’s a gem).
The Hartford Courant has a must-read story that raises many more questions than it answers about the growing racial imbalance between the schools as a whole because Charter Oak and Smith schools are far more diverse than most of the rest in town. We’ll have to follow up on many of the points in the story, but it’s one of those pieces that everybody who cares at all about the town has to read in order to have a common conversation.
Way back in January, the Board of Education approved its goals for this year’s budget:
The Budget Priorities are:
1. The budget will provide support for continued planning and implementation of the -2007-2011 four-year district goals as established by the Board.
2. The budget will support student and teacher educational needs, growth in student enrollment and diversity of students, efforts to close the achievement gap, and safe and orderly schools.
3. The budget will continue to maintain a balanced commitment to academics, arts, athletics, and student responsibility.
4. The budget will support rising costs of health benefits, energy, and educational supplies and materials. 5. The budget will support the negotiated contracts with all bargaining units. 6. The budget will identify and recommend long-term cost saving measures to minimize the budget increase.
7. The budget will provide support for the enhancement of programs, facilities and support staff at Smith and Charter Oak magnet schools.
8. The budget will identify efficiencies both short term and long term gained through the Education and Municipal facilities consolidation.
It looks to me as if the proposed cuts now will undermine most of those priorities, particularly at Smith and Charter Oaks schools, and weaken any effort to close the achievement gap.