You want the truth, read the Real Hartford blog

Blogger and policy advocate, Kerri Provost, writes a powerful, insightful and extremely interesting blog which can be found at: http://www.realhartford.org/.

Today’s post, which is entitled Hartford Board of Ed: Out of Order is a must read for anyone interested in how education reform policy, charter schools and Hartford politics are all intertwined.

Kerri Provost writes,

The abuse of power by some on the Hartford Board of Education was called into question after politicking and bullying behaviors ruled and dissenting voices were silenced at last week’s regular public meeting.

Upon arriving, it was evident this would be another dog-and-pony show, as a bus had been chartered to bring dozens of Achievement First supporters to the meeting. Gathering supporters and having them pack meetings is nothing new in Hartford.

Letting children see and participate in decision-making can be educational, but the nature of this particular action raises questions about who funded the bus and t-shirts, along with whether or not it is age-appropriate for elementary school children to be expected to sit still and quiet for hours on end.

Yet, the Board — at least on paper — claims that decorum is needed for its meetings.

Anyone who knows children can attest that unless their spirits have been utterly broken, they are going to be antsy in about twenty minutes, especially when the environment is freezing cold and the chairs are hard plastic.

No effort was made by the Board to remind the children that this was a solemn, public meeting, but then, it is unclear if the Board understood that either.

All night, cell phones rang in the audience without reminders from the Board to silence them. As the public spoke during the comment period, there was loud cheering and applause, booing, continuous snapping of fingers, and derisive remarks made by the audience toward members of the Board; those remarks were primarily dismissive of Board member Brad Noel, who several audience members referred to as “the white woman.” When Board member Robert Cotto spoke, there were audience members dismissing him for not being a parent; no such criticism was levied against other Board members — most of whom do not have children currently attending Hartford Public Schools — who happened to be in favor of approving plans for a new charter school. For minutes on end, audience members stood, blocking the view of those behind them.

Two individuals attending the meeting told Real Hartford that since the Board was doing nothing to quiet the audience; they took the responsibility to ask that those around them lower their voices, as it quickly became difficult to hear comments by both the public and the Board. In both of those cases, instead of being apologetic and speaking more softly, the intervening residents were met with verbal hostility.

Currently, there is no clear mechanism in place that would enable members of the audience to inform the Chair that a call to order is desired. Security guards stand between the audience and the Board of Education. Alerting via text message would require the Board have their cell phones out; it would also require that schools open their Wi-Fi so that everyone with the technology to do so can have equal access. Neither of these tactics is especially practical, but there must be some way to communicate needs for order without creating more disruption.

Until such a mechanism is in place, the Chair would need to be in touch with the vibes of the room so that he could run a meeting according to the Board of Education’s own guidelines.

The only call for order given between 5:30 and 8:30 was following the spectacle created when Board Chair Matt Poland had the mic cut for Councilman Larry Deutsch, who had signed up for public comment, waited his turn, and had only spoken for a few moments before being shut down. While others’ commentary exceeded five minutes, it was Councilman Deutsch’s desire to stand at an angle to address both the Board and the public, that allegedly made Poland declare the Working Families Party member to be out of order. Deutsch, who was attempting to share the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., said he felt it was rude to have his back to the public and wanted to speak in a way that was inclusive to the children in the audience. There is video of this incident circulating online; however, the video does not show the entirety of the incident nor does its producer provide any context needed so that the public who were not at the meeting have an accurate sense of what ensued. Councilman Deutsch did not rush the podium, did not speak out of line, did not exceed his three minutes, did not use any language that would be inappropriate for children to hear. He began by saying “We need to have the public involved. This is inspiring,” and was promptly cut off.

You don’t need a weatherman

Deutsch, who was to speak against Achievement First was escorted away from the mic by security, all the while Poland repeatedly used the Councilman’s first name instead of his title.

John Motley – who is the Chair of the Hartford School Building Committee, a financial supporter of Teach for America, and on the Board of Directors for Achievement First Hartford — gave a maudlin “not in front of the children, Larry!” cry. On Facebook, locals asked what was behind the Chair’s actions. One individual suggested that the Chair be removed from his position for his inability to properly conduct a public meeting.

When Councilman Deutsch moved from the center of the room to the doorway as supporters gathered, I asked if he had cursed on mic. I had not heard anything inappropriate, but I wanted to confirm. He said no.

Following this incident, Deutsch said on Facebook, “It honestly was a surprise to me that the Board of Ed chair thought it was a big deal that I stood to face the public/audience as well as the Board. Seems like common democracy and avoiding rudeness, don’t you think?”

Deutsch also said that he “thought it better as example for kids and parents, more than the Board, to continue to speak to them as well, rather than meekly sit down.”

You can read the rest of this amazing blog post at:  http://www.realhartford.org/2013/09/03/hartford-board-of-ed-out-of-order/

  • Linda174

    All the Councilman needed was the right color shirt, a sign and the ability to snap his fingers/chant every time the cult leader, Dacia Toll, spoke. Then he could control the floor for a longer time. From other accounts, it appears this was a well orchestrated and scripted event planned well ahead by both the BOE leadership and the AF “leaders” and their following.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Sounds like these clowns took the same “How to Conduct a Meeting by the Marquis de Sade” that our own Holy Moly took. I’ll bet it involved more work then the bogus course Vallas took and they all seemed to grasp the material…..now what about the test???

  • Apartheid First

    Adamowski’s renewal is up for renewal tomorrow at the SBE–anyone who can, should try to go and make public comment. Not that they will listen. I’ve heard they are hiring extra security to keep the Windham contingent out.

    • Linda174

      They can’t keep you out or from speaking.

      What are they afraid of?

      The TRUTH? Watch the rats scurry.

  • Charlie Puffers

    Although I sat two seats away from a Hartford Courant reporter at this meeting when I read the HC article the next morning I wondered if I had attended the same meeting. Thank you Kerri Provost for writing about the meeting I attended. The snapping of the fingers, the coldness of the room, the scripted question and answer session between Matt Poland and Dacia Toll, the rudeness of the public all were part of the strangest board meeting I have ever witnessed. Also, I was hopeful when the mayor asked questions about the ELL students but shocked when he let it drop unanswered. Brad Noel asked some good questions but Robert Cotto was the only one asking the important questions. Why was the meeting held in the cafeteria making it standing room only rather than the auditorium where everyone could sit comfortably? Why did the board think it was OK for the AF adults to use children in this way? Many people who were there or who heard about the meeting wondered if this school is some type of cult.

    • Bill Morrison

      It is a cult. Achievement First uses the same tactics and methods as the Hitler Youth.

  • anniemil

    Here is the video mentioned in the RealHartford blog piece. From an outsider’s point of view, it appears the outcome of this meeting was orchestrated and planned well in advance and Councilman Deutsch did not fit into that plan. He needs to learn to snap his fingers. Read the comments at the end.

    http://courantblogs.com/cityline/video-city-councilman-being-removed-from-boe-meeting/

    From his comments, Councilman Deutsch appears to be on the right side of reform and sees the sham.

  • R.L.

    Seems like more of the same thing that’s been going on for years now. It’s time to be heard. If our voice is not permitted through the “proper chanels” there needs to be some action. When do we march?

  • Linda174

    From Real Hartford blog…former AF teacher:

    “In regards to the AF meeting: As someone who used to work for that hell of a school, this article (sadly) made me crack a crazy laugh (although I went home and cried most of that year) because it sums it all up. Did their treatment of special education even come into play? Or high staff turn over? At least the discipline and suspensions came into question, sorta. A chunk of them for a kid looking down or not sitting up straight for a second. Reading about those white reorientation shirts gives me nightmares (I watched kids lose it after a few white shirt moments) along with thoughts of special Ed kids locked in a single room all day, the same ‘bad’ kids sitting in the halls thrown out, and an insane rewards/punishment system. As someone who started with a strong, successful OPP model, with kids who had harder backgrounds and less external support, I still have nightmares about AF. I was warned not to work for them before I started and I had very intelligent, amazing teacher friends go to interviews and refuse to work there after being asked questions solely on discipline. I almost got fired for saying no to the principal who wanted me to throw out a field trip parent form for a sped student… “Leave her behind and go as a chaperone.” He said he couldn’t have a teacher that would say no on his staff… Horror stories. I have tons!!”