New Haven joins national coalition for education

New Haven became one of six cities to carry out an expansive school improvement plan in an effort to enhance public education last week.

City politicians and education officials announced at City Hall last Friday that New Haven will join an education program in the National League of Cities to strengthen and promote cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance. The six cities will participate in the Municipal Leadership in Education technical assistance project under the direction of NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families.

Present at the meeting were Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Acting Administrator of Community Services Sheila Bell, and representatives of the Board of Education, including Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo and Eleanor Osborne, assistant superintendent of curriculum.

The Municipal Leadership in Education project supports municipal leaders who work in partnership with school and community leaders in improving the quality of city education. With financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, NLC staff will work with the city in a 30-month effort to help the city develop action plans and apply strategies for improving education in New Haven.

Over the next two years, New Haven will be provided with a nationally sponsored educational framework. The city will receive assistance from the NLC in gaining direct access to national education experts and boosting academic achievement within its communities.

DeStefano said the program will benefit New Haven’s school system.

“I see many opportunities here,” DeStefano said. “The principle behind all this is the partnership of the community in accepting responsibility for the academic and social development outcome of our kids.”

Mayo and Osborne presented a slide show highlighting the strengths of New Haven’s education system. The city’s chief accomplishment has been the “Kids First P.L.U.S.” (Providing Learners Unified Support) program, through which the Board of Education has improved professional development, initiated early childhood programs and reduced class size to an average of 13 students.

“We want to prevent children from falling victim to the streets,” Bell said.

School officials also addressed problems that include closing the student achievement gap, developing a district-wide accountability plan that ensures quality education for students and providing quality learning environments for students through new school construction and renovations of existing schools.

At the meeting, DeStefano also praised Yale for its involvement in the city’s educational community.

“Yale undergraduates and graduates are disproportionately more socially aware compared to the rest of the New Haven university population,” DeStefano said.

In choosing cities to participate, the NLC said it picks those that show strong mayoral and community agency participation in sustaining leadership roles in education.

The other five cities participating in the program are Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Portland, Ore., Columbus, Ohio, Lansing, Mich., and Charleston, S.C.

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