Q&A | SOM solicits school reformer

The city of New Haven tapped Garth Harries ’95 in June to serve as the new assistant superintendent of New Haven Public Schools. Harries, who studied ethics, politics and economics as an undergraduate at Yale, had worked for the past five years as the executive chief portfolio official in New York City schools, where he spearheaded the creation of nearly 400 schools.

This spring, the 36-year-old, who has one year of teaching experience under his belt (in addition to graduating from Stanford Law School and working briefly for a consulting firm), will teach a seven-week lecture at the Yale School of Management, titled “Managing Education Reform.” Harries took the time this week to answer some of the News’ questions about the new course and his plans for city schools.

Q What prompted you to teach this class? What experience do you have in teaching education reform?

A SOM certainly had a lot of students interested in education. I am a great believer in teaching things and believe strongly in developing new leadership in education. The course will draw from my experience and my exposure to education and education reform: I will address the issues with which I was involved in New York. I have also done a reasonable amount of education reform nationally. I led a project in education run by the Broad Foundation. I also testified at the Aspen Institute, a commission on No Child Left Behind.

Q What will be the focus of the class? What topics will you address?

A This course will not focus on my current work in New Haven but on my experiences in education reform in New York and nationally. The issues in school reform that I will think about as I am drawing up the syllabus include school turnaround, new school development, charter schools, school accountability and funding, and school governments.

Q What will be the format of the class?

A The format of the class is to be determined. I suspect that it will be pretty varied and that it will involve multiple case studies and class discussions. I expect students will do projects of current issues in education reform. I am hoping for good interdisciplinary conversation. Multiple perspectives are helpful in reforming leadership in the management part of education.

Q Why do you believe that it is important to have a class like “Managing Education Reform” at the SOM?

A There is no more important issue for our national future than education and to ensure that as a society we give all students the opportunity to be successful in their lives through education. I celebrate teaching as a profession in managing school systems. There are a lot of leadership and important managing issues up for discussion. It is important that students get exposed and choose to take on the challenge of improving education in their professional lives.

Q What are your goals for education policy at large?

A My goal is to ensure that every student receives a quality education and that more energy and resources are put toward ensuring that this develops. My hope is that a dramatic improvement is made in the quality of schools. I don’t know what it will look like, but that’s part of the challenge and part of what makes it exciting.

Q When and how did you first become interested in education policy?

A I always knew that I would work in the public center. In the end, exciting things were happening in New York. As I began to work in public schools, I realized how powerful and important this work felt to me personally. Learning in public schools is the most valuable way to help people help themselves.

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