Univ. examines school options for faculty families

Administrators are exploring ways to encourage faculty to send their children to public school — and the city’s recent efforts at education reform may help them make a stronger case for enrolling in New Haven public schools.

Deputy Provost for Faculty Development Frances Rosenbluth said she is now collecting information about how faculty members choose schools for their children, but she said her efforts are still in preliminary stages, and she does not yet have a concrete plan for making public school more attractive for faculty. Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, associate vice president of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs, is working with Rosenbluth on the project. Morand said that New Haven public schools’ bad reputation is discouraging faculty from sending their children to public schools. Adding that he thinks the school system’s bad reputation is now unjustified, Morand said Yale could do a better job of providing information about improved public school options in the city.

Zachary Schmitz is a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School.  Zachary is the son of Professor Oswald Schmitz.
Oswald Schmitz
Zachary Schmitz is a graduate of Wilbur Cross High School. Zachary is the son of Professor Oswald Schmitz.
Maria Bontempo Dildine, daughter of Yale faculty member Dr. Laura Bontempo, does her homework.  She is one of the few children of Yale faculty members who attend a public school.
Laura Bontempo
Maria Bontempo Dildine, daughter of Yale faculty member Dr. Laura Bontempo, does her homework. She is one of the few children of Yale faculty members who attend a public school.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to get rid of those outdated stereotypes by distributing accurate information,” he said.

Claudia Merson, director of public school partnerships in the Office of New Haven and State Affairs, said new reforms will make public schools more attractive for Yale faculty, along with other parents in the New Haven community. The School Change Initiative, which went into effect this school year, takes a critical approach to evaluating teacher performance and allows the city to institute sweeping changes in underperforming schools while allowing top schools to continue with their current systems. The reforms are likely to result in higher test scores for New Haven students, Merson said, which parents often take into account when researching schools.

Six of eight faculty and spouses interviewed said New Haven Promise, which was announced Tuesday and guarantees funding to in-state public schools to New Haven Public School graduates who meet certain academic thresholds, would not have a significant effect about how they view the decision between private and public school.

“It’s so hard to think so far ahead,” said Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen ARC ’94, an associate professor in the School of Architecture, of the appeal the New Haven Promise held for her. “I think when parents make the decision [about which school their children will attend], it’s more about the here and now.”

Others said the New Haven Promise has less of an impact for Yale faculty because Yale already subsidizes their children’s college education.

The University provides up to $15,200 per academic year faculty and staff who have been employed by Yale for at least six years.

Public schools are advantageous for faculty because they do not pose the financial burden of private schools, Provost Peter Salovey said, and Yale faculty also benefit the community when they get involved in the public school system.

Yale currently provides a brief introduction to New Haven schools for Yale staff on the “Living in New Haven” page of the Office of New Haven and State Affairs website, and includes links to the school district’s websites.

Basmah Safdar, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the School of Medicine, said finding information about the private school admissions process was much easier than finding information about public schools. Still, Safdar said she would have benefited from receiving clearer information on schooling options from the University.

“Having an appointed person or even a website instead of just the generic information available on school websites would be really helpful,” she said.

Morand said people tend to take advice more seriously when it comes from a friend or colleague, instead of from admissions officers at schools or from school websites. He said department chairs, provosts, and other faculty should take a more active role in sharing information about private and public education in New Haven, adding that relaying this knowledge to incoming faculty is especially important.

But some faculty still believe that the area’s public schools do not measure up to some of the private schools. Three of five faculty and spouses interviewed who have children in private schools said that quality of education was the deciding factor.

Cindy Karlan, wife of economics professor Dean Karlan, said her son entered a public school in 2004 when her family moved to New Haven, but she was unhappy with the class sizes and the lack of programming for advanced students. She decided to send her son and her younger daughter to the Foote School, a private school in New Haven north of Science Hill, where a math specialist works with accelerated students. Though she is happy with her decision, she said, the cost of private school tuition has made her “soul-sick” at times.

“If we had kept them in public school, we would have been satisfied with the cost, but [we would have] wondered if we made the right decision because of the academics,” she said, “but now we are satisfied with the academics but wonder if we made the right decision because of the cost.”

Faculty whose children are in public schools said they believe in the importance of public education, and several said diversity of the student body was critical in their decision.

“We thought it would be great for our kids to interact with the whole cross section of people that New Haven has to offer,” said ecology and evolutionary biology professor Oswald Schmitz, whose children went to Conte-West Hills School. “They got to appreciate people from different walks of life.”

Danny Serna contributed reporting.


  • The Anti-Yale

    Half a century ago (that’s 50, as in fifty) when I entered Hamden High, three of my teachers were Yale Law school wives or Yale wannabee wives, and many of my peers were Yale faculty kids.

    Mrs. Philetus Havens Holt IV (my Western Civ. teacher and the wife of a Yale Law student) once told me “I think you are ready to read *Look Homeward Angel* ” Those words, and the fact that she thought I was worthy of an adult conversation which surrounded them, CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER.

    That’s teaching. That’s INSPIRATION. That’s helping kids “CATCH FIRE”, as Yeats described education.

    Hamden and Mt. Carmel were Yale bedroom communities.

    Had I attended Wilbur Cross or Hillhouse (my father’s *alma mater*) I would have had the living daylights beat out of me for being an artsy-fartsy kid (aka a “sissy”) even if I was 6′ 2″ and 195 lbs.

    There was even that danger at Hamden High, but it could be avoided if you went to football games and screamed for the home team. I was “Mr. School Spirit” for my class, an easy *cover* for an intellectual. And, believe me, “intellectuals” needed a *cover* if they were male.

    God forbid that a BOY be interested in IDEAS.

    It was a sure road to humiliation and sissyfication, the male equivalent of society’s fraternity initiation, only the “fraternity” was macho maleness and I was much too much a Holden Caulfield (minus the money) to be intetersted in being a stupid-Ward-Stradlater-male. So I simply avoided most males, as did Holden, BTW.

    If you think I’m stereotyping, welcome to the world of the 1950’s and *The Catcher in the Rye*. It hasn’t sold 65 million copies because it deviates from the truth about the stupiditry of growing up a male in America.

    When I was a kid, I mowed the lawn of the Director of Adoption for what was then called The Children’s Center , located in Whitneyville. She, Mrs. Elizabteth Jacobs, had an M.A. in Social Work from the University of Chicago, rare then, for a woman. She once said these words to me and I had no idea what she was talking about: “OUR SOCIETY DOES GREAT DAMAGE TO MALES.”

    I understand now.

    Think twice before sending a sensistive child to New Haven Schools.

    “Hail Hamden High: We hold our banners proud and high…”

    Paul D. Keane

    Hamden High School

    Class of 1963

    *Mr. School Spirit*,

  • The Anti-Yale

    PS: There was a “MRS. School Spirit ’63” too: Michele McCarthy, one of the great hearts on this planet. Fifty years later we are still friends and see each other a few times a year.

  • wtf

    @ anti-yale: Stereotypical. Also, who cares?

  • Yale12

    I was at a master’s tea given by the asst. superintendent of New Haven schools. Almost everybody in attendance – perhaps 50 students – worked closely with New Haven schools. When the superintendant asked us if we would be comfortable sending our own (fictional) children to the school we worked in, not a single person raised their hand. Not a single one–myself, usually a fierce advocate of public education and a graduate of public schools, included.

  • Yale12

    Also, PK, WTF.

  • Yale12

    …finishing my comment:

    Also, PK, WTF. You’re seriously about to discourage people from sending their children to New Haven public schools because you were bullied fifty years ago? Wow. The egotism is unbelievable.

  • The Anti-Yale


    Why did you focus on the NEGATIVE in my remarks? A Hamden High teacher (and Yale Law School wife) INSPIRED me and CHANGED my life. FOR ALL TIME.

    That is monumental in Mercantilia, where money and its attainment seem to be the primary source of inspiration touted in the media day and night 24/7/365.

    I have been involved daily in public education for the last 25 years. Male gender teasing and bullying hasn’t changed much. My friends teaching in New Haven tell me the gender bullying remains unchanged there also, with the additional twist of “gangs” nowadays.

    Only the “politically correct” language has changed.

    I would be just as apprehensive about sending a SENSITIVE son to Hamden schools as New Haven schools, despite my jingoistic ( admittedly tongue-in-cheek) hHamden High school-spirit alumnus rhetoric in previous post

    It is the informal initiations and hazings (AKA bullying) into American male culture which are STUPID, not the schools which host them.

    Just look at your own Yale fraternity flap about sexist chanting a few weeks ago. Boors and bores dominate American male activities from the Ivy league to the major league.

    Why couldn’t a Yale – wife -teacher or Yale – husband – teacher INSPIRE kids in New Haven Schools?

    I doubt they feel safe at Wilbur Cross or Hillhouse.

    (Wilbur Coss has the distinction of being the only high school in the world where the body of a murdered prostitute was found in its dumpster (circa the 1980’s) .

    Do you have the personnel statistics about Yale affiliated teachers in New Haven schools?

    Start recruiting .


  • The Anti-Yale

    PS to Yale12:

    I WASN’T bullied 50 years ago. Read what I said. I barely escaped it by the same techniques Holden caulfield mentions in The catcher in the Rye.

  • townieexprof

    The PR campaign for New Haven public schools is just that. Look at the test scores. Look at the class sizes. Look at the safety issues in the halls–I believe Wilbur Cross still has metal detectors at the front door. Right?

    It is a HUGE issue for Yale recruiting and retaining faculty, and now, belatedly, they try to address the issue. Otherwise, the faculty live in Woodbridge, Guilford and even further out. Places with half-decent schools. Emphasis on half. As opposed to New Haven, which rates not at all.

    Folks who like cities and want to live in one, and not drive thirty minutes to work, and walk to downtown from their home– wont come here. THe city is perhaps more liveable with restaurants and the arts etc, but thats great for hipsters, young marrieds without children and the wealthy. FOlks raising a family with kids??? THE big drawback is the complete and total lack of ANY city services for the outrageous and about to be higher taxes in the city.

  • Yale12

    PK: You clearly said, “Think twice before sending a sensistive child to New Haven Schools.” The fact that you said that because you were *almost* bullied is even worse.

    Why focus on the negative? Because frankly, I don’t really care what kind of point you were trying to make about sensitive boys (and nor does anybody else, I can guarantee you). It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the article. What I do care about is the fact that you said, “Think twice before sending a sensitive child to New Haven Schools.” From your second post, it’s clear that you weren’t actually singling out New Haven schools, you were just mentioning them to make your obnoxious, egotistical ranting seem slightly related to the article, but that wasn’t clear from your first post, and the fact that you would discourage people from sending their children to an already-struggling school district simply in order to make a bitter point about American males is infuriating. I can usually deal with your asinine assumption that people actually want to read the unrelated nonsense you write on comment boards, but when it’s done at the expense of New Haven schools, I really can’t stand it.

  • StephenHolt

    Mr. Keane-
    It was with great pride and pleasure that I read your comment about my mother, Mrs. Philetus H. Holt (Carol). Unfortunately, she passed away several years ago but she would have been thrilled to know that she had such a positive impact on you. Thank you.
    Stephen Holt

  • The Anti-Yale

    Dear Mr. Holt,

    I also had a nice email from your sister. Truly, your Mother’s words changed the very course of my life. I have thought of them often over the decades as my own life unfolds.

    Something else she did as a teacher which was extraordinary: When Michele McCarthy and I decided to take a train trip to Manhattan as Juniors at hamden High, your Mother offered to meet us at the U.N. and show us around !!

    Is that dedication, or what.

    I am sorry to hear that you Mother will not be able to read my words herself. The fact that both you and your sister saw this highly idiosyncratic tribute, amazes me.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    So in the trillions upon trillions of digits which were keyboarded on our planet last Thursday, your and your sister’s eyes were drawn to mine?

    It makes me wonder in awe at the mysterious forces which surround us.

    Again, my thanks and greetings to you and your sister.