Members of the New Haven Board of Education remain divided over a recent proposal for an all-boys charter school geared toward students of color.
Boise Kimber, a local reverend who is not a BOE member, proposed the all-boys school at the BOE’s Jan. 30 meeting. Kimber said at the meeting that he has already done significant planning for the school, such as meeting with members of the teacher’s union and administrators. However, in subsequent meetings, public commentators and BOE members have expressed concerns with the prospect of segregating students on the basis of their gender or race.
“I think it is important that our youth learn from each other, as well as from good teachers and administrators,” BOE President Daisy Gonzalez said. “Learning from each other means learning from boys and girls and being exposed to different cultures and people.”
Gonzalez said that while working with at-risk youth in the district is important, she does not support an all-male school. The district is not currently in a financial position to open a new school, she added.
In a statement, Edward Joyner, one of two BOE elected representatives, condemned the proposed school. Joyner said the district must address the needs of both at-risk boys and girls within the community, and that to do otherwise risks fragmenting the school system and wasting human resources.
“We cannot waste time on petty disputes, self-serving behavior or political expediency,” he said. “We have to be good stewards of the public’s money.”
Coral Ortiz, one of two student members on the BOE, said students in the district have expressed confusion about how a new school would help low-achieving students. She pointed out that there are already more than 40 schools in New Haven, and said there is no reason to add another school in the hopes that it will fix problems that other schools are already trying to solve.
At a BOE meeting on Feb. 22, Ortiz expressed concern that the school had advertised itself at a magnet school fair despite not having been granted approval from the BOE yet.
But Darnell Goldson, an elected BOE official, defended the idea of the school and emphasized that it would not cost the district to allow Kimber and his partners to lay out a formal plan for the BOE to consider. He added that it would be “common sense” for the BOE to hear out Kimber’s proposal for the school, which would be named Cofield Academy after the late New Haven activist and pastor Curtis Cofield II.
Still, as a public all-boys school, Cofield Academy could face problems with Title IX, the federal statute that prohibits discrimination of education opportunities based on gender. According to David Rosen, a lecturer at the Yale Law School who specializes in education law, Title IX applies to all education institutions that receive federal funding, private and public schools alike.
Rosen added that the only way to exempt an education institution from enforcing Title IX is to refuse all federal funding. He said that to avoid violating Title IX, the BOE must either explain why the new school is not discriminatory to female students, or set up a similar all-girls school.
Mayor Toni Harp said she supports the proposed school and that the BOE is in the process of studying the policy proposal. She added that if the proposed all-boys school is approved, the district may have to open an all-girls school to avoid violating Title IX.