The undergraduate organization New Haven Action wants 787 New Haven public school parents to attend this coming Thursday’s Board of Aldermen finance committee meeting.
The statistic represents the number of New Haven parents who, according to a list recently compiled by city officials and provided to the group, are interested in New Haven school reform. Members of New Haven Action aim to call them all before Thursday’s aldermanic vote on the city teachers’ union contract. Starting last Wednesday, the group hosted phone banks with various student groups, including member organizations of Dwight Hall and the Yale College Democrats. So far, the group has persuaded more than 100 parents to attend the meeting, and it plans to continue working the phones for the next several days in the hope of getting more parents involved in efforts to improve their children’s schools.
After New Haven Action reached out to City Hall and the Board of Education in recent weeks, the Mayor’s Office asked the group to help inform the public about education, event organizers said.
So the group took action.
At Monday night’s phone bank in the Afro-American Cultural Center, about 15 students used their cell phones to call local parents. Students trickled in and out, some spending a half hour or more, unfolding chairs and reading from the same script: “I am a volunteer for New Haven Action, and I’m calling about the city’s plans to reform our schools.”
According to the call script, the Board of Education, City Hall, and the teachers’ union are working together to close the achievement gap between New Haven and the rest of the state. They aim to cut the dropout rate in half by incorporating teacher evaluations into the system, among other initiatives. Group members also urged people to attend the Thursday aldermanic meeting.
“A lot of times, the parents aren’t involved,” Latisha Campbell ’12, political action chair for the Black Student Alliance at Yale, said. Her organization collaborated with New Haven Action on Monday’s phone bank. She added that “one way of making reform real and meaningful is getting parents involved. Parents are a conduit to the community.”
When BSAY member Arianne Eason ’12 sadly arrived with a broken cell phone, Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Mike Jones ’11 lent her his, and she went to work.
“Back in Los Angeles, I did a lot of programs that were really important to my education,” Eason said. “They really broadened my scope, and opportunities are everything.”
Frederick Angell ’12, who is also a member of BSAY, was initially hesitant to make any calls and spent some of his time at the phone bank poring over brochures about New Haven school reform.
“These things sound great — education reform,” Angell said. “But I’ve seen it in other cities, and often redistricting has happened in the past. White schools and black schools. So I’m just wondering what exactly is being proposed.”
But at a press conference and panel earlier in the day Monday, city and national education officials praised the teachers’ union contract for its collaboration between City Hall and the union. The collaboration, the officials claimed, was unlike the contract negotiations at another urban area, Washington D.C., where the superintendent, Michelle Rhee, is attempting to reform the area’s schools.
At the end of the night Monday, Jacob Doctoroff ’11 said the group persuaded 65 parents to come to the aldermanic meeting, up from 35 during last Wednesday’s event, which was co-organized by the Yale College Democrats.
“To complete the list [of parents] would be great,” Doctoroff said.
New Haven Action was founded in 2005.
Correction: Oct. 28, 2009
An earlier version of this article had four errors. First, the story misstated the meeting at which the aldermen will vote on the city’s teachers’ union contract Thursday; they will vote at a meeting of the Board of Aldermen finance committee, not a full meeting of the Board of Aldermen. Second, the earlier version of the article misreported Dwight Hall’s involvement with phone banks organized by New Haven Action; member groups of Dwight Hall, not the institution itself, helped to organize some of the phone banks. Third, due to an editing error, the article mischaracterized the 65 people who were persuaded by New Haven Action phone bankers to attend the finance committee meeting; those people were parents, not students. Fourth, also due to an editing error, the story left out the first name of phone bank organizer Jacob Doctoroff ’11. The News sincerely regrets these errors.