“It’s worrisome to me how few people showed up to tonight’s meeting,” said Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield at Thursday’s Board of Aldermen finance committee meeting, adding, “But then again, the Yankees are playing tonight.”
But despite low attendance — and the World Series — the aldermanic finance committee met for more than two hours to discuss the details of the proposed teachers’ union contract, which the committee unanimously approved at the end of the meeting. Many national education experts have lauded the contract as an important first step toward reforming New Haven’s public school system.
All of the 15 people who spoke about the contract at the meeting, 10 of whom are on the financial committee, said they think the contract will strengthen the performance of New Haven’s public schools and motivate teachers to have an interest in their students’ success.
Apart from the 10 members of the finance committee, the meeting’s approximately 40 attendees included three representatives from the New Haven Board of Education, approximately a dozen members of the press and a handful of Yale students. Fewer than 10 parents of New Haven public school students attended, and all who spoke at the meeting commented on the low turnout.
Starting last week, members of the undergraduate organization New Haven Action and other Yale student groups, including the Yale College Democrats and Black Student Alliance at Yale, organized phone banks at which student volunteers called New Haven parents to notify them about the upcoming meetings about education reform in Connecticut. On Monday, New Haven Action officials said that through the phone banks they convinced at least 100 parents to come to Thursday’s meeting.
But on Thursday evening following the meeting, phonebank coordinator Daniel Hornung ’12 said that out of the 800 New Haven parents called, only 160 had expressed interest in being kept updated about the school reform effort.
Of the those that attended the meeting who were not on the committee, only two shared their opinions about the contract in the public forum.
“It was clear to me based on the discussion with [New Haven Superintendent of Schools] Dr. [Reginald] Mayo and Mayor [John] DeStefano [Jr.] at the Edgewood Magnet School two weeks ago that the success of school reform depends on the teacher’s contract,” said New Haven resident Katharine Jackson to the committee in support of the contract.
Ward 1 aldermanic candidate Mike Jones ’11 also attended the meeting for about 20 of the more than 120 minutes of the meeting. Jones said he had thought the turnout would be higher. Jones, who participated in the phone-banking effort to raise awareness of last night’s meeting and school reform in general, added that he is always moderately disappointed when people choose not to engage with government officials.
“The committee meetings offer a better space for comment and is an opportunity that’s not offered in too many situations,” he said. “Ultimately people had to bring themselves to City Hall for the chance to participate — to that end, I think that we did all that we could.”
At the meeting, the finance committee also approved the formation of a Department of Public Safety Communications, which will more efficiently handle emergency 911 calls.
The New Haven Board of Aldermen is expected to approve the teachers’ contract at its Nov. 5 meeting.