Mayor Toni Harp and Board of Education President Darnell Goldson announced on Monday that New Haven Public Schools will reevaluate the more than 1,000 layoffs announced last week, calling district superintendent Carol Birks’ decision to make the firings a “stumble.”
“New Haven Public Schools is not about to end the employment of 1,153 people,” Harp said at the press conference.
The dismissals, announced on June 22, had caused a wave of outrage and confusion across the district. Of the 1,153 affected employees, 368 were not on NHPS’ payroll for the 2017–2018 school year, Goldson said. Those people had previously worked in the New Haven school system, and their names remained in the district’s employee database.
Goldson said the school board will direct the superintendent to recall the notices sent to 764 current NHPS employees, conduct a “more thorough analysis” and assess the positions on a case-by-case basis. Birks did not respond to a request for comment.
Goldson acknowledged that Birks’ decision to send the notices was likely part of an effort to reduce the district’s deficit — which is projected to reach $20 million in the next fiscal year. But while the district works to find its financial footing, the “number one” priority for the Board of Education is to improve student outcomes, Goldson said.
“Though the question remains whether or not removing these employees from our schools may save the district some money, it is not clear to us it will improve educational outcomes for our students, and may actually have a negative effect,” Goldson said at the press conference.
Following the resignation of former superintendent Garth Harries ’95 in late 2016, Harp and Goldson advocated for Birks’ hiring to the vacant position, despite public backlash. Since Birks started the position in March, board members have largely praised her work.
But the honeymoon period now appears to have ended.
“As a result of last week’s stumble, it is clear to this board that we need to provide additional support and guidance to the superintendent,” Goldson said. “It was a simple mistake that we’re going to help her correct.”
Board members Jamell Cotto, Tamiko Jackson-McArthur and Frank Redente stood behind Goldson and Harp at the press conference, but the superintendent herself was absent. Goldson said Birks was attending a meeting with teachers and school staff, but did not elaborate on the purpose of the meeting.