Yale Daily News

At its meeting on Monday night, the New Haven Board of Education voted to renew its lease on the Adult and Continuing Education Center, despite rent increases.

After a protracted debate, board members voted 6–1 to approve the agreement with a new landlord, SP Ella LLC, to continue leasing the property at 540 Ella T Grasso Blvd. The property currently houses the New Haven Adult and Continuing Education Center, which offers programs to help adults obtain a GED or high school diploma, learn English, prepare for the citizenship exam and more. However, multiple board members, as well as New Haven Public Schools Superintendent Iline Tracey, expressed a desire to find a new space for the adult education program. Under the district’s agreement, yearly rental costs will increase by around $145,000 in the first year, or by more than 20 percent. The landlord has agreed to conduct repairs on the facility. 

“It was a tough negotiation,” board member Larry Conaway said during the meeting. “The building is under a new owner, and this school certainly needs a place to educate its students. It’s not an ideal lease, but I’m going to support it for those reasons … and we will be in the future looking for a better negotiation for the adult education building.” 

New Haven Public Schools, or NHPS, has used the space since 1995. The adult education program is the last NHPS program in the building. All of the programs that used to be in the building, and most NHPS programs in general, have moved to properties that are owned by the city or the Board of Education, according to a memo from NHPS Chief Operating Officer Thomas Lamb.

Lamb told the Board that it had been paying “between 12 and 13 dollars a square foot” for the property since it started renting it in 1995. The new landlords initially requested $27 per square foot, which NHPS negotiated down to $16.50. Every year for four years, that rate will increase by three percent.

Including custodial services and other expenses, the total cost of the property will increase from around $615,000 to around $760,000 next year, according to Lamb’s calculations. The district will not spend more than $2,596,600 over the course of the lease.

In the memo to board members, Lamb described the new ownership as “difficult to work with.” 

“They are operating on a practice that they are unwilling to invest significantly into repairs of the property without some long-term lease commitment from the district,” Lamb wrote in the memo.

SP Ella LLC agreed to multiple repairs in the new lease, including investments in the HVAC system and repairs to roof leaks. It initially requested a 10-year lease, which was reduced to three years and nine months in the final version. However, the district can terminate the lease with 90 days’ written notice, allowing it to vacate the property if it wants to relocate the adult education program. 

Tracey said that the district has looked for a different location, but that it has not found any available properties. 

“We’ve explored a number of different things, and barring finding a space and building on that space for the needs of that school, we’re stuck with new management,” Tracey said during the meeting. 

Board member Darnell Goldson, who was the only person to vote against the lease, expressed multiple concerns about the district’s new contract. He described the increase in the lease rate as a “highway robbery.” He said that he was concerned about the state of the building’s maintenance and about where NHPS would get additional funding for the property. 

Other board members, however, see the agreement as a necessity while the district continues looking for a new space. 

“Nobody in the finance and operations committee meeting was happy about this,” Matthew Wilcox, vice president of the board, said during the meeting. “No one in the administration was either. But we were dealing with a situation, and I’m still going to be in support of this because I’m not going to slam an education program out of their space mid-year.” 

The board also discussed transportation issues, compliance with COVID-19 policies and student mental health at the meeting. Assistant Superintendent Paul Whyte reported that all district staff are in compliance with testing and vaccine requirements

3,730 NHPS employees have received COVID-19 vaccines and 349 have chosen to get weekly COVID-19 tests as of Monday evening. 

SADIE BOGRAD
Sadie Bograd covers City Hall. She is also a producer on the podcast Full Disclosure. She is a first year from Kentucky in Davenport College prospectively majoring in Urban Studies.