Letter: Title 1 Kids Have No School Choice. Arrogant? Racist? Self-Serving? You decide.

Letter to the editor from Jodi Weisz, Greenwich, received Nov. 19, 2015

Greenwich has no less than 9 private schools that are considered “destination schools.” These schools draw students from all over Town and throughout Fairfield County, Westchester County, Bronx, Manhattan, even New Jersey.

For many of these schools, more than 70% of their student body travel to Greenwich from as far as 20-35 miles away. Why? Because these schools are a fit for these families – this is where their children thrive.

I know a four-year-old that leaves her house at 6:30am to go to one of these destination schools in Greenwich. She is energetic, engaged and stays for this school’s dynamic after school programs. She lives 27 miles away from her elementary school.

Greenwich’s public school teachers are able to send their children to our public schools as non-residents. They just fill out a form and the Superintendent lets them know if their first and second choice can be accommodated. They “choose” the best of the best schools in Greenwich, ISD, North Mianus, Riverside, North Street. In fact, so many of them choose North Mianus, that this school is overcrowded.

Non-resident teachers using our public schools love school choice. It allows them to live in nice homes in Silvermine and drive two new cars and get their kids into the 24th and 8th best elementary school in the state of Connecticut. Meanwhile the schools in their neighborhood rank 365th in Connecticut.

But, for Greenwich’s children who qualify for free or reduced lunch there is no choice. Even though, they are the ones who need it most.

You would think…but, of course, our public schools want to empower our citizens with this option! After all, public schools stand FOR the public, democracy, fairness, equal opportunity…

But, sadly, when it comes to the public school system in Greenwich, it has chosen to give the less fortunate in our town less power, fewer choices, indeed, no option besides the lower performing schools in town.

Then they (the BOE) hire consultants who they pay $200,000 dollars and tell us helping these kids out “would cost too much in busing,” or “these parents don’t want school choice” or “driving 6 miles across town will tire these kids out.”

Arrogant? Racist? Self-Serving? You decide.

Thousands and thousands of parents send their children to schools in our neighborhood who live in cities and counties an hour away. And, yet, the parents of children in our public elementary schools in which less than 50% are proficient in reading and only 25 percent are proficient in math have no choice.

What does the BOE do when I start to point this out to them, at first one-on-one, as a colleague in the field of education?

They shut down. Then they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a ramped up “marketing campaign” in which their Head of Communications talks about making proposes a fancier brochure to sell folks on Greenwich’s non-magnetic “magnet schools.”

I’ll save the BOE another $150K and tell them the truth: Modern day parents aren’t okay with anti-choice policies.

Today, you can hear the sound of a tumbleweed rolling by when you ask how many non-residents teacher’s children attend Hamilton Avenue School–the answer: zero.

Greenwich Public Schools have something of a segregation mandate. One has to call it a “mandate” because at this point it really has become a de-facto policy.

Spending 150 million dollars of the tax-payers money and telling parents there is no school choice in Greenwich is absurd. It’s as if employees of the district don’t even know what’s going on in the very town they work in.

Jodi Weisz
Greenwich

See also:

What is Fair? When Greenwich Students are Children of Non-Resident Teachers

 

 

  • Vicki

    While reading your article Jodi I kept says, so that’s why. Now it all makes sense to me. Thank you.

  • Tim O’Brien

    This is a clear and unintentionally ruthless analysis of institutionalized racism at its finest.

    With Ms. Weisz’s clarion call, the walls of segregation have to come crumbling down.

    She nailed it.

    Why are we giving our kids with the least advantages in Town limited opportunity.

    This is not a Republican mentality but the result of the insane social engineering promoted by the Democratic Party.

    Meanwhile the pensions of these Democrats our bankrupting our entire state.

  • Dawn Fortunato

    The leaders of our town don’t embrace the race balance law because they don’t value diversity. So they made the three Title I Schools into “Magnet schools” and literally give them the minimum to sweeten the deal enough to get the handful of white kids needed to get the State of Connecticut off their back because of the very strict numerical formula for balance. So they warehousing all the brown kids with a sprinkling of white kids — just enough to keep the state off their backs in three Title I schools. (Hamilton Avenue, Julian Curtis”, New Lebanon) At Hamilton Avenue we are overcrowded because those pre -school kids don’t have any choice. Also, New Leb kids have been stuck in a windowless former factory across Delavan Avenue not even in the same school as their siblings.

    How about some real choice? Why not open up Parkway School to any child whose parents are willing to drive them. The teachers could really use some kids to educate seeing it has emptied out over the years and now is under enrolled. Or maybe open the school to preschoolers and end the lottery drama!!!!

    Why is preschool intentionally so small? Why not have preschool at parkway which is underutilized. I hope our newly elected BOE members weigh on this. How about we make diversity a priority and raise kids up instead of pushing them further down. Diversity is something to be valued. Being brown isn’t contagious people, we can learn a lot from others. It shouldn’t all be about Property values. – Dawn Fortunato, RTM District 3

  • Jodi Weisz

    Parkway does not have to be the lone receiving school for families that want the option of school choice. North Street, Cos Cob, Old Greenwich have room as well.

    Glenville and North Mianus will need to have to be analyzed in terms of how many seats are being taken up by non-resident students. There needs to be a cap on this that is connected to the variance and spread of the achievement gap in Greenwich.

    If the achievement gap closes, then spots can be released to non-resident students such as teachers’ children.

    Otherwise, for the time being, these seats must be offered to residents.

    Otherwise the public BOE is running a veiled two-track “public” education system that is unjust, segregated, undemocratic, and unfair.

    The BOE can give its teachers vouchers as part of their annual compensation to attend Catholic schools in the neighborhoods where they live, if they so choose.

    But placing non-resident teachers’ children in the highest performing public schools in Town is social and economic robbery of Greenwich’s working and middle class, what Mr. O’Brien rightly states is “institutionalized racism.”

  • Margaret Ruiz

    I knew there was something wrong with our public school system.

    Thank you Ms. Weisz for seeing through this.

    You are a brave lady and care.

  • Paul Munez

    They have been doing this for so long they think they run our schools and control our kids future.

    The Hispanics in town will not complain.

    The truth has been let out of the bag.

  • Sue Haggerty

    End the preschool lottery drama.

    I was raised here.

    My three kids didn’t get into the lottery so we kept them out of preschool until they were four years old.

    Our neighbor, who has since moved, didn’t get in so she paid a social worker $250.00 dollars to diagnose her son with ADHD and they let her kid in.

    She is not the first person to do this.

    I have heard this is how the a lot of parents get their kid in.

    Parents have their kids evaluated by shrinks who say they need to get a slot before residents’ kids.

    There are also grandparents in town that let their kids use their address and get their grandkids in that live out of town.

    They don’t check the residences of the preschool kids like they do the regular students.

    The preschool program in Greenwich is a mess.

    There is a achievement gap in place by 1st grade thanks to the GPS dismal preschool program.

    Meanwhile homes here cost $10-50 million.

  • Beth Myers

    The achievement gap starts in preschool.

    If a half dozen kids in one K-class speak 5-7 different languages we should be seeing 2 ESL teachers stationed in this class.

    Why would you want ONE school to have students that speak 30 different languages.

    Unless you seriously have 12 expert ESL and early learning experts present right there for K-2, which this school does NOT.

    Spread them out around the district. How silly to expect one Kindergarten teacher, no matter how sweet she may be, to tackle this challenge.

    What are you offering the five or so native speakers in this class while the 10 ESL students have to catch up.

    Research states it takes 9 months to catch up, some kids longer.

    The BOE came up with a terrible marketing idea to try segregate every ESL student into one school.

    Their whole approach to early childhood education has created the achievement gap plus segregating all the non English native speakers into 2 schools.

    Diversity is good for all of Greenwich’s schools.

    Spread the wealth or get ready to have an achievement gap that is impossible to surmount.

  • Jack Spelter

    The seven lowest performing students in each grade from New Leb, Ham Ave and Julian Curtiss should be bused to ISD, North Street and Riverside tomorrow.

  • Kelly Carty

    I kept my kids out of preschool because of the cost as well.

    Why are we building million dollar theaters when our kids can’t read?

    I love theater by the way. I was a theater arts major at NYU.

  • Lisa S.

    Why don’t any of the charitable organizations do anything about this?

    This sounds like a PBS movie.

  • Daniel Rafferty

    it sounds to me like there are three school systems in Greenwich, one for the super-haves, one for the haves that are in the know and one for the have-nots.

    at least with the private schools they tell you what your getting. the public schools lie behind your back and keep your kid out of the schools they want to keep for themselves.

    Sneaky, very sneaky.

  • Diane W.

    its not anybody’s fault. this has been going on too long, though.
    end the magnet schools now.
    they are not doing their job.

    calling schools magnet schools to get out of solving this equality is not right.

  • Diane W.

    inequality that is. the magnet program has created more inequality.

  • Olivia

    Greenwich High School students should tutor these kids. How sad.

  • I mentioned Parkway because they have the least amount of students in comparison to all the other schools in Greenwich.
    Why not start there and share the wealth by filling the other schools with pre-K students? There is clearly a lack of equality. Each child deserves to be on a non polluted equal playing field!
    Preschool is a must for our children, for all residents children, if room permits than why not give the teachers the perk?
    If we need a school dedicated to accommodate the overflow from the full schools then why not find another place or building for that purpose?
    Is it sad or a disgrace that we live in one of the wealthiest places in the world and there is a lack of education being provided to enrich the town’s children and it’s a wing and a prayer that a child is picked in the lottery?
    Yet, we can afford to go over budget on so many other projects of less importance. And we have the board of ed giving back 1 million dollars from their annual budget. The tax payers pay out big salaries and perks to major decision makers for us, and from the coverage in the media, the left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing.
    Everything here stinks of politics, favors, home values, whispers in the halls, and secret meetings. It shouldn’t matter what side of town you’re from, there should be a place for all to be accommodated. This imbalance for the past 15 years at Hamilton Avenue School is nonsense and 9 years at New Leb. Out of 5 schools racially imbalanced in the state of CT, Greenwich is on the list for 2 of them. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/legal/racial_imbalance_2014_by_categories.pdf

    Come on really? Time for change, people. This can only happen if the tax payers and residents come together to make the racial imbalance and preschool issue a priority and get involved. Time to become BFF (Best Friends Forever) with the Board of Education.

    Persistence breaks resistance people, put your foot down! Demand better for the children in the community regardless of color and demographics and put your foot down! We are the ones to blame if we remain mute on such serious issues. Let them excel now to prevent failure later. Give EQUALITY for all and amazing things can happen!

  • Luke-Henri

    At my middle school we are learning about the Civil War and racism.

    When you are in class you think this happened so long ago.

    Here it is right here and right now.

    The poorer kids going to the bad schools and we go to the good schools, we go to camp at ESF they go to the Boys and Girls Club.

    I don’t think kids want this. Parents want it this way, not us.

  • Roberta P. Waters

    End the magnet schools. They are unethical traps that the BOE created just to keep their neighborhood schools in the richer side of town segregated.

    From a purely educational point of view–working with a multitude of non-native speakers, it makes sense to spread these kiddos out, not cram them in one school.

    There is no way 1 teacher can work with students speaking “30 different languages” in her class.

    This is not diversity this is what Ms. Weisz called a defacto segregation policy that trumps everything.

    Stop the lie that kids in the poor performing schools in Greenwich are “unwilling” to go to a #1 school in the State of CT if it is five miles away.

    Hamilton Avenue to North Street…

    It is racist to say that “these parents” don’t want the top rated school in CT for their child.

    What is not wanted is these kids by North Street parents.

  • Pauline V.

    This Board of Education has a real problem on its hands.

    If it desegregates these schools–as it should due by law–it risks losing its white kids going to North Street, Parkway and Old Greenwich to the private schools that are ready to scoop them up.

    Now that the cat is out of the bag, the teachers’ kids can’t ethically take up these seats any longer.

    Ms. Weisz is right about this.

    That would be unethical of “public school educators” akin to graft.

    I think people expect public schools to not suppress minorities.

  • Catherine Richardson

    Looks like Whitby School is going to be expanding its campus.

    The BOE thought they would get away with these poor performing schools forever?

    How dumb did they think these parents are?

    Time to go to 8 elementary schools in this Town and save the taxpayers MILLIONS.

  • Wallace M.

    It starts in preschool. This kind of segregation is tough to break.

    The private preschools in town don’t admit the poor kids.

    The poor kids are regulated to the YMCA’s St. Roch center and Family’s Centers. So these families never get to network with higher income families. Can you imagine St. Paul’s Preschool in Riverside every helping any of these family’s out by offering a scholarship in their preschool? Then the church where this preschool is run out of gets to call itself Christian and they support the soup kitchen in Stamford.

    The churches like First Presbyterian and Christ Church play a role in this segregation. No free or reduced lunch kids go to their preschools.

    The big non-profits like the YWCA exist because the BOE doesn’t offer universal Pre-K. They lobby the BOE not to open up too many preschool slots so they can continue to run their non-profit organizations. The preschools fund these non-profits.

    The sad thing is to think that many Churches in town are actually causing this radical segregation in Greenwich because they run elitist preschools. The Pastors look the other way because the preschool brings in too much money.

  • Mike B.

    What is going to happen to Greenwich’s all white public elementary schools if they let a little diversity in?

    Will their test scores drop from 98% to 95-93% for a couple of years?

    Aren’t the teachers talented enough to handle this and doesn’t the BOE trust that the good parents of Old Greenwich School will reach out to the few kids whose parents are not in the 1%?

    Nice parents will reach out to these families. It’s terrible that public school policy makers don’t believe in the goodwill of families who attend St. Paul’s, St. Catherine’s, Round Hill Church, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. They hear sermons on Sunday. If a few diverse kids are admitted to their respective public schools who is going to panic and dodge them?

    A lot of what Neighbor to Neighbor does is help residents who live in Stamford and Port Chester. Greenwich residents want to help their own neighbors to teach them to fish not just give out fishes and loaves. Education is what overcomes poverty above all else.

    BOE, it is time you ASK parents in the three Title 1 schools if they want school choice. Some–might say yes. You aren’t offering to pay for busing. What’s the fear here?

    Losing more kids to private schools and having to justify spending 100 million to face-lift solutions?

    What gets me is these folks–most of them–don’t even live here.

    Greenwichites are some of the greatest solution providers in the fields of economics and business.

    We can handle this issue.

    New buildings never raised test scores. Spending 80 million dollars to keeping folks segregated…

    Nice buildings are nice but the real solution is networking and human connection.

    That’s why Greenwich has so many non-profits.

  • Nancy Z.

    The teachers’ children cause the North Mianus school and the Glenville school to be overcrowded?

    Why don’t the teachers send their kids to Hamilton Avenue and Julian Curtiss so the test scores there will improve?

    How many non-residents’ children go to Ham Ave, Julian Curtiss and New Lebanon?

    If the answer is zero…this says it all.

  • Isabella G.

    It is painful to admit this. I was raised in Greenwich. I don’t think I will raise my kids here. This is painful to read. I know I will not have the guts to send my kids to this failing magnets. I don’t want to be a hypocrite and say that I will. This is so sad for these families and embarrassing for educators who work here.

  • E.R. Stevens

    Anything to keep the poor kids out of North Street school.

    “Mothers for Others?” Stop giving the lower classes your used stuff and let them into your kids’ school.

    Then be nice to them. That will help them more than anything else.

    How many BOE members are parents of New Lebanon, Hamilton Avenue and Julian Curtiss who qualify for reduced or free lunch?

    Zero or zero?

  • Janet S.

    I have lived here for 60 years. When they closed the Catholic schools at St. Mary’s and St. Roch’s the Board of Education jumped in to make sure these kids stayed in their neighborhood schools.

    The kids now have no place to go. Lots and lots of us old timers advanced because of the Catholic schools.

    These kids families live in rentals owned by wealthy families in Riverside and the landlords give them a really hard time.

    These families should carpool and go to Holy Spirit School in Stamford or Greenwich Catholic.

    This is deplorable. At least in my generation we had the good Catholic schools. These kids are not being treated fairly by the public schools in Greenwich.

  • Maura

    Hundreds of parents spoke out against any kind of redistricting because they worked hard to afford a house in their school district. Lawsuits were threatened if the district changed the school lines. Nothing brings out the pitchforks and lawyers like the word “redistricting” so the town expands some schools while other desks sit empty in another part of town.
    Almost no one spoke out in support of minimal redistricting or managed free choice during the last round of BOE racial balance and facility utilization discussions. Everyone is in favor of diversity until they might actually be affected b it.

  • Jodi Weisz

    11 elementary schools is a very expensive school district to run especially when nearly 30% of students opt out and go to private school. This is going to grow if the BOE doesn’t deal with diversity in a more positive way. Running poor schools alongside of “good” schools isn’t working, it is actually taking away resources/services from middle to middle-high performing students. Pushing all these kids in one or two schools was a tactic that might have worked for a while but now with so many private school options this is not good science any longer.

    Parents decide to leap out the public schools when they see the gap of services available to their middle to middle-high performing children, they realize their children will thrive in the private schools.

    So, in the end, by having very poor performing schools where 40-50% of the kids are on free lunch–as is the case with Hamilton Avenue–the Greenwich Public School is actually spending too much money compensating/special educating at these schools, not to mention their propensity to spend 40 million on renovation/rebuilds in the hope of revitalizing them.

    New school buildings do not raise reading scores. They do beautify the neighborhood.

    If diversity was truly valued and choice offered to parents, we would not HAVE TO run 11 elementary schools, waste precious resources on duplication and supplemental services on the aggregated issues that flow from having the majority of a student body at lower income. Studies have shown that lower-income students perform at the level of the peers as long as the density is not over 10%.

    As to the achievement gap, there is a very clear solution to this problem. It will require changing the way we make an early childhood education–and the quality of such–a priority in Greenwich. This will have to involve outreach to Title 1 schools by the specially trained outreach librarians and reading specialists, self-selection of books at the mere tune of $100 a child every year, summer reading in their neighborhoods, along with summer school.

    The research on this is very clear. I presented all of this to the then–Director of the Greenwich Public Library–nearly three years ago–she listened intently, her Deputy Director–now Director–shook her head and told me this was not her priority nor the Library’s responsibility.

    As I said, the achievement gap can be closed in 3-5 years in Greenwich. I have longitudinal research and first hand experience with this issue, having raised reading scores into the 90% at one of the poorest schools in the South Bronx, NY, with a very determined principal and top notch preschool teachers and 1st grade teachers.

    I know exactly what needs to happen to eliminate achievement gaps and it would be easy to accomplish in Greenwich.

  • Elizabeth Ferris

    This is totally unfair. Kids are kids.

  • Thank you Jodi. I originally took your words out of context and think many others did as well. I agree with your original point though. All Greenwich children should have a choice, an even playing field in their education. Sadly, the facts are facts and they are on the State of CT’s website. ALL SCHOOLS SHOULD BE EQUAL AND ALL CHILDREN SHOULD RECEIVE EQUALITY. It’s evident change is needed.

    I will say this, that despite Hamilton Avenue School being racially imbalanced, I am glad my children experience diversity and
    learn from their peers. From a parent’s perspective, I am more at ease knowing that we have some of THE VERY BEST
    EDUCATORS AND AIDES TEACHING, guiding, and nurturing our children at HAMILTON AVENUE SCHOOL. My 6 year old and pre school-er are thriving, and every day is a new adventure. Their brains are engaged. As a parent, I couldn’t be more pleased or proud that we have these great people who chose this as their profession and knew they took employment that was going to be challenging. It’s clear they are not banking on an easy paycheck. These people are working hard. We have a new leader and I am quite fond of her and all the changes she has made that are for the better for us. If people in town only met our educators and aides they would be beating down the door to get their kids into our neighborhood school. Our children aren’t contagious because they are of different color or nationality.

  • Jodi Weisz

    No apologies necessary Dawn. I love your input. I wanted to mention that test scores in Greenwich actually DO show teachers’ effectiveness…over time from grade 2-4, reading scores rise which is proof of exactly what you are saying…that the teachers are doing a great job.

    The achievement gap is NOT created by teachers. It is created by policy makers. There is a clear, research-based method to eliminating an achievement gap (let me know if you want me to send you this research), it has about five prongs to it, and Greenwich has not eliminated this, with the exception of last summer boosting summer school attendance by “inviting” most students and charging them the “invited” student tuition (a suggestion I made two years ago and I am happy thrilled to see it was implemented).

    There are longitudinal studies on this…some of the solutions cost a mere $100 per child for a year during the key gap producing years.

    My personal take on this is that running poorer performing schools along side stellar schools is actually, overall, draining to a school district.

    I have no doubt that the teachers and TA at Hamilton Avenue are likely some of the most dedicated teachers in our district.

    Indeed, I take my children there to the playground at Hamilton Avenue and they love playing with the kids in their afterschool program. You are right when you say that these kids have the biggest smiles on their faces, look like the have a real sense of community, and appear to be very bonded and having fun at school!

    Let’s chat sometime, I have a great idea to help close the reading gap at your children’s school that is super easy!

    It will be one part of the solution. The BOE is going to take several measures on this end as well.

    The achievement gap in Greenwich CAN be closed.

    Jodi Weisz
    jodi.weisz@yahoo.com

  • Jodi Weisz

    The BOE is going to have to take several measures on this end as well.

    The Achievement gap in Greenwich CAN be closed.