HuffPo: High School In The Community, New Haven Turnaround School, Votes In Election To Overturn Dress Code, District Balks

29 11 2012

This is a messy situation. I like the idea of giving the students an opportunity to take ownership of the policies and rules that govern them, but the administration should have cleared this long before it got to the point of student involvement. Any teacher or administrator with a lick of common sense knows how kids are going to vote on a dress code issue. There was no reason in the world to not talk to the district beforehand, and get approval before allowing a vote to take place.

Now, the students feel betrayed. I’m sure the rift between students and faculty is deeper than it was before the vote took place, because the students were given the illusion of power and the false impression that adults would listen to them and abide by the will of the masses. I’m sure that they feel manipulated and deceived, and it’s going to take a long time to undo the damage.

– dEV

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High School In The Community, New Haven Turnaround School, Votes In Election To Overturn Dress Code, District Balks

By Posted: 11/07/2012 12:28 pm EST Updated: 11/07/2012 12:50 pm EST

This piece comes to us courtesy of New Haven Independent.

Students and teachers at a “turnaround” school got a double lesson in democracy: They voted to overturn a ban on hats and hoods in hallways, only to see top district officials swing back against their claim to newfound decision-making.

The vote took place Monday at High School in the Community (HSC), one of the district’s “turnaround schools,” which theoretically receive extra autonomy to set rules and experiment with new ideas as part of New Haven’s heralded reform initiative.

Rickey Traynham (in top photo) was one of 233 HSC students and teachers who took part in the special election . They voted overwhelmingly, 191 to 42, to overturn a dress code prohibiting kids from wearing hats and hoods inside the school’s hallways and cafeteria.

The vote came on the heels of a formal debate in which students weighed their constitutional rights to free expression against the school’s right to curtail disruptive behavior. HSC leader (aka “Prinicipal”) Erik Good agreed to open up the question to a school-wide vote–and abide by the results, provided that the “powers that be” didn’t intervene.

That turned out to be a big if.

The plan hit a snag later Monday when schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo announced major reservations about letting HSC change its dress code.

REFORM RHETORIC V. REALITY

HSC is a public school in New Haven’s school district. But under a turnaround experiment aimed at overhauling one of the city’s lowest-performing schools, HSC assumed new management over the summer. It is now allegedly run directly by the teachers union instead of by the district’s central office. The school has taken advantage of that freedom to let teachers rewrite curriculum, reinvent what “freshman” and “homework” mean–and reexamine school rules.
Mayo said Monday that changing HSC’s dress code would take the school’s autonomy too far. He warned against creating a “loose environment.” He insisted that all schools abide by a long-standing rule in the student handbook that bans kids from wearing hats and hoods in school except for medical and religious purposes.

“Even with a turnaround, you still are beholden to the Board of Ed,” Mayo said. He said he plans to meet with Good and teachers union leader Dave Cicarella Tuesday in search of a “middle ground.”
The question then ignited a spirited debate at the school board during a special meeting Monday evening. It posed a challenge: Just how much autonomy is the district willing to give its new turnaround schools as part of school reform?

Mayor John DeStefano, meanwhile, stood up for the school.

“On that one, I would disagree with Doc [Mayo],” DeStefano said, asked about the hat vote before a special meeting of the school board at 54 Meadow St. Monday evening. (The meeting was called about another matter, an update on the proposed sale of the old Martin Luther King School, not about the hats.)

He said the issue boils down to one question: “What are the limits of autonomy?” He tackled that theme recently in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.; he used thatl platform to send a message home that the school district central office needs to “relinquish power” to local schools and parents and teachers.

You have to draw a line somewhere in granting schools autonomy, DeStefano acknowledged Monday night. He said allowing hats in the hallway “doesn’t seem to me to fall across the bright line.”

Mayo warned against letting one school out of 48 skip out of a district policy. “What kind of message does it send” to the rest of the schools when one school can bend the rules? he asked.

The majority of board members backed him up.

The schools need to examine “lots of security issues” before we “go with the whim of letting the children” decide whether they can wear hats, argued board member Ferdinand Risco.

“I’m against the hats,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, the board’s newest member. She said kids shouldn’t be allowed to wear them unless there’s a “clear cultural logic” behind the rule. Board member Liz Torres agreed.

Board member Alex Johnston spoke up in favor of letting the kids’ vote stand. He said there’s a whole network of schools in New York where hats actually bring students together–every student wears a yellow baseball cap. If the district is going to create turnaround schools, it needs to let the schools establish their own culture, he argued.

“If everyone else can understand why they want to do it, then why not?” he asked.

THE ‘I FORGOT’ EXCEPTION

Susan Samuels, who wore a winter hat for the duration of the 10-minute board meeting, said she opposes letting kids wear hats in school. She said the only exception should be if a student puts on a hat directly before exiting the building. She said the same should go for adults at the school board.

Asked why she was wearing a hat, she said she “just came from a meeting” and “forgot” to take it off. She said her hat-wearing fit into her exception, for people who are about to leave a building: “I’m dressed to go.”

Will Clark, the schools’ chief operating officer and an attorney by trade, warned against letting a turnaround school start opting out of district policies.

“Which policies do you allow them not to vote on?” Clark asked.

“I say we stick by the longstanding policy,” Risco agreed. He said you can’t give a turnaround school “carte blanche” to change rules.

Turnaround schools are supposed to have more support from central office, not more autonomy, Clark added.

Board member Mike Nast agreed. When students go out to the workplace, he added, they won’t be allowed to wear hats.

As he left the meeting, Johnston elaborated on his reasoning for supporting the teachers and students: “If you are a turnaround, part of what we’re saying is you need the scope to do things differently,” he said. He said other schools can understand that HSC is a “special situation” with its own culture.

He added that the matter falls under the purview of the superintendent, not the school board.

(Full Story)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/high-school-in-the-commun_n_2088787.html?utm_hp_ref=education

This piece comes to us courtesy of New Haven Independent.

Students and teachers at a “turnaround” school got a double lesson in democracy: They voted to overturn a ban on hats and hoods in hallways, only to see top district officials swing back against their claim to newfound decision-making.

The vote took place Monday at High School in the Community (HSC), one of the district’s “turnaround schools,” which theoretically receive extra autonomy to set rules and experiment with new ideas as part of New Haven’s heralded reform initiative.

Rickey Traynham (in top photo) was one of 233 HSC students and teachers who took part in the special election . They voted overwhelmingly, 191 to 42, to overturn a dress code prohibiting kids from wearing hats and hoods inside the school’s hallways and cafeteria.

The vote came on the heels of a formal debate in which students weighed their constitutional rights to free expression against the school’s right to curtail disruptive behavior. HSC leader (aka “Prinicipal”) Erik Good agreed to open up the question to a school-wide vote–and abide by the results, provided that the “powers that be” didn’t intervene.

That turned out to be a big if.

The plan hit a snag later Monday when schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo announced major reservations about letting HSC change its dress code.

REFORM RHETORIC V. REALITY

HSC is a public school in New Haven’s school district. But under a turnaround experiment aimed at overhauling one of the city’s lowest-performing schools, HSC assumed new management over the summer. It is now allegedly run directly by the teachers union instead of by the district’s central office. The school has taken advantage of that freedom to let teachers rewrite curriculum, reinvent what “freshman” and “homework” mean–and reexamine school rules.
Mayo said Monday that changing HSC’s dress code would take the school’s autonomy too far. He warned against creating a “loose environment.” He insisted that all schools abide by a long-standing rule in the student handbook that bans kids from wearing hats and hoods in school except for medical and religious purposes.

New Haven Debate Over Hats In Schools
1 of 9
Melissa Bailey/New Haven Independent
  • Next

“Even with a turnaround, you still are beholden to the Board of Ed,” Mayo said. He said he plans to meet with Good and teachers union leader Dave Cicarella Tuesday in search of a “middle ground.”
The question then ignited a spirited debate at the school board during a special meeting Monday evening. It posed a challenge: Just how much autonomy is the district willing to give its new turnaround schools as part of school reform?

Mayor John DeStefano, meanwhile, stood up for the school.

“On that one, I would disagree with Doc [Mayo],” DeStefano said, asked about the hat vote before a special meeting of the school board at 54 Meadow St. Monday evening. (The meeting was called about another matter, an update on the proposed sale of the old Martin Luther King School, not about the hats.)

He said the issue boils down to one question: “What are the limits of autonomy?” He tackled that theme recently in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.; he used thatl platform to send a message home that the school district central office needs to “relinquish power” to local schools and parents and teachers.

You have to draw a line somewhere in granting schools autonomy, DeStefano acknowledged Monday night. He said allowing hats in the hallway “doesn’t seem to me to fall across the bright line.”

Mayo warned against letting one school out of 48 skip out of a district policy. “What kind of message does it send” to the rest of the schools when one school can bend the rules? he asked.

The majority of board members backed him up.

The schools need to examine “lots of security issues” before we “go with the whim of letting the children” decide whether they can wear hats, argued board member Ferdinand Risco.

“I’m against the hats,” said Myra Jones-Taylor, the board’s newest member. She said kids shouldn’t be allowed to wear them unless there’s a “clear cultural logic” behind the rule. Board member Liz Torres agreed.

Board member Alex Johnston spoke up in favor of letting the kids’ vote stand. He said there’s a whole network of schools in New York where hats actually bring students together–every student wears a yellow baseball cap. If the district is going to create turnaround schools, it needs to let the schools establish their own culture, he argued.

“If everyone else can understand why they want to do it, then why not?” he asked.

THE ‘I FORGOT’ EXCEPTION

Susan Samuels, who wore a winter hat for the duration of the 10-minute board meeting, said she opposes letting kids wear hats in school. She said the only exception should be if a student puts on a hat directly before exiting the building. She said the same should go for adults at the school board.

Asked why she was wearing a hat, she said she “just came from a meeting” and “forgot” to take it off. She said her hat-wearing fit into her exception, for people who are about to leave a building: “I’m dressed to go.”

Will Clark, the schools’ chief operating officer and an attorney by trade, warned against letting a turnaround school start opting out of district policies.

“Which policies do you allow them not to vote on?” Clark asked.

“I say we stick by the longstanding policy,” Risco agreed. He said you can’t give a turnaround school “carte blanche” to change rules.

Turnaround schools are supposed to have more support from central office, not more autonomy, Clark added.

Board member Mike Nast agreed. When students go out to the workplace, he added, they won’t be allowed to wear hats.

As he left the meeting, Johnston elaborated on his reasoning for supporting the teachers and students: “If you are a turnaround, part of what we’re saying is you need the scope to do things differently,” he said. He said other schools can understand that HSC is a “special situation” with its own culture.

He added that the matter falls under the purview of the superintendent, not the school board.

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