New Haven Public Schools Parent Community Statement on the Appointment of Dr. Carol Birks

[The following article was sent to PAR in an e-mail from New Haven Public Schools parent community. We have edited it slightly. The organization can be contacted at newhavenpublicschoolparents@gmail.com.]

The organized New Haven Public Schools parent community is disappointed by the Board of Education’s decision to appoint Dr. Carol Birks as Superintendent. The Board made this appointment against the overwhelming objections of parents, students, teachers, and community allies. In two hours of testimony, nearly every speaker echoed the assessment of the Board’s three educators and two student members: in a choice between Dr. Pamela Brown and Dr. Carol Birks, Dr. Brown is the more qualified candidate and the better fit for our district. Over 1000 signers of an online petition, together with hundreds of signers of school-based petitions, arrived at an identical conclusion.

The Board’s vote deepens the perception already held by many parents that “parent engagement” is a buzzword to be deployed when convenient, but not reflective of district practice. We are shut out of our children’s classrooms, not given a defined role in school planning and decision-making, and we have been flagrantly ignored in our expressed preference for Superintendent. …

We question the motives behind last night’s vote, particularly those of the Mayoral appointees. In a recent hearing before the Board of Alders Education Committee, one appointee pledged to represent the interests of parents. That commitment was not upheld in this vote, as the New Haven Public Schools parent community overwhelmingly expressed support for one candidate over another. …

Regrettably, in voting for Dr. Birks, four of the seven Board members — Mayor Toni Harp, District 2 representative Darnell Goldson, Jamell Cotto, and Frank Redente — ignored the expressed preference of students, parents, educators, and the wider community. As parents, our commitment is to our kids. We are not aligned with political factions. We are organized toward the sole goal of improving our schools so that they better serve all of our children. Thus we stand ready to work collaboratively with anyone who demonstrates commitment to this goal.