Better New Haven Public Schools
“There is no excuse for a world-class city like New Haven—buttressed by the global reach of Yale University and rich in community assets—ranking as the lowest-performing urban school district in Connecticut,” said Mayoral Candidate Shafiq Abdussabur.
Reverse the Performance Decline that Saw New Haven Become CT’s Lowest-Performing Urban District
- During Mayor Elicker’s tenure, New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) went from the best-performing urban district in Connecticut to the lowest-performing. Under Shafiq’s leadership, collaboration among local, state, federal, and philanthropic entities will be leveraged to meet student needs and ensure that a spiraling NHPS does not leave a generation behind.
- Evidence-based literacy and math interventions, based on research-backed methods and strategies shown to be effective in improving student learning, must be utilized in order for students to receive the best possible education.
- Our highest-in-the-state chronic absenteeism rates translate into profound consequences for students’ academic outcomes and future success. The City’s Youth Service Bureau can and should follow recommendations of the State Department of Education and CT Youth Services Association and establish a more robust structure for providing each chronically absent student with the wraparound support needed to return to school successfully.
- Positive engagement with the concerns and ideas of families and school staff is crucial for creating a supportive and collaborative environment within the NHPS. By working together and building trust, schools can identify areas of improvement and develop solutions that genuinely meet the needs of students, families, and staff.
Invest in Full-Service Community Schools
- Community schools utilize the assets of the entire community to establish a whole-child approach to education and help students reach their highest potential. Shafiq will pursue federal, state, and private funding to invest in neighborhood-based community schools that build bridges of academic support and enrichment among community partners within each neighborhood. This is especially critical in neighborhoods with the highest levels of need and large populations that require specialized services, such as multilingual learners and special education students.
- Studies show that community schools have a significant positive impact on student outcomes. For example, the UCLA Civil Rights Project found that community schools reduce absenteeism, improve academic outcomes, and increase graduation rates, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
A Commitment to Safer Schools
- Schools must be prepared for the unexpected. Increases in violent crime in the community combined with dramatic increases in student behavioral challenges and mental health needs call for a more comprehensive and engaged approach to school safety. This approach must include an expanded team of mediators, safety officers, and School Resource Officers (SROs) to provide holistic measures to prevent violence, such as conflict resolution training and mental health support for students in need, as well as measures to respond to violence if it occurs, such as emergency response plans and de-escalation training for staff. As Mayor, Shafiq will attract new and existing SROs, safety officers, and mediators with a signing bonus and will provide free training from the National Association of School Resource Officers and certification from the National Association of School Mediators.
- The role of mediators, safety officers, and SROs is multifaceted and includes promoting a safe and positive school climate, responding to emergencies, and providing support to students, staff, and faculty. By having more safety personnel in schools, there is a physical and psychological presence that can deter potential incidents and intervene when necessary. It's also essential to ensure that these safety officers are trained in trauma-informed practices and prioritize establishing positive relationships with students. This approach can create a safe environment, reduce discipline disparities, and contribute to improved learning for all students.
End Unethical Hiring and Operational Practices
- By taking steps toward improving school district practices and policies, NHPS can ensure that all students receive the quality education they deserve while guaranteeing that resources are used efficiently and effectively. This dedication to structural improvements would also build public confidence and pave the way for more significant service improvements in the future.
- An independent audit of NHPS operational practices, finances, and staff rosters will improve efficiency and transparency within the school district. This audit can help identify areas of inefficiency and redundancy and provide recommendations for how to focus all available resources on meeting student needs.
- Establish a more robust and transparent Board of Education hiring policy to facilitate an end to patronage hiring, establish higher ethical standards, and keep our focus on students' needs. This policy shift can help eliminate nepotism and other unethical practices, identify areas of cost savings, and resolve inefficiencies that can hold our education system back.
Housing for Teachers
- As part of Shafiq’s comprehensive hiring plan to fill vacant City jobs, he will work to enhance and establish tax benefits and other incentives for City workers who reside in the City. For example, Shafiq will work to promote the NHFT teacher homebuyer program and explore the possibility of amending the affordable housing ordinance with the Board of Alders to provide affordable housing units for those jobs needed most in the City: NHPS, City Hall, and NHPD. Shafiq will also explore other housing options, like tiny houses or micro-housing, that can be created to attract new talent to City vacancies and simultaneously address the housing crisis.
- If the City wants to attract talent and keep people in the City, it should provide a pipeline for jobs and housing. Housing for municipal employees will be contracted so that they live, work, and play in the Elm City for years to come. This recirculation of dollars by establishing tax benefits and other incentives for City workers is another lever that will grow the City's tax base and strengthen our local economy by making City jobs more attractive and encouraging City staff to reside in the City that they serve.
Build Partnerships to Support the Whole Student and Tackle Inequity
- Under Shafiq’s leadership, NHPS will embrace the whole student with a strengthened commitment to mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Establishing a center that coordinates all these resources within every school can help to ensure that each student's needs are met, including the hiring of at least one full-time Resource Coordinator, which builds on the success of Magnet Resource Teachers and Family Resource Centers at select schools. This integrated approach to services will improve outcomes for students and families alike.
- Expanding school-based health centers and in-school mental health support can ensure that all students' physical and mental health needs are met while they are in school. Providing these services on school premises removes inequitable barriers to access and promotes early interventions, which are critical for students’ healthy development.
- Culturally-affirming family support services provided in schools nurture positive school culture and build positive relationships between families and schools. When schools are able to work collaboratively with families and provide them with the support they need, student achievement grows.
- Neighborhood-based after-school sports and enrichment programs can provide students with safe and productive outlets for their free time rather than resorting to negative behaviors. These programs also help to build community by promoting socialization and collaboration between students, parents, and community members.
Lead with a Responsible Vision for Our Schools; the Mayor is Not Just One Board of Education Member
- Public schools are the backbone of our democracy. The Mayor needs to tell the story of the importance of our schools, articulate a clear vision for their future, line up support on the Board of Education and citywide in support of this positive vision–and end the bickering that undermines students, teachers, and staff.
- By ending unethical practices and investing equitably based on student needs, the NHPS can ensure that every student receives a quality education, regardless of their zip code.
- In addition to academic outcomes, we need to ensure that every student graduates with basic skills in financial literacy and civic engagement, as well as concrete pathways to employment. Embedding broadly-applicable workplace skills–how to read a budget, develop an agenda, and collaborate with a team–within every school rather than siloing them only in specialized schools and programs will ensure that all NHPS graduates are ready to meet life’s challenges and seize the many opportunities available in our community.