After over a year, New Haven’s Board of Education finally appointed a new superintendent, Bridgeport native Dr. Carol Birks — and boy, does she already have her hands full politically.
On the eve of Monday’s school board vote, about fifty protestors organized a rally against her appointment on the steps of New Haven’s city hall. According to most news sources, the protestors on Sunday were “parents” and “community members,” concerned over Bick’s “qualifications and experience.” Here’s a video from WTNH News, with the action from the demonstration:
Who is actually behind these demonstrations?
I have no doubt that many of the protestors were parents and members of the community. The community petition, which has been repeatedly cited as having over 900 signatures, was itself, started by a New Haven parent Sarah Miller, but there is more to the story than what’s being reported by major news outlets.
For one, Sarah Miller jointly organized a community forum on the superintendent search in October with notoriously anti-choice New Haven Board of Education member Edward Joyner, according to the Yale Daily News.
Additionally, after some digging and I discovered that a group called “New Haven Educators Collective,” a group organized by New Haven public schools teachers, was heavily involved in the outcry against Birks. Take a look at one of their Facebook posts promoting the Change.org petition that’s been reported repeatedly in the press:
And, please take a close look at the petition signatures. Other than being a laundry list of just about every tired anti-charter talking point you could think of, a large chunk of the named signers are current and retired teachers. Very few identity as parents and plenty signers are people who have no business claiming to represent the New Haven community — for example, Maria Pereira, Bridgeport Board of Education member and anti-reform activist.
Anyone who’s read this blog knows that Pereira is hardly an objective commentator.
Why is Birks being targeted?
We don’t have to guess, it’s written all over the petition:
The above comment came from New Haven Educators Collective member Jenna McDermott, whose main issue with Birks is that she’s a member of the Achievement First Board. Mind you that’s not Birks only qualification.
Birks started her career as a Bridgeport Public School teacher at Luis Marin School, was the principal of Harding High School in Bridgeport, and is currently the Chief of Staff for Hartford Public Schools. She graduated from Columbia University’s Teaching College and spent years as a consultant and coach training principals, and yet there are claims that she isn’t “qualified for the job.”
Somehow Gary Highsmith, who is a New Haven resident and head of Hamden’s Director of Human Resources, is more qualified according to the Educator’s Collective and activists like Sarah Miller, despite the fact that he has no doctoral degree in education.
Meanwhile, by the way, activists characterized Birks, you’d think she committed some heinous crime. In truth, her crime is that she said she’d work with charter schools to share best practices and ideas. And, that’s really all she said– to quote her verbatim: “We shouldn’t fight charter schools; we should learn from them.”
How is this controversial?
Highsmith, on the other hand, is an activist with a long history of bashing charter schools.
All the evidence seems to indicate that the community outrage being reported is a witch hunt — one that has nothing to do with children, and a whole lot to do with adults.