New Haven BOE appoints new school superintendent - WFSB 3 Connecticut

New Haven BOE appoints new school superintendent

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The New Haven Board of Education appointed a new superintendent on Monday night. 

Dr. Carol Birks was appointed as the new head of New Haven Public Schools after a vote of 4-3 by the BOE. Birks was chosen over Dr. Pamela Brown and Gary Highsmith.

New Haven Mayor Toni N. Harp said Birks "emerged as the candidate best prepared to be effective in the position beginning on day one."

"She’ll bring to the district exceptional leadership qualities," Harp said in a statement on Tuesday.

Harp said she was drawn to "Birks’ familiarity with New Haven Public Schools."

"She coached principals in the district, she endorses its commitment to restorative practices in disciplinary matters, and she shares my goal for students to achieve across-the- board at grade level, to maximize their chances to succeed," Harp said.

The New Haven Independent posted the almost two-hour meeting on its Facebook page on Monday night. The video features shouting and finger-pointing from the audience and board members. The video includes a heated exchange between Dr. Edward Joyner and Darnell Goldson. 

"It was embarrassing. These are our leaders," parent Nijija-Ife Waters said. "We're always telling our children to act accordingly, to act appropriately and what you saw last night, that was not."

Letisha Harris and Waters were the parent representatives on the superintendent search committee after the board pushed out former superintendent Garth Harries last year.

"I'm not going to say Dr. Birks is not a strong individual to be placed in this predicament, or a strong individual to be placed in this situation," Harris said. "But, the people had spoken."

Harris and Waters are also part of the organization New Haven Public Schools parent community started an online petition, which had more than 1,000 signatures, in support for Brown. However, they said Brown was "more qualified candidate and the better fit for our district." 

"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 are also disappointed at the ways in which students’ voices have been dismissed and disparaged," New Haven Public Schools parent community said in a statement on Tuesday. 

New Haven Public Schools parent community said the BOE's decision "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," New Haven Public Schools parent community said.

Harp said Birks "demonstrates a clear grasp of complex public education budgeting and the unique, yet interrelated funding responsibilities of the local, state, and federal governments."

"As public sector funding continues to shrink, and because of the crucial role financing plays in bridging the state’s achievement gap, every possible funding opportunity must be identified and pursued," Harp said.

Harp said the appointment of Birks came after "lengthy, in-depth interviews with the finalists." 

 "My choice was determined with the best interests of New Haven Public Schools in mind, solely so it can provide the best possible opportunity for all the students and families it serves," Harp said.

"I think they need to be able to explain why they felt the decision they made was the best decision," Waters said. "They're always talking about parent involvement, they want us involved and the moment we come out and get involved, they shut us down."

Channel 3 did reach out Joyner on Tuesday for comment, however, the station did not hear back from him. 

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