Home | Table | Intro | WCGMF | CFI
Overview
| Family
Support
| Family
Literacy
| Parent
Leadership
| Transitions | City
Overviews

 

 

 

 

 

In 1998, Hartford's population was 130,673. The number of children under age 18 was 37,443, 29% of the total population. The Hartford community is a diverse community, made up predominantly of ethnic and racial minorities. There is a large West Indian community, and the Latino community is very diverse, although predominantly of Puerto Rican origin.

In 1990, the poverty rate was 27.51%. In 1998, Hartford's per capita income was just $13,271; median household income was $24,774. Hartford's economic climate has been stagnant throughout the mid- to late-1990s.

The Hartford Public School (HPS) system is the largest school district in Connecticut and the second largest in New England. In 1997-98, the Hartford Public School population was 22,949. The district is 95% minority, predominantly African American (42.1%) and Hispanic (52%), and it enrolls 49.6% of Connecticut's bilingual population with 17% of Hartford's students in bilingual programs. It is estimated that 75% of Hartford's students are considered "at-risk" of not graduating and of failing to obtain the basic skills necessary for gainful employment or post-secondary study. Special education programs serve 16.3% of the children in the Hartford Public Schools; 65.8% of them are male. The number of children who qualify for free and reduced-price meals is large enough (89.3%) that Hartford Public Schools now provides all children free breakfast and lunch.

Many families have left the city due in part to a failed public education system. Until 1999, Hartford was last in Connecticut Mastery Test results. The 4th grade results for 1997 show that 11% achieved goal in reading, 24% in writing and 23% in mathematics. In 1999, scores went up considerably. While scores are still similar to other urban districts in Connecticut, they lag far behind suburban school districts.

Pre-K and school readiness opportunities have expanded in Hartford. In 1999, 54.9% of three and four year olds were in a preschool program. Infant and toddler care remains prohibitively expensive and few Hartford parents can afford it. Most parents of infants and toddlers leaving welfare for work use the Child Care Assistance Program and place their children in informal settings.

 

 

 

The key players at the beginning were the Hartford Parent Network (HPN), the Hartford Public Schools and members of their Success For All Children Initiative, and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the agencies involved in their Brighter Futures Initiative (BFI). Key parent leaders and others were involved in establishing the Hartford Parent Network as an organization. Key players from the schools and the Success For All Children Initiative were the Superintendent of Schools, an Early Childhood Coordinator, and the Hartford Area Child Care Collaborative as well as parents. The Brighter Futures Initiative involved consultants, the CHILD Council, Maternal Infant Outreach Program, and BFI Family Center parents.

Since 1995, there have been many changes in the leadership of the Hartford Public Schools. The Superintendent of Schools, our original signatory on the grant from HPS, left the position shortly after we began implementing our plans in the spring of 1996. The Assistant Superintendent was appointed Interim Superintendent. The elected Board of Education was removed in 1997 and the State appointed a Board of Trustees with additional powers. One of the last acts of the elected Board of Education was to select a new Superintendent, who began work in March 1997 but stayed for only one year because of disagreements with the Board of Trustees over policy and implementation of reforms. An Interim Superintendent from the State Department of Education served for two months. A consultant working for HPS was appointed Interim Superintendent while a national search for a new Superintendent was conducted. In April 1999, a new Superintendent came to Hartford and will hopefully produce stable and consistent leadership that has been sorely lacking in Hartford for the past four years. Collaboration is built upon trust and partnerships with individuals in strategic positions within systems. This environment of a constantly changing leadership has made it very difficult for our initiative as well as other efforts in the community to move a reform agenda forward.

 

 

The political climate in Hartford has been difficult from the beginning. We have had six Superintendents as signatories to the grant. During our first year of implementation, the Board of Education hired a private company, Education Alternatives, Inc. (EAI), to manage and implement school reforms. Because this was considered controversial, HPN members could not come to a consensus on this issue and as a result did not take a position on EAI. HPN had always agreed to take positions on political issues only if there was a consensus. During the months leading up to and after EAI's contract was terminated, there were a number of very confrontational meetings between the elected Board of Education and members of the public. Frustrated at the lack of progress on reform, a group of parents began advocating for the State to step in and straighten out the mess. Again, this issue proved too divisive for the HPN to take a position; however, many board members were involved in this advocacy as individuals.

In 1997, when the elected Board of Education appointed a new superintendent, it switched from another candidate in the middle of a turbulent and divisive public meeting. Once the new Board of Trustees was appointed, we had to change strategies when dealing with the appointed Board of Trustees (as opposed to an elected Board of Education) and build new relationships with people who were usually not familiar with parent leaders in the Hartford community. However, the Board of Trustees has wanted to partner with parent and community groups and a good working relationship has developed.

 

 

Everyone understands the importance of parent involvement in education, but not everyone agrees with the importance of parent leadership and involvement in decision-making (empowerment). Originally, HCFI was viewed as a "collaboration of collaboratives," Success For All Children, Brighter Futures Initiative, and the Hartford Parent Network. This structure proved to be unwieldy to manage and difficult to impossible to implement a change strategy. HPN was able to move its agenda forward on its own because it had its own staff and budget. In the beginning of the HCFI, it was not explicit that HPN was our major strategy and project. But through the dedicated efforts of many parent advocates and key supporters on the original HCFI council (school system, Mayor's office, and others), we were able to restructure HCFI so that it was clear that HCFI's focus and niche was parent leadership, empowerment and involvement.

 

 

 

In 1998, HCFI restructured itself and added new partners that are also working on parent leadership, empowerment and involvement. They include: the Mayor's Office, Village for Families and Children, Institute for Community Research, Hispanic Health Council, City of Hartford Health Department, and the Head Start Policy Council.

Website: www.hartfordparentnet.org

 


 

 

Meriden Overview >>

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home | Table | Intro | WCGMF | CFI
Overview
| Family
Support
| Family
Literacy
| Parent
Leadership
| Transitions | City
Overviews

William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund
One Hamden Center, Suite 2B
2319 Whitney Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518


Copyright 2000 by The William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. All rights reserved.