.

Middletown’s Racial Imbalance Plan Green Lighted by State Board of Education

A new Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics and Talented and Gifted program at Macdonough will allow students to stay at their school and avoid redistricting.

Middletown Public Schools
Middletown Public Schools
From the Macdonough School Blog

On Dec. 4, Superintendent Patricia Charles presented to the Connecticut State Board of Education Middletown Board of Education’s Plan to Correct Racial Imbalance at Macdonough School.  

The Middletown Board plans to establish a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics and Talented and Gifted program at Macdonough. The district plans to identify TAG students in Grades 3 and 4 during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, and will recruit these students to attend the TAG/STEM program at Macdonough.

During the 2013-14 school year, the district will develop and plan the TAG/STEM curriculum and program, which shall include professional development and training for Macdonough teachers, recruitment of TAG/STEM personnel, and the creation of after-school and summer enrichment programing.

The plan will allow students at Macdonough to remain at their neighborhood school as well as invite gifted and talented students throughout the district to participate in this program. The Middletown Board will designate Macdonough as an elementary school of choice for all identified TAG students beginning in the 2015-16 school year.

The CSBE approved the revision and Superintendent Charles reports that the district is very pleased with this result and looks forward to implementing this plan, as she believes it will support high levels of rigor and instruction at Macdonough School, while providing the opportunity for gifted and talented students in grades 4 and 5. 

This plan will allow students at Macdonough to remain at their neighborhood school as well as invite gifted and talented students throughout the district to participate in this program.
 
Parents: What do you think about this alternative to redistricting students in Middletown? Tell us in the comments below.
Brian Kaskel January 11, 2014 at 07:52 PM
Why do we think this is ok? This will open a can of worms that will change the dinamics of the disrict. It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Macdonough's racial imbalance might improve, test scores might go up too, but what will happen to the schools who lose their "talented and gifted" kids. Oh, and what determines this status? A testing system that is at the center of ridicule. Smooth move guys.
Karen Vaughn Warren January 11, 2014 at 08:48 PM
I am deeply conflicted over this plan and confused at to why, what seems so obvious to me, is not apparently an issue. Solving the racial "problem" at MacDonough School with the establishment of a talented and gifted program has serious implications and underlying assumptions. The first of those assumptions is that the the talented and gifted children will be the desired race to accomplish this goal. Suppose, just suppose, that students who would not contribute to the reduction of the imbalance are eligible. Are they not welcome? "Sorry, you don't solve our problem. We didn't count on all of you testing so well." As Mr. Kaskel indicates in his comment, how is removing the talented students from the other 7 schools in town helping at all to move the entire district forward and address overall subpar testing scores when compared with districts throughout CT? I have deep respect for Dr. Charles but cannot get behind this initiative. I don't have an answer to solve the imbalance. Although, last year's BOE vote to address classroom overcrowding by moving streets that had been moved into MacDonough's district back out of the district now surfaces as a poor decision. One BOE member voted against that move because of this exact reason. He was right at the time and now. MPS desperately needs programs to entice higher performing students to stay. This is absolutely true. As a parent in town, I regularly have conversations with families who are looking at whether to move, pursue a magnet school, or private education. Staying with MPS is becoming their last choice.
Salena Bennett-Chatman January 11, 2014 at 09:55 PM
Finally the patch did an article on this!!! I mean I only emailed you a month ago to get more details. Great reporting! So here's my point of view... I totally agree w/ the previous comments! Wow, poor decision from MPS!!! Lets just put it out there the only way to racial balance Macdonough is to racially profile the test scores by race. Nothing says honor our diversity more!!! Here's a better idea lets start thinking outside the box like start splitting up our students PreK-2, 3,4 & can't we make better use of Keigwin by having the 5th graders go there! I mean we have 8 elementary schools & the only way to really have our schools diverse & equal is to start something more radical than racially profiling the test scores of our 4 & 5 grades! I definitely agree we need something to entice our families to stay... hmmm why not make one school a T&G/STEM program K-5! Also, how can Macdonough support more students when we redistricted due to overcrowding 2-3 yrs ago. I'm pretty sure this by square foot is the smallest of our elementary buildings & now we are going to add more students??? Bad choice as this is RACIAL PROFILING!!!!!
Pro Death January 12, 2014 at 08:18 AM
Isn't it racist to say the school is failing because of the lack of non white students? The real issue that is not addressed is the lack of parenting that has developed over the last thirty years, you can't expect a child that has no direction, discipline or guidance at home to come to school with respect for the teachers and be willing to learn.
Rebecca Dawne January 12, 2014 at 08:41 AM
I think this is great option for families of "TAG" students who believed that their only options for the rigor and curriculum they sought for their children was to leave the district for a magnet school. Money saved in the budget from magnet school tuition will benefit ALL of the children in Middletown. Kudos for thinking out of the box for a solution and not redistricting students for the third time in four years.
Brian Kaskel January 12, 2014 at 09:10 AM
@Pro Death. There are no Middletown schools that are failing, there are many that are under preforming. I agree that parenting or rather parent involvement has changed over the last couple of generations, and that is one of the roots to our problem. However, let's not sugar coat the situation. Macdonough's over-crowding, and racial imbalance over the last 2 or 3 years has been a thorn in the administration's side. Former BOE member, Ryan Kennedy, had been warning the board of the slippery slope all of the "re-districting" was going to create. I was at the meeting 2 years ago where the redistrict happened because of over-crowding. And almost a year later to the day, I was at the meeting where it was re-districted again because of racial imbalance. The racial imbalance is literally just a few students, and tends to be a direct result of the highly transient nature of Middletown's citizens, and no, not just in the North End. Bottom line - the title and subject matter of this article says it all. We all know which way the "racial imbalance" numbers are falling (even if just by a few students) so the BOE's "solution" if you will was to convert JUST McDonough as a TAG/STEM school and specifically in the testing years of 4th and 5th grade. It just doesn't sit right with me. That's allowed right?
Brian Kaskel January 12, 2014 at 09:20 AM
@Rebecca Dawne. I agree that a program needs to be created for students in Middletown that are deemed "TAG" students. However, not just because it is a solution to racial imbalance. Ms. Chatman had a great thought that should be looked at in greater depth. If we can better utilize the space at Kegwin and at Woodrow Wilson we can look at changing the grade levels in each elementary school. We can do K-4, 5/6, 7/8. It might cost money to build out, or change transportation. But it will eliminate the over-crowding situation and potentially the racial imbalance "situation". You want STEM program or TAG program - great! Make it at one school - and who knows maybe one day charge tuition to students that may want to come here from places like Portland, or New Britain, etc. Better yet - have a TAG curriculum (which is being worked on) available to all students who "qualify" inside the schools that they are currently in. Maybe it is time to be proactive and not reactive. Time to ask the City to support the needs of students of Middletown. Just a thought.
Pro Death January 12, 2014 at 09:43 AM
@ Brian Kaskel. Under preforming is just politically correct for failing. Over population of Macdonough school will always be an issue because of the area it serves which goes back to the parents in many cases having more children than they can even afford. So setting up this program at Macdonough to attract white students doesn't help with overcrowding and doesn't sit right with me either. I believe it is politically motivated to make the numbers on the paper look better and not driven by the needs of the school or the students.
Brian Kaskel January 12, 2014 at 09:54 AM
@Pro Death. It is not my place to comment on the family decisions of others. If you read my comments - I have already stated we need to look at the issues of overcrowding and doing what is right for the students. And the schools are not truly failing, if they were, they would be in turn-around status and being run by the State.
Salena Bennett-Chatman January 12, 2014 at 09:54 AM
I want our district to be better for ALL, not just a select few! Its time to think WAY out of the box for ALL our schools not one! I as a parent don't want to redistrict again either but if we start breaking up the grades (like Cromwell, Glastonbury) this would help to accommodate our bigger problem.. which is the transient families who move several times a year in & out of our district & back in. By centralizing the grades it wouldn't matter where you move in Middletown, because you would still be going to the same school & wouldn't miss a beat. @Rebecca Dawne great comment but where does it leave this group of select kids who end up in 6th grade w/ the same bunch of kids they were with in K-5? It leaves the select few still ahead in a district that has no plans for more T&G programs due to $! Yes, we save some money on kids staying but I refuse to believe we aren't adding money to a budget that is about to bust to add this program. I'm all for it but as Mr. Kaskel mentioned why not implement it for all our grades? @Pro Death totally agree! This is a band aid on major wound in my opinion! Plus we can spruce it up & sugar coat it..... but its still profiling a select race to make ONE SCHOOL better. Lets not forget we have 7 other elementary schools in the district! I think if this is the best solution the BOE could come up with shame on them & their lack of vision. Lets FINALLY address the real problem & make a town wide SOLUTION, not a one school solution!! So tired of our district only focusing on Mac problems! The other 7 have a need too!
Pro Death January 12, 2014 at 10:02 AM
@Brian Kaskel. I commend you for staying involved. I just don't believe any numbers or statistics given by a government entity anymore.
Meghan Clark Glomb January 12, 2014 at 11:23 AM
This is infuriating to me as a parent and homeowner in Middletown. We tried so hard to find a home we could afford in a "better" town because of the public school system. We were forced to carefully study the districting map so we would buy in the "right" neighborhood to make sure our children could go to one of the "better" schools. The constant changes are insane and do not instill any confidence in the BOE as far as I am concerned. As far as all this redistricting goes, if we were forced to send our kids to another school to "fix" a problem it was having, I would be irate. The BOE needs to address issues it is having at one school at THAT school. Stop moving kids around to make things look better on paper, and stop racially profiling children. I can't see how changing schools is good for our students anyhow. It is a parent's responsibility to provide a good foundation for their children. If you have to live in the North End and your school is under performing, get involved in YOUR kids' education, not in mine! As for the STEM/TAG program, it sounds like McDonough is already overcrowded anyhow, so I don't see how creating a STEM program there and drawing in more students is going to help. They are trying to fix one "problem" by making another worse. There should be a TAG program in every school, and if that's not possible then at least in a school building that actually has the room to house it.
Concerned Citizen January 12, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Everyone needs to remember that the school district has to comply with the state laws-that is why this has to be addressed-whether you agree wit the solution or not, it has to be addressed to comply with state laws concerning racial make up of schools. The situation in Middletown is Macdonough's students are predominantly minority students and Moody School is predominantly non-minority. The redistricting that took place before Ms. Charles came caused educational disasters st Farm Hill and Bielefield School. That plan should be revised. There are many magnet schools in the Hartford area which do a great job of educating students. The problem is, the non-magnet public schools are left with a high concentration of ELL students, behavior challenges, and low performing students. Be vigilant! Make sure all the elementary schools are getting the services they need!
Concerned Citizen January 12, 2014 at 12:06 PM
The State enacted the Racial-Balance Law in an effort to prevent segregation in neighborhood schools. Under Connecticut law, the district must develop a plan to diversify any school whose racial composition exceeds or falls below the overall minority population of the district by 25 percentage points. If a district has a 30% minority population overall, an individual school would be deemed imbalanced if its minority enrollment reached 56% or fell to 4%.
Middletown Parent January 12, 2014 at 01:30 PM
What the article doesn't share is that the district is only looking for a handful of white students (5-7) from the 7 other elementary schools to enroll in the new STEM/TAG school at Macdonough. Furthermore, how much money is coming out of the Middletown BOE funds to implement the Macdonough TAG/STEM school? How much will the teacher training cost the district? Finally, how does this impact transportation? Will the handful of students have to provide their own transportation to Macdonough or will a bus route be planned for them? While I am glad the patch finally shared this news (possibly new news for many readers) I was hoping for more specifics / details.
Salena Bennett-Chatman January 12, 2014 at 02:32 PM
@Middletown Parent so true! Again, in a district like ours its time to take a hard look at what the real problem is which is TRANSIENT families & just do a sweeping change to the district! Please see my previous plan & I really think we could save money & service more families. @concerned citizen I get what they are doing but like I stated before its just a band aid. Plus where does this leave our schools that Mac is taking T&G from? Plus whats the criteria of how many students can come from one school? If one school had 4-5 T&G that could come & would come how does that affect their scores? Or do we say thanks but we are only going to take 2? This leaves way to many gray areas for me to swallow! I think its time BOE knuckles down & does some hard work & crunch #'s to see what's the best solution not just a quick fix. Besides I really don't see how this is going to fix the real problem!
Jim Beitzel January 12, 2014 at 03:23 PM
This school district is really off the rails.. It's like one issue leads to 6 others and everyone's running in different directions. We need a powerful leader for the BoE with convictions and leadership skills. Why isn't Brian our superintendent.
Brian Kaskel January 12, 2014 at 03:48 PM
@Jim. I have heard some funny things over the years - but Superintendent - that may just take the prize. I appreciate the sentiment, but I couldn't figure out a way of getting elected to the BOE, I surely couldn't run the district. Listen, Dr. Charles inherited a tough job and a tough situation. I respect her and her position - like anyone else, we aren't going to agree 100% of the time. Maybe I would feel differently about this solution if I were a Macdonough parent, but I am not. I try to take the Bielefield blinders off and look big picture, I just don't think this was thought through all the way. I am fairly confident it was done with the best of intentions and not as a "padding the numbers" technique. I know that the state has us in it's cross hairs, however, maybe a little more explanation from the top or from the BOE would have gone a long way. And on a side note - maybe it's time we push our in house school administrators to be as outspoken and driven as John Romeo, the principal of Macdonough. We can all talk until the cows come home - but maybe we are talking to the wrong people. I don't know... just a thought.
Brian Kaskel January 12, 2014 at 03:52 PM
Oh on a side note... I have started a Blog in the Middletown Eye and I report via personal commentaries about what happens at various school and board meetings. If anyone is looking for something to do - please consider attending this Tuesday's BOE meeting and have your voice heard. It is the first meeting I will miss - but I will be watching on TV and commenting on the EYE shortly their after. Here is my latest. http://middletowneyenews.blogspot.com/2014/01/light-dawns.html
Concerned Citizen January 12, 2014 at 07:00 PM
Maybe we can ask Dr. Charles and the BOE to meet with parents and have a question and answer forum. My concerns are that other schools that have nearly the same make-up as Macdonough will not get the support and services they need if we divert funding to the Magnet School. In the past, the eight elementary schools seem to get support based on how many parents and administrators advocate for their own school. It has been very divisive. I hope whatever the decisions are that they benefit every students in school in Middletown
CT Yankee January 13, 2014 at 08:36 AM
Concerned citizen funding already gets diverted to Macdonough whether is is needed or not; that's where BOE member Ed McKeon's kids go. And if Macdonough's funds get threatened, the principal does not hesitate to employ shady tactics that are unfair to his colleagues at other schools and he knows he is untouchable by those on Hunting Hill Ave.
Cassandra Day (Editor) January 13, 2014 at 12:18 PM
Thank you everyone for your thoughtful comments and questions. I will be following up on this story shortly. If you have other points you'd like to see addressed, please let me know in the comments.
Salena Bennett-Chatman January 14, 2014 at 07:32 AM
Please come out and address your concerns at the next BOE meeting tonight..... You can express your thought, feelings & concerns in open forum. You can speak to the board for 3min! I definitely think it's worth your time!
Salena Bennett-Chatman January 14, 2014 at 08:44 PM
So according to BOE it will be open to all races! But they haven't address the total number of children this program will enroll! The BOE did discuss that Mac is over on the racial imbalance by 2 kids! Just a follow up if we are so proud opening a magnet school why isn't there more info? Like they know how many children this program can enroll!!
Salena Bennett-Chatman January 15, 2014 at 07:43 AM
Looks like the funding for this is coming out of the Alliance Grant. Which to me its all the same pool of money when you really look at the picture. Plus keep in mind last years debacle w/ the town & BOE over the alliance grant. I would urge BOE to put more details out on the Mac Magnet School, ex: how many children will be able to enroll, what percent of white children is need to off set the racial imbalance- which in turn will leave how many real spots open, what is the long term plan for Mac Magnet school- there is still going to be a certain % of children who qualify but families decide to not move schools. I myself have a ton of questions & it would be nice to get them addressed in an open forum like a Q & A. Cassandra please consider asking follow up questions!!!
Brian Kaskel January 15, 2014 at 11:34 AM
@Salena - I think you are on to something - maybe this would not have gotten as "heated" if the BOE had presented more information up front. For instance - I understand that this will be open to anyone who qualifies and wants to go. Ms. Macri said there will be a broad base on who is deemed to be a TAG student, not just IQ, but how? And is there a cap to how many are allowed? Will it be a lottery system? I am still not sure how this will or won't affect over-crowding. More info - and a Q&A forum would be fantastic. Maybe held at Macdonough so people can see the space first hand. It's better to get this info early than late right?

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