• Transparency Matters, Stamford Board Of Education

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    By Dr. Rebecca Hamman

    Since Stamford Superintendent of Schools took office five years ago, the Board of Education (BOE) and central office leadership have had to deal with ongoing Votes of No Confidence (VONC—April 2022 & March 2024) and several community rallies (Mask Choice & No 4x4 H.S. Schedule, 2022; Red Out Against a 6-Period Proposed H.S. Schedule, 2023; Keep Columbus & Veterans Holidays, 2024). What is the big deal?

    Obviously, transparency matters when labor and tax dollars are involved. The families and community, too, need to consider why solidarity votes and rallies are becoming frequent. At the root of this issue, Stamford BOE’s decision-making needs to be seriously questioned. To make a long story short, lack of transparency has acted as a buffer for what the BOE should be managing better—student achievement, policy compliance, climate survey and hiring practices.

    Student Achievement

    Achievement scores have not improved over an 11-year period in the SPS:

    • Only 7 out of 23 schools have shown consistent growth (Smarter Balanced Assessments Consortium/SBAC—Stamford Board of Education Should Think Better and Bolder - CT Examiner).
    • SBAC District ELA (English Language Art, Gr. 3-8)) scores—proficient or higher: 2021-2022 = 40.6; 2022-2023 = 37.8
    • The 2022-2023 Connecticut State Department of Education (CTDE) District Profile & Performance Report/Summative Assessments (out of 100, state target = 75, Gr. 3-8 & 11). SPS performance levels for ELA = 58.5; Mathematics = 54.4; and Science = 56.0
    • The 2022-2023 Connecticut 11 th & 12 th graders Demonstrating Post Secondary Readiness (DPSR)—based on SAT, ACT, AP or IB exams = 44.3. SPS performance level = 37.4. There also seems to be mixed messages coming from central office when the number of SPS students graduating far exceeds the number of students performing at grade level. Why the cover-up?

    Policy Compliance

    With repeating VONC and rallies, why are Policy 1100-Communications with the Public and Policy 2001-Participatory Management, always on the forefront of concern? Policy monitoring—which has not been consistent in the SPS—is essential when policies were found to be out of compliance (Day & Pitney lawsuit & BOE Policy Chair analysis, 2022). Surrounding districts do not have these same compliance or labor issues. What central office actions are causing these internal and stakeholder patterns of outcry? Why is the BOE downplaying these concerns?

    Climate Survey

    The annual district climate survey continues to be skewed and morale is low. Recommendations to include questions about central office leadership have been completely and conveniently left off the survey for three years. Building administrators fill out surveys about themselves and employee comments are not shared or summarized for the BOE. Why is this allowed?

    Hiring Practices

    SPS has had five superintendents during President Heftman’s six terms (Joshua Starr/2005, Winifred Hamilton/2011, Interim James Connelly/2016, Earl Kim/2016 & Tamu Lucero/2019). Why have BOE superintendent hiring practices been inconsistent—search committee & candidate pool; or no search committee & only one candidate? The evidence is in the details—the BOE defines the superintendent’s contract and annual evaluation. The BOE sets these parameters. Knowing this, has the Stamford BOE’s lack of transparency created what SPS is dealing with now—ongoing decline in achievement and low district/community morale? It is apparent that employee and community trust has been deeply broken. When teachers are always on pins and needles or turnover is high, success is not guaranteed for all students.

    In striving to ‘do it our way’ and refusal to listen to teacher/community voice, has the BOE made decisions based purely on politics rather than achievement? Perception is clear… the BOE’s autocratic views seem to portray efficiency has priority over instruction for at least 11 years.

    The SPS BOE should consider doing some group introspection. Transparency matters!

    Dr. Rebecca Hamman currently serves as the Ad Hoc Policy Chair for the Stamford Board of Education. Her comments are her own, and do not represent the official views of the Board of Education or its committees. 

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