Hartford News

Hartford Union High School Survey Results

Posted as a courtesy for The Hartford Conservative

Craig Westfall

1. HUHS has two full time police officers and for “hall monitors/student assistants at a cost of approx $400K per year.What are your general thoughts on this.  How much “security” should we have. Is this the proper amount of supervision for high school aged kids?
We need to make sure we are diligent in continuing to keep our school safe.  As a member of the Safety and Security team, I will make sure we collaborate with the HPD and security consultants.  We will need to annually evaluate the current practice and make improvements where needed.
2. In the recent past I have been a critic of the schools lack of diversity when presenting political issues such as white privilege. The English department has become politicized with the selection of reading material, liberal groups have been invited in to the school to sign kids up to vote, etc etc etc.  What are your thoughts.
When discussing an issue, both sides should be presented when possible.
3. The board recently ended our merit pay program because the union doesn’t like merit pay. Increasingly it has become clear that the adults in the room have forgot that their job is to teach kids. Thoughts about making the school about kids again?
I would like to investigate this issue more before commenting.

Adam Majerus

1. HUHS has two full time police officers and four “hall monitors/student assistants at a cost of approx $400K per year.What are your general thoughts on this. How much “security” should we have. Is this the proper amount of supervision for high school aged kids?
As a board member at Joint 1, I was very involved with our safety and security decisions made at around the same time as the HS. A little history, I sat in a meeting at the city offices with HUHS representatives, Steve Volkert, Chief Groves and Hartford Jt. 1 before either school district made a final decision on police officers and student assistants. I feel it was the Joint 1 and city and police’s intention to brainstorm and discuss what level of service people thought they needed and what support the city/police could provide. Dr. Weninger informed the group at that meeting the HS board had already made their decision on how to address safety and security and made it clear they were moving forward in executing their plan without Joint 1’s needs or perspective. Not the approach I would have taken, but if that’s what the majority of the HS board felt was necessary at the time, at least they were decisive. Now that Hartford Union’s safety and security plan has been in place for the better part of a school year, I think the only way to know whether it is the right amount of security is to review the number and type of incidents before and after. I am unsure if the student resource officers or the student assistants provide formal incident reports monthly or quarterly to administration or the board. If is not happening, that should be implemented immediately because I don’t know how you’d truly measure effectiveness without statistics and information. My personal feel is that two officers does seem like too many and I need to gather more information on the student assistants. Just like any school program, cost has to be considered in concert with efficiency and effectiveness. This applies for managing all administration, instructional and support staffing levels. Needs have to be identified, duties need to be well thought out, supervision needs to occur, performance needs to be evaluated and changes should be made if information suggests doing so. The district can’t simply maintain status quo in any area due to lack of management or leadership. I’m not saying there is a lack of management, rather I’m just stressing the importance of monitoring and evaluation.
2. In the recent past I have been a critic of the schools lack of diversity when presenting political issues such as white privilege. The English department has become politicized with the selection of reading material, liberal groups have been invited in to the school to sign kids up to vote, etc etc etc. What are your thoughts.
I am aware of the points brought up in this area. My response to this topic is that curriculum needs to be balanced and political leanings should be minimized as best as possible. The best way to achieve that is to teach based on facts and best educational practices. If subject area leaders feel it is important or necessary to instruct using a certain book or materials or set of ideas, that flexibility is encouraged. However, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for those same subject area leaders and administration to work together to identify any biases in that material that leans toward one political direction. It should be those same leaders ensuring there is balance, and the opposite viewpoints should be presented in a similar manner. If balance can’t be achieved, meaning there is no material available or no instructors or outside groups able or willing to present the counterpoint, then the original item or material shouldn’t be approved. I think there is value in having high school students being introduced to new and different ideas, but it is the district’s responsibility to provide both sides to an argument.
3. The board recently ended our merit pay program because the union doesn’t like merit pay. Increasingly it has become clear that the adults in the room have forgot that their job is to teach kids. Thoughts about making the school about kids again?
Salaries and benefits are by far the largest part of a school district’s budget. I am fully aware of the role unions play in supporting and protecting its membership, having served on Hartford Jt. 1’s negotiations board committee all the way back before Act 10. A district should consistently engage with all its staff to find ways to provide acceptable salary and benefit plans. Having said that, from the board’s and administration’s perspective, there should definitely be a comprehensive system of evaluating teacher effectiveness, monitoring performance and rewarding those employees that exceed expectations. If I am elected, I will review the compensation packages for all employee groups. It would be my intention to 1) ensure starting teachers are paid a competitive wage compared to other neighboring districts, 2) ask administration to reinstate a performance based pay system and 3) ask administration to review benefits provided and the participation eligibility levels to ensure what is being offered is sustainable considering potential changes in school funding with the change in state leadership. I believe providing benefits that are valuable to employees is important to attracting and retaining quality staff, but spending on any school initiative must be sustainable and effective in achieving the district’s goals.
SUMMARY – A school board’s responsibility is to frame every decision in its impact to effectively engage and educate all students. It is their duty to hire administrators and staff that can lead, inspire, communicate, mentor and perform at a high level. It is also the board’s duty to maintain solid and stable district finances and well-maintained facilities, to set effective operating policies and to proudly represent the district. In all three of the questions asked, the board should establish a goal and/or policy, administration should implement procedures and plans to achieve the board’s goal and report results back to the board. If the results are deemed unacceptable, then the board must consider that information and set new goals, expectations or policy and administration carries out that directive.

Tina Pridemore

1. HUHS has two full time police officers and four “hall monitors/student assistants at a cost of approx $400K per year.What are your general thoughts on this. How much “security” should we have. Is this the proper amount of supervision for high school aged kids?

I believe SAFETY is priority #1 for our students and everyone else working in the district. I am concerned about the $400K cost but it seems about right if we are putting an additional 6 people on the payroll. I do have concerns about security as you enter the building unless there are metal detectors in use. I was able to enter an after school event without anyone checking my small backpack. It would be easy to carry a gun or another weapon into the building if backpacks or bags are not checked. Communication with the Hartford Police Department is critical in order to maintain a list of past or present students that have demonstrated a capability and a reason to commit a shooting in the school. All threats must be taken seriously and documented. I fully support professional educators and staffs that are ready, willing and able to conceal carry with proper training in a school shooting situations and coordinated with the Hartford Police Department.

2. In the recent past I have been a critic of the schools lack of diversity when presenting political issues such as white privilege. The English department has become politicized with the selection of reading material, liberal groups have been invited in to the school to sign kids up to vote, etc etc etc. What are your thoughts.

Our students are in school primarily to learn the BASICS. I am against teaching “white privilege” all together. It has no place in an English class. I would like to know what the lesson plan is and how much time is actually wasted on this subject. Are we trying to make our students feel guilty because of who their parents and ancestors are? Our students should be learning proper grammar, punctuation and writing so they can communicate effectively in the real world and enter into the next phase of their lives. If political issues must be discuss in a classroom, both sides of an issue must be presented and offered for debate. I would recommend that the merit pay program be reinstated.

3. The board recently ended our merit pay program because the union doesn’t like merit pay. Increasingly it has become clear that the adults in the room have forgot that their job is to teach kids. Thoughts about making the school about kids again?

Merit pay which rewards the best teachers has proven to be an effective tool the district can use to archive excellence within their teaching staff. The union is there to protect the weakest among them. Its only priority is to advocate for salaries and benefits. Education effectiveness is not their concern.

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