LETTER: Where I Stand On New Lebanon

Letter-to-the-EditorNEW

To the Editor:

I get about a dozen calls a week from parents, seniors, citizens, even Board of Education members past or present, about my thoughts regarding Greenwich’s public schools. As a professional librarian, youth advocate and community activist, I have been fortunate to live and work in schools that have literally gone from failure to soaring success in under five years. At one inner city school I had the good fortune of starting a library (with a $5,000 grant from Laura Bush);  we went from an appalling 20% ELA score to 60% then 72% then 89%. Nearly 90% of my students were free or reduced lunch eligible.

My opinion about New Lebanon has been what folks are mostly asking me about. Here it is:

Build it. BUT…

not because it will be a school that will attract or be “magnetic” to kids from the eastern, much less central side of town. Build it because Greenwich, like all major cities in Fairfield County,  (Stamford, Fairfield, Danbury, Trumbull), will become increasingly more Hispanic over the next 10-20 years and beyond. This is an opportunity for Greenwich to be on the vanguard of fostering a cutting edge bilingual and high performing diverse public education system.

Build it because the community of Byram deserves it; the many institutions in Byram will rally around and ensure that this Hispanic-centric school will be great. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church; the Byram Library; the soon-to-be-burgeoning Byram Restaurant District and its many dynamic downtown business leaders, will not leave this school an island onto itself. In fact, I predict that New Lebanon will become the only “hot” and legitimate magnet school in Greenwich.

Build it, but in the meantime, do this also.

1)      Stop calling the International School of Dundee a public magnet school. It is not. Children eligible for free lunch are virtually shut out. African Americans are glaringly and totally shut out. This school is an elite, gated, non-transparent, publically funded, public tax dollar funded outlier that exists as a “public school” only by virtue of housing segregation and family status discrimination.

2)      My opinion is: the State of CT should give Greenwich the funds to build a “new” New Lebanon school while the Greenwich Public School—simultaneously shows its commitment to fairly allowing access to educational opportunity and parity by supporting a fair, desegregated and accessible International School of Dundee, free of non-resident and tuition paying children of teachers who are non-residents of Greenwich.

3)      The International School of Dundee needs to open up 44 seats to African American students; 100 slots for Hispanic children and 10 slots to children of two or more races.

4)      Oh, wait, the Greenwich Public School system will be practically racially balanced now!

Then, Greenwich Public School administrators and Board of Education members, do this next.

Visit and study success.

Leave your offices and go and see the following: Hart Magnet School in Stamford, Columbus Magnet School in Norwalk, the Western Center Academy of International Studies in Danbury, Frenchtown School in Trumbull.

Do this NOW, not later.

5) Finally, inform the top performing teachers of Riverside, North Street and Old Greenwich of their exciting new teaching posts (come fall of 2017) at Hamilton Avenue, Julian Curtiss and the “new” New Lebanon. Inform the principals of these same schools of this wonderful news as well.

The solution to the achievement gap in Greenwich lies in breaking fears, believing in parental school choice and in the limitless potential of every child.

The good news is: educational research in the field of positive psychology, coupled with early literacy intervention research in the field of Library and Information Science, has demonstrated, it is less about more money and more about creative educators.

Daring leaders need only apply.

Jodi Weisz, MLIS

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