Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Mark Waxenberg’

Education Committee Urged to Support a Community School Model in Connecticut

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, left, and Senate President Don Williams told the Education Committee that the community schools model focuses existing resources to effectively address community needs.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, left, and Senate President Don Williams told the Education Committee that the community schools model focuses existing resources to effectively address community needs.

The Legislature’s Education Committee today heard from a panel of experts on the need for community schools in Connecticut to help improve student achievement, especially in our neediest communities.

Senate President Don Williams, CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg, AFT Assistant Director of Education Issues Shital Shah, Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission Executive Director Werner Oyanadel, and NAACP Chairperson Dr. Ben Foster all spoke in support of SB 1002 An Act Concerning Community Schools.

Waxenberg said, “Schools today need to be lighthouses of hope for all members of the community. Thriving community school models show progress because they fully address all the needs of the students, parents, and the community as a whole.”

Sen. Williams supports the community school model as a different and vitally important approach to turning around public schools. “It focuses all the programs we consider extras,” including meal programs, healthcare services, special education, and English as a second language, he said.

“This is a great model that will help us build on reforms created last year,” said Sen. Williams.

Shah, a community school expert from Washington, D.C., said Connecticut’s poverty rate is nearly 15%. “We need to support our most vulnerable students with coordinated partnerships and integrated services for the students, parents, and community,” she said.

The community school model has been proven effective in various communities across the country, including in California, Washington, Cincinnati, Syracuse, and Washington, D.C.

Waxenberg said the program draws upon existing resources and funds in the Network and Alliance Schools, and creates a coordinated effort with the schools and state social service supports.

Poll Finds CT Teachers Support Stronger Gun Laws

The senselessness of the Sandy Hook tragedy has brought much needed attention to gun and school safety issues. At a news conference today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CEA officials released the results of a new report showing teachers support tougher gun laws.

Watch excerpts from the news conference below.

Some of the key findings of the poll are:

  • Almost all teachers surveyed (98 percent) favor extending criminal and mental health background checks for all gun purchases.
  • A large majority (88 percent) support banning the sale and possession of military-style semi-automatic assault weapons to everyone except the police and military.
  • Eighty-seven percent of teachers surveyed also support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity magazine clips.
  • A strong majority (85 percent) oppose any proposals allowing teachers to carry guns in schools.
  • Nine out of ten members (92 percent) believe the state should provide funding to local public school districts to modernize facilities to address today’s school safety issues.

For more information on the poll, you can read the news release here.

School Safety Takes Center Stage at Legislature

Educators, first responders, parents, and others who testified before a new legislative task force today urged lawmakers not to make schools fortresses, but to maintain their status as warm and welcoming places of academic learning.

They acknowledged that this is a difficult balancing act in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre last month. In response to that tragedy, the state legislature created the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety. Today the task force’s School Security Subcommittee held its first public hearing.

Cost associated with what’s being called the effort to “harden schools” by making them less penetrable by an assailant appeared to be on everyone’s mind. So, too, was flexibility for local school districts in addressing the complex topic of making schools safe.

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg told the subcommittee that there does not seem to be a one-size-fits-all approach to school safety. “State policymakers need to listen to ideas advanced by students, educators, parents, and others in our communities and also ensure that localities have the resources necessary to implement new practices.”

According to Waxenberg, state legislators need to utilize their capacity to create statute, policy, and new funding as swiftly as possible. In his written testimony, Waxenberg also encouraged lawmakers to examine reallocation of funds. He wrote, “Even though state dollars are limited, your work on this new state task force provides a key opportunity to reassess priorities and determine how state dollars are invested in public education.” Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton told the subcommittee that “safety should not depend on money.”

Watch Waxenberg testify before the task force on the importance of forming School Safety committees in each and every school.

Darryl Alexander, the director of the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) Health and Safety Program, said that AFT has been working on school safety and emergency response for more than 12 years. Alexander said that the AFT has found that state legislation is not enough—it takes the commitment of every tier of society, from local government to school districts to the actual school site, to have genuine school safety that’s dynamic and effective.

“The goal is to get genuine school safety committees at every school,” said Alexander. “That means school district have to prepare a school committee that has representatives of all stakeholders—including teachers, other school staff, local emergency responders, and police. These folks need to examine templates and plans and refine them for their particular school building.”

State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor urged the subcommittee to consider the following.  “How might we fortify the school environment without creating impenetrable fortresses that are not conducive to learning, but nonetheless are safe and secure? Those are critical questions for us,” Pryor said.

Pryor said there is a long list of changes schools can consider such as the following:

  • Improvements to exterior and interior windows that create transparency and enable the visibility of threat to occur in creating such improvements.
  • Door and window improvements that likewise harden the facility and prevent some of the kind of problems that can enter into the facility.
  • Construction of schools, with the enclosure of an exterior courtyard in a way that may be invisible when you look at it casually but provides for a perimeter that may be safer.
  • Construction of corridors within a school that create even more light, even more brightness, even more warmth for students, but also create the kind of view corridor that may be necessary in order to ensure that a school is even more safe.
  • Architectural design elements that influence the walls of a schools.
  • Security infrastructure, the technological infrastructure, camera systems that can be valuable.

What do you think of these kinds of changes to schools? What is being considered at your school? Are you worried about schools becoming fortresses?