In the aftermath of Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s State of the City address and a comprehensive three-part investigative series published by the Hartford Courant examining the city’s decades-long response to the Sheff decision on integration and quality education, Achieve Hartford! is preparing for its second annual fundraising event and intensifying efforts to encourage sustainable education progress in the city. “Compare the mayor’s role in addressing the fiscal crisis, promoting regionalization, union renegotiations, the fight against blight, or key quality of life issues like resolving a flawed 311 system,” the organization said this month. “In each of these areas as well as several others, Mayor Bronin and his leadership team came together publicly and with a clear mandate directed from the top across departments to solve problems, making the combined whole greater than the individual roles and parts. Now is a time where city leaders are called to step up as education leaders.”
In promoting their second annual “Inspire Hartford” event slated for May 11, organizers are urging attendees to “see innovation in action” and hear “uplifting stories of success.” They add: “learn how innovative ideas and new technology are training the next generation of bright dreamers and big thinkers. Get educated—and be inspired.”
The keynote speaker will be Charles Best, who leads DonorsChoose.org, the pioneering crowdfunding nonprofit where anyone can help a classroom in need. At DonorsChoose.org, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Best launched the platform in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. Today, more than two thirds of U.S. public schools have at least one teacher who has created a project request on DonorsChoose.org, and 1.8 million people have donated $360 million to classroom projects reaching 16 million students.
Achieve Hartford!, which was formed in 2008, is an independent nonprofit organization founded by business and community leaders “with the belief that strong schools lead to a strong city,” noting that “Mayors, Boards of Education and Superintendents change over time.”
“We are doing everything we can to lay out a blueprint for systemic change in Hartford that can help guide collective efforts to improve schools, and we look forward to working with the mayor, the next superintendent, and so many others critical to putting education reform in Hartford back on track,” the organization said earlier this month, while noting that Bronin indicated “strengthening our neighborhood schools must be the single most important priority for our new Superintendent, and I pledge to be a full partner.”
Last week, the search for a new Superintendent for the city was narrowed to two candidates: Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Assistant Superintendent for Operations Tim Sullivan.
Achieve Hartford warned that “If Hartford leaders, stakeholders, and families put the responsibility for fixing Hartford schools solely on the new superintendent, we should not expect either finalist to be successful. The responsibility must be shared amongst the Board of Education, City Hall, the corporate community, philanthropy, nonprofit partners, and even our robust institutions of higher education.”
The organizations stresses that it works “toward improving education in our city by innovating ways to address some of our toughest issues, activating the community to take ownership of problem solving, and holding our leaders and educators accountable for advancing student achievement.”
Summarizing recent activities, the organization’s website says succinctly, “there is a lot of conversation but, ultimately, not much action.”
“Developing great schools require not only that the school system operate with excellence, but also our entire community,” the organization’s website points out. “It takes a village to educate a child, and it is our job to help stakeholders play their unique set of roles for school improvement now, and long into the future.”
The May 11 fundraising event will take place at the Hartford Hilton.