Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Connecticut Seeks to Enforce Racial Balance in Greenwich Schools

The town of Greenwich, Connecticut, may conjure up images of a mostly wealthy and white population. But roughly one-third of students attending the Greenwich Public Schools are not white, and about 17 percent are Hispanic.

The concentration of Latino and other minority students at two elementary schools in Greenwich prompted the state to warn the school system that it was in violation of a law prohibiting schools from being racially imbalanced.

So far, school officials have looked at remedies including school choice and magnet programs, the Greenwich Post reported. It isn’t clear whether there is any deadline for a solution. The law requires that a school’s minority population cannot differ from the district average for comparable schools by more than 25 percent.

The New York Times reported that in 2012, the Hamilton Avenue school had a student body that was 47 percent Hispanic and 32 percent white. The New Lebanon school had an enrollment that was 59 percent Hispanic and 31 percent white. Meanwhile, other schools in the district were warned that not enough minorities were enrolled.

Indeed, there are significant achievement gaps within the district. But the Times reported that Superintendent William McKersie asked, “Are you applying an old understanding of how to get educational opportunity that could undermine what we are trying to do here?”

The article noted that the achievement gap has narrowed in recent years but that McKersie added, “We are not satisfied with the quality of education we are providing, particular to our low-income Latino and African-American students…”

Adriana Ospina, a Hispanic school board member, held a bilingual forum with parents to discuss the matter. Some Hispanic parents aren’t eager to have their children switch schools. Greenwich Time reported that one mother of a Hamilton student, Carminia Morales, expressed anxiety about integrating with wealthier schools.

“”For many families, there’s a comfort in sending their children to a school in their community with people like them,” she said. “My child would not feel comfortable in a school like North Street. Just by the simple fact that there are not uniforms, it becomes very obvious who has money and who doesn’t. It’s a privilege to be in a school where my kids can be proud of their identity and don’t have to worry about being considered less because of their background.”

The district clearly is taking the matter very seriously, and has posted a lot of information about the matter on its web site.