The 2019-20 school year isn’t just another school year where we enter those big blue doors with our white/blue button-up shirt and grey dress pants, topping it off with black/brown dress shoes, shaking Mrs. Banks hands before passing Ms.Kellet’s desk. This 2019-20 school year, we’re shaking Mr. Benjamin Cruse’s hands wearing a black polo shirt with grey khakis and black shoes, if it’s more of our style compared to last year’s uniforms. Apart from having a new principal and new uniforms, Achievement First Hartford High School will be having a significant number of new staff. So if you were hoping to greet teachers like Mr.Z, Mrs. Rafala, Ms. Oben, Teacher Reman or Ms. Kolding along with others, then I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t be seeing them after the 2018-19 school year. Adding on to all these new things Mr. Cruz has in place, there will be new classes and a new schedule. I know you’re probably sarcastically asking, “What else is he changing? The name and location too?” Calm down. We’re still Achievement First Hartford High School at 305 Greenfield Street, Hartford, CT. Well, as far as we know. Just kidding. Or am I?
Dissecting all these new changes, asking teachers who were coming back next school year, their opinions on the changes were going to be pointless because no one is going to publicly go against their boss due to the risk of getting fired. So, instead, I decided it would be more effective if I asked the teachers who could talk their minds freely without having to worry about losing their jobs.
Some teachers believe that with all these changes, the biggest problem in school isn’t being acknowledged.Teacher Reman , who had a rough time in the first few quarters but eventually made close relationships with the students was asked to speak on their feelings towards the new classes and just the school in general. “I really am very hesitant to support a theory until I see how it is executed and practiced,” said Teacher Reman in her interview, which is understandable since the school has never experienced this amount of changes all at once in one year. However, they then go on saying, “the systematic structures in the school”, referring to the merit system, that causes “direct harm” to students, prevents the purpose of the new changes in the school and the “magnitude” leadership team and Mr. Cruse wants the school to feel are going to be challenging. For years, the one school policy that never changed from the beginning of AF high has been the merit system. The system where it is so easy to get detention but trying to earn merits takes blood, sweat, and tears. Reman feels as if the classes changes are suitable for the students and new faces can also be great, but that still doesn’t cover up the biggest problem in Achievement First, which is the merit system. Another problem Reman pointed out was with the leadership team not listening to student and teacher voices. Only giving a “blatant “oh we can’t do that,” or this is it,” says Reman, shouldn’t be an acceptable response when teachers who have the same views as students try to advocate for what they believe would be suitable for the school. Student and teacher voices are essential too. Teacher Reman isn’t the only teacher feeling this way. They were just the only one allowed to openly address these concerns.
Moving on to the opinions on new staff, teachers felt as if it wasn’t great for the students to build a relationship with a teacher never to see them again. When interviewing a teacher who prefers to stay anonymous, I asked about the school changes, and they responded that” with so much staff turnover, it’s hard to uphold a positive school culture.” They then pointed out that “it’s beneficial for a student to see familiar faces throughout their high school career.” The school gives students total strangers whom they’ve never seen in their lives before and especially in AF, can rarely fully understand the students’ story because of racial differences. However, students are still forced to obey these strangers, trust that they have their best interest at heart and for mostly juniors, build a relationship with these teachers to the point where we can believe that they can write a letter of recommendation for the colleges of the student’s choice. If every year, the staff is going to change, and in such big numbers as it was this school year, students aren’t going to want to build that student-teacher relationship anymore. This breach of trust can ruin their chances of college acceptances and even just not being able to believe that a person isn’t going to leave their lives right after they’ve built a bond with them.
Achievement First is an excellent school academically, and no one can argue against that because according to U.S. News, we ranked the third best high school in Connecticut. However, the freedom to advocate and feel openly towards something that’s being done in the school is horrible and needs to be changed. Teachers should not feel scared to talk about what they strongly believe is wrong for their students and students should not feel as if their voices don’t matter because their options are always being shut down by blatant excuses. As a student of Achievement First Hartford High, I thank the teachers who are unfortunately leaving by choice, like Teacher Reman or by force, like others. I hope to see you guys at our Senior Signing Days, our graduations, or just on the road doing what normal people do. Your support throughout the year(s) has made a massive impact on our grades and characters and continue to motivate the leaders of tomorrow.