by Jasmine Brianna Ellison
Upon appointing a vice president at the Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy, it seemed only right that Freddie DeJesus would be promoted to the position. Longtime teacher and leader at Renzulli, was acting as the school leader without compensation for the past two years.
However, the school district decided not to appoint him the school’s vice principal, instead choosing a white applicant with no connections to the school. Latia Maldonado, said parents of the students respect DeJesus and would like his leadership back. She stated, “He’s well-respected. He’s the heart of the school. And we want somebody who looks like us in that position. We want Mr. DeJesus reinstated to his position and we want more teachers of color in the Hartford school system, people who look like us and can represent us.”
Hartford community activist Cornell Lewis stated, “The issue is a man of color who speaks Spanish who has been at the school for a while is being replaced by a white person. A lot of people are upset about it because there’s no reason to have that man replaced.” One parent told NBC Connecticut, to have a Latino principal is a privilege that should not be taken away.
DeJesus supporters weren’t able to speak to Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez directly concerning the matter, so instead they took their words to paper, sending a letter expressing their concerns to Torres-Rodriguez directly.
The letter from the PTO to Torres-Rodriguez stated “Since earning his certification, he has been running the school; presiding over [Parent and Placement Team] meetings; attending all PTO/[School Governance Council] meetings; facilitating staff meetings, working to increase enrollment; required by the district to attend administrative meetings — all on a teacher’s salary.”
Torres-Rodriguez responded to the PTO, although she did not address why DeJesus was not selected for the assistant principal position, she did point out that the chief of schools and the executive director of leadership completed the final interviews of the applicants.
Concerned parents also attended a Hartford Board of Education workshop where they expressed their grievances to the school district’s spokesperson.
Regardless of community push back, the district had declared an irreversible decision. However, protestors still managed to gain three hundred petition signatures in support of Dejesus. The commitment made to this man is evidence that teachers can make a difference in the community.
Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy is a casualty in the war on injustice. Students have lost immense amounts of faith in their school system, superiors and teachers.
DeJesus told Hartford Courant he couldn’t say much about the situation but he is concerned that students will distracted by it.
“I love being here. My job is to make sure we do what’s best for the kids. They always come first,” DeJesus said. “I want to continue to be academic and to be as normal as possible … I’m trying to stay out of it as much as possible.”
It is pertinent to build a presence of minority faces in places of power and prominence. The responsibility lies with the elders of society to satisfy the undisputable urgency to deliver security in the urban communities, especially in concern to education.
1. Hartford's Renzulli Academy Parents Protest Decision to Replace Acting Director. NBC Connecticut. November 2018.