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Hartford's Departing School Choice Leader Says Sheff Goals Should Be Expanded

Jul 24, 2017

Enid Rey is a nationally recognized figure for her work managing and promoting the school choice program for Hartford Public Schools. It’s a lottery-based system that, among other things, tries to pull in white and Asian students from the suburbs into Hartford. But earlier this month, Rey announced her resignation after about six years at the post.

"I think it's a good time,” she said. “We have developed a system to really help families access quality opportunities in Hartford, and we know that that is changing, but the department is ready to embrace and help with those changes moving forward."

Hartford's efforts to racially integrate its schools -- based on the 20-year-old Sheff vs. O'Neill court case -- have been considered a model for magnet programs across the state and country. But recent problems surfaced when the state reported that some schools were bypassing the lottery and cherry-picking students.

Also, the state and Sheff plaintiffs were back in court earlier this year after year-long negotiations failed. The state wanted to allow more minority students into Hartford magnet schools, but a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who wanted to keep the focus on racial integration.

Rey said the decision to resign was her own, and she wasn't forced out.

"And I have confidence that we will learn, right -- all of us -- from these experiences,” she said.

A lot has changed since Hartford began its desegregation effort -- demographics, housing opportunities, available funds. Rey said there has to be a conversation about this, and the goals of the Sheff decision should be expanded.

"Despite all our best efforts, I would think -- and I know, I've had these discussions intensively with people -- none of us are satisfied with the progress we've made to date,” she said. “Even though it is good progress, there's more work to be done."

She said she's not sure what she'll do next, but she would like a leadership role in education or work with students and families.