This could be the final straw (a discarded syringe: I presume it contains heroin) that breaks the proverbial camel’s back of our children’s attendance at New Haven’s Inter District, Magnet – John C. Daniels (JCD) School. I found it in the school’s Baldwin Street parking lot on the third day of the new school year, Sept. 3.
Less than two weeks later, I found four empty glassine bags (again, presumably heroin) on the sidewalk on the other side of the school (Ward Street) further reinforcing the image and conditions of the undesirability of this school.
But that’s not all. An unidentified man was found dead (again presumably a heroin-related overdose) on the fire exit steps of the school on August 1. And over the summer, the school grounds, on the shady side of the building, were the site of more dirty syringes and illicit drug paraphernalia. Our school entrance alcoves were used by neighborhood interlopers, interchangeably, as urinals or sleeping quarters. The overgrown length of the back section of the school parking lot was uncovered as an extensive campground used by the homeless. All of the above are not new. This has gone on for years in the Hill neighborhood before we brought our children here. Always tolerated or ignored, always overwhelming and deflating.
And yet, still, there’s more.
The recently published statewide tests scores (Smarter Balanced Assessment) for Grade 3 published in this publication on Sept. 9, piled on evidence beyond any doubt that reading and math scores of the JCD School is the polar opposite of the Racebrook School, our home district elementary school. A dismal, heartbreaking less than one-third of Grade 3 JCD students barely met grade level in reading and math, while Racebrook School has more than two thirds of its third graders at grade level or higher.
All this drives family and friends, more alarmed and scared, to call for an end to our participation in the John C. Daniels School of New Haven.
But I resist. And today I continue to resist the “easy” move to retreat to the perceived safety and high statewide test scores of a highly rated suburban school district like the Orange Public Schools that would betray our previous (and now perhaps it’s only me, so, my) goal and commitment to enroll the children in a unique, highly-desirable, dual-language program not offered in our hometown school district.
In the best interest of the children, ours and the other estimated 533 JCD students (and their families and the professional JCD educational staff), I believe there is a more effective and financially viable path to achieve two urgent and socially desirable goals that converge at the intersection of Ward Street and Congress Avenue each school day. I call it WACO.
At WACO, the JCD shares a “crosswalk” with the APT Foundation, 50 feet away. APT is one of the oldest and largest methadone clinics in the New Haven area. This site serves daily about 800 to 1,800+ patients beckoning a pool of many of our society’s most desperate and vulnerable due to drug addiction and mental health issues. In their shadow lurk constant and irresistible offers that lead to relapse, and sometimes, death. Some or perhaps many have no interest nor desire for sobriety. They merely fulfill pedestrian court orders and make a showing.
The two urgent societal goals are: (1) getting the current opioid/heroin crisis under control to bring the overdose deaths to zero, and (2) getting sufficient public funding for the New Haven Public Schools within months, not years.
Accordingly, my recommendation is a drastic, laser-focused, and deliberate shift in city strategy and policy with regard to the opioid/heroin crisis to get to zero overdose deaths (see: www.whoischuu.com) and saving money (the taxes for education, instead of drug interdiction, and police search and arrest expenditures) by declaring a sanctuary city-like, temporary legal “drug-tolerant” status regarding all illicit drugs within the City of New Haven, or maybe just in select neighborhoods like the Hill.
This initiative and 180 degree-change in attitude and policy will shift the focus and energies of medical professionals to bring honesty and openness to solve this public health crisis without more political platitudes or legal restrictions. Safe heroin/opioid consumption/injection clinics would be openly supported in places like WACO in the Hill neighborhood that would eliminate carelessly discarded syringes into streets. Empty glassine bags would not litter school grounds. And there will be no more deaths on our school steps or elsewhere.
Most important, all New Haven schools like the JCD will have money and staff to quickly reverse low test scores and have fully funded-programs designed to enhance accelerated learning that are currently squandered in the politically promiscuous purchases of doses of Narcan and local police counter-narcotics operations that, for more than 40 years, have been proven to be wasteful and counter-productive.
Sylvester L. Salcedo lives in Orange. He is a retired attorney and retired U.S. Navy veteran of the War on Drugs. He is the PTO president of the John C. Daniels School in New Haven.