By Kate Cebik

Sitting in the atrium space of Wilbur Cross High School on Tuesday, March 10th, listening to person after person stand up and say what Common Ground High School has meant to them–as a parent, a student, an alum, a community partner, a teacher–was a remarkably moving experience.

Common Ground English teacher Keith Lambert listens to testimony at the hearing. Photo by Mel Morales.

Common Ground English teacher Keith Lambert listens to testimony at the hearing. Photo by Mel Morales.

Rarely do we have an opportunity to stop and take stock, to reflect on our growth in the past five years. It is an experience every school should have, coming together as a community, to speak and be heard. Our official public hearing for Common Ground’s charter renewal gave us this chance.

We put out the call for our community to stand up for Common Ground, and the call was answered in spades. Over 80 people took the time to write letters of support to the CT Department of Education on behalf of Common Ground High School.

Many of these people attended the packed hearing earlier this month to share their testimony in person. In fact, the committee kindly granted us additional time over the two hours allotted to allow for all those who wanted to speak.

Thank you to everyone who wrote, attended, and supported Common Ground through this process. We are looking forward to the positive news of our renewal in June.

Below, I’ve included just a few samples of the testimony our community shared.

Hope Dymond

Freshman at Common Ground High School

I’m a freshman, so I have been a student at Common Ground for only 6 months. However, I can safely say that these 6 months have really made an impact on my life. Every morning, I wake up and actually look forward to school. That’s unheard of…

In my 6 months at this school, I was able to take part in so many amazing projects and activities… I joined a team of students to raise and process meat chickens, learning about the biology of these animals and giving back to the community when they were sold. Our whole school bussed over to the New Haven green to advocate charter school awareness. I was able to sell some of my own art to local people at a school-hosted fair…I got an opportunity to …cross country ski in New Hampshire.

And that was only outside the classroom. In my classes we learned about everything from the Constitution (and how it affects the lives of the people around me) to the passé compose in French, to the Green Revolution, to why corn is in everything we eat. I got up and defended Shakespeare’s Cassio from prosecution, made a video on food-animal cruelty with interviews from fellow students, wrote a bill with a group of fellow Civics students and brought it through a long, mock legislative process, and lots more.

Babz Rawls Ivy

Common Ground High School Parent, Board Member, Editor-in-Chief of Inner City News, New Haven

Oliver Barton

One of the Founders of Common Ground , Greater New Haven community member

Common Ground High School’s academic record speaks for itself–double-digit increases in proficiency on state assessments for cohorts of students, an average 1.8 years of reading growth per year, a graduation rate higher than the state average and even higher for special education and ELL students, and a college acceptance rate of 93 to 97 percent in each of the past five years. These results earned Common Ground the “School of Distinction” rating from the State Department of Education and the “Beating the Odds” recognition by Newsweek…The deep success with students and families would not be possible, however, if the school rested on these laurels. In the renewal application you will find evidence of the school recognizing on-going challenges and of systematic reflection. The commitment to continual improvement and an impeccable record of accountability and ethical practice are in the fabric of the institution, from the board of directors through the staff at all levels.

Jonathon H. Gillette

Dean, Lesley University Graduate School of Education

Common Ground has been an innovator in a number of areas: it has provided a high-quality college bound program that integrates experiential learning in significant ways; it has develop a whole generation of environmental leaders in communities of color; it has created an oasis of safety in a New Haven community that continues to struggle with issues of youth violence; it has become a provider of fresh and healthy food for the most isolated projects in the city; it has provided its students with broad opportunities for social and leadership development through its connections with the community ecology projects on their site; it has created a welcome space for all of the community around it – transforming it from a rundown dead end where trash was routinely dumped, to a state of the art campus that develops deep connections between citizens and the earth.