Hartford's Renzulli Academy Parents Protest Decision to Replace Acting Director

Outside a Hartford Board of Education workshop Wednesday a small group of protesters tried to send a loud message to Hartford Public School’s superintendent: reinstate Freddie DeJesus at the Renzulli Gifted and Talented Academy and make him the school’s leader.

“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,” said Hartford community activity Cornell Lewis.

DeJesus was a longtime teacher and leader at Renzulli, but recently the school district opted not to appoint him the school’s vice principal, choosing someone from outside instead. Parents said they respected DeJesus and want his leadership back.

“He’s well-respected. He’s the heart of the school. And we want somebody who looks like us in that position,” Renzulli parent Latia Maldonado said. “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.”

The protestors weren’t allowed to speak to Superintendent Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, so they instead stood silently in Wednesday’s school board meeting, then took their grievances to the school district’s spokesperson.

One parent said to have a Latino principal that is a privilege that should not be taken away. Others said DeJesus was like a father figure, and removing him hurts the students.

The district’s spokesperson said the superintendent has taken the concerns of the families seriously, but the matter is settled, and Dejesus will not be the school’s leader.

“They’re passionate and they’re committed to their school. And the district is committed to this program and growing this program and to those families who we view as partners in this process,” said spokesperson John Fergus. “There was a process that was conducted and it selected a candidate and that is the decision,” he added.

The protestors told NBC Connecticut they have gathered around 300 petition signatures in support of Freddie Dejesus, and while the district said the issue is decided, those protestors said they’re willing to take further action to keep the fight alive.

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