Author Archives: Woody

Violet Jiménez Sims Elected to New Britain Board of Education

Alma Exley Scholars are having a big impact — in the classroom and beyond.

Congratulations to Violet Sims, who has been elected to the New Britain Board of Education on the Democratic ticket. Taking her seat on the board will be the culmination of years of civic engagement in New Britain, where she has been a tireless advocate for better schools.

Ms. Sims came to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of six. After graduating from E.C. Goodwin Technical High School in New Britain, she earned three degrees from the University of Connecticut, a B.A. in Theater Studies, an M.A. in Higher Education Administration, and a Sixth-Year degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Bilingual and Multicultural Education. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership at the University of Bridgeport.

After teaching at New Britain High School for 10 years and Manchester High School for three,  she took a position this year as assistant principal at the Montessori Magnet School in Hartford.

She and her husband, D’Andre Sims, a mathematics teacher at Manchester High School, have two daughters in the New Britain Schools.

I’m grateful for her involvement in the Alma Exley Scholarship Program as a member of the Selection Committee. Since being chosen as an Alma Exley Scholar in 2008, she has been a faithful attendee at our annual receptions, honoring and congratulating her newest colleagues.

Deeply involved in the New Britain community, she is a member of the Executive Board of the local branch of the NAACP. She is president of the Diaspora Multicultural Society, Inc., which is New Britain’s first multicultural-themed social club. And she was the first president and a founding member of Altrusa International of Greater Hartford, a service organization with the purpose of empowering women and improving literacy.

Looking ahead to her service on the Board of Education, Ms. Sims said, “I hope to advocate for funding, and the responsible use of funds, so that New Britain families and students receive the best education and services that can be offered by the school district, regardless of neighborhood, home language, or ability.”

As a former student in the New Britain Public Schools, a former educator in the district, and the parent of children who attend the schools, Ms. Sims brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her position on the Board of Education. I’m sure she will be a strong advocate for the children of New Britain and for the betterment of the entire community.

Please join me in congratulating her at

– Woody Exley

Teachers Of Color Vs. The Achievement Gap

Over the past 22 years, our program has been committed to the idea that students of color benefit from having teachers with whom they can identify. During this period, studies have emerged that have supported this idea.

The most recent to come to my attention was an academic study published by the Institute of Labor Economics. WSHU-FM, a public radio station in Southern Connecticut, recently aired a report on the study.

The study, by professors at American University, University of California-Davis, and Johns Hopkins University, examined the long-term impact of teachers of color on their demographic counterparts.

The professors acknowledged findings that black primary-school students with a same-race teacher perform better on standardized tests, but they went further. They concluded that a black male student with a black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grade is much less likely to drop out of high school, particularly among the most economically disadvantaged black males.

In addition, the study found, exposure to at least one black teacher in grades 3-5 also increases the likelihood that low-income students of both sexes will aspire to attend a four-year college.

This makes it all the more important to recruit and retain more teachers of color in Connecticut’s schools. Read the WSHU-FM report here.

  • Woody Exley

Discrimination Plays A Role In The Lack of Black Teachers  

New research indicates that racial discrimination is factor in the nation’s shortage of black teachers.

A Harvard Educational Review study looked at hiring patterns in a large public school district. In 2012, black and white teachers who applied for jobs in the unidentified district were equally qualified, the researchers found. But white teachers received a disproportionate number of job offers.

Only six percent of black job applicants received offers, whereas 77 percent of white applicants received offers. Black teachers were more likely to receive job offers from schools with black principals. And black teachers were more likely to by hired by schools with high rates of low-income and minority students.

The district hired Hispanic and Asian-American applicants at rates proportional to the number of applicants. The imbalance was unique to black teachers.

The study author and researcher, Diana D’Amico, said the school district was shocked by the results of the study. The district prided itself on its efforts to recruit minority applicants. Administrators had attributed the lack of black teachers to a paucity of black applicants.

The Huffington Post reported on the results of this study on April 12, 2017.