The Truth About East Hartford High School

A response to the statements made by Betsy DeVos regarding the climate of East Hartford High School

Dear Secretary DeVos,

We are five juniors at East Hartford High School that feel that public schools have positively
impacted our lives. We would like to give our testimony of how our experiences in public schools have
helped shape who we are today. We would also like to discuss the numerous opportunities, programs, and
benefits students at East Hartford High School receive.

My name is Michael Lachnicht. Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have pursued the
goal of getting accepted into M.I.T. Before seeing firsthand how EHHS actually ran, I was concerned that
this seemingly-ordinary high school may not be able to accommodate me in my venture to attend such a
prestigious institution. I was wrong. From the freshman honors team to the extensive selection of AP
courses, there is a plethora of opportunity for those who seek it. So far, I have taken six AP classes taught
by teachers that have been crucial to my success. It was with the guidance of these teachers that I was able
to score in the 99th percentile nationwide on the SAT.
While the college level courses are great, it is the teachers at EHHS that make them phenomenal.
Being the cynic I am, I previously believed that teachers taught for the sole purpose of earning a paycheck
with little regard for their students’ successes. Again, I was wrong. Not only have numerous teachers
shown a genuine interest in my academic growth, but a great deal have also genuinely cared for me as a
person. I am remarkably thankful to have established such relationships with my teachers, and I am even
more thankful for their guidance in helping me become the man I am today. The passion, dedication, and
character of these teachers at East Hartford High School cannot be taught, nor can the bonds between
teachers and students be replaced.

My name is Lauren Crooks. As a student who attended magnet schools from kindergarten to
eighth grade, I have experienced firsthand the incongruity between the magnet and public school systems.
I always thought that magnet schools were preeminent. However, on my first day of freshmen year at
EHHS, I found myself amongst 20 peers in a classroom who all shared the same determination and
abilities. My peers, most coming from a public school background, were not superior nor inferior to me in
an academic or behavioral sense. We were equals.
It was that moment when I realized where the line between magnet and public schools was drawn.
Magnet schools do not have more advanced technology, more extravagant field trips, superior teachers, or
more rigorous curricula. They have more modern and newly built buildings, but the exterior of a school is
not indicative of what happens on the interior. It is in no way my intention to depreciate or devalue
magnet schools; however, there is something to be said about the equality I felt in the classroom that day.
In eighth grade, I was given the decision to either attend another magnet school or venture out into the
public school system. In the three years that I have attended EHHS, I have not once doubted that I made
the right decision. I truly believe the East Hartford Public School District has provided me with the same
education and resources that any other magnet or public school could.
My name is Thomas Maragnano, and I have attended public schools in East Hartford since
kindergarten. Even in elementary school, it was amazing how much my teachers cared about their
students’ successes in the classroom. They would make sure we knew everything we needed in order to
be successful both throughout the current year as well as at the beginning of the next year. These teachers
told us that the purpose of elementary school was to prepare us for middle school, and they were excellent
in serving this role. When I got to middle school, the only thing I struggled with was finding my way
around the new building. My teachers had prepared me very well so that it was an easy adjustment.
When I got to high school, again I had a very easy transition. My teachers all worked very hard to
make sure that I understood everything they taught. They were also willing to stay after school to help me
whenever I needed additional help. The large amount of support they gave made high school much easier
for me. This gave me the time to participate in the many extracurriculars offered at EHHS including a
game club, the pit in the school musical, and even a leadership group that works to improve our
community. They have taught me how to be a valuable member of my community and have given me the
skills that have helped to make me successful in my job. Because of this, I feel I am just as capable as
those who attend private school.

My name is Tasnim Islam, and I was raised in a family in which finances have always been a
concern. My experiences as a student in East Hartford have shown me that EHHS is a school in which an
individual’s financial constraints will not hurt their chances of gaining a quality education. Throughout
my sophomore and junior year, I have taken $540 worth of AP exams (each exam is priced at $90), and
because I attend EHHS, I only had to pay $30. If it was not for the generosity of my school, I, as well as
numerous other students, would not be able to afford to take these exams. EHHS has partnered with the
College Board to offer students multiple free SAT sessions to exempt them from paying a $45 fee per test.
EHHS also provides its students with free SAT prep classes that have successfully helped other students
and I increase our standardized test scores. Without this necessary financial aid, EHHS and many of our
state’s schools would not be able to provide such low-cost programs that are crucial for helping their
students earn a quality education.
Furthermore, it has always been a dream of mine to study abroad, and because of EHHS, I will
have the opportunity to do so. Due to my school’s connection with the non-profit organization, Wishbone,
I will be able to study abroad in Columbia for two weeks this upcoming summer, virtually free of charge.
I believe this trip will be the best experience of my high school career and am grateful to East Hartford
High School for allowing me to have this opportunity.

My name is Jadah Daley. From preschool to fifth grade, I attended a private school. When the
time came for me to enter the sixth grade, despite considering several magnet schools, my parents chose
for me to enter the East Hartford public school system based on one thing: opportunities. My parents
rendered this verdict when they became aware of the various extracurricular activities offered in East
Hartford at the middle and high school levels. Throughout high school, I have participated in several
sports and clubs such as soccer and Future Teacher’s Club. My teachers and guidance counselors have
been instrumental in assisting me with time management between extracurriculars and academics, which
include five AP classes in my junior year. The faculty at East Hartford High School serves as a motivator
for heavily involved students, and they also encourage uninvolved students to join a club or tryout for a
sport. Here at EHHS, students are even able to create their own clubs if they feel that there is not yet a
club that fits their interests.
Because of my experiences at EHHS, I am able to explore various options for my future. Through
the Future Teacher’s Club, I am able to visit an elementary school once a month and see firsthand the
responsibilities of being an educator. In addition, through East Hartford High, I was recommended for the
Junior Achievement Entrepreneurial Program where I created a real business with students from across
Connecticut. There are countless resources equipped to assist students in making crucial life decisions,
and there is no deficit in the amount of faculty members who are invested in the futures of the students
who make up East Hartford High School.

In the years since the person mentioned in your speech graduated, our school has transformed,
developed, and prospered. The goal of EHHS is to “build excellence together by making a difference”
which is done everyday through the combined efforts of staff and students. We will gladly give you a tour
of our wonderful school to confirm everything we have stated and are more than willing to introduce you
to others who share our viewpoints.

With Hornet Pride,

Michael Lachnicht

Lauren Crooks

Thomas Maragnano

Tasnim Islam

Jadah Daley