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Superintendent Goes Gracefully

February 16, 2006
Courant Editorial

Robert Henry's resignation as Hartford's superintendent of schools, effective at the end of the school year, is regrettable. He has been good for the children of Hartford.

As the district struggles to navigate the challenging demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, his has been a steady hand on the tiller. Mayor Eddie Perez, who is also school board chairman and accepted Mr. Henry's resignation, agrees that the superintendent has been a stabilizing force.

The pace of progress under Mr. Henry's tenure has been slower than some of his critics liked. Some say he wasn't a strong leader. But his job is one of the toughest in the state. Many before him have tried and failed. Still, there has been improvement in the system for which he deserves proper credit.

Graduation rates are up. The dropout rate, though still very troubling, is headed in the right direction. A greater number of Hartford students have been admitted to two- and four-year colleges.

Under Mr. Henry's guidance there has been dramatic improvement in some of the district's lowest-performing schools. Two elementary schools earned federal "blue ribbon" status. Every school in the district has been accredited.

Arguably, Mr. Henry's greatest contribution since he took over the school system of about 24,000 students in October 2002 has been the establishment of local magnet schools, mini-learning environments that have, however incrementally, helped raise district test scores and expectations.

Mr. Henry has been operating on shaky ground. Last August, a split school board gave him a tepid evaluation and a one-year extension on his contract, which expires in June. He and the mayor, although outwardly cordial and collaborative, have differences. Chief among them is Mr. Henry's disagreement with the mayor's initiative to give more students access to private schools. As Mr. Henry pointed out, his job is to focus on public schools.

The mayor has made his education priorities clear. He will conduct a national search for Mr. Henry's replacement. He will seek "a superintendent with the vision and skill necessary to raise expectations, standards and achievements throughout the school system." That's a tall order that, in time, Mr. Henry might have satisfied.

When Mr. Henry's contract was renewed last year, Mr. Perez said the heat was on the superintendent to produce results. There is little doubt that Mr. Henry gave it his best.

Until his replacement is found, it will be Mr. Perez's turn to take the heat.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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