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
Until his replacement is found,
it will be Mr. Perez's turn to take the heat.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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