May 9, 2007
By ROBERT A. FRAHM, Courant Staff Writer
Hartford Superintendent of Schools Steven J. Adamowski outlined details Tuesday of a proposed budget that puts more money directly into schools, including an intensive new effort focused on high school freshmen.
At a meeting of parents prior to a budget hearing, Adamowski said he intends to reduce the size of the school system's central administration, look for ways to end expensive building leases and bolster efforts to prepare high school students for college.
The proposed $272 million budget, a 4.1 percent increase over this year's budget, includes a recommendation for 17 new teaching jobs for freshman classes at the city's three large high schools. It is part of Adamowski's plan to reverse a pattern that sees two out of three students drop out of school and leaves many of the remaining students unprepared for college or work.
"I was shocked to find ... that no Hartford students last year had been admitted to our state universities under regular admissions criteria," he said.
"We cannot tolerate a system where only one in three children has a future by virtue of the schools they attend."
Adamowski, who took over the 22,000-student system last fall, also has proposed cutting 20 central office jobs and shifting about $12 million in federal Title I money directly to school principals to use as they see fit.
Under the current budget, 48.5 percent of the money goes directly to schools, with the rest spent on busing, curriculum development and other administrative costs, Adamowski said. The proposed budget would increase direct spending on schools to 50.7 percent. The goal is to increase that figure to 65 percent, he said.
"We're looking for a central office that is smaller, that is serving schools rather than ... [running] schools," he said.
Adamowski also said the school system has enough capacity in its buildings to consider ending some expensive leases, such as for the central office, adult education buildings and the Pathways to Technology Magnet School.
Pathways is housed in a rented building in Windsor, but officials are looking for another temporary site while the city tries to find a permanent site for the school, Adamowski said.
Adamowski's plans for improving academic performance, including the focus on ninth-graders, drew praise from Hyacinth Yennie, a parent and community activist who was one of only a half-dozen speakers at Tuesday's budget hearing.
"I think we share the same vision," said Yennie, who told Adamowski that before his arrival the school system had gone through a series of efforts that seemed like lip-service. "I can feel the real passion you have," she said.
Sam Saylor, president of the PTO president's counsel, said he was concerned about a proposed reduction in school social workers in the budget but pleased that Adamowski called for a center to improve parent involvement. Saylor also said he is encouraged that Adamowski plans to recommend the creation of local school councils including parents, teachers and members of the community to make decisions about the operations of individual schools.
David Ionno, a parent and executive secretary of Hartford Public High School's Parent Teacher Student organization, said the focus of the budget should be education and not expenses such as medical and social services. "We cannot be one-stop shopping for all the needs of the public. ... I would hope funding for those needs is not part of the overall education budget," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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