Hartford's ailing public schools could awaken to a promising future today if, as expected, 54-year-old Steven Adamowski is named the new superintendent.
Apparently applying the same criteria he used in hiring former Police Chief Patrick Harnett, Mayor Eddie A. Perez has tapped a man with an established reputation for making tough decisions about reform and getting results.
A Connecticut native and former superintendent in Norwich, Mr. Adamowski attracted national notice as superintendent of the public schools in Cincinnati from 1998 to 2002. There, he initiated a number of reforms that dramatically turned around the district.
Change was not accomplished without difficulty, however, as Mr. Adamowski butted heads with the teachers' union and some school board members.
But, by the end of his tenure in Cincinnati, the number of students scoring at grade level on standardized state tests had doubled and nine schools had climbed out of the state's list of poorly performing schools.
This bodes well for Hartford.
Chief among Mr. Adamowski's reforms was the nation's first attempt at a pay-for-performance system that rewarded teachers based on a thorough evaluation of their teaching skills and their professionalism in dealing with parents and other teachers.
Since leaving Cincinnati, Mr. Adamowski has worked as an assistant professor of education at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, where he trains aspiring superintendents, and as head of the American Institutes for Research, a Washington-based consulting firm that helps districts improve student performance.
Considering Hartford's recurring rank at the bottom of state school districts in the Connecticut Mastery Test results, it looks as if Mr. Perez, in his role as school board chairman, has chosen a proven administrator who shares his sense of urgency about raising expectations and enhancing academic achievement.
The only question may be whether the education unions, politicians and other special interests will allow Mr. Adamowski to perform his magic here.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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