December 17, 2006
By HELEN UBINAS, Courant Staff Writer
It wasn't just that Hartford Schools Superintendent Steven Adamowski couldn't make the time to attend the adult education graduation the other night. Hey, the new guy's got a lot on his plate; that military school isn't going to build itself.
No, it was the way he blew the ceremony off in an errant e-mail meant for spokesperson Terry D'Italia but sent instead to a long list of reporters. Oops. Gotta watch that "reply to all" button.
I have not been invited to this `graduation' and have another commitment on my schedule.
Did you catch those quotation marks around the word "graduation" - as if somehow it was less than real?
Maybe Adamowski needed to be there to get it, but trust me when I tell you that the adult ed graduation held at Bulkeley High School was plenty real to the young mother who promised the newborn she held in her lap that mommy would graduate.
And to the father and daughter who walked on stage together to receive their diplomas.
And to the young woman who's taking the piece of paper that proved elusive for so long and heading to Iraq.
In fact, it was one of the most real things to ever happen to 52-year-old Barbara Jean Turner, one of the oldest graduates to receive her diploma Thursday night.
I spent a little time talking to Turner earlier that day at her house on Sheldon Street while she ironed outfits for the big night for her grandchildren - a red velvet dress for 8-year-old Selena, a pretty flowered blouse for "6 going on 36" Sharnice.
Turner tried going back to school a few times, she told me. But each time, something kept her from finishing. And then, a year ago, she finally let her mind go somewhere she had tried never to let it stray.
When she was a young girl, she said, she was sexually abused. "It always happened after school."
It was a powerful moment, making the connection between her abuse and her inability to finish her education, Turner said.
"To beat this, I knew I had to go back to school and finish this time," she said.
It wasn't easy - there were still four of her grandkids to raise. But her education became a family affair. Fifteen-year-old Quron helped her with math, 13-year-old Sylmerris helped with spelling.
"You go Mema!" 10-year-old Sequin yelled as Turner took the stage to address her fellow graduates.
Turner said a few words - OK, more than a few, but who could blame her? It'd been a long road to that stage and she was going to take advantage of every minute.
And then she did something she stopped doing about the same time she left school.
She stood in front of the crowd, closed her eyes tight and sang, "Jesus Loves Me." When she opened them, all 133 classmates were giving her a standing ovation.
It was an inspiring moment I planned to tell Adamowski all about when I called his office Friday. But he wouldn't take my call.
The superintendent was busy planning two very important workshops with the school board, D'Italia said. Plus he's still absorbing all aspects of the school system, so he's not ready to go public with his thoughts.
Looks to me like he already did.
"I wouldn't read too much into the e-mail," said D'Italia, adding that Adamowski's a bit technologically challenged.
I hear they offer some pretty good computer courses at adult ed. Adamowski should check them out.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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