Hartford schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has the tough balancing act of saving failing schools while keeping successful ones at high performance. She stumbled at it recently.
Her abrupt midyear transfer of a principal from one of the city's top schools to the temporary job of leading a failing school was upsetting to parents at the highly regarded Classical Magnet School.
The surprising move was bound to be questioned. Classical's Principal Timothy Sullivan was Ms. Kishimoto's rival for the job of superintendent last year. Was this a way to marginalize the popular principal?
The superintendent says that's far from the case -- that she's putting the best person in charge of a school in need of immediate intervention. She is supported by the education reform group Achieve Hartford, which says that "with this drastic measure, the district is demonstrating strong accountability for results."
Yet her communications on the transfer earned failing grades.
The superintendent caught parents unaware with the transfer, and a reporter was blocked from a community meeting about it. Wednesday, the school administration admitted that the meeting was subject to freedom of information laws and should have been open to the public. Surely Ms. Kishimoto knew that before she closed the meeting.
She's also left Mr. Sullivan's future somewhat unclear. He is a former Connecticut high school principal of the year. He will replace Burns' principal, Lourdes Soto (whose sudden departure also hasn't been explained), but will serve at Burns only until the end of this school year. Even an educator with Mr. Sullivan's turnaround expertise can't accomplish miracles in that short time.
Classical Magnet, under Mr. Sullivan's leadership, is Hartford's best success story. Will it continue to thrive? It would be a shame to lose ground there.
New permanent principals for both the Classical Magnet and the Latino Studies academy at Burns will be recruited. Then what happens to Mr. Sullivan? No school system can afford to lose such an able educator, especially a system like Hartford's, which has made great strides in recent years but still has a long way to go. The superintendent says he will have a hand in reform work at the central office level. The precise position has not been announced. We hope it is worthy of his talent.
We support her ambitious reform agenda and her efforts to turn around the Burns School. But her treatment of Mr. Sullivan, including the closed meeting, is puzzling.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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