Hartford Parents Will Meet With Mayor About Superintendent Search
Vanessa De La Torre
February 25, 2011
A citywide meeting scheduled Thursday for parent leaders was called off as they prepared to meet Friday instead with Mayor Pedro Segarra, whose last-minute public criticism of the superintendent search this week torpedoed the planned appointment of Christina Kishimoto.
The heads of parent-teacher organizations are set to gather at city hall for a private meeting with Segarra to exchange concerns about the superintendent search and the ensuing controversy over its upheaval.
Then, on Saturday, the board of education's 13-member selection committee is expected to reconvene to consider Segarra's request for a national search, according to sources.
Board Chairman David MacDonald said in a statement that the committee — composed of eight board members and five people from the schools and community — will make "a final recommendation" to the board. The board will ultimately "vote on how to proceed," MacDonald said.
The search panel had already recommended Kishimoto, an assistant superintendent, and the board was planning to appoint her as Steven Adamowski's successor Tuesday. That plan was canceled when Segarra held a press conference three hours before the board's vote in which he declared the search process flawed and asked for a national search.
The mayor's actions have riled some parent activists while giving a boost to others who didn't support Kishimoto.
As a parent representative on the search committee, Milly Arciniegas, president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council, said she was angry about Segarra's disruption of the process. But as questions swirled Thursday — why did Segarra wait until the eleventh hour to speak his mind? — at least one centered on Arciniegas.
Did she have a "deal" with the board? And did that influence her decision to go with Kishimoto, the board and Adamowski's perceived favorite?
Arciniegas acknowledged the talk and said "there's always going to be suspicion" over the committee's recommendation.
Several months ago, Arciniegas and the parent council presented a proposal to the board to start a parent-led, nonprofit group called Parent University, modeled after a program in Boston intended to empower parents and teach them about child development, school curriculum, advocacy and other skills.
Adamowski expressed support for the idea, and $15,000 in seed money was approved. The money was for a board-hired consultant helping the project, Arciniegas said.
Does Arciniegas want to be executive director of that nonprofit, once it begins operating?
"Yes, I do," she said Thursday. "This is an idea from parents, this is an idea that we wanted in Hartford ... We're working closely with the curriculum department to make this happen."
But she denied that Adamowski's support for the parent initiative had any influence on her committee vote for Kishimoto. The committee formally decided on Kishimoto, a top deputy of Adamowski's reform plans, about two weeks ago.
"It's not a fix. At all. At all. They weren't in there," Arciniegas said, referring to the search committee's deliberations and her critics. "They're going to be nitpicking everything because it wasn't their candidate. We weren't there to please people. We were there to look at the best candidate."
Adamowski has declined to comment on the search process.
School activist Elizabeth Horton Sheff is one of the people who has questioned Arciniegas's vote. Arciniegas, meanwhile, has maintained that Horton Sheff tried to pressure her not to choose Kishimoto — an apparent lobbying attempt for the other internal candidate, Tim Sullivan, principal of Greater Hartford Classical Magnet School.
Horton Sheff denied that she was lobbying "for or against" anyone.
"I asked her who was she supporting," Horton Sheff said Thursday. "She didn't answer any of my questions .... I did ask her, though, was her support for the continuing regime, does that have anything to do with this Parent University that she's trying to start?"
Both Horton Sheff and another vocal parent in the city, Levey Kardulis, also defended Segarra's last-minute press conference on Tuesday afternoon that led to the board canceling its meeting to appoint Kishimoto.
"The mayor did the absolute right thing," said Kardulis, who heads the school custodians, tradesmen and food services workers union. He supported Sullivan's bid to be superintendent "wholeheartedly."
"He is the mayor of the city of Hartford, he can express his views when he's ready to express them," Horton Sheff said. "I don't have a problem with that."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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