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Hartford: Parents, Superintendent Search Committee Meet, But Keep Quiet About Result

Vanessa De La Torre

March 01, 2011

Nearly a week after abruptly canceling its appointment of the next school superintendent, the board of education is keeping its next move a secret for now.

The board's 13-member selection committee met Saturday to discuss Mayor Pedro Segarra's request for a national search and to decide whether to proceed with Christina Kishimoto as its choice. But those members, most of whom sit on the board, have been sworn to confidentiality and are not releasing information.

Board Chairman David MacDonald did not respond to requests Monday seeking comment on when the board will make its formal decision on the search.

In a statement last week, MacDonald said the committee would meet and then present its final recommendation to the board, which would consider that proposal in a closed session.

The board would then have to take a public vote, potentially this week. Eight of the board's nine members are on the selection panel.

"As a board, we have strived to avoid last-minute decision-making due to its disruptive nature," MacDonald said in a Feb. 23 statement. "We believe it sends the wrong message to members of our community."

MacDonald said he believes Segarra was disruptive last Tuesday, when the mayor held a press conference to criticize the selection process and call for a national search three hours before the board's scheduled vote to appoint Kishimoto, an assistant superintendent who oversees secondary schools, as successor to Steven Adamowski.

The board approved a policy in October that mandates an internal search to find the next head of schools. According to the policy, only if no "qualified candidate" is recommended should a "traditional," national search begin.

But Segarra has contended that the selection process has been flawed, an argument he reiterated to parent leaders who met with him privately Friday, according to some people who attended.

Segarra began the meeting by playing an audio clip of his Tuesday press conference explaining his rationale for requesting a national search, the parents said. Among his points: the committee interviewed only two candidates — Kishimoto and Tim Sullivan, principal of Greater Hartford Classical Magnet School.

Shonta Browdy, the parent-teacher organization president of Breakthrough Magnet School and one of those who met with Segarra, described the meeting as a cordial give-and-take but said the mayor had a lot of explaining to do.

Last Tuesday, Browdy was already driving to the board's special meeting when she found out it had been canceled. One parent, she said, had even arrived at the meeting room at Hartford Public High School, where the board had planned a reception for Kishimoto after its vote to appoint her as superintendent, and wondered why no one was there.

"Surprising doesn't even sum it up," Browdy said Monday of the upheaval that seemed to catch both supporters and critics of Kishimoto off-guard.

"It was more — I couldn't believe it. And it wasn't because of his request; it was because of the timing of his request," said Browdy, who said she trusted the selection panel to recommend the best candidate. "I was just frustrated because we've come a long way. Our children are starting to make some progress, and just when we thought things are running smoothly…"

Segarra stressed to the PTO leaders that his request to the board for a national search was just his suggestion, "and either way, if they decide to stand by their recommendation, he would be looking forward to working with Dr. Kishimoto," Browdy said.

Late Monday, Segarra called the parent meeting "very constructive" and said "I was there to listen and answer their questions, which I did."

Kishimoto has declined to comment until the board makes a decision on whether to begin a national search. Through a spokesman, Adamowski has said he will not comment on the search until his successor is appointed.

Adamowski, the city's superintendent since 2006, plans to retire this summer.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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