A week after an eleventh-hour interjection by Mayor Pedro Segarra squashed the board's plan to appoint its next school superintendent, inspiring jeers and cheers from various corners of the city, the board said Tuesday it was ready to take its next step.
On Wednesday, the board plans to promote Assistant Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to the top job.
The vote is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Hartford Public High School media center, the same time and place where the board had intended to appoint Kishimoto as Steven Adamowski's successor last Tuesday.
That ceremony was canceled after Segarra convened a press conference three hours before the vote. He criticized the selection process and asked for a national search. Kishimoto didn't find out until two hours before the meeting that the appointment had been called off.
Kishimoto said she considered the turnabout "a slap in the face." Segarra insisted he was seeking more "transparency" in the search process. Parents shook their heads and many took sides.
In a statement Tuesday, the board said the selection committee, which met Saturday to deliberate Segarra's request for a national search, concluded that it "firmly stands behind the integrity" of the process and its recommended choice of Kishimoto.
Board Chairman David MacDonald later paused when asked whether he expected any more surprises.
"In this town, you never know," said MacDonald, who decided to cancel last week's vote to avoid what he feared would be a "circus" atmosphere. "We're expecting to move forward."
Kishimoto, 41, declined to comment until the board formally appoints her Wednesday.
In October, after considering the issue since the spring, the board approved a succession policy stating that it would launch a national search only if no "qualified" candidate could be found within the school system.
The 13-person selection panel, which included eight of the board's nine members, interviewed Kishimoto and one other internal candidate, Tim Sullivan, a longtime city resident and principal of the Greater Hartford Classical Magnet School.
The committee recommended Kishimoto, a top Adamowski deputy and policymaker who has not been a classroom teacher or school principal during her education career.
Kishimoto spent eight years in higher education, including four years as an assistant dean of student services at Wesleyan University, and then another four years as a consultant for the state Department of Education before joining Hartford's central office in the fall of 2005.
She is known for developing the school choice program, one of Adamowski's key reform initiatives, and redesigning schools into career-oriented academies. Kishimoto oversees secondary schools as assistant superintendent.
Raised in the South Bronx, Kishimoto, who is Latina and a fluent Spanish speaker, now lives in Andover. She holds a doctorate in education administration from Columbia University and a master's degree in public affairs from the University of Connecticut.
In his criticism of the search process, which he labeled as flawed, Segarra noted several times that he believed Kishimoto was "highly credentialed" and "very qualified" to be the city's next schools chief.
But the mayor said he was frustrated that the committee interviewed only two candidates. Segarra also said that Kishimoto was long perceived to be the board's favorite, and there was a perception in the city that the committee's pick was "predetermined."
In its statement, the board said "the superintendent search committee was shielded from all rumors and allegations swirling in the community about the candidates… and there was no undue influence on the process."
"The board is very supportive of the reform," MacDonald said later, "and we think the best way to transition from the current superintendent to a new superintendent is to promote a qualified, internal candidate who understands the reform inside and out."
Adamowski, who has led the school system since 2006, plans to retire this summer.
Segarra said in a brief statement Tuesday that, "I stood up and voiced my concerns and I will continue to do so in the future. I will proactively work with the board of education for the good of all of Hartford's families and children."
"There are no hard feelings," MacDonald said of his relationship with Segarra. "I understand what he did and why he did it."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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