Christina Kishimoto City must come together for Hartford's new school superintendent
The Hartford Courant
March 04, 2011
The Hartford school board Wednesday took the best of options in formally appointing Christina Kishimoto, the search committee's choice, as the district's next superintendent.
Ms. Kishimoto succeeds Steven Adamowski, who is retiring this summer after five years as superintendent. She was seen by a majority of the board as most likely to carry out reforms started under Mr. Adamowski that have borne fruit in better test scores, lower dropout rates and higher graduation percentages.
The new superintendent must do even more to close the achievement gap between Hartford students and their suburban counterparts. And she must pay immediate attention to the physical deterioration of some of the city's schools.
Even those school board members who voted not to appoint Ms. Kishimoto and those who wanted the superintendent search reopened say they are impressed by her resume and abilities. She has been an assistant superintendent for secondary education in the Adamowski school administration.
Her demonstrated ability argues for going ahead with her appointment now rather than reopening the flawed search process — as Mayor Pedro Segarra requested last month. Starting all over again would have been costly and time-consuming, with no guarantee that a new search would yield a better result. Even Mr. Segarra said he believes Ms. Kishimoto to be well qualified.
She will begin this very difficult job, however, under inauspicious circumstances:
The Strikes Against Her
•She was appointed on a school board vote of 6 to 2 with one abstention — denying her the boost of unanimous support. Mr. Segarra did not attend the formal appointment and announcement Wednesday, with all the negative symbolism that absence implies.
•One of the board members who voted against her, Luis Rodriguez-Davila, warned Ms. Kishimoto after the board vote that "you come into a situation where the city is divided."
•A letter signed by most of Hartford's delegation at the General Assembly blasted the selection process that resulted in her appointment.
Indeed, the process was flawed, being tipped in favor of Ms. Kishimoto. Exhibit A was the inappropriate lobbying on her behalf by school district spokesman David Medina — a former Courant editorial writer — who tried to set up interviews for her with influential Hartford people. He did not do the same for the other superintendent candidate, Tim Sullivan, principal of the Hartford Classical Magnet School.
Officials won't say whether Mr. Medina's politicking was ordered from above or was done on his own initiative. Someone needs to be held accountable.
•Finally, the ground could shift under Ms. Kishimoto after the mayoral election in November if the winner makes appointments to the school board who do not support her.
Rocky Road Ahead
"When you're superintendent," Mr. Adamowski said Wednesday, "you have to have a very tough skin." We hope Ms. Kishimoto does. The trail ahead for her is more than a bit daunting.
Hartford residents must put aside racial politics and long-standing political squabbles and give the new superintendent a chance. Nothing is more important for the city's future than the schools succeeding in their mission.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at