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School System May Create Public Safety Academy

Segarra Sees It As Steppingstone To Hartford Police, Fire Ranks

Vanessa De La Torre

April 10, 2011

The school system is working to develop a public safety academy at the request of the city and Mayor Pedro Segarra, who envisions an early entry point for youngsters who want to join the city's fire and law enforcement ranks.

The school would also help the city in a long-running federal discrimination case involving the police department, city officials said.

Superintendent Steven Adamowski told the board of education last week that he supported creating such an academy by August 2012 in an existing school or city building, although it wasn't part of the school system's initial plans for new secondary schools. The board might vote to authorize the academy next month.

"We're trying to be respectful of the mayor's request," said Adamowski, who has disagreed with Segarra in recent months over issues such as administrators' bonuses.

Some Hartford students already attend the CREC Public Safety Academy in Enfield, a relatively new regional magnet school for grades 6 and up. But Saundra Kee Borges, the city's corporation counsel, said the Enfield school does not directly meet Hartford's needs.

The city has been in decades-old, and at times adversarial, negotiations with plantiffs in the Cintron v. Vaughan case, in which Hartford police were accused of unjustified shootings and intimidation of black and Hispanic residents in the late 1960s. A 1973 consent decree called for, in part, more diversity in the department's hiring, and the plaintiffs have told the city that an academy would be one way to develop homegrown police officers who reflect Hartford's population, Kee Borges said.

While the city has both a police and fire Explorers program, she added, there have been "bumps and bruises" once candidates take the departments' entry-level written exams.

"We want to start from the ground floor, when they get into high school," Kee Borges told the board. "We need to do this here ... not from Enfield."

City Councilman Calixto Torres, who is chairman of the council's public safety committee, also emphasized the Cintron case in speaking in favor of the academy at Tuesday's meeting, and city officials said that Police Chief Daryl Roberts and Fire Chief Edward Casares, Jr. have pledged their support.

Segarra has said he considers the public safety academy a priority.

If the board approves the academy, Adamowski said, the theme would likely focus on all "first responder" careers, including 911 dispatch. Students would enter in seventh or ninth grade and continue through 14th grade obtaining an associate's degree through a partnership with Capital Community College.

The city, which would also be a partner, would need to fund start-up costs of $500,000 to $1.5 million, with the board funding the estimated annual operating costs of $5 million to $7 million, Adamowski said. The school would house roughly 100 students in each grade, and 12th-graders would be offered internships with the police and fire departments.

"There are many questions here and many, many details that would need to be worked out," Adamowski said, such as finding a building.

Board Chairman David MacDonald called the academy a chance "to partner in a profound way with the city and the mayor." Pamela Richmond, a board vice chairwoman, said it was "shameful" to rely on the Enfield magnet school to educate Hartford students, and suggested adding forensic science to the curriculum to draw more students from in and around the city.

"At this point, it's really unacceptable for us to just casually say, 'It's OK for us to continue to hemorrhage and I mean hemorrhage our students to another community,'" Richmond said. "Financially speaking, Hartford needs to retain as many students as we possibly can. The money follows the children."

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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