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Hartford Schools Chief Needs To Open His Ears

Helen Ubiñas

April 26, 2009

Let's see: Kill Hartford adult education.


Well, at least Hartford's School Superintendent Steven Adamowski can say he's meeting his goals. The city's credit diploma program has been on the guy's hit list since he took the top post nearly three years ago.

Remember that wayward e-mail he sent just three months into his tenure about the adult ed commencement ceremony?

"I have not been invited to this 'graduation' and have another commitment on my schedule."

It was clear even then that he had no use for the program. He not only blew off the ceremony, his quotation marks around the term graduation showed just how little he thought of it.

He pretty much said it was all but dead when we spoke in November, and he told me that the program was seriously flawed. Then, for the first time in as long as people can remember, the January diplomas for graduates weren't signed by the schools superintendent; the mayor had to step in. And now, it's a done deal, with the program set to be eliminated in June.

All the while, Adamowski and others have stuck to the same arguments. The program was watered down, at best. Too many teenagers were dropping out of high school and using the program as a thin substitute. We're going to have a new, better program.

Oh, and our job is to educate kids, not adults.

A better person might see this as a lost cause, but, well, I just don't get it.

Instead of eliminating the program, why not fix it? How does anyone in an urban school system not get that educating the parents of many of these students is key to educating kids?

We talk about parents in Hartford needing to be better role models for their children, but doing something like this makes that harder. When these kids think about dropping out, who do you think they'll look to? Their parents.

So, what do you want the kids to see: a dropout or someone striving for their education? Someone like Barbara Turner, who years after dropping out of high school finally got her diploma in 2006 at the age of 52. Her grandchildren, whom she raises, looked like they'd burst with pride at that ceremony — the very one the superintendent didn't attend.

True, there's a GED program, but that's an option that scares off lots of people. And the External Diploma Program, which credits life experience, is equally limiting.

In an urban school system, this is a cut that just doesn't make sense. But what makes even less sense is the superintendent's inflexibility on this issue.

"We stand by our decision," an e-mail sent to me said.

When Adamowski came to Hartford, one of the early criticisms was that he wasn't a great listener. The teachers were concerned; the parents were afraid their schools would be remade without having a say in how that would happen.

And so it's come to this. An administration with its mind made up. And teachers and students still so desperate to be heard that they're planning on attending the next board meeting in hopes of being heard.

Only problem is, this is a one-sided conversation.

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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