HARTFORD —In a major breakthrough, city teachers and Superintendent Steven Adamowski sat down with a mediator Wednesday to discuss a controversial plan to change the way the school district handles teacher seniority when making layoff decisions.
Just meeting with a mediator was a step forward in the often stormy relationship between the teachers union and the reform-minded superintendent.
Currently, a teacher selected for layoff at one school can "bump" a teacher with less seniority at any one of Hartford's 47 schools.
Adamowski wants to change the rules so that a teacher or administrator selected for layoff could only bump a person with less experience at the same school, a relatively new concept emerging as some states begin experimenting with school reform.
Arizona, for instance, banned seniority-based layoff rules last year. New York education officials also have asked their state legislature to ban using seniority as the only factor in deciding layoffs, while California made a similar request in January.
Adamowski said the school-based seniority rules would protect teacher quality and prevent Hartford's 19 specialty schools and theme academies from losing large numbers of specially trained, experienced teachers.
Teacher union leaders say Adamowski's plan would unfairly bump experienced teachers and potentially lead to favoritism and corruption. They said the move is a ploy to save money by getting rid of highly paid teachers and would violate the teachers' collective bargaining agreement and tenure laws.
Hartford schools are preparing to lay off 49 teachers to meet a $15 million budget gap. Under the current system, a layoff that big would result in as many as 149 teacher "bumps" and mean that two schools — Breakthrough Two and Milner Core Knowledge Elementary School — could lose their entire staffs, Hartford schools spokesman David Medina said.
Adamowski asked the State Board of Education to order the change, but the board has been reluctant to intervene in what it sees as a local dispute and a potential legal quagmire.
However, the board instructed state Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan to help arrange a meeting between the two sides.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at