On Wednesday night, there was no shortage of adulation for the Hartford superintendent during a retirement salute at the Bushnell that drew about 140 people - administrators, school board members, parents, major donors, education reform leaders in the state, Mayor Pedro Segarra and former Mayor and board of education Chairman Eddie A. Perez.
Perez ran the city and pushed to hire Adamowski in 2006.
Adamowski, 60, was the public school superintendent in Cincinnati from 1998 to 2002, where he gained a reputation for rankling the teachers' union while driving an aggressive overhaul of low-performing schools.
That remained true in Hartford.
"We never celebrate the small and the large good things that happen in our city enough," Perez said in rare public remarks since his conviction last June on corruption charges. He is free pending an appeal.
Speaking for 14 minutes, Perez often drew laughs from the crowd - "I thought it was a roast," he joked - and said Adamowski leaves a legacy that includes a school choice system of smaller, specialized academies, neighborhood schools and magnet programs.
Perez and other speakers said there was evidence of success: a three-year trend of rising test scores. Results for this year's state standardized exams are expected to be released next month.
When Adamowski took over as superintendent, the city's graduation rate was 29 percent. Most students dropped out in the ninth grade, and many were prone to incarceration, said Pamela Richmond, a board vice chairwoman. Academic performance was "abysmal."
"We were literally in a state of emergency," Richmond said.
The graduation rate is now 52 percent, Richmond and others pointed out.
Before the ceremony, Adamowski said the Hartford job was his last as a superintendent but he wanted to remain in Connecticut and "try to do something useful and supportive of school reform."
On Wednesday, hours after signing a three-year contract with the board, Adamowski's successor and current assistant superintendent of secondary schools, Christina Kishimoto, playfully needled her boss by saying one change under her leadership will be "a significant budget savings on black coffee."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at