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Outgoing Superintendent Leaves A Legacy Of Hope

Steven J. Adamowski shook things up, made real progress

Hartford Courant Editorial

July 09, 2011

It's tempting to say that when Steven J. Adamowski arrived five years ago, the Hartford public schools had nowhere to go but up. That's not quite right. The city school system could have stayed in the nearly dysfunctional state in which it had wallowed for years, could have continued to fail most of the youngsters it purported to serve.

But that is not what Mr. Adamowski had in mind. He had the refreshing idea that city youngsters could learn and succeed, in the right environment, and so he set about creating that environment. He closed underperforming schools, a radical step in Hartford, and replaced them with themed "schools of choice." He trotted several sacred cows to the slaughterhouse, including the huge central office that was eating up more than half of the school budget. Now 75 percent of the money goes to the schools.

Backed by the board and the mayor this may be the one area thus far where the new "strong mayor" system benefitted Hartford Mr. Adamowski raised the bar, with such steps as longer school days and tougher graduation requirements. As is obvious to anyone in the city, students now wear uniforms to school.

In sum, Mr. Adamowski made remarkable progress. Five of the new schools have won national recognition. The graduation rate has increased from an abysmal 29 percent to 52 percent, a number much improved but still much too low. But for the first time in decades, there is hope that Hartford schools will again provide the education the city's children need.

So it was no surprise that Mr. Adamowski was picked this week to be the "special master" to help turn around the struggling Windham schools. That's what he does.

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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