Local Education Fund To Track Progress Of Hartford Schools
By JODIE MOZDZER | Courant Staff Writer
September 25, 2008
As Hartford's school system settles into a major transformation this year, a new nonprofit entity created to oversee the changes is also getting under way.
The Local Education Fund, an independent group of corporate and community members, hired its first executive director this month and plans to have its first meeting at the end of October.
Alexander Betancourt, 54, of the Bronx, N.Y., started Sept. 3 and will lead the organization as it begins to track the long-term progress of Hartford schools. Betancourt has recently held administrative roles in the East Harlem Tutorial Program and Aspira of New York, two educational youth organizations, and in the United Way of New York City.
Betancourt, whose salary was not made public, said that after spending most of his career in New York City, he wanted to come to a smaller city where reform was "extremely doable." The challenges include changing "a school culture that has been mired in less-than-positive outcomes" and "getting the system to address the needs of the whole child," he said.
School Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski, who started in late 2006, urged the business community to start an independent organization to help push sweeping changes he implemented. The Hartford Local Education Fund is modeled after a similar program in Boston.
Adamowski's changes involve closing under-performing schools; creating new, more autonomous schools; and giving parents a choice in which schools their children attend.
Betancourt called the organization a friendly critic of the schools.
"We're going to take some positions to put the truth where it is. It's all with good intent," he said. "At the heart of this is building schools that are going to build the future economies of Hartford."
Nadine Francis West, a member of the group's board of directors and a vice president for finance and administration at the MetroHartford Alliance, said there were almost 200 candidates for the job. She said Betancourt was chosen because he was well-rounded.
"[Betancourt] has a history of reform," West said. "He's a listener, but he's also a doer. He's not afraid to take risks. We wanted to make sure we had someone who could sit on the floor with a kid and also sit at a table in a board room."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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