Hartford School Board Criticizes Superintendent, Then Approves SAT Testing Contract
Students Will Get In-Class SAT Tests As Planned
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
September 25, 2012
HARTFORD —— The school board approved a $100,000 contract Tuesday night to continue free SAT testing for city students, but not before unleashing a verbal pummeling that left Superintendent Christina Kishimoto shell-shocked, near tears and likely concerned about her job.
With the board's 8-0 vote, a reversal after last week's rejection, Hartford seniors will now take the college entrance exam during the school day on Oct. 17. The renewed one-year agreement with the College Board also includes districtwide SAT testing for city juniors in the spring.
About 25 students from Hartford Public High School's Law and Government Academy cheered the approval and shook hands with Kishimoto after the special meeting was adjourned in the school's media center.
Minutes earlier, the teenagers also witnessed the public rupture of the board's relationship with the superintendent.
"I think we've reached the point of no return," board member Richard Wareing said during a lengthy censure of Kishimoto that drew gasps from observers. "We can't continue with this dysfunctional dynamic because now it has hurt the kids...
"The superintendent needs to ask herself whether she wishes to continue to treat this board as an unpleasant necessity or as a true partner in the work of reform. And we must ask ourselves whether she is the right person with whom to entrust the education of more than 20,000 kids."
The board initially voted down the College Board contract last week after several members said they did not have enough information to justify the expense. They argued that it was another example of poor communication from Kishimoto in recent months.
In particular, the board wanted to know how the mandatory SAT testing fits into Kishimoto's big-picture plans, and how educators will work with students to improve their scores. In 2011-12, Hartford's first systemwide administration of the SAT, more than 1,000 city juniors and seniors took the exam. Scores were extremely low.
But board members said Tuesday that they did not know the rejection of the contract would leave many seniors scrambling to sign up by Monday for the Oct. 6 national testing date to improve junior-year scores for college applications. One Hartford High student was shown weeping on local TV news over the stress of finding registration money or a fee waiver.
Wareing, a lawyer and one of five people that Mayor Pedro Segarra appointed to the nine-member board in February, said the controversy and others preceding it are "entirely the product of the administration's failure and refusal to provide sufficient information in a timely fashion so we can make intelligent decisions on behalf of our students."
"It's clear to me that the superintendent does not want to work with this board in an appropriate way," Wareing said.
After the meeting, Kishimoto had words with board Chairman Matthew Poland and then summoned her staffers for a sudden meeting in the school's library.
"Just inappropriate," Kishimoto said when asked about Wareing's remarks. "That's all I'm going to say."
Poland said the board wants to work with Kishimoto but indicated that their relationship is at a make-or-break point. "I do believe that it takes commitment on both sides, and when we get that, I think we'll be able to go forward. But we're struggling with whether or not that's possible."
"The record has shown that we've gone through this process multiple times, not getting the information or getting it late, or being told it was due in the morning," Poland said.
But, he added, "The real issue here is what we did to the children. We could have avoided the emotional distress that they all faced last week and it was in the hands of the administration to be able to do that."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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