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Hartford Superintendent Says Reports Of Gangs At School Inaccurate

STEVEN GOODE and JEFFREY B. COHEN

October 20, 2009

HARTFORD - Superintendent Steven Adamowski, in an e-mail sent to school board members and other officials Friday, said that reports of gang activity in the city schools are "inaccurate."

The superintendent was reacting to a report in The Courant that day quoting an internal police memorandum that said police had identified 138 street gangs with 4,000 members, including 800 under the age of 17.

The memo also said: "In 2009, the most alarming increase in gang activity has been documented within the public middle schools."

In his e-mail, Adamowski said: "We do not wish to imply that there is no gang activity in the city of Hartford involving students. However, the characterization that gang activity is occurring within schools is inaccurate."

Adamowski also said that the "principals of Quirk and Kennelly report no manifestation of gang activity at either school."

Adamowski on Monday declined to take questions on the memo or his e-mailed response.

The internal police memo was written in June in support of a $500,000 grant application made by the city's youth services department which the city later won for a program matching mentors with "at-risk" youth.

In a letter included with the application, Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez said that "Hartford has an alarming number of small gangs for a municipality of its size."

The city's application laid out the need for a mentoring program for children aged 10 to 15.

"Despite new coordinated efforts under [the Hartford Office of Youth Services], there continue to be clear spikes of youth violence in Hartford," the grant application said.

In 2007, "more than half of the city's shootings were committed by youth under the age of 18 with connections to an identified street gang." Things reached a "tipping point" in summer 2008 with gang-related shootings at the West Indian Day Parade, the application said.

"Many of the youth ages 10-13 are recruited right at school and immersed in the gang culture by the time they reach middle and high school," the application said. Adamowski might not have been aware of gang activity in city schools, but people on his staff are, said Enid Rey, the city's director of youth services.

"It's a big organization over there and a variety of people are assigned to make sure that the superintendent stays informed and in the loop," Rey said, adding she wasn't "surprised" by the police memo. She pointed out, though, that the school board sent a letter of support with the grant application. It came from Kelvin Roldan, a state representative and the school system's director of strategic partnerships.

"The fact that we have a letter of support from the district means that someone there knew the information," Rey said

Adamowski's contention that reports of gang activities within schools are "inaccurate" also doesn't jibe with what Paul Stringer saw during his years in Hartford schools, including more than 20 years as an administrator at Bulkeley and Weaver high schools.

"In my 23 years as an administrator, there were gangs in the schools," Stringer said Monday.

And Stringer, who retired as principal of Weaver in July 2008, said that Adamowski was aware of issues Stringer had with gang activity.

"I don't know why he would say that. He heard me at meetings, he listened to my concerns and made sure I had the security officer I needed," Stringer said.

School board member Sharon Patterson-Stallings said Monday that the superintendent's comments clearly contradict the police department memo, but added that even if the grant application exaggerated the issue, it's important to learn the truth.

Visit courant.com/hartfordgangs to view an excerpt from the city's successful grant application for federal funding.

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.
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