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Working Families Party Writes Adamowski

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

October 07, 2009

The Working Families Party has taken aim at school Superintendent Steven Adamowski, saying there's "a growing divide" between him and the city's teachers.

In a letter, they told Adamowski of their frustration following his treatment of two union issues, they said. You can read their press release and letter to Adamowski below. The school district declined to comment, since the party is running candidates for the board of education.


For more information, contact:

Joe Dinkin (860) 523 1699 or (978) 223 5868 (cell), or jdinkin@workingfamiliesparty.org

HARTFORD - Working Families Party leaders in Hartford have written a letter to Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski to speak out against "a growing divide" between the Superintendent and the city's teachers.

In a letter signed by the Working Families Party's elected officials in Hartford, the WFP warns that progress in school reform cannot be sustained if teachers feel they are not being supported and respected by the administration.

Working Families Party members say they felt motivated to write to Adamowski after recent conflicts over "detached duty" for union leadership and more recently the Superintendent's interference on the subject of union dues.

The text of the letter appears below:

September 30, 2009

Superintendent Steven Adamowski

Hartford Public Schools

960 Main Street

8th Floor

Hartford, CT 06103

Dear Superintendent Adamowski,

As elected officials, candidates, and concerned citizens, we are writing to you regarding what we perceive as a growing divide between you and the membership and leadership of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, who represent over a thousand front-line educators and other staff who instruct and care for our city's children on a day-to-day basis.

The perception of conflict between the administration and employees, whether intended or not, is harmful to our children. Teachers and other school employees have an important and challenging job. More than anything else, the quality of education our children receive depends on the quality and dedication of our teachers and other school professionals and support staff. Certainly other factors also matter, such as the system of school choice, the quality of facilities, the involvement of parents. In these areas, our schools have made strides.

We worry, however, that progress cannot be sustained, much less improved, if our teachers - the very people who instruct children on a day-to-day basis - do not feel involved, supported, valued, and respected.

Recent tensions between the Administration and the Hartford Federation of Teachers over issues such as "detached duty" of union leadership and interference on the subject of union dues do not bode well in this area.

On the subject of "detached duty" it is our understanding that Jill Cutler Hodgman instructed elected leaders of the Hartford Federation of Teachers that their detached duty would be treated as unauthorized, unpaid leave effective August 24th of this year.

We do not know exactly what your intention is in pursuing this matter or what objective you are hoping to accomplish. We do know that these actions are being interpreted as aggressive and divisive and that perception is harmful, in our view, to the mission of Hartford Public Schools. In a time of fiscal austerity, we also question the appropriateness of using the resources of city staff or outside legal services to address these matters.

Detached duty, as it is currently practiced, has been a standard practice both within the Hartford Federation of Teachers, and among labor unions more broadly, for decades. Simply put, workers have the right to organize and the right to collectively bargain. As management, you certainly have every right to bargain in good faith to control costs and ensure quality. But raising an issue like this, particularly outside the context of any collective bargaining process, suggests a fundamental challenge to the union's very existence. That is wrong, and it should be reconsidered.

We also want to remind you, the members of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, and the public, that these actions have been initiated by the Administration itself, without approval from the Board of Education, which sets policy for the Hartford Public Schools. The nine members of the Hartford Board of Education are not directly involved in collective bargaining. However, this matter is being raised outside the collective bargaining process. Therefore we believe it is appropriate that the administration's actions in this area be subject to review and approval by the Board.

We sincerely hope that you will reconsider your position on this matter. We further hope that this incident can set us down a better path in the area of labor relations and teacher support and morale. Our children deserve to be instructed by educators who are not only talented and passionate, but also who feel appreciated, respected, and supported.

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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