Winnowed down from two dozen aspirants, Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Capital Region Education Council (CREC) Assistant Superintendent for Operations Tim Sullivan are the two final candidates to fly the District plane into the fiscal 2018 budget storm. It’s going to take an extraordinary captain to seize control of the HPS cockpit at this time and land in a good place. But, as we see it, it shouldn’t be all on their shoulders.
With upcoming community forums featuring the two candidates, the question on everyone’s minds is: Which one of these two candidates can do a better job?
The question on our mind, however, is can either of them do the job, given the seemingly intractable challenges at hand?
Answering that question depends on your understanding of what is needed in Hartford. There is no question that the two finalists have incredibly impressive track records – but so did the past two superintendents. Yet most would agree that previous leaders did not fully address the long-simmering and hence subtle challenges that only recently have turned into crises. Alas, what’s needed in Hartford goes beyond a 12-point job description.
What’s needed includes at least these four capabilities and many more:
- The ability to leverage all of Hartford’s assets to both mitigate the effects of multi-generational poverty and inspire students to reach their potential in a way not fully supported before;
- The ability to build an effective team of complementary skill sets – one of which has to be more effectively engaging the community;
- The ability to structure a partnership with CREC that would allow for more HPS resources and attention to be focused on neighborhood schools;
- The ability to take industry-themed high schools and turn them into legitimate career pathways; and
- So much more that will be part of a blueprint we will offer education leaders shortly.
Amidst all the challenges and opportunities, one thing is clear: We can no longer expect one person to solve it, plan it, and then execute all of it. That narrowed field of expectation is a recipe for disaster, and we know this because it is a road we already have traveled.
If Hartford leaders, stakeholders, and families put the responsibility for fixing Hartford schools solely on the new superintendent, we should not expect either finalist to be successful. The responsibility must be shared amongst the Board of Education, City Hall, the corporate community, philanthropy, nonprofit partners, and even our robust institutions of higher education. In the coming weeks, we look forward to hosting a candidate forum to explore more on this topic of shared responsibility and encourage other planning forums to do so as well.