In the coming months, Hartford Public Schools will face two major decisions that will have a huge impact on student learning and the direction of HPS: (1) choosing a new permanent superintendent (reflecting on the past revolving door) and (2) finalizing a new budget (during one of the worst budget crises the city has faced … ever). Is there a vision to guide these and other decisions board members need to make?
Another Year, Another Search for HPS Superintendent
Hartford has had a bunch of superintendents over the past 25 years (so many that only the scholars can name them). Today, every Hartford child, parent, and educator knows the importance of stability, whether at breakfast at home or by a conversation in the classroom or principal’s office.
City leaders like Mayor Bronin have publicly emphasized the need to find a replacement superintendent who is either already local or with a clear long-term commitment to HPS.
At this point, six candidates reportedly are under serious consideration for the position. Local candidates include HPS Chief Operating Officer José Colón-Rivas, former Classical Magnet School Principal and CREC’s current assistant superintendent for Operations Tim Sullivan, and Acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez (in alpha order), who all have deep city roots.
Each of the half-dozen candidates now seeking to be the next permanent superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools will be interviewed by the first week of February. And, according to Search Committee Co-Chair John Motley, the time frame for final selection will depend on whether the process results in a clear choice … or a need for further deliberations. In any case, it appears that two finalist candidates ultimately will emerge from the interviews for further public vetting this winter, or in the early spring. Here is the Courant coverage of the process.
Having a clear process, we posit, is not enough. Having a clear plan for what this leader must do is required. And this plan must move away from the persistent and troubling neglect of Hartford’s North End. Absent a plan being presented by existing HPS leadership, the onus appears to rest on the current candidates for HPS superintendent to articulate their visions for the school district. We look forward to helping our leaders articulate a vision.
A Search of a Different Kind: Budget Priorities (and Cuts) for the 2017-18 School Year
Coming into the new year, we all know that hard budget decisions will have to made. Hartford’s uniqueness, in teetering on the edge of insolvency, also warrants close consideration, as discussed in the Courant today.
The Fiscal 2018 budget process is just beginning, but a projected $20 million gap clearly will entail extremely tough decisions at all levels – and will require robust participation from all segments of the school community, Acting Superintendent Torres-Rodriguez reported Tuesday (at the 55:08 mark of this video). A special public meeting on the budget is slated for January 23rd at Bulkeley High School, she announced, and four follow-up community meetings are planned.
Concerns about priorities and possible cuts are causing anxiety across the city. This worry was only magnified by recent news reports of anywhere from 60 to 200 teacher cuts as a possible outcome of the budget process. Layoffs will be a measure of last resort, the acting superintendent said, referring to media coverage of recent “illustrations” discussing the possibilities.
Echoing Dr. Torres, Board Member Craig Stallings said his Finance Committee merely received a presentation on layoff possibilities last week, but is just beginning the process. In addition to the District’s enhanced outreach regarding the budget, the Finance Committee of the Board will be more intensively involved in the development of the budget this year and looks to hear from every School Governance Council and every union, Committee Chair Stallings emphasized.
The Bottom Line
The City and Board budget woes need answers – plans, not just processes – that will significantly change the way money is spent. If Hartford continues to spend money and choose leaders the same way, all we will do is continue to come up short.
As the process for making those two decisions moves forward, we believe that the next superintendent must have a strong relationship to the North Hartford community, as school consolidation will happen there. In addition, the next superintendent will have to WANT to do this (not try and avoid it or do it begrudgingly) and will have to WANT to stay here in Hartford to see his/her vision and plan through to completion.