Those at the Hartford Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening learned that Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez is responding to the City’s budget crisis by eliminating one-third of her senior leadership team, continuing the recent trend toward downsizing the administration downtown with the goal of allocating more funds directly to schools.

Dr. Narvaez recalled her description of last year’s budget challenge as “a perfect storm,” given the District’s eight years of flat funding, decreased special funds and rising costs.  “This year, the situation is much worse, because we just have nowhere to go, while also facing a budget gap of approximately $20 million,” she reported.

Facing cuts that can no longer be avoided, Dr. Narvaez said Tuesday evening, she and members of her administration are working to push resources out to schools for fiscal 2017.  “We are doing what is possible to fund their priorities, to fund the work of the strategic plan, and to honor the work of equity to the greatest extent possible,” she said.

The reduction of her senior leadership team will be followed by departmental cuts so that the District will be better able to give back to schools, she said.  “No one will be immune.”

At Tuesday’s Board meeting, early fallout from the budget crisis began to emerge.  Community spokespeople objected to the proposed consolidation of Bulkeley High School’s Upper and Lower Schools under one principal, contending that communications with parents and involvement of the School Governance Council have been inadequate.  Other comments took a different tack, suggesting that having principals at each of the three academies at Hartford Public High School is wasteful.

Here is the excellent Hartford Courant recap of the meeting.

The video of the meeting is online here, with the superintendent’s budget comments at the 1:31:12 mark.

The Bottom Line.  The reform strategies launched under Dr. Adamowski and Mayor Perez beginning almost 10 years ago focused on small, theme-based schools.  That District-wide model is strained, to say the least, by the current financial situation.  Given this, Hartford must be prepared to not only make tough choices in consolidating schools, but even more importantly, to make tough decisions about the ways education is delivered to the children who have the most intense needs.  We must launch a conversation that extends from consolidation into quality, else we risk losing the war for equity before the first battle is over.