June 19, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 5:45 PM GMT
Who is that in the picture in the lower left hand corner? Why, it's Eddie Perez! Funny he should be pictured in an election year in yet another taxpayer-financed publication.
Terry D'Italia, public relations officer for the Hartford Public Schools, wants us to send him story ideas for The Hartford Educator, a 16-page tabloid sponsored by Hartford Public Schools.
So, Terry, here goes.
For those not familiar with the quaint little paper - half in English, half in Spanish - it is yet another public relations vehicle from Eddie Perez's office that gives the school board chair yet another opportunity to weave his narrative on the taxpayer dime. Here is the .pdf.
The Spring 2007 issue (first edition of the second volume) features stories about the construction progress on Hartford Public High School, summer school, a new credit union at Bulkeley High School and parents who strengthen the school system, like Perez-supporter Sam Saylor.
Color photos grace the cover, and sharp black and white photos on the inside. Of course, one color image shows Mayor Eddie Perez giving the state champion girls high school basketball team from Bulkeley free tickets to the Big East Women's tournament back in March.
The Educator is a professionally produced, slick development tool that I can see fundraiser Kelvin Roldan carting to meetings with high level donors, in hopes that they will read the favorable stories and say, geez, Hartford has neat stuff going on, we should give them money.
But the stories are so tilted towards the Perez camp that anyone with half a brain would know they don't represent reality. For example, the story on HPHS construction ignores the problems that have plagued the project.
Or the cover feature "Summer School in the City" focuses on the mandatory kindergarten through grade three programs while neglecting mention of the fiasco about canceled programs for middle schools.
If I was a parent who saw this and relied on it for information, like the school address directory on page seven invites us to, I would feel seriously misled.
Two adult reporters, Rich Fahey and Meaghan Casey, who were probably just taking marching orders, wrote nine of the 11 stories. The other two were by Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski and - who else - Eddie Perez.
One wonders if they Fahey and Casey are city employees, or if they did the reporting from Boston, as the staff box notes that the Grant Communications Consulting Group from Boston produced the paper.
No doubt that Dr. Adamowski boldly adventures towards refashioning urban public education, and he deserves a chance to make his ideas work, especially in light of the recent study from Trinity College which demonstrated that the Sheff v. O'Neill settlement measures have failed to make any progress in creating equity.
Unfortunately, such promotional vehicles detract from the quality of leadership Adamowski brings to the school system, because they don't present an honest, balanced vision of events.
We all mistakes - even those in leadership - just tell us when you make them, and be up front about where you've slipped up. If you don't, how can we trust you?
The most striking thing about The Hartford Educator is that the school system has invested significant tax money into it, whereas none of the high schools have legitimate student newspapers worthy of the title. The spending priorities make clear that the emphasis is on image, not substance, in the Perez administration.
So, Mr. D'Italia, my suggestion for stories is that they be all student written. Let the kids tell us what life is like in the Hartford Public Schools, warts and all. Empower the students with their own voices, and the tales they tell will move even the most calloused donor.
All the money the city sends to Grant Communications should be channeled to educational purposes, like hiring newspaper moderators at the high schools to train students in journalism and the craft of writing.
High school students in Hartford are capable of writing such pieces, as Echoes from the Streets evidences. Or look at the ad SINA recently took out in this very paper congratulating students of the month, who clearly have the academic skills to report on their activities.
I'm fine with Perez and Adamowski even having columns on page two in a student-written publication, because retooled as a youth development opportunity, The Hartford Educator could become a valuable community tool.
But as presented now, The Hartford Educator wastes tax dollars on disingenuous promotion of the school system.