By Ken Krayeske • 5:20 PM EST
Hartford's embattled Superintendant of Schools, Dr. Steven Adamowski listens to Mayor Eddie Perez give a State of the City address in this 40YP file photo. Where is he now? Is he okay?
Where was Hartford Superintendent Steven Adamowski Wednesday night December 3?
In a week where education everywhere has been under fire and underfunded, Adamowski was scheduled to be at a HartfordInfo Today-sponsored forum at the Hartford Public Library at 5:30 to discuss "Raising the Bar: Preparing Hartford's High School Students to Succeed."
But Adamowski didn't show, and a spokesjerk said Adamowski had a scheduling conflict. So, instead, he sent Joan Massey, Hartford's assistant superintendent for secondary education, to sit on a panel with Connecticut Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan.
The panel, moderated by Hartford City Councilman Jim Boucher, also featured Milly Arciniegis, President, Hartford PTO Council; Benjamin Cruse, Director of Youth Services, Leadership Greater Hartford and Joshua Hall, Vice President, Hartford Federation of Teachers.
Cruse brought with him a dozen or so high school students, and together, the panel drew a crowd of about 85 people, according to Richard Frieder, the Hartford Public Library staffer who organized the event.
Frieder acknowledges that HartfordInfo assembled the panel rather quickly two weeks ago, but when he invited Adamowski, the Superintendent accepted. And when Massey showed up last night, she didn't offer an excuse for the Superintendent's absence.
"He did not give a reason," Richard Frieder said. Although Frieder did hear it may have been a medical issue, in which case, Adamowski is more than excused. "I didn't know he wasn't coming until Joan Massey appeared and told me he wasn't coming."
Adamowski was in his office today, and his spokesman David Medina said Adamowski had a scheduling conflict.
"He had a prior commitment," Medina said, and he sent Massey, who was most qualified to substitute. So, how often does the Superintendent have a chance to meet with the State Commissioner of Education? I asked Medina.
"I have no idea. That's as much as I'm going to say." And Medina hung up the phone on me. In that case, the medical rumor seems kind of flimsy.
City Councilman Luis Cotto attended the panel for a while last night, and he was surprised by Adamowski's absence. But Cotto was prepared to give the Super the benefit of the doubt on standing up the Commissioner of Education.
"Without hearing the reason, I can’t comment on whether it was messed up," Cotto said. I spoke with Cotto before getting Medina's lame excuse.
It wasn't like Adamowski was going to be stampeded by parents, considering that Councilman Jim Boucher is "a middle of the road kind of guy, and it was a safe place to be," Cotto said.
Although, based on the education news that has come out in the past few days, anywhere in the public eye if you are an administrator might be a difficult place. Or it might have been an opportunity.
The Courant today revealed that yesterday, the state board of education voted to slash education funding statewide. It is likely, if Dr. Adamowski has a pulse on the education scene in Connecticut, he knew that before the Courant. He would have had a chance to meet with Commissioner McQuillan last night and discuss the cutting of the Educational Cost Sharing Grants.
Oh well. The Hartford Courant threw more dung on the blades this morning with revelations that incoming classes are bigger than ever, but state aid is shrinking. So universities, essentially, have to educate more with less.
The Courant explained that tuition prices won't be dropping:
University of Connecticut President Michael J. Hogan did the math on using tuition increases to make up for potential budget cuts, but said doing so would be untenable. If UConn had to make up the money lost in a 5 percent cut, Hogan told the university's board of trustees on Nov. 18, tuition would have to increase 13.6 percent. Offsetting a 10 percent cut would call for a 26.9 percent increase in tuition.
Of course, Hogan said those tuition increases weren't an option. The situation is dire, administrators say. And it's pretty much in line with the results of a recent study explaining that college costs skyrocketed in the past 20 years.
On a day when the education news was hitting the fan - the New York Times reported that college costs have leapt 439 percent from 1982 to 2007, while family income in that same period rose only 147. The Times warned that college will be unaffordable for most families in 25 years if this continues.
The forum last night was advertised as a way to discuss issues about education with community stakeholders and decision makers.
"It has been estimated that 40% of the Capital Region’s future workforce will come from Hartford and the state’s other large cities. Are Hartford's high school students ready to capitalize on this opportunity?" HartfordInfo's flyer read, pointing out the obvious achievement gap, and the discussion as a way to address some of the concerns surrounding this.
I didn't have a chance to attend the panel, but sources said that Dave Ionno, Hartford Green party citizen with a daughter at Hartford Public, critiqued the lack of an Honors program at HPHS for anyone but students in the Government and Law cluster.
Ionno also criticized the overload of administrators in the HPHS edifice. Each of the four the new segmented academy clusters demands its own principal. So where HPS formerly had one administrative salary, it has four.
A Weaver high school student in the technology cluster there complained that since September, his teachers have been waiting for software. It's December. They are using antiquated software, which doesn't work for the lessons they need.
Other high school students praised the cluster systems and uniforms. Cotto said that high school students are generally missing the whole idea.
"It was good to hear them out, but they need to know that there is a lot of money exchanging hands in the name of the students," Cotto said. "A lot of people are making decisions for the students, and they have more power than they know."
He challenged students to organize.
"If a core group of all the senior classes in the city got together and formed a student union and approached a politican, and said we will back you as a unit – what will you do for us, they will have three board of ed members," Cotto said. If they did this for multiple years, they could become a powerful political force.
"If these kids knew how much power they had," Cotto lamented. "It is unfotunate that youth do not see the power in numbers, and the people in power like it that way. Everyone is invested in that not happening. It is convenient for that segment of the population to be ignorant."
Cotto was critical of the everyone-clap-for-high-schools-students-when-they-speak mentality, too. "Sometimes they say stupid stuff. We’re all human, and they say stupid stuff sometimes. There needs to be a civic education movement within the city to get these kids to understand that if they put themselves together, they would be the most powerful voting bloc in the city."
One student looking towards bigger fish inquired about state integration strategies.
Commissioner Mcquillan repsonded by discussing the Choice program, which happens to be older than Sheff. My source said it was a stock bureaucratic answer. McQuillan made sure to mention that the state was implementing the Sheff initiative, and trying to insure that high school students have resources.
On the same day the state board of education slashed funding. Okay. Benjamin Cruse from Leadership Greater Hartford, who spent three years in Paraguay building local youth programs, didn't offer much new. He kept mentioning resources, and he tried to create an image of accountability: We have ideas but we need to make sure when we promise something, the promises are being met.
Cruse also attacked teachers, saying how he runs an afterschool program, and when he goes into HPHS at 209 p.m. every day, teachers are already out the door. They don’t live in Hartford. As if teachers are to blame.
Then, a 1996 graduate from HPHS stood up and inquired "What does Hartford have to offer me?" Why should kids stay here, and why does the brain drain continue? The alum moved back to Hartford, he can't find a job, and he wonders why he moved home to help the city.