25 August 2007
In his earliest days as Hartford School Superintendent, Steven J. Adamoski was critical of the $100+ million investment that had been made in Hartford Public High School. The makeover kept the facility a big-box, comprehensive high school with too many students in one place.
One of the nation's oldest secondary schools, Hartford Public has faced years of accreditation issues and troubling measures of student performance that the physical overhaul and capital investment did not improve.
Adamoski, a former superintendent of Cincinnati, OH schools, was brought to Hartford by Mayor Eddie Perez and the Board of Education for change and reform in the capital city's troubled 25,000 pupil school system. His task is to implement a "turnaround plan." Several days ahead of the 2007-2008 school year the details of an "all-choice" plan for Hartford have emerged. According to the Hartford plan the district "will undertake a dramatic investment in the creation of new schools with the goal of bringing over 30 new, high-performing public schools into the Hartford system by 2017, with the majority of new schools up and running in the first five years."
Dismal student achievement scores have prompted a call by Adamowski for decentralization of its big high schools. A story by Bob Frahm in the August 24th Hartford Courant focuses on the effort to be made over the next several years "to break the high schools up into smaller units."
"We have to redesign our [large] comprehensive high schools. We can't have these high schools continue to operate" in their current form, Adamowski told the Courant.
Like Hartford Public High, New Britain High is facing accreditation issues discussed by school board members, school officials and the public at an August 14th community meeting in New Britain. And nobody needs to be reminded that New Britain High has too many students crowded into one place. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Commission on Secondary Schools report of October 2006 noted deficiencies that NBHS needs to address: "The current plant at New Britain High School is not capable of adequately housing its rapidly increasing student body."
The NEASC site team noted that the Board of Education is taking steps starting with a 9th grade academy (to open this year). But the Commission also noted that "support for student learning is inadequate" with a student to counselor ratio of 330 to 1 and two library media specialists to serve 3,200 students.
Those ratios demonstrate that NBHS is still too much of a comprehensive high school that needs smaller units of students to deliver a better learning environment -- the sort of thing Adamowski is now trying to create in Hartford.
The New Britain Democratic Town Committee's 2007 platform calls for similar action: "The opening of a freshman academy is a positive first step toward a multi-faceted strategy of de-centralizing education and creating learning communities."
Despite the inequities that are built into the current means of financing the schools, a bold plan for high-performing schools [sometimes but not always contingent on more money] and similar to that being proposed in Hartford is needed in New Britain.