CHOICE OF HARTFORD'S SCHOOL CHIEF CRITICAL
By OZ GRIEBEL | OP-ED
The Hartford Courant
September 27, 2013
One of the MetroHartford Alliance's five strategic goals is to "retain, develop, recruit and engage a diverse and talented pool of employees and entrepreneurs." Achieving that goal is critical to retaining our invaluable roster of private employers and to expanding their number to provide more job opportunities for the region's residents.
Key to achieving that goal is a Hartford public school system that educates all Hartford students so that they graduate with the skills necessary to join the workforce or military service, to pursue higher education certificate or degree programs, to become financially independent and to mature into contributing and engaged citizens. This is what makes selection of the city's next superintendent of schools particularly important.
We appreciate the stability and significant progress that has been achieved in the city school system over the past seven years and salute the many leaders who have made both a reality. Those leaders include Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and the other members of the Hartford school board, Superintendents Steve Adamowski and Christina Kishimoto, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, state education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, the Capitol Region Education Council, the funders and board members of Achieve Hartford, and a legion of dedicated and engaged parents. We also applaud the administrators and teachers who provide the environment, instruction, and support to Hartford students each day, and the numerous businesses and other private sector entities that provide those administrators and teachers with millions of dollars of supplementary funds along with internships, mentors and thousands of hours of service on boards and committees.
At the same time, we recognize that we have far to go before we close the deplorable achievement gap and ensure that every Hartford student graduates with the skills needed to participate successfully in society. That distance makes it imperative that our elected officials, community leaders and the private sector have a renewed sense of urgency in attacking that gap.
The Alliance reiterates our enthusiastic support for several key elements of reform as the school board embarks on hiring a new superintendent with the experience and expertise in urban education reform needed to sustain and build on the recent successes. Chief among these elements are seven research-based tenets of sustainable school reform:
• High-quality educational choices for all families.
• Extensive public engagement.
• School autonomy.
• Pupil-based funding
• Talent management by each school principal.
• Diverse sources of support for schools, including theme-based partnerships with local, regional and national organizations.
• Performance-based accountability for schools.
The next superintendent must articulate support for this framework, which has driven the tangible progress to date, and demonstrate success in communicating and implementing such principles in an urban school district. The implementation of these tenets will evolve based on student performance and new research and must be complemented by an effort to combat a wide range of external impediments to students achieving academic success. We support the initiatives that seek to eliminate these impediments such as chronic absenteeism among students, public safety issues in the city's neighborhoods, parent illiteracy, inadequate financial aid for post-secondary education and the lack of a healthy lifestyle among some parents and students.
To help address the financial impediment, we urge more companies, institutions and individuals to fund the recently announced scholarship initiative, Hartford Promise. With the full funding of the initiative at $12 million, Hartford students, beginning with the class of 2016, will be eligible for a two-year annual scholarship of $2,500 to pursue an associate's degree and a four-year annual scholarship of $5,000 to pursue a bachelor's degree. This program, coupled with sustained reform and progress in the Hartford schools, will provide a tangible incentive for continued parental engagement and for students to achieve personal academic success.
The Alliance pledges the private sector's willingness to participate appropriately in the search for the new superintendent and its continued and energetic support for comprehensive reform in Hartford that provides each student with a meaningful education. By doing so, the region will be blessed with future generations of civic leaders, qualified employees and generators of an ever growing number of job opportunities. Oz Griebel is president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance and a champion of the Hartford Promise.
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