There seems to be plenty of reasons why the whole selection process should be started fresh. It seems that the Mayor may have been the only one in Hartford who hadn't heard the grumblings that the process to select the new Superintendent of Schools was stacked in favor of one candidate from the start.
When WNPR's Jeff Cohen reported about the Hartford Schools Director of External Communications David Medina's behind the scenes phone calls and lobbying efforts for one candidate, Christine Kishimoto, it seemed to ignite a spark in Mayor Segarra to call the process off. I'm not sure it is within his power to do that, but the end result is he did something that needed to be done to restore legitimacy to the process.
Almost immediately after the press conference held by Segarra, I started getting phone calls and e-mails and text messages giving more details about how flawed the process was. The accusations included one member of the selection committee was being "paid off" with what was called "seed money" and the promise of an Executive Director position for a new non-profit being funded by the Hartford Schools.
I found that charge would be a little too obvious for someone to even try, especially after we just came through the Perez years, a Grand Jury investigation and Perez being convicted and sentenced to prison. It did seem somewhat odd to me that the person that the accusation had been made against, Lillian "Millie" Arciniegas, up until a year or so ago had been one of the most outspoken parents against the Adamowski Administration. Now Millie sings the praises of Adamowski to anyone who will listen.
Maybe there was something to the allegations. Well, there was and the Hartford Courant, as well as others, confirmed it. Here is a link to the Courant story
Then there was the accusation regarding the replacement of the Chairperson of the Board of Education and promises made to a member of the Board that if he supported Kishimoto, he would be named Chairperson.
And finally there was the accusation in an e-mail that another parent on the selection committee, who had been picked by Arciniegas apparently, had some ethical conflicts of her own. The word was that Precious Ross-Ellis owned a uniform company that supplied uniforms to the Hartford Schools. I was given the name of the business as Uniforms and Stuff at 541 Albany Avenue.
I took a shot and called the business. A woman answered and I asked her if the business sold Hartford School uniforms and she answered yes. I then asked her if I could speak to Precious and she replied that I was speaking to her. I asked if she was the owner and she replied yes, her and her sister Hortense owned the business. After a few more questions she then asked who I was and I told her and I told her why I was calling. Suddenly the story changed, she didn't own the business , she just worked there.
I fully expected to hear a click as she hung up the phone, but that didn't happen. We had a conversation about conflict of interest and her business having a relationship with the Hartford Schools. She tried to convince me that no business relationship affected or influenced her vote. That may be true, but even if there is a perceived influence, it affects the integrity of the entire process, the same as Arciniegas and the seed money.
What surprised me the most though was the ensuing conversation that probably lasted for at least twenty minutes. Putting my thoughts of the conflict of interest aside, I felt as though I was talking to someone who really did care about Hartford's children and was willing to fight for better schools.
She started to describe her involvement as a parent and I was frantically taking notes because I wanted to make sure I got all this correct. Precious said "five years ago they came into our district, tore our schools apart and disrespected us" she went on " they told us they needed 10 years, they came to Weaver and promised us a new school, they need to deliver what they promised us".
I asked her if she felt Adamowski had delivered on his promises, and she said no. She said she had to have Adamowski walk through Weaver, accompanied by the media, to get his attention to the deplorable conditions in the school, rats...roaches...trash and all. She said after the walk through Adamowski claimed he was "appalled" by the conditions. Not much has changed though and she said that everytime she questions the progress she says that "red-tape" is slowing the process down.
I would think that if the Superintendent was truly "appalled" by the conditions, the red tape would be dealt with quickly.
As we talked more, I was more confused than ever why Precious would support an Adamowski clone if she felt so disrespected by Adamowski. She detailed how she went to every Board of Education meeting and everything was a fight to get anything done for the kids. She detailed how Adamowski had pushed parents out of the decision making process and continually disrespects the parents. She said that typically when the Weaver PTO meets, maybe four parents show up.
Everything Precious spoke about sounded like a concerned parent that would welcome a change in direction for parents that feel disenfranchised when it comes to their children's schools. Then came the part that still has my head spinning.
Apparently, Precious said "I would have gone to Tim" referring to the other considered candidate Timothy Sullivan. She said that she was convinced by other members of the selection committee, who she wouldn't name, that the only way to hold Adamowski accountable for the schools was to give Kishimoto the next five years to complete what Adamowski had claimed would take ten years to complete.
She definitely wasn't happy about the progress of the first five years and I asked her what she thought would change in the next five years under Kishimoto. Maybe nothing, but at least they could then hold Adamowski accountable. More head spinning for me.
I asked if she realized that Adamowski would be long gone and the last thing he would care about was any accountability for Hartford and if Kishimoto made it through a five year contract, I would be greatly surprised. She said she understood all that, but she claims she told Kishimoto that if the job wasn't finished she would follow Kishimoto and make sure the people wherever she went would know what she was like.
Somehow, I don't think that matters to some of these people. In the meantime we need to offer some courses on ethical challenges and conflicts of interest, real or perceived. We need to do better if we are ever going to be taken seriously