The selection process for Hartford's new superintendent of school's was corrupted from the start.
I am not sure why someone would be appointed to the selection committee who has a clear conflict of interest based upon contractual relationships with the Board of Education.
Then we have Mayor Bronin who attempted an end run around the selection process by having clandestine meetings at his home to apparently try to gain support for his candidate he wanted to introduce into the process. I am not sure why he didn't have his choice enter the fray with the rest of the applicants, but that's politics. At least Bronin was clever enough to skirt the laws by only inviting half of the Board members he wanted to impress to one of two meetings he held at his home.
Inviting the full group would have constituted a quorum and therefore Bronin would have been liable to Connecticut's open meetings statutes, but by only inviting half at a time he was able to skirt the laws. For a full story on the efforts to sidetrack the process by the Bronin's, you can read Jeff Cohen's account here.
Now back to the Selection Committee.Maybe we should ask some of the people involved to do a quick study of Mark Twain. Twain was known for one his quotes "If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember your lies". A good rule to live by, especially when the media starts asking questions and you get five different answers.
I started getting phone calls about the selection process Friday morning. One caller said they overheard the Chairman of the selection committee, John Motley, telling someone that the selection process was a done deal and the Committee had chosen the Interim Superintendent Leslie Torres Rodriguez as the next Superintendent.
When the person called me, I said that couldn't be true because the Selection Committee had already made its recommendation of Tim Sullivan and Torres Rodriguez as the two finalists the Board would vote on at Tuesday nights meeting. The more I checked though, the more I found that a dirty deal was underway.
I spoke to two members of the Selection Committee and they both stated that Motley had called a meeting last Thursday and then suddenly changed the location of the meeting from the Board of Education offices to the Pope Park Recreation Center. Apparently Motley "overlooked" notifying all members of the new location. It appears in particular those members who were less than supportive of Motley's choice of Leslie Torres Rodriguez were left out. One of the people I spoke with said she had called Motley after she found no one at the BOE Offices, and Motley stated "Oh, we must have forgot to notify you of the new location"
She left and headed to Pope Park. She swears that there was no vote take to narrow the recommendations to one person as Motley's Friday media statements claimed. That appears to be supported by media accounts this morning. Former Hartford Superintendent Hernan LaFontaine was quoted as saying he"echoed Yennie's account, saying that the search committee forwarded both names – Torres-Rodriguez and Sullivan – to board members at the meeting."
I spoke with Hyacinth Yennie and she claimed that no vote was taken and that she insisted that the Board had to make the choice of either Torres Rodriguez or Sullivan and the responsibility for the choice should rest with the Board, rather than trying to make the search committee the eventual scapegoats for the decision. The Hartford Board of Ed hasn't had the best track record in their selections and it has been a revolving door of questionable selections, so I can understand why the Board is trying to provide themselves cover from the inevitable blow-back.
I also find it troubling,and even disgusting ,that they can claim they are working for the best interests of "the Children" and then decide to operate in secrecy.How are parents supposed to have confidence that the best person is being chosen ? Julio Flores a board member was quoted as saying "The deliberations of the search committee are confidential, so we do not speak of them,"
Are you serious, "confidential"? What are we trying to hide or do we only talk about transparency when politicians are trying to get votes. There is nothing that should be confidential , it should all be on the table, strength's weaknesses and all the ugly blemishes so we can be confident that the best choice was made. And how can people that were actually in the room not be sure if an actual vote was ever taken? That makes me question the capabilities of anyone involved in the process if that is their level of attention and comprehension.
Even Achieve Hartford is refusing to release the surveys conducted after the public forum. I am told the responses overwhelmingly supported Timothy Sullivan. A source familiar with the surveys claims they were told by John Motley that the surveys are the property of the Search Committee and they are not to be released. So much for the process being open and fair. I can see why they wouldn't release the surveys though. Just watch the video of the forums, It is interesting to see the standing ovation and the response when Tim Sullivan finished his presentation and the response when Leslie Torres Rodriguez finished hers.
I think Tim Sullivan made it pretty clear that there was going to be a top to bottom evaluation of all consulting contracts and salaries in the Central Office. I can see why Motley and others might be concerned if a new Superintendent pulls back the curtain on Oz and we finally realize what has been going on. We can't allow for Sullivan to start peeling back the layers of the rotted onion and expose where the money is going. People might be upset to learn that the Hartford Schools is not a system about educating children as much as it is about keeping adults happy by continuing to throw education dollars down the black hole to keep lining their pockets.
I do have to say though, that I gained huge respect for Tim Sullivan because of this process , as dirty and corrupt as it is. I called Tim Sullivan Friday night to get his thoughts before I wrote this posting.
Sullivan was an extreme gentleman and said he was telling his supporters not to be angry but rather to support Torres Rodriguez because ultimately this choice needs to be about Hartford's children. That should be the focus of the Hartford Board of Education, keep in mind this is a decision about Children. Not about adults posturing for power, not about adults scraping for the shrinking grant money for their sometimes useless projects and not about keeping a constituency happy because of the pigment of someones skin
The choice needs to be about the best candidate period...end of story
It is about the Children, and how many of the decision makers can look in the mirror and tell themselves they did the best they could and kept the process about the children. Can Craig Stallings?Can Julio Flores? Can John Motley?Can Rich Wareing? Can Robert Cotto? I think Tim Sullivan can.