One of Hartford's most productive programs for mentoring and nurturing Hartford's children is in jeopardy due to actions by the Superintendent.
One of the first moves made by former Hartford Police Chief James Rovella (now Public Safety Commissioner for the State of Connecticut) when he took over at HPD several years ago was to rejuvenate the PAL program. Rovella modeled the program after the very successful Waterbury PAL program. Now retired Deputy Chief Neville Brooks was tasked with researching the Waterbury program, and those successes were built into Hartford's program.
Hartford PAL was rebuilt as a 501c3 non profit with an energetic Board of Directors to move the program forward. Under Rovella and the new Board, hundreds of Hartford's youth have had a very positive mentoring experience as well as very positive interactions with Hartford Police Officers and others while providing very positive character building.
I remember originally when Rovella was fighting to find and establish a permanent home for Pal, he had expressed his frustration to me in trying to fight budget cuts that would threaten PAL, the Cadet program and the explorer program which essentially formed the basis for his future minority recruitment programs for HPD officers by working with the youth at an early age.
Chief Rovella eventually was able to secure a home for the program in the old Quirk School at 85 Edwards Street. That building was on the western side of two buildings making up the school. The eastern side was eventually renovated and re branded as the Global Communications Academy.
The Hartford PAL program has been so successful that their Board of Directors was able to propose and secure $7.5 million in State funding for renovations to the PAL facility for the initial stage of improvements to the building.
PAL, in preparation for meeting their facility needs had worked out an arrangement with the Superintendent of Schools for temporary usage of space in the Eastern school building, the recently renovated Global Communications Academy.
Now that the time has come to relocate the PAL Programs, the Superintendent has apparently reneged on her promise of space usage for PAL. This apparently came as a surprise to the PAL Board , who felt that they had been dealing with the Superintendent in good faith to protect the future of the program to continue serving Hartford's children.
The Superintendent apparently backed out on her promise to move forward another initiative that also may prove to be shortsighted and harmful to Hartford's Children. The Superintendent and the BOE will be moving the Adult Education programs into the Global Communications Academy building soon.
This makes no sense to house the adult programs in a building for children. What protections will be put in place? Will full background checks now be required for any adult using the Adult Education programs? How will the facility be divided to make sure adults taking classes will not be interacting or in way have their behavior influencing the children entrusted to the buildings? Will there be separate bathroom and cafeteria facilities?
A check of HPD calls for service to the current Adult Education facility at 110 Washington Street will show that the program is not exempt from problems and those problems are not fitting for a school with children attending.
The PAL program is too valuable to Hartford's Youth for this to be allowed I don't want to paint Adult Education users with too wide of a b rush, but if there is any interaction between adults and children, it is the responsibility of the BOE and the Superintendent to take every possible step to protect the children as well as finding temporary space to house the successful PAL program
I think the parents as well as the staff at Global would agree.
To l;earn more about the Hartford PAL program , click here