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Open a dialogue

Published August 25. 2012 4:00AM

Steven Adamowski, the veteran superintendent assigned by the state as the "special master" to help New London revitalize its schools needs to give some attention to the City Council.

While we understand Mr. Adamowski's point that his focus is the school district, and therefore its administration and Board of Education, it is also true that most every pronouncement out of the state Board of Education about turning around struggling school systems references the need for community-wide buy in.

In one of his first, and most significant actions, Mr. Adamowski used his authority to nix a plan to consolidate the school district and general government finance office operations. The City Council took the position that moving this responsibility to the city's finance office would save $500,000 that could be redirected to educational needs.

But Mr. Adamowski concluded that the process was moving ahead without any clear plan to proceed. When it comes to processing state grants, bookkeeping requirements, financial assistance formulas and myriad other details, school system accounting has its own unique challenges. Doing it fast but not doing it right could cause more harm than good, and cost more. In stopping the merger plan, Mr. Adamowski reflected the attitude of schools Superintendent Nicholas Fischer.

But communication with the City Council and President Michael Passero would have made sense. It's unlikely it would have changed his decision, but the special master could have begun building bridges by hearing the council's perspective.

And those bridges will be important. The council has the final say on the school system's bottom line and that bottom line has remained frozen for several years now. Mr. Adamowski has issued dire warnings about what may happen if New London schools do not start getting the financial help they need to progress, raising the potential for a state takeover. He needs to meet with the council, directly, to explain his role, the direction he feels the school system must go in and why the council's support will be critical.

With the recent improvement in student standardized test scores, he can bring good news, while emphasizing that such progress cannot continue without adequate funding. Yes, building support for the schools is among the functions of a school board, but right now Mr. Adamowski has the city's attention. He needs to use it to help generate broad commitment for revitalization of city schools among all city officials.

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