State extends its oversight of New London’s schools

The state Board of Education on Wednesday afternoon extended the term of the state-appointed special master tasked with overseeing the city’s schools through the end of June 2015.

Special Master Steven J. Adamowski addressed the state board in Hartford and provided a brief overview of much of what has transpired since he was first appointed in June 2012.

“We have a very different picture ... than two years ago,” Adamowski said. “We’ve had two consecutive years of fairly significant increases in student achievement, the district is financially stable, it has a strategic operating plan.”

For those reasons and a handful of others, Adamowski last week announced that he will — in his planned September report to the state board — recommend that the state cease its involvement in New London by July 1, 2015.

The city’s Board of Education has also recently appointed a new, first-time superintendent, who will take charge of the district on Aug. 1.

“In New London, there’s been good progress to date. The process of building consensus in New London has been a positive one and Dr. Adamowski has been at the center of that,” state Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor said. “To be sure, many challenges remain. New London has recently undergone a superintendent transition, so for the purposes of continuity and stability, I recommend that the board maintain the special master relationship for another year.”

As long as New London continues to improve at the same rate it has for the last two years, Pryor said, the city will be released from state supervision by the end of next June.

“We’ll aim for only one more year of involvement, assuming continued progress in New London,” he said. “We believe there will be no more need for the special master position after a year.”

Adamowski also announced that he intends to retire by December of this year, creating the possibility that the city will have a different special master before state supervision ends.

City Board of Education President Margaret Mary Curtin said she supports the decision to extend the state’s involvement in the city’s schools because she believes it will be beneficial to the incoming superintendent.

“Yes I am (in agreement with the decision) at this point,” Curtin said. “I think that if we hadn’t gotten another superintendent I would not have been, but I think it will be helpful to the new superintendent.”

Curtin said that she is amenable to the state’s continued involvement “as long as the board is not dictated to, as long as (the state is) just there as a guide to the board.”

The city will receive at least 90 days’ notice before state involvement ends to devise a transition, which will have to include a plan for the school system’s budget. The budget has been buttressed by about $1 million in additional funds made available as a result of the state’s involvement.

“There will be a number of positions the district will have to pick up and there will be other expenses the district will have to assume,” Adamowski said last week.

Curtin said Wednesday the Board of Education is “very concerned” about a potential gap in funding and expects to begin working on a plan to cope prior to the next budget season.

c.young@theday.com

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