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Special master recommends state end supervision of New London schools in June

Hartford — After offering a half-hour report on the status of New London’s transition to the state’s first all-magnet school district to the State Board of Education, state-appointed Special Master Steven J. Adamowski recommended Wednesday morning that the city’s schools be released from state supervision after this school year.

One condition of his suggestion, however, is that the city have in place a permanent superintendent before the state suspends its involvement.

To that end, Adamowski announced Wednesday that the city’s Board of Education has decided to continue with the superintendent search it began earlier this year and expects to have a new superintendent in place by January.

“There are prospective superintendent candidates that the board is aware of that were identified, either identified for recruitment or expressed interest at the time of the initial search,” Adamowski said after his report to the state board. “There were some candidates the board did not have the opportunity to talk to for various reasons, some on the part of the candidate as well as the board, (candidates who) may not have had interest, or given the timing were not available.”

After a roughly six-month search, the city Board of Education unanimously voted in June to appoint Chicago educator Terrence P. Carter to lead the city’s schools. After media reports raised the issues, the city Board of Education’s attorneys investigated Carter and concluded that he had misused the title of “Dr.” before completing his doctoral studies, plagiarized sections of his job application and did not disclose that he had filed for bankruptcy in 1999. The board later voted unanimously to rescind its offer to Carter.

After launching the investigation of Carter and putting on hold his employment, the board appointed city native Richard Foye to serve as interim superintendent. Foye is under contract through the end of this month.

Adamowski said the board will be considering some candidates who applied for the position in the spring and some candidates who were not considered during the first go-round.

“They were people who expressed interest at the time of the initial search,” he said. “There are always ensuing circumstances, you may have had someone who was outstanding and who you really liked but the timing for them was not right at the time.”

Though the state Department of Education will be involved in the search in some capacity, Adamowski said, the McPherson and Jacobson firm — which led the board’s initial search — will not have a role moving forward.

In his annual report last year, Adamowski called choosing a new superintendent the “most important decision for the future of New London schools” and recommended that the city select a superintendent “from among qualified candidates recommended by” state education Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

Though Pryor interviewed Carter and gave his “enthusiastic concurrence” with the board’s choice, Adamowski said, Carter was not pre-approved by the state.

“That was changed after input from the board and the mayor, and with the concurrence of the commissioner,” Adamowski said Wednesday. “I think the mayor initially made the recommendation of (doing) it the opposite way and letting the board have the finalists and (having Pryor) concurring with that.”

Board of Education President Margaret Mary Curtin said Wednesday she expects the district to employ a new superintendent by January, and plans to convene the same 12-person search committee to vet and select a candidate.

“I would love to have (a superintendent) appointed by January and I think we can do it,” she said. “I think we had some people who applied before, and we can look at them. I’ll be calling the search committee together sooner rather than later.”

Adamowski reiterated Wednesday that he intends to retire at the end of this year, though he said he has not had any discussions with the state about who might replace him as New London’s overseer.

Since August 2012, Adamowski has been charged with supervising the city’s school system and Board of Education. Earlier this year, the State Board of Education voted to extend the state’s involvement in New London through next June.

If Pryor and the State Board of Education accept Adamowski’s recommendation and do not further extend state involvement, the city will receive at least 90 days’ notice to devise a transition plan.

Though state oversight in the form of a special master would cease, it is possible the annual $1.1 million of state funding that has accompanied the special master could be extended for the length of the new superintendent’s first contract, Adamowski said.

“My hope would be that all or part of the current appropriation could be continued,” he said.

Citing “significant progress” in implementing the state-required strategic operating plan, academic improvement among student test scores and a stabilization of the district’s finances, Adamowski said the district is “very different than (it was) two years ago,” particularly because the state has passed legislation allowing New London to become a school system comprised entirely of interdistrict magnet schools.

“Most of the obstacles to New London’s progress are removed at this point,” he said. “Most importantly we have enabling legislation, finally and conclusively, that enables the all-magnet system to be complete. That’s huge. There is no other district in the state that can do this.”

Twitter: @ColinAYoung


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