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    Wednesday, August 17, 2022

    State officially releases New London schools from state intervention

    New London — It came eight months later than expected but the school district this week received formal notice from state Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell that it is no longer under the supervision of a state-appointed special master.

    “In view of the District’s progress after nearly three years of Special Master supervision — including significant improvements in the areas of financial controls, operations and governance — and its continuing status as a State-supported and State-supervised Alliance District, it was determined that further Special Master supervision was not necessary,” Wentzell said in a March 16 letter to New London School Superintendent Manuel Rivera.

    Rivera said it is “good news” but the district had, for all practical purposes, operated without state supervision since state-appointed special master Steven Adamowski left in June to take a job as superintendent in Norwalk.

    The state has since changed the title of special master to district improvement officer.

    Rivera said he thought intervention would end when the state Board of Education did not appoint another special master after Adamowski’s term expired on June 30, 2015. 

    Up until that point, the school had worked to fulfill some remaining requirements that included establishing a superintendent evaluation process, a memorandum of understanding with the city to merge finance departments and a review of its policy manual.

    Adamowski was appointed by the state Board of Education to a one-year term in July of 2012 to take a direct role in guiding the school system out of a dire financial situation and through the first stages of its transformation into an all-magnet school district.

    His appointment was extended twice at the request of the school district with the recommendation of the state Department of Education.

    State involvement in the school district predated Adamowski’s appointment.

    In 2007, the state started working on a District Improvement Plan and in 2011 the state Board of Education assigned former Groton school Superintendent James Mitchell to monitor school board meetings because the board by many accounts had become dysfunctional.

    By May of 2011, a state audit had suggested the intervention.

    Rivera’s hiring in February of 2015 seemed to have convinced the state that the district had turned a corner.

    Adamowski himself said at the time that Rivera coming into New London was “the primary factor that allows us to now discuss and consider a future that involves the release from state supervision.”

    School board President Margaret Mary “Peg” Curtin said it had started to bother her that the school district had yet to receive a notice from the state and she recently wrote to the commissioner about the cause of the holdup.

    The commissioner’s letter came days later.

    “I think it was just like a heavy load on our shoulders,” said Curtin, who was elected to the school board in 2011, near the start of the intervention period.

    “Let’s see what we can do now that we’re back on our own,” she said.

    g.smith@theday.com

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