March 31, 2005
By RACHEL GOTTLIEB, Courant Staff Writer
John H. Motley, who
long played the role of the Hartford School District's patron
saint as president of the St. Paul Travelers Connecticut Foundation,
is expected to dive full time into his passion for improving
education in the city by taking a job for the school district.
Motley, 62, who resigned last week after 16 years at Travelers,
won't join the district until the board of education formally
acts on his hiring April 5. He will take on a broad array of
assignments that include lobbying the state legislature and serving
as one of the school district's liaisons to the business community
and the city council. He may also work as a troubleshooter of
sorts, helping to douse political eruptions around the district
and freeing Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry to concentrate
on school improvement.
Motley, who approached Henry about a job, said his role defies
an easy job description, although his title will be executive
director of external affairs and his salary $120,000. While he
is not certified to lead any schools, he said he will promote
Henry's ideas for school improvement, which include longer school
days and years and turning youths away from respect for the street
to a renewed respect for academic achievement.
Henry said he will also ask Motley to help promote a more positive
image of the school district and to oversee Mayor Eddie A. Perez's
education initiatives, which focus on early childhood education
and increasing the number of Hartford students who enroll in
competitive four-year colleges.
Perez said he is thrilled. "The superintendent needs a
little thinking power and a little muscle power - someone who
could work in city hall and in the community and help execute
our initiatives," he said. "John has a passion for
the work that needs to go on from birth to 23."
Motley is a visionary, Henry
said. "He has helped us make
connections to the arts and to higher education. He has demonstrated
that he is a big thinker and he has served as a mentor to many
of our principals. He inspires people."
"I can hardly wait to get into this new job," said
Motley, who lives with his family in Burlington, but is considering
a move to Hartford. "There are so many challenges - where
As president of the Travelers
Foundation, Motley was able to pay for the initiatives he supported.
For example, he `adopted' Dwight Elementary School with a grant
of $500,000. The money was used to buy special "white boards" for
every classroom. The boards are hooked up to a teacher's portable
computer and a printer - also purchased with the grant. The
rest of the money helped buy uniforms and supply teachers with
discretionary funds for their classrooms.
He also paid to send all the
fifth-graders to Central Connecticut State University last
year for a tour of the campus. Each child got a T-shirt with
the year he or she would graduate from college. This year,
Travelers, along with the school district and the Hartford
Consortium for Higher Education, is sending every fifth-grader
in the city to college campuses throughout the state next week. "It's
a spin-off of his idea," said School Board Chairman Robert
E. Long said.
This year, the state Department of Education nominated Dwight
for federal blue ribbon status under the category of most improved.
Just four years ago, the school ranked second from the last in
the city in Connecticut Mastery Tests, and this year, the school
is first in the city in all subjects with the highest percent
of students reaching the state goal. Long attributes some of
the school's success to Motley for encouraging the principal
to think big and by showing that he cares.
Thomas D. Ritter, former speaker
of the House and chairman of the state-appointed board of trustees
for the school district, said Motley brings a wealth of skills
to the job. "People
take him seriously ... and at this stage in his career, all he
wants to do is help the city and share his skills. He's not looking
for another job."
Motley has had a long career marked by high-profile assignments.
With a law degree from DePaul University, he joined Travelers
in 1988 as executive vice president of its real estate subsidiary
and dealt extensively with restructuring problem loans. He was
senior vice president and chief of staff of claim services. He
previously worked for Chemical Bank in New York, where he was
managing director in the real estate group.
He is president of the board of trustees of the Wadsworth Atheneum
Museum of Art and a corporator of Hartford Hospital, St. Francis
Hospital and Medical Center and the Hartford Public Library.
He recently was appointed to the Connecticut State University
System's board of trustees by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
In the city, he has served on everything from Perez's inauguration
fundraising committee to the mayor's Implementation Commission
on Higher Education and the Commission on the Status and Future
of Hartford's Children and Youth.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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