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For Not Sharing, It's A 'D'

Helen Ubiñas

March 01, 2009

OK, now I know how teachers feel when overeager students come knocking to appeal a grade.

Unhappy with the big, fat "F" I gave the district for killing a day-care program that helps teenage mothers finish school, Hartford Schools Superintendent Steven Adamowski wrote to see if he could change my mind.

"Perhaps you would consider changing the grade you gave us to a B+ (even a small, skinny one)."

Thing is, Adamowski said, I had it all wrong. The Little Owls Learning Center at Hartford Public High isn't closing. It's being expanded.

Huh — that was news to me and to parents who've been in a panic since they were told there was no money to keep it going.

Actually, Adamowski claimed, the current seven cribs will be increased to 18. Infant and toddler care will be provided.

And the price-tag for all this? About 200 grand — way more than the $135,000 the district previously said it couldn't afford for three staff members.

Impressive, but not so fast.

I'd consider changing the grade to a big ol' bloated "B," I told Adamowski — if he explained why half of his communications dream team failed to mention any of this earlier.

If this was the plan, why did district spokesman David Medina leave worried students with the impression that the program was history? Medina was clear in a Feb. 19 article: Short of a miracle, it was adios to Owls.

So, was this a miscommunication or a last minute change of heart? Either way, the guy's had plenty of time to set the record straight. And it sure seems a waste of taxpayer money if people who are paid such a pretty penny to communicate aren't communicating.

It's why I initially suggested they save the day-care program by using the salaries of Adamoski's top representatives, a combined $219,000. (Now that Little Owls is safe, I'm thinking they should just take those salaries and put them toward a tutoring program that's in jeopardy.)

Still pushing for a grade increase, Adamowski pressed on. He suspected the proposal wasn't fully developed when Medina told a reporter the district couldn't afford the program. In the past two weeks, Adamowski said, they've been trying to balance their priorities. Priorities that no doubt became a lot clearer after negative press.

He wasn't sure why Medina failed to share the developments. He'd have a talk with him, he said, before getting a little cheeky.

"Perhaps he spent too much time at The Courant," he said of the former editorial writer.

Adamowski insisted he wasn't looking for any credit or even another mention in my blog. But, he wasn't nearly done appealing that "F."

"How about a regular B?" he tried again.

As much as I appreciated his persistence, I had to refuse.

"A 'B' at this point would be grade inflation," I replied, "and we all know that's a no-no."

I considered a "C." Little Owls lives, and it does take chutzpah to poke a bear that buys ink by the barrel.

But something's not adding up here. It makes you wonder if someone's lying, spinning or just plain incompetent.

And unfortunately, even if I were inclined to grant that "C," points off for tardiness and poor communication pull the district's grade down to a "D."

Passing, but not yet meeting expectations.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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