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Hartford Teachers Union Questions Hiring Of Three New Directors

STEVEN GOODE

August 22, 2009

HARTFORD - The hiring of three new directors by School Superintendent Steven Adamowski has prompted complaints from the Hartford Federation of Teachers, which is questioning their administrative credentials and salaries at a time when the district is facing a multimillion-dollar deficit and expecting to lay off teachers.

Jackie Coleman, formerly with the Hartford Stage, was hired earlier this summer to be director of the arts for the district. More recently, Stan Simpson, a longtime reporter and columnist at The Courant, became director of Weaver High School's new journalism and media academy, and Debra Raviv, a chef and restaurateur, became director of Weaver High's culinary arts academy.

At issue for the union is that the three lack a state Department of Education-required administrative certificate that would allow them to evaluate teachers. But district officials say certification isn't necessary because these directors won't be evaluating staff. That will be left to the academy principals and, in Coleman's case, the district's chief academic officer.

"[Simpson and Raviv] are there to provide their technical expertise about the theme of the academy so that their knowledge can be incorporated into the learning program. A similar position was created at the nursing academy when it opened last year," said David Medina, spokesman for Hartford schools, who added that none of the three directorships is a collective bargaining job.

But Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, was skeptical about the need for the new positions in tough economic times.

"If you're going to spend a quarter of a million dollars on three people, bring back employees or at least make sure the classrooms are clean," Johnson said. "You can hire them on a part-time consultant basis for certain expertise."

Coleman's salary is $120,000, Simpson's is $90,000, and Raviv's is $70,000.

The district laid off 250 employees last school year, including more than 90 teachers and numerous custodians, and expects to be in a similar position this year, facing a $14 million deficit.

Simpson, who has worked in print, radio and television during his 23-year journalism career, defended his hiring and said his focus is to work with the principal and the staff to build a foundation for the academy.

"If certain members of the union have an issue with my credentials, then it's on them to make the case, not me," he said in an e-mail Friday. "I believe most reasonable people can see that my background speaks for itself."

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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