Hartford voters will go to the polls Nov. 3 to choose four members of the city's board of education for four-year terms in an election that traditionally — and unfortunately — is marked by low turnout. At the last election, in 2005, only a pathetic 8 percent of city voters cast ballots — far too low for such a high-stakes elective job. We challenge them to do better.
The other five members of the nine-member school board are appointed by the mayor, who also sits on the board.
Hartford's public schools have shown welcome improvement the past two years, most likely attributable to reform efforts led by Superintendent Steven J. Adamowski. Graduation rates have improved somewhat. But there is still a lot of work to do to improve student performance and there are stiff challenges. The gap in achievement between children of economically deprived families and students from prosperous families is still far too wide. The board will also have to push costly reform efforts — which include opening new, smaller schools — at a time of possibly draconian fiscal constraints.
Although four people will be elected, voters may vote for only three candidates. There will be 13 names on the ballot. The Courant believes the following candidates offer the best chance for continuing progress in Hartford's schools:
Elizabeth Brad Noel, 78, is running for her fourth four-year term, this time on the Working Families Party slate. Head of the guidance department at Weaver High School for 25 years, she has made hundreds of visits to the schools since retirement. Ms. Noel supports the superintendent's reform efforts but doesn't mind taking an independent course. We like her emphasis on addressing the needs of the "whole" student by restoring some of the funding cut from guidance programs, art and music, and physical education and health.
Sharon Patterson-Stallings, 67, running for a second board term on the Working Families Party slate. She is a lifelong Hartford resident whose five children and several grandchildren have attended the public schools, and a community activist. Among her top priorities are bettering communications among the board, administration and parents, and supporting training for staff and board members.
Albert L. Barrueco, 27, an endorsed Democrat and a newcomer to Hartford electoral politics. Mr. Barrueco, an attorney, believes improving public education is a "moral issue." He supports reform efforts but believes the Hartford district will have to find "new ways to do more with less." Born in Cuba and raised in Connecticut, Mr. Barrueco — poised, committed and articulate — has promise as a board member.
Voters might also want to consider Robert Cotto Jr. of the Working Families Party and Democrat Lori L. Hudson, among several other good candidates on the ballot.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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