The city of Hartford is in the midst of another search for a school superintendent and it’s down to two finalists. But Mayor Luke Bronin recently floated the idea of another person at the last minute, and the move concerned at least one board member.
A search committee was nearing the end of a months-long process to find a new schools chief, when Bronin pulled an unorthodox move: He invited some of the members of the board of education to his house to meet a person who hadn’t applied for the job.
"I invited members of the board of education to meet with a nationally-recognized educator who had a lengthy tenure and made some dramatic improvements as superintendent of an urban school district with challenges similar to those we face in Hartford," Bronin said in an interview.
The invite came after the two finalists had been identified, but before they were announced. The mayor didn’t invite everyone on the board to the meetings. Those who did join came in groups small enough to avoid a quorum of the board -- to avoid convening a public meeting.
Bronin wouldn’t name the person, but sources identified him as Harvard professor and former Baltimore Superintendent Andres Alonso. Neither he nor the board were interested in moving forward. But it begs the question of why would the mayor, at the tail end of a process, throw a variable into the mix?
"I think any educator would agree and understand that, if you are in the middle of a superintendent selection process, and you come across a candidate who's done it before -- who's turned around an urban school district -- then you’ve got an obligation to at least have a conversation," Bronin said. "But I’m very proud of the two finalists that we have and I look forward to working with them."
Board member Robert Cotto wasn't one of those invited to the private meetings. He said the mayor’s move could undermine confidence in the two finalists for the job, and in the independence of the board itself.
"If you're a school board and you're hiring someone, and you have an application process, and you go through all the steps, you can’t just, at the very end say, nah, we don’t like it. Forget these finalists. We’re just going to bring in someone who hasn’t even applied for the job," Cotto said. "He could be the best person in the world, but people have invested time in trying to find a superintendent and they went through that time of several months to do that."
"To add in someone else late in the game was not respectful of people’s time and the whole process they went through," Cotto said.
In a statement, board Chairman Richard Wareing said Hartford’s next superintendent will be one of its two current finalists -- acting Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez and Timothy Sullivan, a former principal who now works for the Capital Region Education Council.