Adamowski's oversight of Windham schools extended

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Mon., Sep. 9, 2013
Steven Adamowski's contract in Windham was extended by the state Board of Education. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

In 2011, Steven Adamowski was hired through a $225,000 contract with the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to serve as special master in Windham. His duties were later expanded to include New London. Recently, the state Board of Education approved a year-long extension of Adamowski's role in the two districts.

But in a move that left many puzzled, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor noted that Adamowski’s status and pay would change. Instead of contracting through SERC, the state Department of Education hired Adamowski for $162,000. According to state DOE spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly, the reduction brought Adamowski’s pay in line with that of other top-level salaries in the state agency.

Former state legislator and blogger Jonathan Pelto has discovered that the change in status will potentially significantly increase Adamowski’s state pension. For more on this issue, read Pelto’s post here:

Meanwhile, Willimantic teachers are responding to the extension of the special master’s oversight in their district by “urging town and school officials, as well as the region’s legislative delegation, to conduct a swift and thorough review of the impact of reforms implemented in the district.”

"Our message to the State Board of Education was loud and clear," said Randall Prose, a Windham High School social studies teacher and football coach. "We said that plummeting test scores and an achievement gap that’s as wide as ever demanded a closer look at the effectiveness of recent changes imposed by the special master. But the board didn’t do their homework, and ignored the lessons that led to the take-over of our schools in the first place," added Prose. Standardized test scores in Windham have declined for two consecutive years and bilingual education services were virtually eliminated during the 2012-2013 school year.

"This is an opportunity to take on the issues stalling the teachers’ efforts to close the achievement gap in Windham," said Melodie Peters, president of AFT Connecticut. "The state has abdicated their oversight responsibility here, so it’s going to take a united, community-led effort," she said.

“What issues or evidence suggests that the District is headed in the wrong direction?” countered Windham Board of Education Chair Murphy Sewall. Sewall objected to the word “plummeting” to describe test scores. “In large part, the scores remain higher than they were two years ago, and for reasons that remain to be explained, scores dipped statewide this year,” he said.

Sewall referred to Adamowski-driven changes that had yet to be fully implemented. “It likely will be two or three more years before all of the current initiatives are fully captured by annual testing,” he said. One notable exception, said Sewall, was the decision (first suggested by local board members before the special master was appointed) to retain the fifth grade in the elementary schools. “That change led to a significant improvement in fifth-grade scores,” said Sewall. Sewall acknowledged that improvement was necessary. “More communication and closer collaboration between the Board of Education, the district staff, teachers, parents, and other members of the community is welcome and will be of value,” he said.

But parents, as well as teachers, are beginning to speak out. “Few parents will welcome the extension of Adamowski's contract,” said Mary Gallucci, a parent, with children in the district, who has been outspoken since the arrival of the special master.  “For one, he is not at all interested in speaking to parents, grandparents, or children,” continued Gallucci. “He has some hand-picked parents he deals with personally, and almost all of them sent their children to out-of-district schools or home-schooled before he came.”

"The state isn’t listening, so it’s up to us to take charge and take control of our future," said Melanie Godbout, an English teacher in the STEM Academy at Windham High School. "We needed an honest and unbiased assessment of the policy changes under the special master legislation. Now is the time to do that work, not next June or some future date. The kids in our classrooms can’t afford to wait," she said.

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