Windham community supports Superintendent Ana Ortiz

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Mon., Sep. 16, 2013
As Superintendent Ana Ortiz' contract comes up for renewal, Windham teachers, students and parents are coming out to support her. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

As Windham begins to consider the district’s contract with Superintendent of Schools Ana Ortiz, parents, teachers and students came out to speak in her support at the Sept. 11 Board of Education meeting. There have been rumors that Special Master Steven Adamowski has in mind a replacement for Ortiz. Adamowski was assigned to the district by the State Board of Education in 2011, tasked with addressing years of steady decline in student achievement, corresponding with rapidly-increasing poverty rates in the city of Willimantic and surrounding communities.

Asked whether Adamowski had shared any preferences regarding the superintendent position with the board, Chairman Murphy Sewall responded: “The decision on whether or not to extend Ms. Ortiz's contract is, by statute, solely at the discretion of the Board of Education. As you would expect, over the past two years, Dr. Adamowski has occasionally shared personal observations regarding the abilities of principals and central office administrators including the superintendent with individual board members. However, he has not expressed a preference regarding the superintendent's contract to the board as a whole, and I do not expect him to.”

Sewall surmised that recently-released test scores might have had something to do with the public outcry. “The fact that this year's CMT and CAPT scores, which are a major input into the superintendent's evaluation, were disappointing, may be factor,” he said.

Whatever the motives, the message from the public was unmistakable; parents, students, teachers and others who spoke during public comment at the Sept. 11 meeting were united in their support of Ortiz. Windham High School teacher Kathy Koljian identified herself as a parent, an employee and a resident of the district. She urged the district to retain Ortiz.

“We need the stability her leadership would provide,” said Koljian. Ortiz has proven herself to be willing to converse with staff and the community, said Koljian, and is committed to the district and has the knowledge to do it effectively. Changes to the district contributing to further declining test scores should be attributed to Adamowski, not Ortiz, said Koljian, urging the board to hold the special master, rather than the superintendent, accountable for the declines.

Another Windham High School teacher, Tom Drewry, urged the board to recommit to Ortiz. He suggested that, since Adamowski’s arrival in 2011, Ortiz has effectively been prevented from fulfilling her duties as superintendent. “As a lifelong educator, Annie has nurtured deep, meaningful relationships,” said Drewry, speaking of the many hours that Ortiz has spent on the weekends attending school-associated activities.

Windham High School teacher Dara Bowling spoke of Ortiz’ boundless energy and genuine caring for the district’s children. “She has been a visible and stable presence,” said Bowling. Ortiz understands that if you do not know people, you cannot lead them, said Bowling. “Annie Ortiz is not a nameless, faceless entity to our students,” she said. “If you can’t lead with your heart, you can’t make a difference,” said Bowling. “Annie Ortiz makes a difference.”

“I’m a bus driver, not a teacher,” said resident James Flores. “But sometimes I have common sense.” Flores pointed to the continued district declines since the arrival of Adamowski. “Let’s work together to improve the system,” he said. “Dr. Ortiz, you have my full support.”

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