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Conn. Officials Call for Team Effort To Revamp Hartford's Ailing Schools

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Connecticut education officials last week outlined a far-reaching blueprint for resuscitating Hartfords ailing public schools, following a five-month study that laid bare severe problems in virtually all areas of the system.

Commissioner of Education Theodore S. Sergi released the action plan in conjunction with a report on the 25,000-student district prepared by consultants based at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Mr. Sergi and officials from the Northeast Regional Laboratory at Brown, a federally supported research and assistance service, urged all parties involved in the district to put aside turf battles and commit to a common vision of educational rebirth.

"Hartford needs nothing less than a community 'barn-raising': a team effort, with all players putting the success of our children ahead of all other interests," Mr. Sergi wrote in an open letter to the Hartford education community.

Among Mr. Sergi's 48 recommendations were calls for a new accountability system with rewards and sanctions for schools based on student achievement; a citywide public-school-choice program; a top-to-bottom overhaul of the curriculum; and major changes in facilities, finances, and technology.

The state chief also called for an army of volunteers to help children learn to read better, the creation of a new foundation to coordinate donations to the schools, and numerous steps to boost parental involvement.

Noting that complaints of union obstructionism were rampant in the district, he urged employee unions to open discussions with the school board on removing collective bargaining provisions that impede student learning.

Mr. Sergi's recommendations were part of a broader intervention by the state education department begun last spring after the City Council asked the mayor to declare the schools in a state of emergency and called on Gov. John G. Rowland to intervene forcefully. ("Hartford Council Seeks State Help in Running Schools," May 22, 1996.)

Rejecting calls to take over the system, Gov. Rowland instead opted for a policy of intensive collaboration between state and local officials.

--CAROLINE HENDRIE

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