Embattled Hartford, Conn., Superintendent Resigns

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The Hartford, Conn., schools' state-appointed management team jettisoned one of the last vestiges of the district's once locally elected board last week by arranging the exit of Superintendent Patricia Daniel.

The state board of trustees for the 25,500-student system accepted Ms. Daniel's resignation at a heated May 19 meeting, attended by many of her supporters, that ended with board members receiving a police escort from the building. The denouement followed a growing list of disagreements between the board and superintendent, and more recently, concern from the state education department that the district was not making enough progress.

"We were going into our second year, and clearly, we still had strong philosophical differences, and you can't have that," said Robert Furek, the board's chairman.

The board immediately appointed Benjamin Dixon, a deputy commissioner in the state education department, as interim superintendent. Mr. Dixon has been the department's liaison to the district for more than a year.

The dispute followed a story line familiar to the Hartford school community. Continuing frustration over the district's failure to significantly improve student achievement has yielded a series of shake-ups in management there. ("Conn. Bill To Seize Hartford Schools Passes," April 23, 1996.)

In the eight years before Ms. Daniel arrived just over a year ago, the district went through five superintendents and acting superintendents. The board once hired a private-management firm to run district operations, only to oust the company a little more than a year later.

Power Struggles

Plans for a state takeover were well under way by the time Ms. Daniels came to Hartford from the top post in the East Providence, R.I., schools in March 1997. Hiring her was one of the last acts of the locally elected board before state lawmakers passed legislation to disband it.

The district's new trustees and the superintendent initially pledged to work together. But the relationship deteriorated as the board and Ms. Daniel disagreed over such issues as instituting site-based management and establishing charter schools.

State Commissioner of Education Theodore S. Sergi earlier this month sent the superintendent a three-page memo listing information the state had requested but which the district had yet to report correctly. Some of the omissions had jeopardized grants to the system, he wrote.

Ms. Daniel, in a statement released last week, described a conflict in her charge "to direct and manage the rebirth of the Hartford schools" and the board of trustees' attempt "to take an active role in the management" of the district. She received two years' salary, or about $290,000, as severance pay.

Vol. 17, Issue 37, Page 3

Published in Print: May 27, 1998, as Embattled Hartford, Conn., Superintendent Resigns
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