Lately, it seems that every public update we get on the Hartford superintendent search is another reminder of the awkwardness between the school board and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, who is often sitting a foot or two away when those updates are announced.
Kishimoto was a deputy to former schools chief Steven Adamowski when she ascended to the top job in summer 2011. Last year, tensions exploded between Kishimoto and the board, which voted in June to deny her request for a contract extension. Her employment with the district is set to end in mid-2014.
At Thursday night’s school board meeting, Kishimoto spoke for about four minutes on the “tension” and a need to overcome it. Her comments, which Cityline has transcribed below, were a conciliatory plea and holiday message wrapped into one off-the-cuff speech:
“I think we’re at a point in the school year where … as superintendent, I recognize that we have an incredible amount of tension in this district right now. I want to recognize that, one, we have leadership changes on the board that are forthcoming, and with any leadership change, there’s that period in which we want to make sure that transition is smooth.
“We also have a superintendent search that has started while your superintendent is sitting in this seat. There is certainly tension in that, as well. And I want it stated because I think that, while it’s obvious, we are all trying to tip-toe around all that tension.
“And as we go into the holidays, I just want to thank everybody for just being resilient. It is so important for us to stay laser-focused on being student-centered in all of our work. That does not mean we all make the right decisions all the time, but it should certainly mean that when the wrong decision is made, that we still stay at the table together, roll up our sleeves and say, ‘How do we fix this? How do we make this better?’ The fact is that we are a better district than when we started this reform in 2007, and in a few years, we’re going to be even better. We have to keep at this until every student is in a great school. And what’s happening is that there is impatience — for good reason.
“Every child should be in a great school right now, and that’s not what we have. But we cannot start being divisive with one another and let this tension overpower us …
“We know that words are extremely powerful. We know that social media is part of our community and our way of life now. And we know that social media and words can be used to be destructive, or they can be used to be empowering to share information. And I’m hoping that we can all, as we go into the holidays, take a break and come back and be absolutely recommitted to choosing our words carefully, working together, remembering that we are here only for the kids and our young people.
“We have an incredible responsibility to prepare our future leaders. They are in our hands and we’ve got to work together, because our children matter and this community matters. So I wanted to recognize that because the work is tough. There’s nothing easy about that at any place that you are, whether you’re a staff member or a parent, a community leader, a board member, a city official — this work is tough, but it is so critical because none of our children are expendable.
“As your superintendent, certainly for the next six months, and as a leader in this district for the last nine years, there is nothing I’m more passionate about than making sure that every child has access to great, quality education. I want this work to continue with every leader that comes after me, at every level in this district.
“And with that, I want to say … I wish everyone a merry Christmas. We will continue this work. I will not let up, and I will make sure that I complete my work here, just as we need to continue and complete this work. The tension is part of change, but we need to work through this and we can’t let it overpower us. And I wanted to just recognize that.”