Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Much completed, more to do

Can the district maintain its record of improvement?

By Cindy Kranz, ckranz@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Steven Adamowski came to Cincinnati Public Schools four years ago, he was heralded as the reformer who would reinvent the third-largest school district in Ohio.

        And clearly, success has followed Mr. Adamowski to Cincinnati. CPS proficiency test scores have jumped; more state education standards are being met; graduation rates have increased; and fewer students are skipping classes.

    Position: Superintendent, Cincinnati Public Schools, since August 1998

    Age: 51

    Salary: $181,282

    Career: Associate secretary of education, Delaware Department of Education, January 1997-July 1998; senior fellow and deputy director, Hudson Institute's Modern Red Schoolhouse project in Indianapolis, 1995-96; superintendent, Clayton Schools in St. Louis, 1991-95; superintendent, Chatham Schools in Chatham, N.J., 1987-1991; superintendent, Norwich Public Schools in Norwich, Conn., 1983-87; assistant superintendent, Portland Public Schools Portland, Maine, 1979-83; principal at Union Elementary School, Farmington, Conn., 1976-78; teacher, Scranton and East Rock Community schools, New Haven, Conn., 1972-75.

    Education: Bachelor's degree, elementary education, Southern Connecticut State College; master's degree, education, Trinity College, Hartford, Conn.; Mott Fellowship, University of Connecticut;advanced study in administration, planning and social policy, Harvard Graduate School of Education; doctor of philosophy, educational administration, St. Louis University.

        That's why so many city leaders, educators and executives all asked the same question after hearing Mr. Adamowski's stunning announcement Monday night that he was resigning to teach at the University of Missouri: Can this momentum continue?

        Mr. Adamowski clearly leaves behind significant unfinished business:

        • A $1 billion school building construction plan, one of the most ambitious in the country.

        • The redesign of five neighborhood high schools.

        • A teacher pay-for-performance plan.

        “The image the public has was reform and Adamowski were synonymous,” said Roger Effron, the owner of an education consulting firm and a former Cincinnati Public Schools educator for 29 years.

        “He was like the manager or the head coach who brought a winning record to the school system. Like any other venture, when you lose somebody associated with that winning record, who has brought some success to the district, of course it always worries you about who the successor will be.”

        The greatest concern expressed by many Monday night centered on CPS' $1 billion plan that would build 35 new schools and renovate 31 others. A levy that would need taxpayers' support could be on November's ballot. Already, the measure has gained vital community support , largely because of Mr. Adamowski's success during his stint.

        Many in Cincinnati — from those in classrooms to City Hall to corporate boardrooms — will be watching the seven-member CPS board closely to see if it can hire a superintendent the public has confidence in between now and the bond levy.

        “It's like a kick in the stomach because he is so talented,” said Lynn Marmer, a former CPS board member who voted to hire Mr. Adamowski in 1998. “He set so many things in motion.”

        Chad Wick, president and CEO of KnowledgeWorks Foundation, said the district will continue what Mr. Adamowski has started.

        “I don't think he's the kind of person who would leave in the middle of something,” said Mr. Wick, a former Tristate banking executive who works with CPS on its high school restructuring plans.

        Mr. Wick also is concerned about the school-building plan. The community, he said, has a high level of confidence in Mr. Adamowski, but he will not be here to pump up the voters.

        “For the citizens to vote our part of the levy, around $500 million, it's going to be a real test of community confidence.”

        Mr. Effron said Mr. Adamowski has enjoyed unparalleled success in Cincinnati, unlike many urban school superintendents.

        “He hasn't taken a beating from the public and other key stakeholders,” he said.

        Sue Taylor, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, is certain CPS' progress will not be derailed.

        “Reform doesn't happen as a result of just one person,” she said.

        But, Ms. Marmer advised, choosing Mr. Adamowski's successor will be critical to CPS' future.

        “Will the initiatives crumble? No, I don't think so. Many have begun and become part of the culture of the district, but I don't think anybody should underestimate the importance of the person at the top and their ability to energize the organization to sustain reform. Steve was very good at energizing the organization to move forward. I knew this was inevitable. I was hoping for one more year.”


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