Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra swept out the last traces of the Eddie Perez era this week when he used his charter authority to appoint a majority, including himself, of the nine members of the city's board of education. Out went the Perez appointees. Four elected board members remain.
Mr. Segarra's appointees, an accomplished lot, include Jose Colon-Rivas, the city's director of families, children, youth and recreation and a former principal of Hartford Public High School; Matthew Poland, CEO of the Hartford Public Library system; attorney Richard Wareing, former chairman of the city charter revision commission; and Cherita McIntye, director of executive learning and development at ESPN.
As for appointing himself, as Mr. Perez did, there are pros and cons. Having the mayor on the board means the schools will get his constant attention, and all that entails. On the other hand, it could also result in a potentially uncomfortable concentration of power and be a drain on the mayor's time for public safety, economic development, the budget, etc. That Mr. Segarra declined to appoint himself board chairman, as Mr. Perez did, is a distinction without a difference. As the appointing authority for the majority of members and CEO of the city, he will be the de facto chairman.
If there is an optimal time for a mayor to join a school board, it is when the schools are in need of immediate and radical upgrade. But that took place six years ago, with the appointment of Superintendent Steven Adamowski. The board's charge now is to support the changes wrought by Mr. Adamowski and his successor, current Superintendent Christina Kishimoto — reforms that have translated into rising graduation rates and test scores.
Mr. Segarra has a heaping plate full of must-dos as mayor, in addition to overseeing the all-important job of eliminating the achievement gap and readying Hartford students for adulthood and the working world. If the combined workload gets too heavy, we assume Mr. Segarra will see the need to delegate, to replace himself on the school board.