“As of now, I am in control here, in the White House.” – Alexander Haig, Secretary of the State
It was March 30, 1981 and an assassination attempt sent President Reagan to the hospital.
Secretary of the State Al Haig called a press conference at the White House to announce, “Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.”
But of course, Al Haig had his facts wrong since the US Constitution requires that the line of succession is the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and then the Secretary of State.
The Haig moment is often used as a metaphor when someone inappropriately attempts to take power or control.
Just such a moment occurred earlier this week when Governor Malloy’s “Special Master” for New London and Windham, Steven Adamowski, informed the New London Board of Education that he and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were the ones truly in charge when it came to selecting a new local superintendent of schools for New London.
As reported by The Day newspaper of New London, Peg Curtin, the head of the New London Board of Education explained, “I would like to see the community be involved…”I would just want to make sure everyone is heard.”
The newspaper then goes on to report that, “As a result of the state’s involvement in the city’s school system, Adamowski said, he or the state commissioner of education could review the candidates the board decides to interview and eliminate any they find to be unqualified.”
Adamowski explained, “We will not be in a situation where I or the commissioner is in a position of having to veto something the board wants to do or tell you not to do something…We would like to simply make sure that the depth and quality of the candidates that go before you as finalists is sufficient.”
The Connecticut General Assembly authorized the State Board of Education, in very limited circumstances, to name a “Special Master” to help communities improve their schools. The Malloy administration has used that authority in two cases – Windham and New London.
In both cases the result has been a disaster.
While the title “Special Master” is absurd and insulting, the law was never intended to create a dictator who would be in position to destroy a community’s right to control its schools.
And yet is exactly what has been happening in the two communities.
Adamowski’s rhetoric is nothing short of an “Al Haig moment” and the citizens of New London and Windham better reach out to their local state senators and representatives to insure this modern-day Al Haig doesn’t get away with claiming powers he does not have.
A perfect example of the problem appears in the very same Day article. The paper reports, “Adamowski has previously recommended that the new superintendent’s salary be set to a competitive level, that he or she be given a three-year contract and that the renewal of the superintendent’s contract be determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets established in the district’s strategic operating plan.”
A superintendent evaluation “determined solely by the results of a yet-to-be-adopted performance evaluation tied to performance targets?
(AKA standardized test scores).
With that approach, New London parents and their local representative must move quickly to take back control of their schools so they can hire a superintendent who has the ability to fulfill all the duties associated with the job.
Because, as every parent, teacher and school board members understands, a superintendent’s job is so much more than improving test scores.
Superintendents are responsible for recruiting and retaining good administrators and teachers, for making sure special education student get the additional help they need and deserve, for developing and implementing effective bi-lingual and English Language Learning Programs, for improving early education opportunities, for reducing bullying and creating safer school climates, for seeking ways to reduce racial isolation, for ensuring scarce resources are well spent and the list goes on and on.
Despite Steven Adamowski’s apparent wish, Connecticut’s “Special Master” Statute was never intended to allow Pryor, Adamowski or anyone else to make decisions that are solely within the purview of the local Board of Education.
And if Adamowski claims he has special powers then citizens need to ensure legislators act to protect them from that power grab.
Al Haig’s comments that day in 1981 made him the laughing-stock of the world.
Adamowski’s claim that as “Special Master” he has “super powers” is equally absurd.
Or as the case may be, hey Steven, “you’re doing a heck of a job.”
You can find the latest Day article here: http://www.theday.com/article/20131206/NWS01/312069954/0/SEARCH