Dear Hartford Public Schools, Families, Colleagues, and Friends:
I want to express gratitude to each Board member and to Mayor Bronin for their support during my tenure as Acting Superintendent.
Today I stand before you proud, encouraged and humbled. Given my passion for education, and my commitment and connection to Hartford, this moment is very special. You know I am a product of Hartford Public Schools. As is the case for me, many of you here tonight have Hartford as part of your story.
These are challenging times at HPS. As a District, we are confronting the reality and impact of dysfunctional processes that compromised the safety of our children in the very spaces that are supposed to nurture their love of learning. Not only are we acknowledging the systemic changes needed to provide safety in our schools, we are embarking on the difficult task of consolidating schools; we do this in the face of significant fiscal constraints.
In the coming weeks the district will finalize a budget that affirms our stark truth of having to do more with less, and will re-imagine a school district with fewer buildings but stronger programs that infuse rigor and create pathways to college and career for our students. As we move forward, our commitment to each student will be front and center. We must ensure that our English learners and our special education students have the resources they need as we also provide for both the academic and social-emotional needs of ALL of our students.
The work ahead will be arduous for all of us. You have heard me say that change happens at the speed of trust. How fast and how well we are able to change and improve will depend on our ability to engage with one another. Therefore, the voices of our parents, teachers and staff, community and corporate partners are instrumental to our change efforts as the time is now to collaborate in new ways to do more with less, an experience that many of us know very well.
Too often, the disadvantaged and disenfranchised are written off, the presumption is made that their conditions will result in an inability to persevere. In fact, HPS and even our city is often times viewed that way. Yes, the obstacles we face are steep, but surmountable. We are at our best when we draw on what defines us individually while coalescing around what unites us.
Tonight – and the days going forward – presents us, both as a school system and as a community (regardless of where we may live in the city), with the opportunity to come together in the best interest of our students. Now is the time to model for them how we intentionally, responsively and respectfully engage in difficult and honest problem-solving in a shared commitment to our students. Through my leadership I will share and I will honor that commitment by serving Hartford to the best of my ability.
With gratitude for the opportunity to serve,
Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez