The challenges for Hartford's public schools are the same as ever – absenteeism, illiteracy and poverty – but on the eve of the 2014-15 school year, there's a new superintendent in town.
"Together we advance our work, meet and conquer our challenges, and deeply serve our students and families," Beth Schiavino-Narvaez told the annual convocation of teachers.
A few hours later, three Mini Coopers, loaded with school supplies from New County Mini, parked in front of the entrance to 960 Main Street, where the public schools have set up a Welcome Center for families.
"It's a blessing," said Zaida Rodriguez, holding her 3-year-old son Israel in one arm and his new backpack in the other. Israel is getting ready to start Pre-K.
"I've been in the shelter and it's hard for me and for moms who are looking for a job," she said.
A few miles away, students in Farmington had their first day of school.
Fourth graders at Noah Wallace School were excited about their new teacher, a man from Ireland who they said would teach them Gaelic.
Third-grader Anna Peterson described her day as "awesome." Her mother, Rebecca Plona, was pleased with her enthusiasm.
"I'm just so fortunate. Noah Wallace is a great school. I just want my kids to love learning. We're really lucky to be here," Plona said.