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Monday, June 23, 2008

Schools’ lobbyist earning his keep

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— School lobbyist Keith Stover will return to Hartford with a year-long contract and a plan to bring state legislators from far-flung districts into city schools.
"We need to break through ‘we’re up there looking for money.’ We’ve got a great story to tell," Stover said.
The Capitol "is a very anecdotal place," he said. "It doesn’t surprise legislators when a bunch of superintendents come up and say we need more money. Not everybody comes up to say, ‘Remember when you came to visit our new K-8 school.’"
While several cities have hired lobbyists to represent them in Hartford, and City Hall has its own team, including former state Rep. Chris DePino and legislative liaison Laoise King, Stover’s Hartford-based firm Robinson & Cole is the only firm registered to a school board on the Office of State Ethics Web site.
According to an online biography, Stover has lobbied on behalf of Connecticut HMOs and the electric industry during deregulation negotiations.
He will earn $5,000 monthly from July 1 to June 30, 2009, under a contract approved June 16 by the school board’s Administration and Finance Committee. The contract is expected to be approved by the full board when it meets tonight.
Stover has been working for the schools since March 25.
While the district has thus far failed to secure $2.3 million cut from the state budget for the Early Reading Success program, school officials credited Stover for working with legislators to secure an additional $13.1 million for the Worthington Hooker School construction project.
"Keith paid for himself and then some," said school Chief Operating Officer Will Clark. "We want to use our time (in Hartford) wisely. To use time effectively up there," he said. "Keith calls us and says someone needs to come up and speak to Early Reading Success and Hooker; it’s much more targeted and refined."
But with a projected $150 million state deficit, Stover cautions against measuring success in dollars. "It’s a long-term thing. … If I can build beyond boundaries, we’ve accomplished a lot," he said. "We’ll know we’re successful when a state representative from Ridgefield says, ‘Isn’t that what (Superintendent of Schools Reginald) Mayo said?’"

Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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