West Hartford’s Emergent Identity
Posted by whforums on July 8, 2008
I think that, if you asked a random sampling of West Hartford residents what other towns West Hartford should compare itself to (in terms of education and other public services), the answer would probably be “Avon (who I think we’re taking to the referenda dance), Farmington (who also had two referenda) and Simsbury.” Our self-conception has been (and I think largely still is) suburban. Yet in the past two days I’ve seen West Hartford compared to very different towns and cities.
In making a brief but suggestive argument for regionalization, Hartford Magazine grouped West Hartford with Hartford, East Hartford, Bloomfield and Wethersfield.
On the Bristol Blog, the town of Bristol says it’s stepping away from its usual band of brothers – Middletown, East Hartford and Norwich, to compare itself to West Hartford (who it compared to Southington). If West Hartford still assumes the prior comparisons for Bristol, we find ourselves in context with Middletown and, once again, East Hartford.
SAT scores from the past 5 years (found on the state’s site) suggest West Hartford’s best “test score comparisons” (I more than willingly grant that test scores are a poor measure of educational quality) are RHAM (Hebron/Andover/Malborough), Canton, and Bolton (with excellent average test scores, but still scores that are well behind those in Avon, Simsbury and Farmington). But these – RHAM, Canton and Bolton — are all more rural areas, with a different set of strengths and a different set of problems than West Hartford.
So, that’s a long way of asking – where are we at, West Hartford? We know who we’ve been, and we know our “reputation,” but who are we today, and who are we becoming? And what other towns, going forward, do we fairly compare ourselves with?
I’d start the conversation this way: West Hartford remains a generally wealthy — but extraordinarily stratified — suburb, situated to maintain if not regain its reputation for education, especially as gas prices rise and people look to move closer Hartford. I’d compare it most closely to Glastonbury (which, incidentally, seems entirely devoid of blogs) — a suburb with a reputation for good schools and good eats that also deals with issues of economic stratification.