Now comes news of a fourth state contract that was run through SERC rather than be put out to bid as required by law.
It turns out that on December 27, 2011, a top staff person at the State Department of Education wrote to Marianne Kirner, the Executive Director of SERC, instructing her that “the Commissioner wants to secure through SERC, the services of Ranjaja Reddy” and outlining the parameters of the contract. According to the email, the consultant would work from January – September 2012, would receive a salary in the range of $70,000 (annualized) plus health and dental benefits, but no retirement benefits. She would begin working on or about Monday, January 9, 2012 and would be working at the State Department of Education with Commissioner Pryor.
The description of work to be listed on the contract was “waiver project and other initiatives.”
SERC’s Executive Director’s response was, “I had been anticipating requests like the one in your email given my various conversations with the Commissioner and others.”
After multiple emails back and forth between employees of the state Department of Education and SERC, a budget of $124,924 was finalized of which about $110,000 was assigned towards the salary, benefits and costs associated with Ranjaja Reddy and $15,000 to SERC for their work on the project and an “indirect fee” of 6%.
Why a contract with Ranjaja Reddy?
There is no indication in the paperwork why this particular individual was the most appropriate person for the task nor why they she was being retained through SERC as opposed to the State Department of Education.
It is clear that Ms. Reddy was asked to write her own job description, which was then attached to the contract.
In addition, Reddy’s resume, which was attached to the emails, reveals that she is a Yale Law School student and that she was a co-founder and taught at the Rise Academy in Newark, New Jersey from 2006 – 2010.
Commissioner Pryor was working for the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey for much of that same period.
The Rise Academy is a “KIPP school”, KIPP being the nation’s largest charter school management companies with over 133 schools.
This latest contract comes on top of the fact that Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education directed a no-bid contract for $225,000 a year plus benefits be given to Steven Adamowski to serve as the “Special Master” for Windham’s Public Schools.
In addition, last week, in a series of articles written by Connecticut Post reporter Ken Dixon, Connecticut learned that not one – but two – of the consultants who developed Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill were retained using the same loop-hole. One was hired for $195,000 and the other for $60,000.
In this case, Governor Malloy’s Education Commissioner, Stefan Pryor, instructed SERC to hire certain consulting firms. The State Department of Education transferred the money to SERC and SERC retained the consultants for Pryor.
And it wasn’t like the parties didn’t understand what was happening.
Pryor even signed the contracts along with SERC and the particular firms. Administration officials have said it was a need for speed that required they get the consultants on board quickly, not an effort to get contracts to friends.
Considering the time frame, the Malloy Administration was certainly in a rush, but on the other hand, at least one and maybe both of the firms had worked with Commissioner Pryor or his associates in the past.
At this time, it is unclear how many other contracts Commissioner Pryor may have run through SERC.
As Tuesday’s Connecticut Post noted;
“State auditors are examining the relationship between the Department of Education and a Middletown agency called the State Education Resource Center, which paid more than a quarter million dollars to two consultants without competitive bidding.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, citing reports on the contracts in the Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, on Tuesday ordered his staff to look into the issue as well.”
Here are links to Ken Dixon’s articles