Jumoke Charter School, with no non-English speaking students or any experience with English Language Learners, to take over neighborhood school where 40 percent of the students go home to households in which English is not the primary language.
One of the most contentious aspects of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” proposal was the section granting Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the power to take over a local district school, ban collective bargaining, fire the staff and hand the school over to a third party who would then be exempt from having to follow Connecticut’s laws about competitive bidding and the law limiting the use of consultants.
Many were concerned that Pryor, a key player behind Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management company that runs twenty schools in New York and Connecticut, would use his position to take over neighborhood schools and hand them over to his friends and colleagues in the Charter School industry.
The Democrats in the Connecticut Legislature responded by eliminating a number of the provisions in Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” program including limiting the number of schools Pryor could give to charter school companies.
Despite the clear cut legislative intent to put the focus on helping local school districts fix their own schools rather than take over schools and give them to a third party to run, Commissioner Pryor and Christina Kishimoto, the Superintendent of Schools in the City of Hartford, are fast tracking an effort to take the Milner School away from the Hartford Board of Education and give it to the Jumoke Academy, a charter school company that already runs one school in Hartford.
It is ironic, to say the least, that Malloy and Pryor would begin the education reform effort by stomping on Connecticut’s historic dedication to ensuring local citizens run local schools.
At a public meeting last night, the Hartford Superintendent of Schools and Michael Sharpe, the chief executive officer of the Jumoke Academy, laid out their plans for the transfer of the school, even though the State Board of Education hasn’t even had a chance to act on the preliminary steps needed to implement the “Commissioner’s Network” program.
One of the first items up was the news that the Jumoke Academy would not be keeping most of the teachers at the Milner School despite the fact that parents and students have had very positive things to say about the existing teaching staff.
According to press reports, Jumoke’s CEO “conceded that ‘the majority’ of Milner teachers would likely opt to transfer to another city school.” [Read that to mean that Jumoke won’t keep the existing staff so if they want to continue teaching they’ll have to transfer to another Hartford School. The problem being that the new law doesn’t provide Hartford with additional funds so that teachers would, at best, be put into any existing vacancies, as opposed to where it makes the most sense to put them.]
Connecticut’s new law allows Commissioner Pryor to take over up to 25 schools over the next three years and allocates $7.5 million for his program.
When the state recently took over the Windham School System and hired a “Special Master” to oversee the schools, it allocated a total of $1 million in additional funding for Windham. Of that amount, nearly half went to pay the salary and benefits of the “Special Master”, his staff and his hand-picked consultants.
One of the “most interesting” things about the plan to give the Milner School to the Jumoke Academy is that about 25 percent of Milner’s students are not proficient in English and participate in the English Language Learners program.
Jumoke Academy, on the other hand has no non-English speaking students. In fact, not a single one of Jumoke’s more than 430 students goes home to a household that doesn’t use English as their primary language.
In fact, Jumoke has no experience with the English Language Learners program or with students or parents who don’t speak English.
Furthermore, although about 13 percent of Milner’s students have special education needs, Jumoke’s special education population is only 2.3 percent
Considering language barriers and special education needs are two of the three biggest factors in determining success on standardized tests, it is unclear why Commissioner Pryor or Superintendent Kishimoto would think the Jumoke Academy is the best entity to take over the Milner School.