Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education

(Written by Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

A Conflict of Interest:  A situation in which a public official’s decisions are influenced by the official’s personal interests.

From 2009 to 2011 she served as community outreach director for Achievement First, the large charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

In 2012, after a short stint as spokesperson for Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, she went to work for the Jumoke Academy, the Hartford-based charter school.

In October 2012, the Jumoke Academy’s CEO, Michael Sharpe, named her to the post of Chief Operating Officer for FUSE (Family Urban Schools of Excellence), the new charter school management company that Jumoke created to expand and “replicate” its schools.

According to a media report at the time, as COO of FUSE, her job would be to “core operations functions that support FUSE’s mission, overseeing organizational planning and serving as a member of the senior leadership team.”

Just six weeks ago, on February 21, 2013, she went before the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to speak in favor of more funding for charter schools and Governor Malloy’s education reforms saying, “I am here representing Jumoke Academy and its charter management organization Fuse, as its Chief Operating Officer…”

And then, a few days after that Governor Malloy nominated her to the Connecticut State Board of Education.

In addition to serving as COO of a charter school management company, she would be voting on whether to expand existing charter schools, authorize new charter schools and move more taxpayer funds from public district schools to charter schools.

Yesterday, the legislature’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee held a public hearing on her nomination and then immediately voted in favor of her nomination.

Next step for Andrea Comer – the Connecticut House of Representatives – for a final confirmation vote.

Certainly her conflict of interest is obvious.

Under Connecticut law, “A ‘substantial’ conflict of interest exists if a public official or state employee has reason to believe or expect that he or she, his or her spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he or she is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by virtue of his or her official activity…”

And the law goes on to say that a  ‘Business with which…associated’ is defined to include any entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the public official or state employee, or a member of his or her immediate family, is a director, officer…”

The language is simple and direct.

The conflict is obvious!

Jumoke Academy’s charter, the document that allows the school to exist,  must be reviewed and reauthorized by the State Board of Education on regular basis. The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Jumoke Academy’s request to expand is voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

The Commissioner’s recommendations concerning The Jumoke Academy at Milner (part of the Commissioner’s Network of “turnaround schools”) is voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Proposals to expand the number of Jumoke/Fuse schools in Connecticut are voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Regulations and funding for charter schools is voted on by the State Board of Education.  The COO of Fuse/Jumoke shouldn’t be on that Board.

Putting the COO of Fuse/Jumoke on the State Board of Education is inappropriate and wrong.

But wait just a second; on Wednesday she was given a letter from the Office of State Ethics saying that she doesn’t have a “conflict of interest.”

How is that possible?

Because it turns out that according to the Office of State Ethics, the Ethics Code defines the term “Business with which…associated” as “an entity of which you are one of the following: director, officer (i.e., president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer), owner, limited or general partner…”

Despite the fact that she has come before the legislature to call for more funding for charter schools, in general, and Jumoke Academy in particular;

Despite the fact that her job is to expand the number of Jumoke Charter School;

Despite she clearly has a real and perceived conflict of interest;

According to the Ethics Commission’s regulations, as COO, instead of “president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer” she isn’t prohibited from serving on the State Board of Education.

What an amazing travesty of justice.

If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quakes like a duck…

And perhaps most shocking of all is why Governor Malloy thinks this appointment is okay.  Even if it doesn’t violate the absolute “letter of the law,” it so flagrantly violates the spirit of Connecticut law that it is an insult to everyone who believes in open, honest and transparent government.

  • John

    How wonderful that someone so clearly devoted to working for excellence in education has received this appointment! It makes me hopeful for the future of education in CT.

    • Surely you jest. This is another way to shovel money to her company and other drones like it. Success for children? Oh, that’s a sideshow to the real goal. Take over schools, get more money. Produce mediocre results.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Instead of selling his soul to the Devil he sold our state. Where can we find an Exocist? If one school teach votes for Danny boy………..
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day

  • brutus2011

    The good thing about all this is that now the education “reform” movement’s true motive is de-cloaking.

    Money, money, money.

    With a generous sprinkling of power and control.

  • buygoldandprosper

    More Malloy Mendacity.
    He talks about an open, honest, government but he is John Rowland with a green tie.

    The longer Dan is in office, the more he makes Rhode Island government look honest!
    Erin Go Blah!

  • Apartheid First

    What a blatant abuse of power.
    It’s a good thing Malloy got rid of most of the watchdog groups, leaving just a few pitbulls to make sure nothing stops him from selling out to the corporate reformers.

  • Ken Mortland

    Don’t know enough about the current make up of the board. Are any board members officials of any of the professional or labor unions involved in education? Does the school board authorize charter schools in the state? Would it be considered useful experience for a board member to be acquainted with the charter school industry?

    • Apartheid First

      Acquainted? The Chair, Allen Taylor, who has been on way too long, is also on the board of ConnCAN, a charter school lobbying group. And let’s not forget the vast experience of Stefan Pryor with charter schools–while we also acknowledge his utter lack of experience with public schools, teaching, child development, or any other qualification we might expect/demand of a State Commissioner of Education.

  • Grumble

    This is a silly piece.
    The company is not-for-profit.
    Go after the for-profit companies in the education sector (like Phoenix) and in other sectors (like some hospitals) that are taking taxpayer dollars, not producing results, and paying out to private equity investors.
    Attacking Jumoke sounds like what it probably is – a reflexive defense of the status quo in misguided service of the teachers union.

    • Linda174

      Guess who else is non profit? TFA with $300 million in reserves. Nowadays non profit has a whole new meaning. Catch up!

  • You can’t make this stuff up—-and the governor isn’t even ashamed–right in our face—no way he gets any teacher votes next time–unless Foley is the Republicans bogeyman again–then we cant win either way—