One Adam-12, One Adam-12, we have a COI in progress

COI as in Conflict of Interest…

(Written by Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker)

Yesterday, the Connecticut State Department of Education held an eight-hour training session for elected officials, administrators and parents associated with the “turnaround” schools that make up the Commissioner’s Network.

Among various education reformers, the “training event” featured none other than the Jumoke Academy’s CEO Michael Sharpe and COO Andrea Comer.  They explained the theory and practice behind the corporate education reform’s successful privatization movement.  Not only does Jumoke Academy collect millions of taxpayer dollars as a result of their Hartford-based charter school, but they are now collecting a state-funded management fee of $345,000 a year to run “The Jumoke Academy at Milner,” the former Hartford elementary school that was given to Jumoke as part of the Commissioner’s Network.

Flush with public funds, this private non-profit corporation has even started a new charter school management company called FUSE, Inc.

Tomorrow, the Connecticut House of Representatives may take up House Joint Resolution No. 75. , A resolution confirming Governor Malloy’s nomination of ANDREA COMER (Jumoke’s COO) to serve as a member of the State board of Education.

Is it a conflict of interest for the COO of a charter school company to sit on the State Board of Education where she will vote on a variety of measures that will directly help Jumoke and other charter schools in the state?  Not in Malloy’s mind.

Under Connecticut law, it would be conflict if she was President or Senior Vice President or Treasurer of Jumoke, but because the law doesn’t specifically use the term Chief Operating Officer, the Office of State Ethics says there is no legal conflict.

But of course there is a conflict of interest.

As Wait, What? readers learned in a recent post entitled Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education, Andrea Comer worked for Charter School Management company, Achievement First, Inc., a company co-founded by Connecticut Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, from  2009 to 2011 and started with Fuse/Jumoke Academy  in 2012.

Just a few weeks ago, Comer came before the legislature’s Appropriations Committee saying that she was representing “Jumoke Academy and its charter management organization FUSE, as its Chief Operating Officer…”

As a member of the State Board of Education, Comer will be voting on a wide variety of issues directly and indirectly affecting the profitability of the company she works for and Connecticut’s other charter schools.

Her boss, Michael Sharpe is not only the CEO of Jumoke Academy but has served as the President of the Connecticut Charter School Network, one of the organizations that is registered to lobby for charter schools.

Comer claims she has no conflict of interest despite the fact that she will be voting to review and reauthorize Jumoke’s Charter, review and vote on issues relating to the Jumoke Academy at Milner, review and vote on any requests by Jumoke Academy to expand, and vote on all regulations and funding decisions for Connecticut’s charter schools.

And those conflicts will occur on a continuous basis.

Just the other day, Jumoke’s Michael Sharpe was testifying before the General Assembly.  In a response to a question about how things were going with Jumoke’s takeover of the Milner School, he let slip a most interesting comment.  Sharpe said, “We’re actually extending it a little bit further in that Jumoke Academy has committed to working with the City of Hartford and possibly taking over schools like Milner School in a fee structure that allows us to help the City and the City also help our bottom line.”

Be sure to check back, because in the coming days we’ll be learning more about this secret deal between Sharpe, Jumoke and some officials within the City of Hartford.

These deals may very well have to go before the State Board of Education for approval where education reformers like Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor will count on the support of the newest member of the State Board of Education, who also just happens to be Fuse/Jumoke’s Chief Operating Officer.

Every day it becomes more and more apparent that Governor Malloy’s definition of following the law doesn’t actually include following the “spirit” of that law.

It will be interesting to see if any legislators are willing to stand up and speak out against Malloy’s nomination of Andrea Comer for a seat on the State Board of Education.

  • It won’t be Rep. Matt Ritter speaking against her nomination…

    • Apartheid First

      Very interesting, and helpful.
      Speaking very generally (cough, cough): with some nominees, there are so many conflicts of interest, it is hard to know where to start…

  • Apartheid First

    That’s pretty unbelievable. Special deals with the City of Hartford? Managing more of Hartford’s schools? How can that even be necessary after the spectacular reforms of Steven Adamowski?

  • Linda174

    It’s all part of the plan…getting rich off school children..prove the public schools are a failure…see here:

    Education results, however, don’t matter to the moneyed interests behind the “reform” movement. Profits do — and the potential profits are enormous.

    Citing a fact sheet from the for-profit education industry itself, the Washington Postrecently reported that “the education sector now represents nearly 9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product” while the “for-profit education is valued at $1.3 trillion, and is one of the largest U.S. investment markets.” Likewise, NPR reports that as he’s launched an education technology division, Rupert Murdoch “has described education as a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars.” This is why the tech siteGeekwire predicts another full-scale tech industry bubble, thanks to “K-12 and other education segments now being chased by a mob of investment capitalists.”

    Give “reformers” credit; they have successfully hidden a venal investment strategy in the veneer of idealistic political activism. Appropriating the poll-tested argot of change and mass movement, the Wall Streeters and tech moguls who finance the “reform” efforts have somehow convinced the political press to ignore one of the most powerful motivators of human action: the almighty dollar.

  • Apartheid First

    The whole thing about a COO not being a Treasurer or VP or President is just a total loop-hole.
    Who the hell is running the Ethics Board? Pryor’s Yale Law School buddies? Rowland’s disgraced legal counsel? I actually should retract that last theory, as it seems that once the republicans are out of office, the dems decide they are invincible and above the law… Ethics Boards are just for republican administrations, perhaps.
    Have some guts, legislators! A COO of a charter school company should absolutely not be on the SBE (when is Allan Taylor’s term up, by the way? He’s served longer than most supreme court justices and popes…)

    • Linda174

      And why wasn’t he held responsible for all the “failures”? Is accountability only for the little people? They make rules for everybody else. Taylor is a shill for ConnCon….on the advisory board and the State BOE chair? Concflict of interest is SOP.

  • Castles Burning

    Clever title.

  • Striking

    Malloy’s idea of following the law, is doing whatever the hell he wants. In more than 30 years of watching politics across the country, I have never seen arrogance and hubris at the levels exercised by Malloy. If this was a republican doing this, the Demos would be all up in arms. What a bunch of hypocrites.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    We need to see a list of who votes for and who votes against her appointment. The CEA needs to step up to the plate soon. they are such idiots…..they are going to kiss up to Malloy and Pryor and politic themselves right of of business. In the process they will be wrecking the careers of every public school teacher in Connecticut like they have already wrecked New London, Hartford and Bridgeport. Oh….and screw the Spanish speakers, underachievers and special ed students