Connecticut TFA Director wants to open a charter school…in Bridgeport

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Yup, the Connecticut Director of Teach for America has submitted an application to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Nate Snow arrived in Bridgeport in 2007 as a new TFA recruit.

Today he serves as the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and President of the Board of Directors of Excel Bridgeport, Inc., a corporate funded education reform organization that he co-founded with Meghan Lowney, an aide to billionaire, hedge fund owner Steven Mandel.

Excel Bridgeport serves as the primary advocacy group supporting Governor Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch and “Superintendent of Schools” Paul Vallas’ education reform policies.

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Snow joined TFA and taught for two years in Bridgeport.  He then joined TFA’s fundraising operation and then made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Snow and Vallas recently signed a three-year contract between the Bridgeport Board of Education and Teach for America for $777,000, although the contract was never provided to the Board for their review and approval.  Team Vallas is claiming he has the authority to sign the contract without Board involvement.

And meanwhile, despite having no experience in school administration, Snow is the lead name on a charter school application that is pending before Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Snow’s proposal is to create a Montessori Charter School for children between the ages of three and thirteen.

As to Snow’s connection to TFA and Excel Bridgeport, a recent CT Post article reported that “The charter school idea, he said, is his own.”

According to their proposal, “Whittier’s Montessori program is inspired by the design and implementation of Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School (AFMMS), a high-performing public Montessori school in Hartford, Connecticut. Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School has distinguished itself by meeting high standards of student achievement through a meticulous, fully implemented Montessori program.”

Stephen Adamowski, who according to emails acquired through a Freedom of Information request, worked with Snow around Malloy’s education reform bill, was a strong proponent of Hartford’s Montessori school and now, as Malloy’s Special Master for Windham and New London has been working hard to get Windham to switch one of its elementary schools over to a Montessori school.

In the new Montessori charter school application, the proponents explain how they developed the plan saying, “Prior to preparing for this submission, none of the founders had worked with a Montessori school, but they knew that it was a good brand with an excellent reputation. Starting with a visit to the acclaimed Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, then undertaking conversations with parents who have children in private Montessori school in Fairfield County, and ending with informal consultations with Montessori leaders from around the country, the Founding members became convinced that Montessori should be an option for all children in Bridgeport. Nate Snow contacted the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), located in Hartford, for further information on what was necessary to start a public Montessori school. These discussions led to an eventual contract with NCMPS to assist in school design and to aid in writing the charter application.”

The charter school proposal aims to start with 69 students next fall and reach 209 students in its fifth year.  Their budget calls for expending $1.7 million in year one and at least $3.8 million in year five.

While state charter schools get their money primarily from a state grant, Snow and his colleagues are trying to open a “local” charter school, meaning the funds would come mostly from Bridgeport’s school budget, with an extra $3,000 per student coming from a new state “local charter grant” that was part of Malloy’s education reform law.  Malloy’s education reform law also included a series of $500,000 “start-up grants” that charter schools could get from the state.  Snow and company are counting on getting one of those grants, as well.

In addition, the cost of transportation and special education costs would be paid for by the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Bridgeport is already well into the 60 day local charter review process.  The application, if approved, would then go to Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the state Board of Education.

As to the various players behind the proposal, Wait What? readers may recall that starting in January 2011, Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Excel Bridgeport worked to persuade the Connecticut State Board of Education to take over the Bridgeport School System.  Over the course of the six months leading up to the State Board of Education’s illegal takeover, Lowney, Snow and Excel Bridgeport engaged in numerous communications with state officials.

Despite their ongoing lobbying, both before and during the illegal takeover and throughout the effort to persuade legislators to support Malloy’s education reform bill, neither Lowney, Snow nor Excel Bridgeport registered to lobby with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, as required by law.

More than two weeks after the end of the 2012 Legislative session, Excel Bridgeport finally filed the required papers, listing Jorge Cabrera as the organization’s lead lobbyist.

Excel Bridgeport, a group initially called the Bridgeport Partnership for School Success, Inc., was created in December 2010 and then changed its name to Excel Bridgeport Inc. in September 2011.

According to its incorporation papers, Meghan Lowney, the Executive Director of the Zoom Foundation, (the personal foundation of Fairfield County billionaire Stephen Mandel), was registered as Excel Bridgeport, Inc.’s founding president and Nathan Snow, the Executive Director of Connecticut’s Teach for America Chapter served as the organization’s founding vice president.

Snow then took over the role as Excel’s president.   A board was also created made up of Jonathan Hayes (Executive, Meetinghouse Productions), Joel Green (Partner, Green & Gross, PC), Robert Francis (Executive Director, RYASAP), Carl Horton, Jr. (Consultant, Accenture), Scott Hughes (City Librarian, Bridgeport Public Library), Meghan Lowney (Executive Director, ZOOM Foundation) and Joseph McGee (Vice President, Fairfield County Business Council).  Like Snow, Francis, the Executive Director of RYASAP, also has a contract with the Bridgeport Board of Education.

As of now, Lowney and Snow have still not registered to lobby despite their ongoing efforts to influence public policy.

Meanwhile, faced with inadequate state resources, and Mayor Finch’s need to come up with $3.2 million more just to meet the state’s minimum local expenditure law, it will be interesting to see if Paul Vallas, the Bridgeport Board of Education and Commissioner Stefan Pryor divert dollars to their colleague Nate Snow and his proposal for a new Montessori charter school.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Next thing we are going to hear is Count Dracula wants to open a blood bank in Bridgeport and Finch, Vallas, Malloy, Pryor, and Barnes all think it is a great idea and have guaranteed all the public school students as first customers. It will go right next to the Bass Gun Shop and the “New” Harding (Ha Ha) High School.

  • Apartheid First

    Ooohhhh, Nate Snow is so versatile! Just think of how TFA can grow–nationally and in the Nutmeg state. Now, instead of the Mississippi Delta, TFA and Nate Snow can say, come on over! One site is in the metropolitan New York City area and another, new site is not far from Providence and Boston. That would be Windham, where Nate and Steven Adamowski tapped a “parent” to “host” an informational evening about turning the district over to TFA. It’s been such a success!
    You should hear about the great things TFA is doing in Connecticut! In the classrooms of some of their most popular teaching temps, students are getting As and Bs in math! Not that they are actually learning–it’s one thing to give someone an “A”, it’s another to teach students something. But hey, TFAers often run afterschool clubs which garner them even more popularity with the students they’ve just given As to!
    Sounds like a great thing to expand to charter schools with the same fine TFA philosophy, delivered by someone like Nate Snow, who is so experienced in killing public education and depriving certified, traditionally trained teachers of their livings.
    And Stephen Adamowski knows someone who runs a Montessori accrediting business! You never know who might show up to run or start one of these schools. The unlikeliest people find themselves defending TFA and then profiting off of it!

  • Roger

    Is the teacher at Marin with the same name any relation to Nate? She has a long history with TFA.

  • WesternCT Teacher

    TFA should not be in Connecticut in any way shape or form. When my district has opening we literally get thousands of applicants. Almost all all Connecticut residents who earned their degrees in this state. They sit unemployed, waiting to pursue what for many has been the career of their dreams while TFA members come in and steal their jobs.

  • Larry

    Just got a robo call saying when the meeting was to discuss this issue. May 7, 6 pm at Aquaculture School. Application info downloadable at the BOE website.

  • Magister

    Here is what the Onion has to say about TFA. It is sad when satire and reality are indistinguishable. Warning: is a naughty word in there…

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/teach-for-america-chews-up-spits-out-another-ethni,1293/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=standard-post:headline:default

  • Paul Bogush

    I agree…but….maybe if publics schools offered a better “product” CT citizens would be less likely to fund these schools. You have written many times about the underlying issues of poverty in education. Maybe we should start looking at the underlying problems in schools that make kids want to escape. When public schools open their eyes and see they just can’t keep offering the same product they have been for more than a century, the need for charter schools would disappear. I do use the word need on purpose…many families need them to escape what is being offered in their public schools.
    I am a parent of a charter school kid (Common Ground) and a public school teacher. A little bit of me want charters to succeed because nobody changes until they absolutely have to…maybe once public schools really start feeling the monetary and demographic pressure they will change their archaic ways. Unfortunately, with the Common Core State Standards, I don’t see that happening for a long long time. The same forces behind the charters, hammered a nail in public education with the CCSS. And teachers, principals, superintendents, and parents let that happen.

    • Linda174

      Sorry I don’t want their product and I would never put my kids in a test prep factory with SLANT requirements and reorientation rooms to give them the “culture they need”. If that’s the “better product” we are truly screwed.

  • Public School Teacher

    Wait. Do you even know what a Montessori school is? Have you visited Annie Fisher to see their success? You should. I live near Hartford and families love all three of the public Montessori schools. Montessori schools are nurturing, child centered places that do not teach to a test.