Despite a FOI request to do so, the Connecticut State Department of Education has failed to turn over their contract with Mass Insight, an education reform company that was hired to provide services to Connecticut communities struggling to meet the mandates under Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” law.
While more will be known once the contract is finally released, what is known is that despite the professional talent left in Connecticut’s State Department of Education and the outstanding work that was being done by Connecticut’s Regional Service Centers (RESCs), Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, saw fit to turn his back on Connecticut’s existing expertise and hire an out-of-state “education reform” company to provide consultants to help Connecticut’s poorest towns get access to the funds provided in the new Commissioner’s Network program.
The cost of this arrogant decision is not only the fact that hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be flowing out-of-state, but at least two of the Regional Service Centers have already been forced to lay off staff who had been working with these school districts before Commissioner Pryor decided to give the work to Mass Insight.
The other reality is that Alliance Districts, and especially those working with the Commissioner’s Network Program are being forced to work with people who have little to no experience with Connecticut and our schools. Instead, they are products of a “reform” mindset that fails to take into account the complex challenges that face our poorest communities.
Prior to Pryor’s decision, the State Department of Education and the Regional Service Centers were providing Alliance Districts with technical support staff who had direct experience with these communities they were sent in to help.
Now, however, a band of “true believers” are being brought in to tell local, democratically-elected officials, local school administrators, teachers and parents what they must do to gain the Commissioner’s approval so their districts can access a paltry sum of additional state taxpayer funds to help balance their local budgets.
Since the State Department of Education hasn’t released the contract, despite their requirement to do just that under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Law, it is hard to determine who exactly Mass Insight has sent to Connecticut to staff this lucrative contract.
As best as we can tell, leading the Mass Insight Team is Senior Program Manager, Ron Sandlin, who recently joined Mass Insight after serving as the School Turnaround Manager at the Indiana Department of Education. With a BA in Political Science and an MA in Teaching, he apparently only has three years of teaching experience. Interestingly, Paul Vallas’, The Vallas Group signed a multi-million dollar contract in Indiana last year.
The Mass Insight Program Manager for the new contract appears to be MaryAnn Holland, who “supports district-level fieldwork.” Before joining Mass Insight, Holland served as College Office Director at Achievement First’s Amistad High School in New Haven; she has a B.A. from Colorado College and will be getting an M.A. this summer in Organizational Leadership from Columbia University. She did two years of teaching with TFA and one year with Achievement First, Inc.
Michelle Arader is a Project Coordinator with the Mass Insight School Turnaround Group in Connecticut. She also works with or worked on the contract Mass Insight has with the Providence Public School District. Before that she worked for Uncommon Schools, a charter school management company that provided “enrichment program and supporting operations” at Brownsville Collegiate Charter School in Brooklyn, NY. Arader has a B.A. from Princeton University. She apparently has no teaching experience.
Dipa Desai is also a Project Coordinator, having worked with Mass Insight’s Rhode Island operation including a contract the company has in Central Falls. Prior to joining Mass Insight she served as a Guidance intern at the Classical High School in Providence, RI and a Research Assistant at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Desai recently finished her M.Ed. in School Counseling from Providence College. She appears to have no teaching experience.
Emily Pallin serves as the Mass Insight Engagement Manager. She is also being shifted from the Mass Insight contract with the Providence Public School District. Prior to joining Mass Insight she was a research associate at New Visions for Public Schools, a corporate reform consulting organization that supports turnaround services in New York City. Pallin received a B.A. in public policy from Hamilton College and an M.P.A. at NYU’s Graduate School of Public Service. She appears to have no teaching experience.
Faced with the task of helping to develop real and lasting solutions for Connecticut’s schools, rather than use Connecticut’s home-grown talent and expertise, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education turned to a corporate entity that is based outside of Connecticut. With our districts being asked to rely on people with little to no teaching or real school administrative experience, Connecticut residents who do have that expertise are losing their jobs and joining the unemployment line.
Despite all this, the response from Malloy and the General Assembly’s Education Committee is nothing but silence.