Layoffs for Connecticut Residents, Retainers for out-of-state consultants: The Malloy-Pryor-Mass Insight Contract

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.

  • buygoldandprosper

    Thanks Jon. Another GREAT piece that exposes an administration that is, at best, incompetent and, at worst, corrupt beyond belief.

    You ruined my weekend with this one!
    The minimum wage law did not help either…a few cents, Dan will sign and claim to be a hero to the working poor in spite of his previous stance, and we get to suffer while he crows about it as 2014 approaches!

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    The silence of the CEA is worse then the silence of Pryor and Malloy. But not Paul Vallas, the original “Full-Tilt Bozo”. Kind of reminds me of the “Silence of the Lambs”.

  • A Parents Voice

    Thanks Jonathan for keeping parents/tax payers in the loop as it relates to irresponsible spending of educational dollars earmarked for the neediest children in CT. PARENTS, especially parents of color, that comprise the achievement gap will need to come together and hold Gov Malloy and his administration accountable for allowing educational dollars to go everywhere and everyone else instead of the classroom to ensure the children are getting DIRECT access to the appropriate effective resources needed to ensure their academic and life success.

    Here is my final thoughts: It appears Gov Malloy wants to deny kids a quality education, therefore NOT building the qualified workforce needed to stabilize the economy so he can therefore try to JUSTIFY OUTSOURCING CT jobs.

    Gov Malloy is a FATHER that demanded the best for his family so WHY does he think OTHER families will not fight for the best for their children and family?

    • buygoldandprosper

      Dan and Cathy took every advantage of his positions in Stamford to put their kids at the front of every line that the rest of the citizens waited patiently in…from hockey to schooling.

      The kids were treated with kid gloves by the police in spite of multiple (frequently unreported) offenses.

      At least one long time HS coach was fired because he would not play one boy and Dan got funding for a new track as payment. I have spoken to parents who told me their kids were scared to be around the Malloy spawn and finally they were all shipped off to private schools and the courts. One got a nice internship at GLOBAL STRATEGIES and one can only wonder what “stipend” he received!

      Yes. Dan demanded the best but at the public’s expense. The list of entitlements that he demanded is long and we all saw it when he hit Hartford. Fences. Trips. Bodyguards. Cathy getting a $200K a year appointment in spite of he lack of skills.

      Dan pays lip service to public education but it is just another tool for his own political advancement and as we have all seen his words do not ring true. It worked to some extent in Stamford with his twice yearly pie chart showing how big a slice the schools took, but people wised up quickly as he and Ben Barnes spent/taxed like drunk sailors and began his covert war against the schools.
      Dan is all about Dan. Remember that, no matter what he promises as we head towards 2014.

      • JMC

        Well, now he can count felony convictions among his children’s achievements.

  • Apartheid First

    Ron Sandlin appears to have been a TFA “teacher”–looks like he didn’t feel passionate enough to stay in the classroom. Oh, but I forgot, even 2 or 3 years of teaching as TFA surpasses any career teacher’s efforts and impact.

    Everyone should go look on the Mass Insight website. Some of their interesting policy dictates include getting rid of collective bargaining and worker protections for teachers. How else can districts afford to pay six-figure salaries to 25-year-old ed reform experts?

    Gabrielle Ramos is another turnaround special projects team member who is an alum of TFA. You can see why that group gets so much political support–constant lobbying and strategic placement of its disciples in positions of power.

    FOI had better cough up these contracts. Could this be another SERC-type cover job? I think officials are too busy rolling their own and sniffing the smoke-filled air to notice what is a much bigger influence-peddling scandal.

    • Apartheid First

      Won’t this be nice, when the Koch brothers buy the Hartford Courant and 7 other Tribune dailies? Including, of course, the Chicago Tribune. Then we’ll really see ed reform reportage and anti-union copy.

      • buygoldandprosper

        Are the Koch brothers any better than Sam Zell?
        Nobody reads The Courant or cares about the content, other than UConn sports reporting.
        Their ownership is no matter.
        Look at the Chandlers in LA. While they were just to the right of Hitler, they created a great media empire that is still churning out good stuff. Same with the NYT’s although they were never as conservative…but don’t kid yourself. The Sulzbergers knew who buttered their bagels!
        Let Koch Bros run it and spend their cash. AlJeezera and RT and others will fill the gap. As will JON PELTO!!

  • buygoldandprosper

    “The governor said “the reason I am putting more money into education is that we have under-funded education, particularly in the 30 low-performing districts over a long period of time. But, I’m also holding people’s feet to the fire. The days that we simply write out a check and forget that we wrote the check are over. We are going to monitor how these monies are being spent. We will hold people accountable for real results.”

    Riiiiight Dan!

    • Linda174

      People? Like Pryor, Vallas, Adamowski? Is that who he means? Sure!

    • Apartheid First

      Can you give the link to this quote? It is a classic.
      Even if it were true that “they” (the “we” of the quote) “simply write out checks and forget that we wrote the check”, how is it that there are at least 30 “under-funded” low-performing districts? Could they be low performing because they are underfunded? It’s not about feet to the fire, for god’s sake.
      Maybe Malloy should monitor how Pryor is spending money?

      • buygoldandprosper
        Full of all sorts of Dan Malloy drivel…what an idiot. The bus line “game changer” line is good, as is the comment on the gun makers. This from the man who was attempting to lure the hedge-fund owned maker of Adam Lanza’s weapon of choice to Stamford for a MILLION of YOUR dollars. Just to take up empty office space in his old town of Stamford…sickening.

  • buygoldandprosper