Last Friday, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education quietly ended what has widely been recognized as one of the State Department of Education’s most important and successful programs.
For years, a variety of Connecticut school districts have been receiving vital technical assistance from a group of retired superintendents and senior school administrators through a program housed at the State Department of Education.
The program has functioned thanks to a grant through EASTCONN, the Regional Education Service Center. The program has funded four State Department “Leaders in Residence,” along with three retired school superintendents. Together these people have been giving school districts across the state with critically important helpg on a wide variety of projects.
Together, former superintendents Mike Wasta (Bristol), Patrick Proctor (Windham), Jim Mitchel (Groton) and Leaders in Residence, Rosanne Daigneault, Warren Logee, Robert Pitocco and Salvatore Randazzo have more than 250 years of combined expertise on the cutting edge of making schools succeed. Their expertise ranges from Special Education, to improving teaching to financial management. Some have Ph.Ds. while others have Education Doctorates. All have spent their lives here in Connecticut helping improve our schools.
And now, as a result of Pryor’s most recent decision, towns will be losing the very help and expertise they so desperately need.
What is particularly disturbing is that Malloy and Pryor have repeatedly claimed their goal is to help school districts, especially the poorest school districts, succeed.
The hallmark of Malloy’s education reform law, Public Act 12-116, was the creation of so-called “Alliance Districts.” According to Malloy’s bill, the Alliance District program was developed to focus support and funds on the 30 districts with the “lowest district performance index scores statewide.”
These are the districts that have the highest rates of poverty, the largest number of students who come to school with English language challenges and the communities that have the greatest number of children with special education needs.
And these very districts were among those that benefited the most from the state’s technical assistance programs.
But in a complete reverse of priorities, one of Commissioner Pryor’s top aides at the State Department of Education called these experts together last Friday to inform them, that despite the extraordinary success of their program, the Commissioner was putting an end to their contracts.
His apparent rationale was that he had spent the funds elsewhere and the money was no longer available to keep the program going.
In these troubled economic times, when school districts need more support, the state’s top education official should be doing more to invest in proven, successful systems that help districts succeed. Instead, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education has been turning his back on the professional staff in the Department of Education and shifting scarce resources to more and more often to out-of-state consultants and inexperienced education reformers.
The decision to eliminate these top-notch Connecticut grown experts is the simply the latest, albeit one of the most disturbing, examples to date.
Pryor’s decision is particularly galling considering the Connecticut General Assembly hasn’t even adopted a state budget yet for next year and both Malloy and Pryor have been telling the Legislature that serving Connecticut’s Alliance Districts was their top priority.
We’ll hear much more about this incredible development in the weeks ahead, but if we needed proof that the education reformers have no clue what districts really need and will even destroy the most successful programs in their efforts to undermine public education, they need only look to Pryor’s latest action.
It proves beyond any doubt that Pryor and his entourage are truly out of touch with what is best for public education in Connecticut.