Tomorrow, Connecticut’s poorest and most challenged school districts must submit their “Year 2 Alliance District Plans” to Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his loyal band of education reformers.
If you are a student, parent, teacher or administrator in one of the following towns…you should be worried….very worried.
The towns include: Ansonia, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, Derby, East Hartford, East Haven, East Windsor, Hartford, Hamden, Killingly, Manchester, Middletown, Meriden, Naugatuck, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Putnam, Stamford, Vernon, Waterbury, West Haven, Windham, Winchester, Windsor and Windsor Locks.
Your legislators will tell you that despite the budget crisis, they were able to increase your level of school funding this year, thereby helping create better schools without dumping the entire burden on local taxpayers.
What they haven’t told you is the money is dependent on the approval of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the long-time charter school advocate.
Once the plans are submitted, Pryor and his team will review the plans and determine whether they meet his “rubric” for “school change.” He and his team will then decide whether your town will get the additional education funding that was recently approved by the Connecticut General Assembly.
If he doesn’t approve the plan, your town doesn’t get the money. And rumor has it, in at least one case, the town won’t get the money unless they hire Achievement First to train local administrators….Achievement First being the charter school management company that Pryor co-founded.
And as every parent, teacher and administrator knows, if the money doesn’t move, additional program cuts will be forthcoming in those towns.
Worse, Pryor and his entourage have let go the very people within the Department of Education who actually know what these Alliance Districts need help with.
Last year, Alliance District Plans were primarily reviewed and handled by the Department of Education’s technical assistance operation, a group of seven Connecticut-trained Leaders in Residence and former superintendents who have spent the last six or seven years helping districts develop locally appropriate action plans.
But despite their extraordinary experience and dedication, those seven key staff people were let go by Malloy’s Commissioner this month and replaced by out-of-state consulting firm, Mass Insight, that are charging $965,000…hundreds of thousands more than the seven experts were being paid.
Gone are the seven experts and their combined 250 years of experience working directly with local superintendents, principals, teachers and other administrators.
Instead the fate of funding for Connecticut’s neediest school districts rests with a group of consultants who have no meaningful experience with Connecticut’s communities.
Even more troubling and incredible, some Alliance School Districts are learning that in addition to the out-of-state consultants, Pryor has assigned some of his interns to review and rate the Alliance plans.
The very fate of our communities are being decided by consultants and interns with little to no Connecticut experience.
This absurd, inappropriate, unfair and dysfunctional operation is being headed by one of Pryor’s new out-of-state managers, Debra Kurshan, who joined the State Department of Education after a working for a charter school management organization, consulting for the New Orleans School Recovery District and helping to close public schools in New York City.
To make matters even worse, while the consulting contract with Mass Insight is only 90 days old, one of their most senior consultants has already left, only to be replaced with someone with even less experience.
If local taxpayers in the Alliance towns only knew how they were being played, they’d demand that their elected officials head back to Hartford and make major changes to this unjust and irresponsible process.
Instead, the Pryor operation will continue to play games with our students, parents, teachers, administrators and taxpayers of Connecticut.
But at least the out-of-state consulting company will walk away with almost a million dollars in taxpayer funds, so someone out there must be pretty happy.