In what can only be described as a classic move of incredible arrogance, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, has named a non-certified individual to head up Malloy and Pryor’s pet project; the Department of Education’s “Turnaround Office” which has responsibility for overseeing state support for Connecticut 30 “alliance” districts.
Pryor’s choice for the job, Morgan Barth, reports that he was a founding teacher at Achievement First’s Elm City Preparatory Academy in New Haven and then went on to serve as principal there and then a principal at Achievement First Bridgeport’s Middle School.
However, Morgan Barth has never held Connecticut certification to be a teacher or an administrator.
The news means that the time he spent working at Achievement First, Inc. prior to July 1, 2010 was in direct violation of Connecticut state law.
In an email that went out yesterday from Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Pryor wrote, “Mr. Barth will serve as the Division Director for Turnaround in the Turnaround Office. He will guide all of the work of the division. Mr. Barth brings a wealth of experience as an educator and school leader – particularly in school environments that are in need of intensive intervention. Before coming to the SDE, he led improvement efforts at two of the lowest performing schools in the Achievement First Network, first at Elm City College Prep and most recently at Achievement First Bridgeport’s middle school. At Elm City, he taught fifth and sixth grade reading for four years before becoming the principal and taught fourth grade in Arkansas before coming to Connecticut in 2004.”
But despite coming to Connecticut nine years ago, Morgan Barth never bothered to acquire certification under Connecticut’s teacher and administrator certification law.
In 2010, with the assistance of a $100,000 lobbying contract with one of Connecticut’s most influential lobbying firms, Achievement First, Inc. was able to convince the Connecticut General Assembly to pass a law that exempted Connecticut’s charter schools from Connecticut’s mandatory certification requirements. As a result of the law, Connecticut’s charter schools could have up to 30% of their staff non-certified starting in July 2010.
The law stemmed from an extremely critical report that the State Department of Education wrote in 2009 about Achievement First. The State Department of Education wrote that;
“The pattern of employing non-certified teachers at [Achievement First, Inc.] is a significant cause of concern. The Connecticut State Department of Education has worked with [Achievement First] for a considerable period of time to resolve its teacher certification violations. Despite ongoing discussions with the school on the vital importance of upholding the state law on teacher certification, the issues had not been completely corrected. The Connecticut charter school accountability process is designed to ensure compliance with state and federal law and administrative regulations. Amistad Academy’s [and AF’s Elm City Prep] chronic noncompliance on teacher certification compromises the principles of charter school accountability.”
In response, Achievement First, Inc. worked to get the law changed to allow them to have some non-certified teachers and administrators.
However, Morgan Barth’s employment with Achievement First pre-dated the legislative change meaning that Barth was illegally serving as a teacher and/or administrator at Achievement First Elm City.
With the recent Connecticut Court ruling that Paul Vallas does not have the right to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools because of his lack of proper certification, it is truly incredible that Malloy and Pryor would show such amazing disdain for Connecticut law.
There are over 45,000 active public school teachers who have meet Connecticut’s certification law and nearly an equal number of retired teachers who meet the law, a law which includes getting the proper education, taking the proper tests and paying the proper fees.
Connecticut’s 8,000 plus school administrators (except Paul Vallas) also managed to acquire proper state certification.
But now Malloy and Pryor have chosen to put Connecticut’s “alliance districts” in the hands of an individual who has consistently failed to do what is legally required of other teachers and administrators.
Meanwhile, as noted previously, with only days to go until the start of the new school year, Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts, the thirty poorest school districts in the state, still haven’t heard whether they are getting the additional funds that Governor Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly promised them for this year.
Oh and how is it possible that Malloy and Pryor would pick a non-certified Achievement First teacher/administrator to oversee Connecticut’s “alliance” districts when there are truly thousands of far more qualified people who have managed to follow Connecticut law?
Readers will, of course, remember that Commissioner Pryor co-founded Achievement First, the charter school management company and served on their board of directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.
For those who want to know more about Pryor and Malloy’s choice, here is Morgan Barth, speaking as principal of Achievement First, Bridgeport Middle School. http://www.excelbridgeport.org/national-ed-reform/eb-board-member-morgan-barth-tonight-on-your-tv/