Malloy/Pryor’s new “Turnaround Director” violated Connecticut law by failing to get proper teacher certification

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.

  • paulbogush

    On his Linkedin, he states that he attended the SCCU admin program for a year…wonder what happened.

    • Linda174

      He met Vallas and Villanova.

    • Castles Burning

      I would be interested to know more about his schooling and credentials so since you have access to his Linkedin page, might you provide further details. Was he ever certified in Arkansas? I believe someone mentioned KIPP training yesterday. Further clarification would be valuable–even of the year in which he attended SCCU. Thanks for any effort.

      • Typically it takes two to two and half years. He must have done the Vallas route.

        • Castles Burning

          Thank you very much.

        • Castles Burning

          I made a chronology for my own clarity:

          Williams College
          B.A., History
          1998 – 2002

          Teach for American Corps Member
          Teach for America
          July 2002 – June 2004 (2 years)

          As a Teach for America Corps Member I taught 4th grade in Chicot County, Arkansas.

          Founding Teacher and Academic Dean
          Achievement First
          August 2004 – June 2008 (3 years 11 months)

          I served on the founding team of Elm City College Prep Middle School in New Haven, CT. I taught 5th grade for two years (04-06) and was the school’s Academic Dean for
          two years (06-08.)

          National-Louis University
          M.Ed, School
          2007 – 2008

          [ several locations in Illionois, one in Tampa,and one in Wisconsion so this must be an on-line degree??]

          Achievement First
          June 2008 – Present (5 years 3 months)

          I am the principal of Elm City College Prep Elementary, an Achievement First public-charter school in New Haven, CT. ECCP has been ranked the # 1 school for
          African American performance in the state three years in a row.

          Southern Connecticut State University
          6th Year, Educational
          2010 – 2011

        • Tom Burns

          If tis Castles burning is Mr Barth–then I give him kudos for his response–that’s gutsy–

      • Apartheid First

        Unfortunately, Southern Connecticut State University made a deal with the devil some years back–they agreed to give TFAs credits toward Master’s degrees in Education in exchange for the increased enrollment and tuition from students–get this–who they basically did not need to vet. So, preferential treatment for the TFA elite, and enhanced tuition revenue for SCSU. There are minutes about this meeting where SCSU discussed the advantages, as well as their fears about low enrollments in their grad programs…
        Other schools do this and it is a total slap in the fact to all ed majors, especially those at these host institutions.

        • Apartheid First

          See here: Dr. Selase Williams [provost of SCSU at the time] “also addressed the agreement with Teach for America, which is an avenue for increasing enrollment. Some of the students in this program have previously taken
          education courses, and looking to get into a Master program . During this discussion,
          one councilor shared that the Teach America graduate committee met with these students about obtaining a degree in the same general Education program. It was mentioned that there are not enough students to offer degrees in specific disciplines.”
          located here,_2011.pdf

        • Magister

          Imagine being a conventional Ed student in the next seat paying full price and hoping to get a teaching job one day.

  • mookalaboona

    Malloy and Pryor are a joke to education!

    • brutus2011

      Agreed, but the joke’s on us because as long as they are legally in power, then all the good thoughts and words of the rest of us are really just opinion.

      This is why they press on with their destructive agenda and nothing changes UNLESS we vote them out and vote in those representatives who will carry out our will. (another thing entirely)

  • Truth Seeker

    Did the Mark Linabury, Bureau Chief, Choice Programs, investigate this illegal activity?

  • Apartheid First

    I wonder if Barth’s wife is or has ever been certified?
    I just heard a rumor that the minister who married Barth and his wife this summer was not properly licensed by the State of New York nor by the Lutheran church. Does this mean they are not married?
    The above is a hypothetical situation–I don’t know or care if a druid priestess married Barth–but I do care if people leading schools and teaching in schools are properly certified. Even in charter schools.
    I also question the validity of having Stefan Pryor, who was on the board of Achievement First while #1 the charter company was persistently violating Connecticut’s teacher licensing laws; #2 on the board of Achievement First while it was lobbying the state to degrade licensing requirements at charter schools; #3 On the AF board while non- or under-certified people like Morgan Barth were working in Achievement First charter schools.
    Stefan Pryor has continually violated state law, and sought to downgrade and diminish the professionalism of teachers and school administrators. In addition, Achievement First has also violated the rights of numerous children with their troubling school discipline policies. I demand that Stefan Pryor be removed from the Commissioner’s post in the CT State Dept. of Education. And remove all non- or under-certified personnel from all charter schools.

    • Charlie Puffers

      AF, Your demand for removal of Mr. Pryor is reasonable and well-conceived. He needs to be run out of town. He is an embarrassment to professional educators and law abiding citizens everywhere.

  • Apartheid First

    Hey, Malloy, how about this? Every child deserves to be taught by a properly licensed and certified professional teacher regardless of zip code.

    • Hey, let’s get rid of certifications for doctors. And while we are at it…no more bar exam.

      What is strange is that they want kids to take tests but not the adults!

      • Tom Burns

        Go Jen–of course–and I plan to operate on my neighbor tomorrow–it’s only a little heart problem–should be able to do it–and if I fail well so what–then I can run a bank and make millions of dollars even if I fail—but teachers(gods chosen selfless few) care for all of our kids and are the real hero’s in this world—I am so thankful that my two daughters attend public schools and have been nurtured by those who have chosen a profession of giving and not one of taking–if you can read this post–thank your teachers–I am grateful for mine everyday–Thanks Ms Weigh K-Ms Brown Gr1-Ms Shea Gr2-Ms. FlanaganGr3-Ms Quinlan Gr4–Mr. Gregoraitis Gr5–Mr Capone Gr 6–and then a plethora of fine human beings in grade 7-12—when I didn’t believe in myself–you had my back –and you believed in me–I thank you all–Tom
        Do you remember your heroes?

  • Castles Burning

    I have not followed the constituency of the SBOE since 2009 but I fear that today’s board would not make such a definitive statement about “the significant cause of concern” quoted above. As indicated, AF worked to get the law changed instead of complying and as Apartheid First reminded us yesterday, Andrea Comer of AF has become the most recent member of the board. Certainly the fact that Pryor named someone of little experience and non-certification as the “Turnaround Director” does not suggest that today’s SBOE would be as concerned as they were in 2009.

    What is also striking is that the SBOE does not seem to have any “teeth” with which to stop practices that they are distressed about. What is the procedure for achieving compliance? As noted in the same quotation above, “the issues had not been completely corrected” and “Amistad Academy’s [and AF’s Elm City Prep] chronic noncompliance on teacher certification compromises the principles of charter school accountability.” So the SBOE and Pryor have moved CT schools towards less accountability in general (as I believe, but perhaps am not correct, that TFAs are accepted throughout the state) and in the most noteworthy case of Paul Vallas’ lack of certification.

    What happened to the state that prided itself on having one of the most rigorous certification processes? I cannot see how anyone can argue that we have made gains by the direction that we have moved.

  • LutherW

    I found the video ironic. In that they emphasize graduating from college and respect. But model not getting educated as teachers nor respect for the law.

  • Guest

    Hey Jonathan isn’t Mr. Linabury the person who refused to respond to your FOI request?

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    Isn’t it about time for someone…anyone to begin looking into a class action regarding the undermining of the certification that 45,000 CT educators and administrators spent hundreds of thousands of dollars obtaining. It is clear that Pryor under the direction of slimeball Malloy and head non-educator Duncan mission is to figure out a way to undermine the whole profession. There hasn’t been a hire in Pryor’s reign that hasn’t reeked of deceit. He continues to reward his prior connections from Achievement First with lucrative jobs. Come on stop the BS. Pryor is not receiving or going to receive dough re mi if he can deliver the state education system to Achievement First. Follow the money! There are no qualified/certified skilled people who should not be involved in this educational crap shoot? PEOPLE……..THIS PRYOR CRAP DOES NOT WORK….DOES NOT WORK…..WILL NOT WORK. Where are the politicians who have the cuhones to stand up to this? Where is our CEA “Silence of the Lambs”.

    • Apartheid First

      Absolutely. The hirings of Achievement First reform-bots are accelerating as Pryor begins his destruction of public education in earnest.
      How can anyone say that he has no conflict of interest?

    • R.L.

      I thought there were supposed to be checks and balances integrated into the political system in order to prevent the type of racketeering that is being perpetrated on the state of Connecticut by political appointees and elected officials all the way up to the govorner. The conflicts of interest alone should be cause for the absentee attorney general to get off his ass and look into these shysters’ dealings.

  • Fed Up

    If only our supts, boards of education, not to mention CABE, CAPPS, and the teacher unions, actually had spines, then none of these phony-baloney SDE people would be allowed in to our districts or schools and no one from the education establishment would agree to participate in the commissioner’s various committees that rubberstamp his edicts. In other words, we need a “work stoppage” of a Pryor-SDE targeted nature until Malloy gets the message loud and clear. And certainly this latest AF joke of a Turnaround Tsar should be shunned by EVERYONE!

  • Certifiable

    Why does anybody bother to get trained for anything at all? Turns out that Bridgeport’s Director of Human Resources has to clear all hires through Marlene Siegel, who isn’t even certified to do her own job as the Finance chief.

  • Linda174

    Inexperienced, uncertified, but AF connected “elites” bypass coursework, certification and evaluations while the seasoned, experienced, certified teachers sit through a confusing, complicated, forever changing SEED evaluation process to prove they are worthy of keeping their jobs.

    Kids are now testing mules for a program designed to further reduce the labor force, so taxpayers dollars can be funneled towards more eduschemes. No longer is their joy in teaching and learning. Test scores, measurement, “growth”, data is all that matters.

  • WAR

    It is interesting that Commissioner Pryor chose not to name him Chief Turnaround Officer. I remember the posting for the Director of School Transformation and Turnaround and the Director for curriculum. I seem to remember the Director position requiring an 092 certification. It was the Bureau Chief posting that did not require and 092. So if this guy has no 092 how he meet the minimum qualifications?

    Here we go again!