Special Master Adamowski’s Failing Grade in Windham

As if the term “Special Master” wasn’t bad enough, the fact that Steven Adamowski’s insulting, arrogant and undemocratic style is moving Windham Schools in the wrong direction makes the whole situation truly offensive.

In a very enlightening article in the Reminder News, reporter Melanie Savage provides a window in to the devastation that Adamowski is visiting upon the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers of Windham.

With a growing Latino student population, Adamowski’s utter disregard for Windham’s bilingual and English Language Learner programs are a prime example of Adamowski’s approach to “education reform.”

Services for the district’s growing population of bilingual and English language learners have been virtually eliminated.

Despite the fact that intensive instruction is needed to provide students with the English language skills they need, Adamowski has systematically reduced intensive support programs and replaced them with what is being called “bilingual support.”

Morale among Windham teachers is extremely low and many of the communities’ best teachers are leaving to take jobs in communities where they are given the administrative support needed to properly service their students.

As one courageous teacher explained, “We’ve seen things happening that we know don’t represent the best interests of our students,” said Kathy Koljian, an English and language arts teacher at Windham High School. Koljian is the Teacher of the Year at Windham High School.

And Windham Middle School Teacher of the Year, Patty Roy added that Windham’s students are simply “not getting what they need…”

Even the most basic analysis of the situation reveals the absurdity of some of Adamowski’s actions.

The article reports that, “programs that were designed to support students struggling with behavioral issues have been dismantled. The Connections program at WHS and the Green Team at WMS were functioning very well for these students, say the teachers. But the programs have been eliminated, and the students returned to regular classrooms. This has affected students across the spectrum; needier students are not getting the support that they need, and average and above-average students are having their classrooms disrupted, according to the teachers.”

The reporter goes on to explain that, “Another hurried decision made unilaterally by the special master, said teachers, was the division of Windham High School into two separate academies – the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Academy and the Academy of Humanities and Arts. As teachers prepare for the second year since the change, ‘We still don’t have curriculum for either one,’ said Koljian. And this year’s CAPT scores show significantly lower performance by students in the Humanities and Arts academy than those in the STEM academy across most areas, suggesting that the academy model is serving to segregate students rather than unite them.”

Although state and local resources are extremely scarce, Special Master Adamowski has also dramatically expanded the number of administrators and diverted money toward hiring TFA recruits rather than teachers who went through Connecticut based teacher education programs such as those at UConn and Connecticut State University.

Certainly one of the most troubling developments has been Adamowski’s unilateral, and arguably illegal, maneuvers that will led to further racial and ethnic segregation in Windham’s Schools.

In two highly suspicious deals, Adamowski created new programs to allow a limited number of students to attend Norwich Free Academy and Parish Hill.  Calling it a “school choice” program, Adamowski’s initiatives drain resources away from Windham’s underfunded schools and because student transportation isn’t provided and neither NFA nor Parish Hill are equipped to provide meaningful English Language Learning programs, Adamowski’s plan is a de facto mechanism to discriminate against poorer students, those who aren’t fluent in English and those that come from families in which English is not the primary language.

While Connecticut’s Constitution and laws clearly forbid discrimination, Adamowski’s actions are taking Windham in exactly the wrong direction.

Taken together, the recent developments in Windham leave Adamowski with nothing short of a failing grade.

The question now is whether the Connecticut legislature will step in to reverse the damage being done by Governor Malloy’s Special Master.

You can find the full Reminder News article on Windham at: http://www.remindernews.com/article/2013/08/26/teachers-speak-out-about-changes-in-windham

  • mary

    Great piece. You may also consider (or have and I’ve missed it) the number of families leaving Windham this summer. Those with meanshave moved to neighboring towns ffor the schools.

  • R.L.

    Adamowski did EXACTLY the same thing in Hartford and we (staff and students) are still paying for it. What is the deal? It is widely known that Adamowski had some DWI issues, yet there is no reecord. Adamaowski, Pryor, Vallas, Malloy, Moales, Emanuel, Rhee, Duncan …….. ,have no reguard for law and decency. Moreover, the law doesn’t seem to apply to these people. As a matter of fact there seems to be a class of people to which laws don’t apply (look at Wall Street). They say it’s against the law for teachers in Connecticut to strike. The ability to strike is really the only way teachers have any power. The big people aren’t listening or don’t care. It’s time for the little people to make a statement. If the law doesn’t apply to some people, it doesn’t apply to anyone. It’s time to start thinking about serious action.

    • R.L.

      Is our own union leadership even listening?

      • Cher_Tea

        Teachers in my school are NOT happy with the union. What are they doing? Just speaking out would be something. So no help from them. And administrators. We hear, “Well, we have to do what they tell us.” We do? Who says! Technically we don’t have a superintendent! If our local union or the CEA endorses Malloy many teachers I know want to withhold dues. Not sure how that would happen, but…. Geez! Great blog! Keep going!

        • Mary Gallucci

          I don’t want to make anyone feel more guilty or anguished, but anyone reading this, any teacher or parent or administrator who thinks they have information or ideas about the union or anything, could contact Jonathan Pelto privately. I know that everywhere Adamowski has ever worked as a choice/voucher/privatizing reformer, teachers and parents and union officials have spoken out, and many have suffered. But contact Jonathan, and maybe we can get a critical mass together.

        • Bill Morrison

          I have discussed the union issue with Andrea Johnson, President of HFT. She has been trying to get the AFT-CT President Melodie Peters to help organize us to take action against the reformers, but Ms. Peters will not do so. If any of you remember earlier this year, I had tried discussing this with Ms. Peters several times; she only became angry at me for trying to rabble-rouse. She prefers to play behind-the scenes politics. In fact, she is even trying to make Malloy seem like a friend to the unions. Just look at the center page of the most recent AFT-CT newsletter! In the same issue, she even proudly proclaimed that several school districts are now under the extended day program brought to CT by Adamowski, ignoring the fact that most teachers are opposed to this idea. Go figure; Melodie Peters is not a teacher, yet presumes to represent us as our leader without our even being able to vote against her in any election.
          I get the distinct feeling that our state-level union leaders are now in bed with the reformers.

        • R.L.

          She needs to go.

        • R.L.

          When to we get an opportunity to vote her out?

        • Bill Morrison

          That’s a problem. I found out that AFT does not have direct elections; only certain appointed delegates get to vote. She was reelected this past summer. And, I have asked Ms. Peters repeatedly for details not only on voting, but running for her office. She has yet to respond. We members need to simply throw her out. She has been in her position for over 30 years, is not a teacher, has no real interest in finding out what union membership wants, only desiring to play politics with state political leaders. She needs to go and we need to be the ones to force her out.

        • R.L.

          So I pay $47.08 out of every check to an organization that is supposed to represent me, but instead is undermining my profession with it’s complicity in “reform”, and I can’t even vote for my state president? That reminds me of something out of old history stories. “No taxation without representation!”

        • Bill Morrison

          I couldn’t agree more. That is why I am so very opposed to Ms. Peters as well. She is a nurse NOT a teacher, leading the state level union on behalf of teachers. She has no classroom experience, nor has she ever taught children of any age. She cannot possibly have empathy for our concerns and needs. Yet, she has been in her position for over 30 years and will not listen to either the rank and file membership or to the local-level leaders. Nor can the rank and file members vote for new leadership. This system seems as corrupt as you-know-what! So, we have a new enemy that is in bed with the corporate reformers.
          I have therefore sent in a request to the HPS financial office to stop $25.00 per month from my union dues as a protest. I estimate that this must be close to the amount going to the state level.

        • Bill Morrison

          Caveat: Teachers in AFT-CT do vote directly for their building and local chapters of AFT. I do believe that, in Hartford, the local leaders are fighting for us. But, we need the power of the state level leaders on our side, AFT-CT. Unfortunately, we have no say at that level, and it is hurting us badly.

        • elliew1234

          Read Lois Weiner’s book THE FUTURE OF OUR SCHOOLS. She has some very good information and inshights into what the AFT is all about. Chicago is an AFT union that does not follow the the AFT rule. The Aft leadership always says they need to be at the table but the teachers are the meal.

        • Charlie Puffers

          As teachers we also need to support the union leadership when called to action. At Tuesday’s BOE meeting in Hartford the membership of HFT could have been better represented. Please everyone when called to action by the HFT leadership show up and bring some friends!!!!! We are angry, we are proud, we care about education and the students in our cities. We need to stand together and be noticed, we need to unite, we need to speak truth to power.

    • elliew1234

      Oh yes it is with action that they listen. Look at what the Seattle teachers did they organized their members refused to give the test and they had their students behind them. These things take organizing and educating the membership but it is possible.
      In Chicago when CORE became the leader of the CTU they all took a salary cut and hired professional organizers to go into the schools. A salary cut for a leadrship tha that does not earn that salary would be a good demand of the leadership.

  • buygoldandprosper

    When it comes to voting, remember…there is a clear, bright direct connection to this mess and others around the state and DAN MALLOY.
    King Dan can’t legitimately blame the ghosts of governors past for his mistakes any more, although he will try. Read blogs like this, and others, to fact check Dan’s claims and don’t get fooled again!

  • elliew1234

    Teachers should be angry teachers should also be taking action against what is happening to them. While many may be able to leave for other places all can’t leave. If they care about their community and their students they wouldn’t just leave they would organize with parents students and community organizations to fight these attacks. While I have a great deal of empathy and sympathy for teachers it is their profession, their jobs and their students and if they can’t fight for what is theirs how can they expect others to stand up for them. If their Union leadership is not doing its job, it is time to get rid of them. Teachers who stand with their students for their rights will receive the support of their comminities. Only that will stop to assualt on the most vulnerable students and districts.

    • brutus2011

      Your message is completely and utterly true.

      It is astonishing that we teachers have given away our power to a union management who clearly has sold us out.

      And yes, no one will respect us until we respect ourselves.

    • OPrime

      Although I certainly appreciate your sentiments, and they certainly sound good on paper, many teachers HAVE tried to organize with parents and other teachers to combat these ludicrous, top-down, dictatorial-style initiatives. Hell, I know teachers who have risked their careers trying to get some of this information to local and state news outlets in hopes of raising awareness to garner some much-needed support. And there had been many discussions about ridding Windham of the long-neutered union that is about as powerful and effective as a roadkill skunk. However, there has been a systematic demoralization of teachers at many of the schools for years, and teachers (and some principals) are in a constant scramble to keep up with CONSTANT new initiatives and program changes so that they are not penalized on increasingly punitive teacher evaluation plans.

      In recent years, teachers have been bullied, threatened, harassed, disciplined, and forced to work in one of the most toxic environments imaginable, as an ill-informed public devoured the one-sided and biased effluvium fed to them by local media. Bridging the long-standing gap between the schools and the community became even more difficult as those parents who read the local paper had been, for years, bombarded by stories of just how HORRIBLE the teachers and their union were. Reckless and irresponsible reporting by a local paper with an obvious agenda long served to foster mistrust between the community and schools and to misdirect blame for failing schools, placing it solely on the teachers and NOT toward the handsomely paid state stooges proffering from faulty initiatives that only widened the achievement gap.

      YES, we are absolutely there to advocate for these kids, and many of us come back year after year, despite pay freezes and hostile working conditions, because we worry that no one will help these kids if we leave. I also know of dozens of examples of amazing teachers who DAILY risk reprimand, suspension, or worse as they defy administrators and policy as they endeavor to advocate for the students and to effort to see that they get the attention, the support, and curriculum that they need.

      Windham, by far, has some of the most caring, courageous, and effective teachers in the state bar none, and they perform their jobs admirably despite years of
      resentment and scorn that has been poured upon them in the past. It’s refreshing to read this blog and to see that,
      FINALLY, the finger is being pointed in the correct direction, and that the details of Adamowki’s blatant disregard for the well-being of these students is seeping out like puss from an infected wound.

      If you’re in this job for the right reasons, you find what this jackass Adamowski and his little dense toadie, Ortiz, have done to these schools to be nauseating. I worked in the above mentioned “Connections” program, and watched disenfranchised, unloved, unsuccessful young men and woman blossom into students who, for the first time in many years, were experiencing success in the high school. The data was amazing, despite the fact the the program
      lacked the promised resources and often, the faculty, that should have been needed for it to work. When the future of the program was threatened, program teachers not only promised to return for year two, but compiled piles of data to illustrate the amazing success the program yielded, what happened? Adamowski decided that the program did not fit his future “vision” of Windham High School, and the program was unceremoniously axed, The data that teachers spent weeks collecting and graphing was never even looked at, and the promised meeting with Adamowski never took place. These amazing kids who had actually matured and, in many cases, flourished in this program were thrust back into huge general education classes with teachers who were often ill-equipped to administer to their unique needs (despite the fact that many of them had IEPs specifically calling for very different programs). Who exactly did this benefit?

      However, as these poor kids didn’t fit the profile of a student who would help raise test scores, their education didn’t matter to Adamowski. Lo siento, adios, buena suerte!

      Please remember that many teachers have families of their own and fear that the constant threat of repercussion and discipline by upper-level administrators can become a huge professional liability. As a teacher who spent over ten year working in the Windham schools, I can tell you that a recent decision to leave was one of the most agonizing
      I’ve ever made. Period. For many who leave, I imagine the choice to leave is a torturous one as well, and I know that many don’t return because they almost feel “forced out” by a system that seems to be designed NOT to help the kids. The stress of trying to correctly service our students while moronic “Masters” undermine you at ever turn with faulty policy does begin to wear on you.

      Darth Adamowski’s dictatorial style of management, and his blatant disregard for sound pedagogy and, well, common sense, has become a seemingly insurmountable force for many of the district’s most talented and caring professionals. Although I think that these blogs do an AMAZING job at finally shedding some light on the systematic demoralization of Windham teachers, especially at the high school, they still don’t quite demonstrate just how bad it’s become.

      • jrp1900

        OPrime: Thank you for bearing witness to the devastation heaped upon Windham by the Special One, Steven Adamowski. From what I know, it is just as you say. And, sadly, you may well be right that most people haven’t come to terms with just how bad things really are. Let me put it simply: Windham is well on its way to becoming another “Hartford”–that is, Hartford as “reformed” by Steven Adamowski! Your heart breaks for the children…

        • OPrime

          Agreed, and it’s truly sad. And your heart does break for the children and the community as these kids will grow up, have children of their own, and likely (and deservedly) continue to foster that distrust of the school system that has long been an issue in Windham. And can you blame them? Kids are a lot more aware and savvy then we give them credit for, and many of them will recognize the injustice done to them.

        • jrp1900

          Oprime: You are right that “kids are a lot more aware and savvy than we give them credit for.” I know many children in Windham, and a good proportion of them perfectly understand how poorly they have been treated by the town, the state and now the special master. They see quite clearly that Adamowski’s reforms have nothing to do with improving their education. They hate the testing regimen with a passion, and they are cynical about “interventions” that do not seek their viewpoints. I believe that a lot of the bad behavior on the part of Windham students has to do with the way they have been demoralized and abused by adults who should know better. Hell, we have even had people on the Windham Board of Education speak ill of the students. Why should the students trust anybody when all they hear is how “bad” they are? Adamowski has been in Windham for over two years and I bet he has hardly spoken to ANY Windham schoolchild. And yet, he knows, with all certainty, what is best for each and every one of them? What a farce!

        • OPrime

          ” I believe that a lot of the bad behavior on the part of Windham students has to do with the way they have been demoralized and abused by adults who should know better. Hell, we have even had people on the Windham Board of Education speak ill of the students. Why should the students trust anybody when all they hear is how “bad” they are?”

          THANK YOU. I couldn’t agree more. I know the Windham kids get a bad rap, and it it is truly heartbreaking as many are just victims. Once you work with them, you find that even the toughest, most seemingly unreachable kids are just scared and weary of adults as they haven’t found a single one they can trust or believe in. They are told repeatedly that they NEED to graduate, that education is the key to future happiness, then they are set up for failure and basically discarded and abused by the very institution that is supposed to help them. Most are VERY aware of the stigma that follows them as students of Windham High School or as children from “Willi”. It is incredibly sad.

      • elliew1234

        My poin is that teachers have to take on the Union leadership that has not done anything to fight these outrages. No teacher or for that matter smal group can combat the assualts. But you do have a Union and it can be challenged by the membership. It is through the members acting as a Union that there is strength. If the leadership does not feel they can lead members in that fight then they have to go. A stronger union that partners with the community then becomes a force to deal with.

        • Mary Gallucci

          I meant to add that some of the union officials have actually been very courageous and outspoken, as in Hartford.
          Actually, getting some solidarity from other unions in the state would help. Truly, there are some brave people fighting for Windham, and are speaking out, but their voices are being silenced.

        • OPrime

          I agree completely, and I don’t want my comments to mean that some of the union reps aren’t trying.

        • elliew1234

          The Union is the largest organization that there is in education and the Union is the membership acting together in their interests and the interests of the students and public education. That is why unions were formed. A few good people will not do it. Teachers acting in concert AS A UNION WITH THE COMMUNITY will be the only force to fight back. A few brave individuals are just that a few brave individuals a union is a mass of brave individuals. There is not enough demanded of the leadership to organize the membership. The membership then becomes disspirited and victims.
          Teachers have to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and offer a new vision for Public Education and they can’t do that if they are always in the role of victim and fending off attacks. It is ridiculous that there are unions and there is no fight back.

        • OPrime

          ” If they care about their community and their students they wouldn’t just leave they would organize with parents students and community organizations to fight these attacks.”

          As a teacher who recently left, I felt compelled to respond to the above statement (which goes above and beyond just implying that this is simply a union issue) and to explain one might feel the professional need to leave. If I misunderstood, my apologies, as I have long believed that possibly a change in union, not just leadership, was needed. However, to insinuate that a teacher that leaves Windham doesn’t “care about their community” is a bit misguided, in my very humble opinion.

      • Mary Gallucci

        Thank you. I am devastated that so many successful programs have been dismantled–in fact, almost everything praised by an outside auditor has been axed by Adamowski with the complicity of the State.
        The BoE has nothing to lose in bearing witness to this, and yet they are utterly craven. Their tacit support for Adamowski amounts to “bystander complicity”–it’s like watching Adamowski burn a house down, and they keep passing him matches.
        I believe Ortiz as superintendent has made some serious errors, and, if it is true that she did nothing to stop the demolition of the Connections program, then I say, let the chips fall. It is very hard to defend someone who goes against the best interests of the community, as she did in the case of a dedicated principal 2 years ago. For many parents, support is all we can give, as we are completely victimized and anguished about the decimation of the entire district.
        As for the propaganda sheet and poor excuse for a newspaper, the Chronicle, it is true that they endlessly denigrate the students and daily print lies about the schools.

        • OPrime

          It truly is criminal, and it’s a shame that local media didn’t take the high road earlier and start exposing some of these blatant abuses instead of lauding this corrupt buffoon as a savior hired to force ineffective teachers to toe the line. Much of this information has been out there for a long time, but there has seemingly been no forum for it. My thanks to Mr. Pelto for providing a voice for this school system and, more importantly, its students.

          As for Ortiz, the incident involving the principal you reference, in my opinion, was wonderful for showing her true colors. As woman who has, by her own admissions, had to overcome plenty of diversity to get to where she is, and for someone who constantly professes a deep love for the community, she is as complicit as anyone in this mess. There are really only two options: Either she truly believes that what Adamowski is doing is the right thing, or she is kowtowing to him to keep her own job at the expense of the community. Either one of these options is embarrassing and disgraceful.

        • msavage

          “Either she truly believes that what Adamowski is doing is the right
          thing, or she is kowtowing to him to keep her own job at the expense of
          the community.”

          My opinion–it is the latter.

        • OPrime

          And I would agree…

        • Linda174

          She’ll be thrown under the bus soon enough to save the vile wizard, Adafraudski….then back to moving the shells around.

      • JMC

        OP, I am overcome and sit here in awe pondering your courageous, eloquent, and brilliant cri de coeur.

        • OPrime

          Thank you… I’ve been reading this blog for months, and finally felt I had to speak up.

      • msavage

        “Windham, by far, has some of the most caring, dedicated, courageous, and
        effective teachers in the state, bar none, and they performed their
        jobs admirably despite years of resentment and scorn that had been
        poured upon them in the past.”

        Agree with this statement 100 %!

  • jrp1900

    Steven Adamowski’s reign in Windham, as the State Special Master, has been an absolute disaster. As Jonathan Pelto reports, poor test scores, poor morale among students, parents and teachers–these are the outcomes of his two year rule in Windham. Mr Adamowski has turned the district upside-down in an attempt to foist upon Windham every element in corporate school “reform.” He has made no effort to engage Windham parents in an open discussion about the future of Windham schools. Instead, he has proceeded like a dictator who is certain he knows best. And yet, Mr. Adamowski knows nothing of Windham as a complex human community.

    He does not give serious thought to the effects of poverty, racism, homelessness and a slew of other factors that bear on the lives of so many of Windham’s children. Nor has he gone deeply into the Willimantic/Windham divide, a fraught situation that has made it difficult over the years to pass appropriate school budgets. So typical of the facile approach of today’s educational “reformers,” all Mr. Adamowski is interested in is “data sets” for students and “performance metrics” for teachers, and “best management practices” for administrators. The notion of education as a humanistic adventure in which a child’s curiosity is engaged by the wonderful possibilities of the world of knowledge, is completely alien to Mr. Adamowski. He prefers the shibboleths of Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan that “market-based competition” and “individual choice” are the solution to all society’s problems, and specifically to “educational failure”. In service to these ridiculous neoliberal dogmas, Mr Adamowski is wreaking havoc upon the Windham school system. Jonathan Pelto is correct that many of Mr. Adamowski’s actions are simply absurd. Consider, for example, his contracting of an alternative high school with the charter school company, Our Piece of the Pie. These people run an alternative program in Hartford (which is a much larger school system than Windham), and yet they barely have 100 students enrolled in the program. But now they are going to run an entire high school in a small town like Windham! OPP has no experience running a High School, and Mr Adamowski was untruthful when he said to the Windham Board of Education that the contract with OPP would not cost Windham any money. We will see what the future brings with this silly attempt at “privatization.”

    Adamowski presides over Windham like a king, giving orders to all and answerable to no one. Like any good despot, he has bought off certain people by making deals behind the scenes. Most in the community have no idea what he is doing with their children’s education. And, evidently, Mr Adamowski is in no rush to tell them. It is time for the King to go!

    • Mary Gallucci

      I couldn’t have said this better myself!

      • R.L.

        Ditto

  • JMC

    Great article, M! And great post, Jon! The Reminder is a paper which is read by all the people. And since this is a “People’s” issue, it’s the ideal place for an airing.

    • msavage

      Thanks, JMC

  • mookalaboona

    Most of the EA’s in the state are a joke. They pattern themselves after the CEA. I know because I took over for an EA president who cared more for teddy bears and socials then what teachers really need. I was president for 12 years and made dramatic changes in teacher reform. Good luck Windham, because I think CEA is going to endorse the bully Malloy for another term even though he continues to slap the face of every teacher in this state with his antics. Remember “all you need to do is show up?” for tenure. Then Pryor, Adamowski, Vallas, and his “sweeping” changes. They only care about the money they can make privatizing education.

    • mookalaboona

      Clarification….president in my district.

  • Charlie Puffers

    In Adamowski’s world it’s all very simple. Only invest in what provides the biggest return in test scores. Sped kids? Just take the MAS. ELL? – take the MIST. No money needed and cut programs for those students to the bone to save money. Summer school, credit recovery, the golden band will improve numbers so spend the money saved. Use the remainder of the savings to bring in lots of data miners and bullies to undermine the teachers who speak the truth. Encourage the bullies to go after honest outspoken teachers and get them to resign.

    • jrp1900

      Charlie Puffers: I agree with you that for Adamowski “it’s all very simple”–and because we are talking about educating children, and not building widgets, Adamowski’s simple approach is bound to be simplistic, that is, simple-minded. Corporate reformers like to use economic language like “investment,” and “investment return,” because this is precisely a simplified way of dealing with education. I once heard Adamowski speak of TFA recruits getting “gap training.” I almost fell out of my seat with incredulity–and laughter! Here was this man–this Phd, this “educator”–and he was suggesting to a roomful of sane adults that novice “teachers,” with five weeks “training” behind them, would be taught to do, in a short time, what more experienced and knowledgeable teachers had been unable to do in may decades of trying: that is, teach the “great unwashed” to be real students and scholars, so that the so-called “achievement gap” would at last be conquered. Adamowski seemed to think that “gap training” (whatever that is) is some kind of reproducible technique–once a teacher has “it” she is on her way, lifting her benighted failing students towards the great light of academic success. Of course, all “gap training” really is, is drilling for the test. And no doubt TFA recruits are quite capable of doing that, but no thinking person considers drilling as anything like real education.

      • Charlie Puffers

        WOW – Gap Training!!!! Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles!!!! Sign me up with a gap trained language teacher so I can be tri-lingual, an art teacher so I can learn to draw and paint, a music teacher to learn to play an instrument. Oh, wait the achievement gap is about test scores not educating individuals to enhance their “one wild and precious life” on this planet. My bad.

  • Mary Gallucci

    Warning: the article by Melanie Savage did not have the seal of approval from the PR department of Windham Public Schools–established in Windham by Adamowski and staffed by a Communications director. Adamowski, with his lackeys on the Board of Education, thinks it is good policy to impress upon teachers and staff of Windham public schools the need to “go through” the Communications office about everything–as if it were the Board of Censors. I have no idea how “official” this is–Adamowski sticks to a strict policy of minimizing written directives in favor of barking orders to his underlings and telling principals, deans, and Head Masters (gulp!) to keep their buildings “under control.” That means, don’t talk to the press!
    Such gag orders are a total offense to our constitutional rights, but you’ll notice no difference in reaction from the educated “elite” (as they–or he–like(s) to remind us all) on the Board of Ed, nor between Democrat and Republican and Bottom Line, as far as opposing such strictures on free speech.
    We know that the corporate press, and its small time wannabe equivalents, already censor and tailor and propagandize on a grand, the-former-communist-dictatorships-would-envy scale… But fortunately we have people’s journalism on blogs and real, investigative reporting from a weekly newspaper, the Reminder. Thank you, Melanie Savage and Jonathan Pelto.

    • JMC

      Well put, MG!

  • Bill Morrison

    Adamowski did the same damage in Hartford. If an independent investigator were ever to visit classrooms in Hartford, he/she would find that most classes have quite a few ELL students who have no ELL support or paraprofessionals with them, nor do the students who are severely learning disabled have professional support. Under Adamowski (the self-appointed “Great Reformer”), the district implemented full inclusion and got rid of many ELL and Special Ed teachers, leaving only regular education teachers to deal with the fallout. Additionally, Adamowski closed the Alternative Schools in Hartford, causing tremendous disruption to the mainstream schools.
    It is clear for anyone who cares to look; Adamowski does not care for the students, parents, or teachers under his charge. He will destroy educational opportunities for predominantly minority students, rendering them uncompetitive for institutions of higher learning. He will cause the schools in the urban districts to which he goes to inflict very narrow educational programs on their minority students in the name of reform.
    On a side note, as a veteran of the Viet Nam War and of 24 years of U.S. Navy service, I am deeply offended by his having deleted Veteran’s Day as a district holiday in Hartford. His policy was (and remains) a tremendous insult to veteran’s. It just shows his mean-spiritedness.

  • buygoldandprosper

    They are all feeding at the public trough :

    24 UConn Administrators Recieve Raises Of $10K to $22.5K

    Story:
    http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-column-uconn-pay-raises-0901-20130831,0,4415907,full.column
    Hmmm… I would think it is receive but that would have been in the days when they had copy editors who could spell check.
    Things are OK at the WebsterBank Basketball School in Storrs.

  • Thomas Drewry

    Though much of what “OPrime” says in regards to the teaching conditions in WIndham Public Schools is true, you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t join the chorus celebrating the “courage” of an anonymous poster who criticizes a union leadership team on which I served. I find this celebration particularly galling because for over two years- covering my tenure as the First Vice President of the WFT- I have stood virtually alone as a Windham teacher in issuing consistent public criticism of the reform being brought to our town. While the inaction of the AFT-CT has factored enormously in shaping our plight, a significant portion of the blame needs to fall squarely on the shoulders of teachers who are either too afraid or too apathetic to speak up and act. For example, as the legislative session that brought us the disastrous education reform bill lurched to a close, the state teachers unions organized a rally on the steps of the capitol. Days before the event, after sending out multiple emails inviting members to participate, I spent hours visiting each school in the district placing flyers urging attendance in each and every teacher’s mailbox. I don’t know who my ex-colleague “OPrime” is, but I know he or she did not bother to attend. I know this because I was one of exactly three district teachers who did. This is but one example of the lack of urgency, the lack of commitment to action, that suffuses the teaching staff. As often as not when called upon to represent a teacher on some particular issue, that teacher would tell me, “I’ve never contacted the union for anything in the past, but this time I felt I had nothing else I could do.” Too many teachers, perhaps accepting the loud reformist rhetoric that discounts union activity as protective of bad teaching, anti-child, etc., seem to believe that they can survive in this environment on the merits of their unique skills or work ethic. The challenge of bringing people to political consciousness in this society is a daunting one, and union leadership cannot make members attend local meetings, or show up to challenge the board of education, or write letters to politicians, or show up at the polls. Perhaps now that we are well past the critical stage, more will step forward and participate. There’s a Board meeting on the 11th. Get off your asses and join me there.

    • Mary Gallucci

      Thanks, Tom Drewry. Your courage in the district is undeniable. I have witnessed acts of bravery by teachers–many are not visible to the general public–but it is a difficult truth that many teachers are too afraid even to lend support by attending meetings. Another person posting here noted a similar lack of attendance at the state rally, as well as apathy on the part of teachers who did not go to a recent Hartford BoE meeting. Why do some people call for a grand rally at the capital when they haven’t taken the basic first steps of actually building a movement?
      A parent is in a different situation than a teacher. However, if the bullying culture of charter schools succeeds, parents may well lose rights over their own children. Many parents sign releases (called “school compacts”) that allow certain disciplinary practices to be enacted and they may even agree not to talk to the press–can the silence on Jumoke and suspensions be completely innocent?–but it is getting rather lonely at meetings.
      In Windham, given the blatant illegality of Adamowski who offers SPECIAL DISPENSATION (I have written proof of this and would love to share it) to certain hand-picked families to get their children into NFA and other out-of-district programs (and into the magnet school for all we know)–some parents are clearly thinking that they’d rather secure a deal for their child than fight the destruction of Windham Public Schools and the replacement of all teachers by TFA, who brainwash and guilt-trip children into sitting through drill-and-kill test prep.

    • jrp1900

      Tom Drewry: The inertia and timidity you describe among teachers is not unique to teachers in troubled school districts; in many respects it characterizes a significant proportion of the labor movement, particularly unionized public sector workers. In the last three decades the US labor movement has taken a hiding from employers and owners. As Warren Buffet said, my side is winning the class war in the contemporary United States. The assault on teachers’ unions is just the latest salvo in that ongoing conflict. The big capitalists–the financiers and industrialists who really own the country–have decided to go after public schooling and public sector unionism as the last obstacles to their total rule (which they pass off as “the freedom of the market”). They want schools to be factories that produce compliant corporate subjects. They want schools to buy their “educational services” and “resources”, and they want schools to be permanent consumers of their various technologies. They want schoolchildren to be fiercely individualistic and competitively set against each other, as befits the market model of society where it’s “dog eat dog” and “rat” versus “rat.” They want teachers to be casual, “flexible” labor. They don’t want independent-minded students and they don’t want teachers who come at the job with a humanistic and professional focus. For them, a teacher is a “functionary,” a student is a “data set” and the school itself is a conveyer belt churning out “scores” and “performances.”

      I agree with Tom that it is long past time for teachers to understand what they are up against. And they should know that only in active resistance to the machine is there hope.

      • msavage

        Thank you, rp1900–we all need to realize that we are in a fight for our lives, our country, and our futures here. This isn’t just a fight between teachers and the reformers. This is a fight between the oligarchs and the rest of us.

        • jrp1900

          Msavage: Agreed!

    • JMC

      Thomas, thank you for your courage and your devotion to teaching, to children, and to teachers. It is indeed frustrating to stand almost alone in motivating busy teachers to get involved even in crucial matters concerning the survival of their profession and their own careers when their time for “school politics” is limited and they are exhausted from classroom teaching, school activities, and coaching. Please keep trying. Your lonely unpaid volunteer work on their behalf is so very important. One intelligent and informed person like you can make all the difference.
      There still remains the question of where the professional paid administrators of the State teachers’ union chapters stand. They need to make their stance clear.

    • Charlie Puffers

      Well said, Mr. Drewry. It might be time for teachers to put up or shut up. Become active, run for office, attend meetings and parties. Everyone is talking about the problems behind closed doors but very few of the talkers are speaking publicly. Write letters, go to the BOE meetings and speak up, show up when the union leadership requests your presence. Our power is not in our wealth but in our numbers and our intelligence and our beliefs about what is right. Lets stand up and be counted!!!

    • Thomas Drewry

      To those who responded with kind words about my efforts, I offer sincere thanks. But I truly don’t give a rat’s ass about being singled out for praise. I deserve little enough of it, for I can no more choose to be quiet on this issue than I can choose to breathe, and I am too aware of the
      limitations of what I can offer to stand comfortable with I’ve done. I’d much rather use my free time to sit in my living room watching the Mets or enjoying a good movie or book, for it’s entirely against my nature to occupy the public spotlight- due to profound lifelong social anxiety, every time I choose speak at a meeting or forum, I spend the time beforehand and during suppressing physical symptoms of my overwhelming discomfort. But I do it
      because the Decision Makers depend on frictionless processes that lead to the implementation of their preferred policies. They have no rational answers, no well-conceived defenses of their positions. All they have are political power and the will to use it, and that is more than enough when they face silence from those
      who know better.

      One person, or a small group of people, can offer a glimpse of an alternative perspective that challenges the orthodoxies so carefully cultivated by educational bureaucrats, but the edifice of bullshit that constitutes the
      reform agenda will only crumble when displaced by the truth as articulated en masse by those with the most intimate knowledge of what happens in our schools.
      Similarly, the very real authority invested in the likes of Pryor and Adamowski (real, but not substantial enough for them to prevent them regularly overreaching legal boundaries) will not be divested until an equal political
      will is demonstrated collectively on the part of teachers. The elected decisions makers who bear responsibility for appointing or otherwise supporting destructive corporate
      reform autocrats need to understand that if they don’t redress the problems they’ve created, then they will lose broad support from a traditional base. Essentially, this collective political will needs to be articulated to be real, so broad teacher participation in sending the message is indispensable. Simply put, more, many more, teachers need to speak openly.

      At the same time, I do not wish to sound too critical of my peers. For one, there are others I could, but without their permission won’t, name who have made bold public stands against the reform agenda being visited upon us and against the agents of that change. Secondly, part of the genius of the reform movement is that by its nature it imposes conditions that render organized response more difficult. The top-down restructuring of districts with focus on talent management sends an unambiguous signal that teaching positions are more vulnerable than ever- ask
      anyone who has completed an education leadership program, and they have to acknowledge the central position of evaluation, not, say, instructional support, in the curriculum. Extended day initiatives and election to work provisions extend the professional responsibilities
      teachers need to attend to, as do the increasing rigor of traditional instructional practices- planning, providing feedback, parental contact, professional collaboration, all which results in 11, 12 hour work days. From what superhuman reserves are teachers to draw the time and energy to organize, given that day to day teaching is such an all-consuming endeavor?

      But if we do not find the time or energy in the coming months, the death of a truly public education system in Connecticut is assured. Schools will no longer be
      part of an institution guided primarily by an interest in the welfare of children (the reformists have already taken us a long way from an ideal whereby they’d exclusively serve the welfare of young people). This is an analytical, not emotional,assessment. The reforms being proposed
      will be virtually impossible to dismantle once they take hold. And we in Windham (fortunate as ever) bear a special responsibility: we, along with educators in distressed communities like Hartford, Waterbury, New London, and New Britain (New Haven surrendered long ago), are foremost in the sights of the reformists, who know they can’t bring their irresponsible politics to the schools of Greenwich, Avon, or Fairfield (though,
      of course, that politics originates with some residents of these and like towns). As if we don’t have enough to do, we have been chosen, without being asked, to protect some of the last vestiges of humane public service in the state.

      I hope we can live up to the obligation.

      • jrp1900

        Tom Drewry: I know where you are coming from. In one respect, it would be easier to go through life with one’s head buried in the sand. But, then again, nothing is more difficult than to live with oneself when one knows one is doing wrong.

        I completely agree with you that “one person, or a small group of people, can offer a glimpse of an alternative perspective that challenges the orthodoxies” Pryor and Adamowski and Vallas are indeed powerful, but their power is not stable. If you engage these people in anything like a discussion they will soon retreat behind their slogans and platitudes. If you keep going, they will sputter and bluster and soon they will come to insults and charges against you that “you are anti-child,” “anti-excellence,” “anti-American” and other such inanities and hogwash. Eventually, they will fall back on sheer ideological conviction–that they do what they do because they have the power and because they KNOW they are right. They have no data, no evidence, no proof, that their “reforms” are effective (in fact, the evidence suggests that they are deeply harmful), but they will still defend their position in utter bad faith. If you press on, as you should, they will finally fall silent. The point is not simply to embarrass these charlatans, it is to show other people (the undecideds) that REFORMERS DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT! Perhaps when people truly understand this they will recognize that what is called “reform” is really the work of destruction.

        Keep up the good fight, Thomas Drewry!!

      • JMC

        I agree with almost everything you say, Tom. There is however some hope: the cornerstone of the Reformists’ narrative – that test scores rise – is being exposed here and elsewhere for the sham and the lie that it is. Their “success” is achieved through a restrictive admissions rubric and by ejecting the weaker and needier students, resulting in a corresponding 10% bump up in testing performance. There are serious legal issues of equality there, and it’s going to bite the reformists real hard. The day of reckoning could come at any time.

    • elliew1234

      It is very sad and dangerous for teachers to let fear drive them rather than standing in solidarity and fighting the attacks. It isn’t like there isn’t a model for teachers fighting back. We need only look to Chicago where a small group started to educate themselves and act to strengthen their union and fight back at ground zero of this movement. It took that small group 10 years to pull the CTU into what a Union should be. The problem is there is not 10 years to stop this it is too far along, but that does not mean it cannot be fought. It is fear and the loss of what union solidarity is that is holding teachers back. The history of labor in America (which is never taught) is one of incredibly brave people standing up for workers and their communities. Teachers have to stand not only for themselves but for their students who are the biggest losers in this movement. In short I am sorry to say there is no place for teachers to be politically uneducated or inactive.
      May I suggest Lois Weiners book THE FUTURE OF OUR SCHOOLS. She makes the arguement for unions to become social movement unions bringing in parents and communities to fight for our Public Schools.