News Flash: Mystery solved: Pryor’s appointment of Adamowski as state employee will push up Special Master’s pension!

Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education have figured out a way to circumvent the Connecticut General Assembly and push up Special Master Steven Adamowski’s pension.

As a result of a 2006 change in the Connecticut State Statutes, Steven Adamowski was able to serve for five years as the uncertified superintendent of schools in Hartford, Connecticut.  However, as a result of a separate statute that limits participation in the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System to those who hold valid teaching or administrative certificates, Adamowski couldn’t add those years to the number of years he had collected when he served as a Connecticut teacher and administrator much earlier in this career.

So last year, hidden deep inside of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill was a change to the law that would have retroactively added those five years to Adamowski’s pension.  The move would have added tens of thousands to Adamowski’s pension since his salary was now in excess of two hundred thousand dollars.  But after the story appeared in Wait, What? the Courant and other media outlets, the legislators deleted the “Adamowski provision” from the new law and Adamowski lost his gift of five extra years added to his public pension.

That said, the effort to boost Adamowski’s pension resurfaced when Adamowski was given a $225,000, plus benefits, no-bid contract through the State Education Resource Center (SERC).  Adamowski’s contract included language that read , “Also, Dr. Adamowski will be eligible to continue membership in the Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement System.”

However, that attempt to boost his pension also fizzled when it was realized that while state law does allow the staff of the State Education Resource Center to be part of the State Teachers Retirement System only but only if they are “employed in a professional capacity while possessing a certificate or permit issued by the State Board of Education.”

Since Adamowski is not certified and doesn’t have a valid teacher or administrator certificate, he could not add the time he worked at SERC as Windham and New London’s “Special Master.”

But then last week, out of the blue, Commissioner Pryor announced that with the State Board of Education’s approval, Steven Adamowski would no longer be working through SERC but would, instead, become a state employee.

Pryor never posted the new state position.  He failed to go through any recruitment or review process.  He simply announced that he was giving Steven Adamowski a senior management position in the state agency. at  a cost of $163,000.

Pryor did make a point of mentioning that Adamowski would be taking a $63,000 pay cut.

As the Courant reported at the time, Kelly Donnelly, Commissioner Pryor’s spokeswoman explained that, “the cut in pay brought Adamowski’s salary in line with that of other top-level salaries in the state agency.”

And Adamowski sent an email to the Courant saying that the cut was “something I can live with.”

Adamowski also reported that he had agreed to carry on his work, “due to my commitment to the schoolchildren of Windham and New London who need better schools and to the unfinished nature of the turnaround work in both Districts.”

At the same time, Adamowski told the New London Day that he accepted the move from being a SERC employee to being a state employee because, “The SERC salary was not realistic.”

But as Wait, What? readers from the coverage posted here, there were just too many unresolved questions to make the Pryor/Adamowski story believable.

The primary and nagging question was why would Adamowski move from a job that paid $225,000 plus state-employee like benefits to a job that paid $163,000 plus state employee benefits unless there was some other piece to the puzzle.

Of course, the reasonable assumption was that it had to be a last-ditch attempt to boost Adamowski’s pension…But the question was how; since Teachers Retirement credits can’t be moved to the State Employee Retirement System and State Employee Retirement credits can’t be moved to the Teacher’s system.

Well the mystery has finally been resolved and the answer lies in exactly a dozen words deep inside the existing state statutes!

Subsection 26 of Section 10-183b of the Connecticut State Statutes defines the term “Teacher” for the purposes of the Connecticut Teachers Retirement System…And subsection (D) of subsection 26 of Section 10-183b provides that “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education” may elect to be in the Teachers Retirement System instead of the State Employees Retirement System.

The phrase, “a member of the professional staff of the State Board of Education”is not limited by whether or not the individual is certified to serve as a teacher or administrator.

Since the State Retirement System is generally more generous than the Teacher Retirement System, the provision was obviously created so that if a Connecticut school teacher or administrator worked for a time at the State Department of Education they wouldn’t be forced to be in two different systems…the Teacher Retirement System for their teaching years and the State Employee Retirement System for their time at the Department of Education.

Instead they could be a teacher, go to work for the state Department of Education and then return to working in a school district.

But by leaving off the reference to being an employee of the State Department of Education AND  a certified  teacher or administrator, the laws opened up a massive loophole that Steven Adamowski is now strutting through thanks to Commissioner Pryor and Governor Malloy.

As a state employee, Adamowski will be able to sidestep the State Employee Retirement System rules – for example – having to work ten years before vesting his pension.  Instead he will be able to immediately add years to his Teachers Retirement System  penson – EVEN THOUGH HE IS NOT CERTIFIED TO TEACH OR BE AN ADMINISTRATOR IN CONNECTICUT.

Not only will he get to add his time at the State Department of Education to his Teacher Retirement Pension, but for every two years he works at the state he will be able to buy yet another year of retirement credits for the time he worked as a school administrator in another state.

As of now, Adamowski has ten years into the State Teacher Retirement System, time that he collected for his work many years ago when was employed by various Connecticut school districts.  Since he reached his ten-year threshold, he also qualifies under the program to purchase four years of his out-of-state service.  So at this point in time he only has 14 years toward a Connecticut Teachers Retirement Pension…enough for a pension, but a relatively small one..

However, with his new status as a highly paid state employee, he not only will get the benefit of additional years and the higher salary but will be able to purchase even more out-of-state time.  Two years as a state employee and he can purchase one more year of out-of-state service.  Four years at the Department of Education could actually mean he collects a total of more six more years of pension credits.

Factor in the $163,000 a year (and more) that he will be making at the Department of Education and this shift from being an employee of SERC to being a the State of Connecticut will increase his annual pension by thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars.

As Governor Malloy sits on top of one of the largest unfunded state and teacher pension systems in the country, an unfunded liability that will cost Connecticut taxpayers more than $20 billion to resolve over the next two decades, leave it to back room politics of the Malloy administration to wheel and deal a way for Steven Adamowski to boost his pension at taxpayer expense.

But as the corporate education reformers like to say….”it is all for the children.”

You can read more background on the Pryor/Adamowski move here:

  • msavage

    This has to be more than simply the “Good Old Boy” network at work. What does Adamowski have on Malloy or Pryor? Sexually suggestive photos proving infidelity? Evidence of bribery or other corruption? I mean, WTF is going on here, really?

  • buygoldandprosper

    Dan Malloy likes to play it fast and VERY loose.
    It reminds me of his frequent weekends at the National Governors Conferences..”.the association pays”, or so the Malloy Machine would have you believe.
    One wonders exactly what the state pays in “dues”…could it be in excess of $210,000? Have other governors dropped out due to budget difficulties similar to Connecticut’s?
    Is Dan Malloy so full of shit that he actually thinks people are not paying attention to the nonsense that he has been engaged in for the past three years?
    Did Dan wear his socks to bed at The Equinox? Did he hike part of the Appalachian Trail?

  • Jeff

    Can everything-Malloy/Pryor/Adamowski/Vallas possibly get any more crooked and “in the face” of CT taxpayers?

  • Striking

    This is really remarkable – How much energy went into finding a way to slip the high hard one to taxpayers for a guy of dubious note like Adamowski. At the highest levels of this state’s government, people we all pay for, were combing the laws looking for a loophole through which Adamowski could slither. Remarkable. Just remarkable. What’s next? A special provision forgiving all Toni Harp Family tax and mortgage debt?

  • Thomas Drewry

    The gap between real, thoughtful reporting and what passes for journalism in corporate-tamed media has never been starker. The Courant simply repeats the special master’s self-testimony of his altruistic motives for “serving” Windham in spite of a pay cut, as though his word is sufficient to establish the credibility of his assertion. Pelto utilizes research and analysis to expose the far, far more credible motive.

    Yet it’s Kathleen Meaghan who is gifted half a million readers. How can I help being a cynic?

    • Linda174

      Randall Prose two years ago spent his day teaching social studies to high school students in Windham.

      Now, he said, he spends much of his class time dealing with discipline issues or helping his non-English-speaking students catch up with the rest of the class; this is necessary because separate programs for these students have ended.

      “Welcome to the state takeover of Windham,” Prose said of this new approach to combining the various skill-level classrooms and behavior levels into one. “Things are worse now than ever.”

      The State Board of Education wasted no time in 2011 in taking advantage of a new state law by appointing a “special master” to intervene in Windham’s low-performing school district. Last year, they expanded Steven Adamowski’s job by naming him the special master of New London schools, as well.

      Two school years and numerous reforms later, it remains to be seen if student outcomes will improve anytime soon, and if changes in the districts can win the support of teachers.

      • msavage

        Someone else starting to report on the other side of the story–at last!

    • JMC

      “Truth is almost always bitter”. Solzhenitsyn. So you have a great author and titan of the human spirit to second you, Thomas.

    • msavage

      We all knew that there was more to this story than the “official” version provided by Adamowski and Pryor. Thank you, Jonathan Pelto, for digging up the true explanation for this slimy, slithering, despicable action. Come on, Kathleen Meaghan–anyone with half a brain suspected there was more to the story.

      • JMC

        Yes, thank you, Jon. Perhaps there’s some hope that this hire is illegal because of lack of publication/notification, but I assume Jon would have mentioned it.

  • JMC

    It certainly is nervy of Adamowski to attempt to murder the profession of teacher in CT and then to suck off of the earnings of the very teachers he despises.

    • JMC

      The old US Navy term for such a person is S—bird.

  • Mary Gallucci

    So, after years milking the public teat for his bloated CEO-level salary–and with corporate-style management and power to say “you’re fired” to many life-long educators in his former districts–Adamowski, in his twilight years, wishes to be a Public Servant, even taking a “pay cut” bigger than the salaries of those he lords it over.
    Suddenly, Steven Adamowski will take a hit to the purse in order to help the children of Windham and New London–not that he’s evinced the least bit of interest in any Windham school children, other than the ones to whom he doles out “special dispensations” in order to escape the district he is ruining.
    How bitter to see the union busting, teacher-hating Adamowski enjoy the fruits of the labor of real educators. This is an outrage.

  • R.L.

    Will someone arrest these bung-holes already?!

  • Magister

    Most parasites have enough sense not to kill their hosts.

    • Mary Gallucci

      good one! that must be why this Special Parasite moves on every few years. Check it out, he’s parasitizing two host/districts at the same time–I guess he asked for New London last year because he was bleeding Windham dry faster than expected…

  • jrp1900

    In my younger and more impressionable days I believed in the “inherent goodness” of people. An upstanding man, with “honest intentions,” was bound to win my respect. But now, with a few years behind me and the grey hairs everywhere about my head, I find myself an unreasonable cynic. So jaded am I, I have come to think that people are not to be trusted and that most people are not particularly admirable.

    But then I read the words of Steven Adamowski and they restored my dying faith in “Man.” Mr Adamowski was asked to take a $63, 000 pay cut in order to assume his new position in the State Dept of Education. Here are the exact words that melted my heart: the pay cut, said Mr. Adamowski, “is something I can live with.” And Mr. Adamowski can live with this sizeable hit because of his “commitment to the children of Windham and New London who need better schools.” As I said, I have fallen into cynicism in recent years, but these beautiful statements by the Special Master showed me the error of my ways: there are still people out there who one can have faith in, because such people aren’t motivated by something as crass and dirty as money; they just want to help children. Helping children is a truly wonderful thing, and it’s one of those things that you just can’t put a price on.

    So then it occurred to me, if Mr. Adamowski wanted to help the children some more, he could recommend to Mr. Pryor that his salary be cut even more, and the money recuperated could be put to immediate and direct use in serving needy children. $63,000 is a decent chunk of change, but it doesn’t get you much in terms of paying for teachers, aides, classroom materials and so on. Maybe you could do much more if you just took the entire salary of the Special Master. He would then have to work for free. I’m sure he wouldn’t really mind, because, as he said, his main goal is to help children, and, as we noted, this is a value beyond price.

    In my cynical days, I would have said that the state pension deal cooked up by Mr. Adamowski’s patrons and supporters has something unholy about it. But now that I have faith again in the “noble side of man,” I know I must be mistaken. The fact that the deal looks underhanded and smells underhanded, doesn’t mean that it is actually underhanded. Only a person with a poisonous mind sees evil in every good. And surely Mr. Adamowski has done a lot of good in his service to Connecticut’s poorest children…

    Thank God that there are still some people on this sad old earth who can’t be bought and who are willing to suffer a $63,000 pay cut for love of principle!

    • Mary Gallucci

      Thank you, F. Scot Fitzgerald! One difference between The Great Gatsby and the Special Master is that the Great Gatsby didn’t claim to be helping poor children while he ran his illegal stills and played his illegal numbers. One similarity between The Great Gatsby and the Special Master is their ruthlessness. As jrp notes, Adamowski has some powerful, politically-connected backers who are always on the lookout for ways to game the system for Adamowski–sneak a pension into an ed reform bill, rewrite a law or two–these guys know how to do it because the government sphere is their playground. These hedge fund whores, these trust fund pimps don’t just buy politicians with their carefully formulated PACs and their philanthropic-sounding privatizing front groups–they strong-arm the ever-greedy “elected” official into slipping these priceless perks into bills and implementers and thus far away from the eyes of “joe six-pack” and “sally housecoat”–your average, much-maligned tax payer.
      Adamowski has been too useful for the privatizers–they aren’t finished yet trying to pay him off.

  • Mary Gallucci

    Here is a CV put together by a kind of ed-reformer head-hunter group (only privatizers need apply), for Steven Adamowski (note how he does not mention ANY stint at all of teaching… very suspicious):
    Anyway, I am wondering why, under “certifications”, it does not list having ever been certified to teach or administer in CT. Are we sure Adamowski ever was? How exactly did he get those original 10 years of a CT teacher’s pension? I don’t see 10 years of work in CT–the CV is from before he arrived in Hartford–where he was given a waiver on certification for a year, but then he managed to get Eddie Perez and other compliant politicos to remove that requirement.
    So, when and where did he get his ten years? When George Schmidt of Substance News (Chicago) published a piece stating that Paul Vallas had never taught, despite Vallas’s claims to the contrary, they actually called the places Vallas off-handedly mentioned as districts where he taught. But he was never in any of the teacher pension funds in the places he named. (He did take to claiming that he taught for 10 weeks at an “Indian Reservation”–nice and generic–in order to–get this–cure himself of a stammer. These reformers are an insult to human decency and dignity). So, I am just a little bit skeptical of Adamowski…

    • R.L.

      Just a little?