And in Windham, parents and teachers speak out against Adamowski

Last week, at a forum sponsored by the Windham Federation of Teachers and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), parents, teachers and other local Windham residents met with State Senator Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-29) and State Representative Susan Johnson (D-49) to voice their outrage about the way “Special Master,” “Special Deal” Steven Adamowski has been undermining Windham’s schools.

Now the question is what are State Senator Williams and State Representative Johnson going to do about what they heard?

The “Special Master” law that Williams and Johnson sponsored was supposed to give Windham (and later New London) additional state support and resources.

Instead, “Special Master” Steven Adamowski has spent millions of dollars in state and local funds to push his corporate education reform industry agenda on the unsuspecting students, parents, teachers and citizens of Windham and New London.

Adamowski’s dictatorial and autocratic approach has angered parents, demoralized teachers, stunned local officials and left the schools in those two communities in chaos.

One of the most serious complaints has been Adamowski’s complete unwillingness to include parents, teachers and local officials in the decision making process.

Adamowski has repeatedly failed to follow Connecticut laws concerning the role of local school governance councils.

In Windham, Special Master Adamowski has completely mishandled the Windham Middle School “Turnaround” process.  After months of work by a committee made up of local parents, teachers and administrators, Adamowski hijacked the process and demolished the locally grown plan by threatening Windham that it would not get state funds unless his proposals were substituted for the ones approved by the local committee.

When the committee balked at Adamowski’ effort, the Special Master, with the help and support of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, threated to reject the plan leaving Windham without the funds it needed.

At the forum, Senator Williams and Representative Johnson also heard about Adamowski’s on-going efforts to reduce or eliminate bilingual and English Language Learner programs in Windham.

Both Windham and New London have seen an influx of families who use a language other than English as their primary language.  Rather than rise to meet that challenge, Steven Adamowski has been forcing policy changes that teachers say are having a profoundly negative impact on students who need extra help to succeed in school.

Adamowski’s long list of failings has been well documented over the past two years.

What has also been well documented are the issues related to the way he has spent state funds.

Adamowski has spent upwards toward $2 million, almost all of it without utilizing appropriate competitive bidding processes.

Numerous consultants and companies that he has done business with in the past have benefited from his largess.

But nobody has benefited more than Adamowski himself.

During the past two years, Adamowski has collected a total salary of $450,000 plus full medical and dental insurance for both himself and his wife.

The state has also paid for his professional and general liability insurance plus a stipend to pay for his life and disability insurance policies.

In addition to his taxpayer-funded salary and benefit package, Adamowski was given 25 days of vacation time per year, 15 days of paid sick time per year and 3 days of paid personal time per year.  Overall this means that in addition to all the paid holidays, Adamowski was able to use or accrue nearly nine weeks of paid time off each year…that is four and half months of paid time over during the contract period.

And to top things off, just this past August, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor made Steven Adamowski a state employee.  The move was made before the State Board of Education had even decided whether to continue the Special Master’s role and the job Adamowski was given was never posted nor did he have to go through any process to get the position.

At last week’s AFT forum, State Senator Williams and State Representative Johnson heard about all these issues and more.

But to reiterate the obvious, the question is now what are these legislators going to do to stop Adamowski from doing even more damage to their community’s schools.

  • Mary Gallucci

    Steven Adamowski, when he was Superintendent/CEO of Hartford (he had no state certification, only a waiver created just for him), tried to reduce the number of sick days that Hartford school teachers could take. Teaching children of all ages, but especially young children, naturally carries with it the risk of numerous colds, flus, coughs, and other minor and major illnesses. Who could begrudge teachers their sick days? Only Steven Adamowski.
    But when it comes to his own contract, Adamowski demands generous allowances for sick and personal days, vacations and holidays. This is the same Adamowski who demanded that his salary and compensation as CEO of Hartford schools and Special Master of Windham and later New London be pegged to corporate, private sector rates (inflated as they are)–but now he wants the public benefits that come from a state job–benefits courtesy of the teachers he so frequently subjected to cuts and concessions.
    The millions of dollars that Steven Adamowski controlled would have been better spent on the children of Windham and New London. There is more to say about Adamowski’s reign of error.

  • Sad In Bridgeport

    Too few parents understand that this is what they are voting for when they vote for private reform and “school choice.” They forfeit their public power because it’s now all in private hands, and choice schools ultimately choose THEM.

  • jrp1900

    As a state-appointed Special Master, Steven Adamowski has not so much brought knowledge and expertise to Windham schools as dogma and ideology. As Jonathan has reported, Adamowski has not troubled himself to learn about the particulars of the Windham community. He has acted in an imperious and high-handed fashion, issuing edicts and decrees, doing whatever he wants, explaining himself to no one. Apparently, in Adamowski’s book, students, teachers and administrators must be held to account, but not Special Masters. Adamowski’s report to the State Board of Education last September was ridiculous: I cannot speak of his work in New London, but his work in Windham is highly controversial. Many Windham residents dislike what he has done to their schools. But Adamowski told the gullible board that everything in Windham was hunky-dory, and that he–Adamowski–was responsible for whatever “improvements” had been made in the functioning of Windham Schools. Interestingly, he did not take responsibility for the declining test scores that have been recorded on his watch.

    One thing that Jonathan forgot to mention is that Adamowki’s “reforms” are certain to increase racial segregation and isolation. At the behest of the State, Windham has just opened a magnet school to help deal with this chronic problem. But now comes Adamowski with his doctrine of “the money follows the child.” This is nothing more than a way of instituting de facto school vouchers. Adamowski has instituted “school choice” for a limited number of people in Windham: they can take “their” money and flee to other schools beyond Windham. While a few Latinos will probably take advantage of this policy, the vast majority of participating families will surely be “white.” In other words, the “money follows the child” is a covert way of subsidizing “white flight” from Windham schools. This is already evident as most of the people applying for Norwich Free Academy and Parish Hill (two schools in the “choice” portfolio) are of Euro-American descent. Windham schools are already “majority minority”; in a few years (post the special master), It is easy to see that the schools will be predominantly Latino. Thus exacerbating THE VERY RACIAL SEGREGATION AND ISOLATION that the State of Connecticut has committed to addressing!

    Adamowski is on record as saying that there is no solid evidence that integrated schools improve test scores. He does not see racial integration as a worthy goal in its own right. For him, (so bereft of imagination) it’s all about “test scores.”

    I fear that the people of Windham will rue the day they allowed this man a completely free hand in running their schools…

  • buygoldandprosper

    Just wait until people discover how Malloy’s minions have looted the various school districts. This will look small by comparison:

    http://www.courant.com/news/education/hc-winchester-schools-budget-crisis-1006-20131006,0,1043641.story

    • Mary Gallucci

      wow, what a mess for that town. So many questions.
      The state used budget arguments as well as test scores to swoop in on Windham–and Windham did not have the issues Winchester has… in fact, the state could have and should have informed the district of its legal obligations with regard to buildings and other school-related matters. Instead, they allowed the finance board to continue to have line-item vetoes regarding the education budget–which is completely illegal. Adamowski has just exacerbated this situation, removing educational expenditures from the ed budget in order to depress it–which may well put us in a situation similar to Winchester. Adamowski has also set up the illegal “choice” option with semi-private Norwich Free Academy, which costs much more than any other option, short of sending the children of his hand-picked Windham supporters to private prep schools on the town’s dime.

  • mookalaboona

    Adamowski is a complete joke.

    • R.L.

      Unfortunately the joke is on us.

  • Matt Poland

    Perhaps we can take a page from the playbook of educators in Massachusetts: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/53212517/#53212517

    • Mary Gallucci

      A brief news report is hardly a “playbook”, but here are some observations on that clip:
      I have no idea if Massachusetts has had a curriculum that is closer to what is now called the Common Core or not. I will say that it is hard to compare state test scores to each other when state tests are so different, and apparently CT’s Mastery tests are very different from CC tests.
      A few things about Massachusetts: They are claiming that they have been focused on academic excellence for 20 years, even in urban schools; they also state that none of the Massachusetts initiatives has ever involved VOUCHERS; MERIT PAY; SHUTTING DOWN SCHOOLS, all things that people like Adamowski have insisted on doing! Hartford did not have to have vouchers because of Sheff; a place like Cincinnati, where Adamowski was previously, saw many more things like a voucher system and its twin, school choice, plus privatization, because there was no state decision like Sheff; Adamowski did close schools and programs in Hartford; he instituted merit pay (it still exists); he brought charters which increase economic and racial isolation, unlike magnets (at least in theory). So it is galling for Mr. Poland to say “we” need to take a page from Massachusetts’s book–it is a book that has been 20 plus years in the making, without a reliance on quick fixes.

      • jrp1900

        Mary Gallucci: You have brought us to the heart of the matter: ‘VOUCHERS; MERIT PAY; SHUTTING DOWN SCHOOLS”–none of these “initiatives” are concerned with education per se; rather they are deliberate attempts to install a new vision of “society.” In other words, corporate “reformers” pursue goals that may or not have pedagogical significance, but the decisive factor is how these goals implicate wider social relations. Vouchers are essentially “credits” and “subsidies.” The whole point of the voucher is to create the educational consumer, because without consumers you can’t have a market in private education. Shutting down public schools is about removing competition from the private school option. Why would people pay for schooling, when it was previously offered for free? It’s just like the so-called public option in health care reform: privatizers did not want it because it would challenge their hold on the consumer market.Shutting down schools is NOT about improving education; it’s about creating a clientele for charter schools and the like. Merit pay is another shibboleth of the corporate right: merit pay conceives of teachers as piece-work laborers (paid by what they produce). Merit pay is also an anti-union strategy: its purpose is to break up solidarity and encourage individualistic “market competition” among teachers. Teachers generally refer to each other as “colleagues.” Merit pay is all about getting teachers to see each other as contestants in an insidious game of spoils.

        Generally, the corporate “reform” of schools is about changing schools to serve an ideological agenda. But more broadly, it is about using school “reform” to “reform” (deform!) American society. Corporate ideologues don’t want a society that places limits on the operations of markets (in all things). Instead they want a MARKET SOCIETY, a society that is completely subordinate to market principles (competition, scarcity, hierarchy, cupidity, etc., etc). A market society would necessarily be a corporate tyranny, because markets give immense power to monopolistic corporations. There are only two things in the way of a corporatist tyranny: the American government and American society. The corporations have just about taken care of the government as they have bought every politician in sight (including our own Dan Malloy); and they actively engaged in taking care of American society, and they are doing this by going after the very notion of the “public” in public schools.

        If the corporations succeed in their goals, the USA will be one scary country…

    • realsaramerica

      I’m not sure what “playbook” Mr. Poland is referring to, but he doesn’t appear to be following it in Hartford, and certainly Malloy and Pryor aren’t following it. http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Education/2012/0905/Is-top-ranked-Massachusetts-messing-with-education-success/(page)/2

      “One big reason people came to accept the reforms: The state boosted education funding by more than 10 percent for each of the first six years – targeting the money largely to schools and districts with the highest needs. To date, the 1993 law has channeled $34.5 billion in extra state funding to school districts.

      Strategies to boost achievement in Boston – the state’s largest district – have included double blocks of time for reading and math instruction, as well as efforts “to get the best teachers teaching the kids that needed the most support,” says Thomas Payzant, Boston’s superintendent from 1995 to 2006.

      In the 2010-11 school year, 97 percent of Massachusetts teachers were licensed specifically in the area they taught, and all teachers are required to earn a master’s degree during their career, says Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

      Moreover, a statewide testing system for teacher applicants has helped bring up the quality of education.

      Another factor: The state reform law set up a rigorous approval process for charter schools, many of which boast strong academic achievement.”

      Meanwhile, in Hartford – just approved another Achievement First charter, despite the fact that that didn’t even meet the goals in their own charter application in terms of teacher turnover, suspensions etc. (Accountability is only for other people, apparently. And teacher certification? Hahahah! Let’s just bring in some uncertified, barely trained TFA teachers. Because trained teachers are part of the “status quo”, in Mr. Poland’s terminology. I was just up in Massachusetts at a School of Education Open House and let me tell you, they take training VERY seriously. It’s not a five week “Institute”. It’s four years of education, with practicums starting freshman year.All Massachusetts teachers also must start getting a masters within I believe 6 years of starting teaching using their certificate. Is Mr. Poland really telling us that TFA teachers, such as are being foisted on Hartford, Windham, New Haven and Bridgeport, are really as qualified as a trained teacher who as been through a program like this? If so, what planet is he living on? If Mr. Poland wants to take a leaf out of Mass Playbook, let him freaking do it. I want him to commit to having all of CT’s students taught by trained, certified teachers, NOT TFA.

    • Linda174

      And from the NY Times, article titled “Expecting the Best Yields results” – just imagine!

      Also noteworthy was what the reforms did not include. Parents were not offered vouchers for private schools. The state did not close poorly performing schools, eliminate tenure for teachers or add merit pay. The reforms did allow for some charter schools, but not many.

      Then the state, by and large, stayed the course.

    • Bill Morrison

      Mr. Poland,
      I have been attempting to reach you at the email address you provided so that we can hold a professional conversation about these issues. Have you received my emails?

      • Linda174

        Big hat, no cattle.

    • Matt Poland

      I forgot that any alternate viewpoints or thoughts on this site are “galling”. Preach to one another.

      • Linda174

        And you read all the posts, links and news articles as well? Words of advice: Practice what YOU preach.

      • realsaramerica

        No, you just don’t like any evidence that contradicts your world view. You brought up Massachusetts. The evidence in Massachusetts is contrary to many of the strategies you are implementing in Hartford. Yet you have the audacity to say that the people who are responding to your post are the ones who are unable to accept alternate viewpoints? I find it astonishing that you are in charge of a library, Mr. Poland, because in my experience, librarians are critical thinkers, open to ideas and good at weighing evidence and evaluating evidence.

        • Linda174

          As long as you follow the mayor’s wishes, critical thinking is not necessary. Ironic he’s worried about group think.

        • Matt Poland

          You are all disrespectful people who use name calling and disparagement to peddle your points of view. That’s what’s astonishing. And hiding your identities makes it all the more worrisome.

        • Mary Gallucci

          Who is calling names? I thought I was naming names.

        • Linda174

          Ha! I’m taking my ball and going home now. So there!

        • Linda174

          Who’s hiding? Bill is Bill Morrison..full name here. He asked to meet with you. Linda is Linda…we have communicated via email. Mary Gallucci is Mary Gallucci. Sarah Darer Litmann is who she says she is. Jon Pelto is Jon Pelto and you’re Matt Poland.

          And you’re respectful? Hmmmm…weren’t you the one who clearly stated teachers are only in the teaching profession for their pensions? I will refresh your memory soon.

          Looks like you’re grasping at straws at this point, Matt.

        • jonpelto

          Worrisome is when the law says “shall evaluate the performance of the superintendent annually in accordance with guidelines and criteria mutually determined and agreed to by such board and such superintendent.” and you announce that there shall be no evaluation. The law says BOARD – where is the vote of the BOARD and to add insult to injury the legal opinion is bullshit an wouldn’t stand up in Court per the Bridgeport ruling…. no court would interpret “guidelines and criteria” as no evaluation – period… What you did with the evaluation process is disrespectful and it is even more disrespectful that the mayor signed off on it.

        • realsaramerica

          How am I hiding my identity, pray tell? I have a picture of myself, I am logged in with twitter. Pretty much anyone who follows CT politics knows realsaramerica = Sarah Littman. But leaving that aside, any competent librarian would be able to figure that out in seconds. Scrap that, my 3rd grade nephew could figure that out in seconds, using this new-fangled reference tool called “Google”

    • GloriaB

      And I’ll bet that towns in MA require that their Supts. be certified AND evaluated yearly. Let’s take that page from their playbook, too.

      • Linda174

        And no special deals between the mayor and appointed BOE chair.

      • Mary Gallucci

        I’ll bet they have elected, rather than appointed, Boards of Education, too.

    • GloriaB

      Perhaps CT can spend the money MA has been spending on education as well.

    • Linda174

      Reminder to all. From Mr. Poland…if you have been teaching for decades this is his opinion of you…left on an previous thread. Teachers…alert: we are pension builders and watchers of decline in public ed. and nothing more. See here:

      “You watched and participated in the decline of public education for decades. I suppose you can continue to wait, build a pension, and let another generation of watchers take over,” said Matt Poland on Sunday, 10/6/13.

      • Matt Poland

        Reminder to you, Linda174 whoever you really are, and your posse, your incessant opposition to virtually everything is tiresome. BTW, Linda174, are you really Jonathan Pelto in cyber-disguise?

        • Linda174

          Nope, and you are misinformed and reading with blinders. It’s your own words that are haunting you.

        • jonpelto

          Linda, I’d be honored to be you anytime you need a double