Foxes guarding the chicken coop or Hartford politics as usual.

With relatively little fan-fare last fall, Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland appointed a 13 member search committee to choose a new superintendent of schools for the Hartford School System.

Poland, who is not only appointed to the Board of Education by Mayor Segarra, is also the Director of the Hartford City Library, an organization which receives the vast majority of its funding from the Mayor and Hartford City Council.

In his announcement Poland appointed four members of the Hartford Board of Education to the search committee, including himself, but committed to give up his spot to a new member following their swearing-in ceremony in December.

In addition to the four members of the Board of Education, Marlene Ibsen, a Travelers executive was appointed to the Search Committee as a representative of the MetroHartford Alliance business group. Oz Griebel is president and CEO of MetroHartford Alliance and has been one of the leading advocates for the corporate education reform agenda in Hartford.

What makes the appointed especially interesting is that Travelers is the chief corporate sponsor of High School, Inc., “a four-year college prep school for Hartford Public School students in grades 9-12 who are interested in pursuing careers in the insurance and financial services industries.”

Last month, the Hartford Board of Education was presented with a secret “Sheff lawsuit plan” that called for opening up two new magnet schools in Hartford and handing Capital Prep and the S.A.N.D. elementary school over to a private company set up by Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry.

Citing the lack of any public hearing or public input into the controversial plan, the Hartford Board of Education rejected the secret deal.

However, three weeks ago the Hartford Board of Education reversed course and with no public hearing or public input, authorized “the state and district to convert High School Inc….to a Sheff magnet school beginning with ninth grade in 2014-15 and gradually expanding to 12th grade by 2017-18.”

The deal will divert hundreds of thousands to the Travelers’ affiliated school despite the fact that “the school has posted low scores on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test. This year, only 5 percent of 10th-graders met the state’s goal in mathematics this year, while less than half of the school’s test-takers were proficient in math, science and reading. Travelers supported the conversion to a magnet program, according to [Hartford school] board member Cherita McIntye, who was involved in negotiations.”

However, despite the appearance of a potential financial conflict of interest, Travelers will continue to serve on the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee.

Another member of the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee is Capital Community College President Wilfredo Nieves. While Nieves is widely respected for his leadership at Capital Community College, the college desperately needs to find additional revenue and additional tenants to fill unused space at the College.

Over the past few years, Governor Malloy has made the deepest cuts in state history to Connecticut’s public colleges and universities. More than anything else, Connecticut’s colleges now need to find additional revenue, whether through tuition increases or revenue from new tenants.

The secret Sheff deal has also included authorizing Capital Community College to open a magnet school despite the fact that Capital Prep Magnet School used to be affiliated with the college before Capital Prep broke off on its own.

As with the Hartford High Inc. magnet school deal, three weeks ago, the Hartford School Board reversed itself on the Capital Community College proposal and voted 6-1 to allow “state and school officials to move forward with creating Capital Community College Senior Academy, a magnet school to be established for 11th and 12th graders next year in partnership with the community college in Hartford.”

Again, despite the appearance of a potential financial conflict of interest, the President of Capital Community College remains on the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee.

Another member of the Hartford superintendent search committee is Mayra Esquilin, the executive director of HART (Hartford Areas Rally Together).

Esquilin is not only a member of Board of Directors of Achieve Hartford Inc. the leading corporate funded education reform organization in Hartford, but even after being added to the Superintendent Search Committee, Esquilin and Hartford Areas Rally Together submitted a proposal to the City of Hartford in response to a Request for Proposals for a community based organization to rally parents at the Clark School to support handing their school over to Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company co-founded by Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Although the $19,400 contract went to another organization called the Multi-Cultural Community Alliance, Esquilin has been extremely outspoken in favor of restructuring S.A.N.D. elementary, the school that was supposed to go to Perry’s private company as part of the secret Sheff Deal.

According to a recent Hartford Courant article, Esquilin said “that she and others canvassed the neighborhood over the past few days and found many parents who were uninformed — and in some cases, misinformed — about the SAND proposal.”

It isn’t exactly clear who is paying Esquilin and HART to work on the S.A.N.D. school effort (watch for an upcoming Wait, What? post on the topic), but despite appearance of a financial conflict of interest, Mayra Esquilin remains on the Hartford Superintendent Search Committee.

And the list goes on…

Considering the size and diversity of Hartford, it is either a sad commentary or an incredible message that the powers that be appointed a number of people with direct or potential conflicts of interest to the search committee for the most important non-elected official in Hartford.

Meanwhile, according to a Hartford Courant story yesterday entitled, Hartford Picks Iowa Firm For Superintendent Search, “The city’s superintendent search committee has chosen the Iowa firm Ray and Associates Inc. to find the next schools leader for Hartford…The contract with Ray and Associates to conduct a national search should total no more than $24,000, according to school board Chairman Matthew Poland.”

  • cindy

    I guess the Connecticut regional service centers are no longer qualified to find educators/Superintendent searches to run school districts. I would imagine their usefulness is dwindling and their days are numbered.

    • Mary Gallucci

      CABE also claims to do Superintendent searches. Someone from CABE presented a workshop in Windham since Windham is also looking for a Superintendent, having “evaluated” the current Superintendent negatively (by basing her eval on test scores deemed to be imperfect, especially for English Language Learners and the numerous test pilots forced on Windham children by Adamowski, naturally she was going to fail…). So it looks like all our reformy districts–Bridgeport, Hartford, Windham, and New London are all looking for new superintendents…
      And Pryor claims that state legislation allows him to appoint Superintendents in all these districts (like his appointment of Vallas in Bridgeport)… so we are all facing disaster anyway…
      The level of conflict on the Hartford search committee, though, is quite stunning by any measure.

      • AllStudentsMatter

        I lived for a bit in Manchester so i’d have to research who they paid to find a new superintendent after Kathy Oullette departed. After the money was spent they hired interim Richard Kisiel which was no suprise – they didn’t even need a search committee.

        • JMC

          Kathy Ouillette came as a Vice Principal to my old High School for one semester c. 1995. She immediately decorated her office with all her old plaques and awards from her other school – which gave away her game immediately – and by January she was out the door with a better job elsewhere.

        • JMC

          I should clarify that Kathy’s original contract was for the full school year. Obviously she received an adminstrator’s “courtesy release” like so many others I’ve known. Meanwhile a beloved music teacher at my school was not allowed to take two unpaid days on Monday and Tuesday so as to turn her weekend wedding into four days. But rules are for the little people.

        • AllStudentsMatter

          Don’t know much about her. I just felt the paid search committee after her departure was a farce as Kisiel was a shoe in. Guess they thought he’d turn Manchester into Avon.

  • henryberry

    As I wrote in an earlier post, Connecticut government is now a big shell game. Pelto follows as best he can an aspect of it in this posting. A few days ago, Malloy was saying that accpetance of the $10,000 donation of a businessman (from New Jersey was it?) doing business with the state into one of the Democratic Party fundraising organizations as a donation intended for Malloy was a mistake. Malloy didn’t say what the mistake was though. For Malloy, the mistake was that the improper and possibly illegal donation was that it got caught. What Malloy is saying is that the donation wasn’t placed under the proper shell so that it couldn’t be readily noticed as it was. I’m sure Malloy’s people have gone to the businessman to instruct him in the proper way to make an improper donation. Same here with the education machinations Pelto writes about. Those colluding in undemocratic processes and aims will develop different covert routes to advance their agenda should these be interfered with or blocked upon being disclosed.

  • josewald

    Wouldn’t it make sense to include some real Hartford teachers, who are in the trenches daily and know what is going on in the schools, on the Superintendent Search Committee? Answer: Yes, it would make a lot of sense but Hartford classroom teachers are rarely, if ever, consulted about anything– from curricullum to student achievement, parent engagement, and the other myriad of educational topics that surround schools today. Hartford teachers are demanded to do a very difficult job that comes with little praise for doing things well, but lots of criticism when the almost impossible is the expectation. Not one of the people on the Search committee has ever walked a day in the shoes of a present day Hartford teacher but they all think they know what is best for us! I invite any of them to shadow me and find out what it is really like!. But I really dont think they want to know!

    • Bill Morrison

      I made that suggestion to Matt Poland several times but he seems to have ignored it. I also suggested to him that, among the criteria for a new superintendent should be classroom or school experience since the past two superintendents were only theorists with no actual public school experience. My other suggestions included a strong sense of professional ethics, integrity, and honor. It remains to be seen whether he takes my advice.
      Unfortunately, this news of corporate influence seems to indicate that the Hartford Board of Education is more interested in corruption and graft than in the education of its students and the service of Hartford’s citizens.

      • Bill Morrison

        I have also suggested to him in two recent emails that the best way to improve the education performance of Hartford’s students is to immediately end the board-mandated policy of advancing all students whether or not they have met the standards of passing their current grade levels, a practice otherwise known as social promotion.
        This practice began most recently by Stephen Adamowski as his way of fraudulently and artificially raising graduation rates in Hartford. As a result, we are now receiving students into high school who cannot read, write, or perform arithmetic to even the third grade level. This means that the students that Mr. Poland is intentionally sending us cannot read high school level texts or materials, yet Mr. Poland intends on evaluating us based on the new so-called “Smarter Balance” common core tests, tests that the students cannot possibly pass because district mandate has advanced them without having held them to standards in the name of fraudulent graduation rates. Their policies are creating the image of our having failed our students when it was the board that failed the students through mandating social promotion. The Board is deliberately setting up the schools for failure.
        Mr. Poland has yet to respond to my emails, although I sent them within the past two weeks. I sincerely invite him publicly to do so.

        • Bill Morrison

          My data about ability levels comes from the NWEA-MAP testing performed throughout the past two years as mandated, again, by the Hartford Board of Education. Their own tests are telling them that their policies are failing.

        • Mary Gallucci

          I disagree, Bill–their own tests are telling them that you teachers and we parents are failing–that is what they are designed to demonstrate! Just like NCLB, although the CCSS are worse.
          The reason that this strategy “works” is because it allows for all kinds of draconian solutions, firing teachers, closing schools, demoralizing and stigmatizing children. Evaluating teachers on standardized tests (and assessing students on standardized tests) will never be progressive or even ethical, so I see no reason to play into their hands by suggesting that they tweak the system a bit–or that acknowledging the woeful condition of Hartford classrooms will move them to righteous indignation at racism and poverty.
          In addition, although the dire state of classrooms and resources for most Hartford students means that they cannot–no matter how much native intelligence and creativity they have (and I believe they do have it)–do not trust the NWEA “results”. These are pilot tests, they are overwhelmingly inflicted on poor children, and god knows who sets the cut scores. All of those variables can be changed with a flick of a political wand.

        • Mary Gallucci

          sorry, I didn’t finish my thought about Hartford students above–it wouldn’t matter if they were reading on “grade level”–these corporations would design tests to say that they are reading below the level of Pavlov’s dogs–that is the kind of corporate mentality regarding poor students and tests.

        • Bill Morrison

          Mary,
          I agree with almost everything you have said, except that the NWEA-MAP has backfired in their faces by showing that their policies of social promotion and allowing students to never attend school have resulted in these scores. The Board must be held accountable for this.
          I have been screaming for years that Hartford policy has been designed to create a situation in which the schools appear to be failing. That design has born fruit for the corporate education reformers, who have designed schools that only develop half a brain and create students who cannot read, write, or perform math. Then, out comes a new type of test called NWEA-MAP. Although I sincerely doubt the efficacy of those tests, they show exactly that which I have predicted as the outcome of such Hartford Board policies as the infamous “55” policy, the abolition of attendance requirements, etc. Indeed, if you were to go back on this site several years in which I first outlined those policies and their effects for the public, you will see that these MAP tests are showing those projected effects.
          As a classroom teacher in Hartford, I have been told to “meet them at their level.” I cannot teach history to students who cannot read history; in fact, there is no history text published at such low reading levels as Hartford policies have directly caused. I am a high school teacher not an elementary or middle school teacher. I am supposed to teach to a high school level not to an elementary school level. High School is supposed to be a demanding academic environment, not Romper Room. Board policies have directly caused this situation and I am calling on the Board to correct it. The fact that they would have the unmitigated gall to evaluate us on the common core tests, which are everything that New York’s experience revealed them to be, is outrageous. It is even more so to realize that, after telling the students that they do not have to learn, work, or even show up to school in order to continue passing each grade, the Board will then hold them accountable for passing an impossible test for which the Board of Ed has actively prevented teachers from preparing the students.

        • jrp1900

          Mary M. Gallucci: Excellent comment. What you say about standardized testing is absolutely true: it is the preferred weapon of the “reformers” precisely because they can use “poor results” as a big stick to beat up the teachers and the students. A standardized test can have value as a diagnostic instrument in a WIDE RANGE OF ASSESSMENTS, but it can never, on its own, function as a true measure of a child’s learning or a teacher’s pedagogical skill. And you are right: where is the “righteous indignation at poverty and racism” among the “reforming” crowd? It’s clear that these people don’t understand children and don’t really care about them.

        • Bill Morrison

          We all know that standardized tests are flawed. Since they only “measure” a given student’s “achievement” at one point in time, to claim that they show any progressive measure of that student’s progress is absurd. And, they measure no known curriculum; therefore, they do not have anything to do with what any particular teacher has taught that student. It is a clear tool of propaganda that can be distorted.
          That said, my point is simply that the so-called data provided by NWEA-MAP testing can be used against the reformers. It is a given the data provided by these particular tests shows that our Hartford students are functioning for the most part at very low academic levels. Accepting the limitations of the tests, we still must accept that classroom teachers have been stating this point for years, long before NWEA even existed. We must now as why the students are performing at such low levels of proficiency. I am stating that Hartford BoE policies are the cause; that, for every finger they point at the teachers and at the parents, they have three pointing back at them. In other words, given that the Hartford BoE is comprised mostly of corporate education reformers, corporate education reform methods must be at the root of any widespread performance issues seen in the student population. For them to claim that ALL public school teachers are causing this problem, and ALL parents are not raising their children properly is absurd. The only LOGICAL cause of the problem lies with the policies enacted by the Hartford BoE, beginning with the policies drawn up by Stephen Adamowski in which all students were allowed to pass by attending only one quarter of the school year as a result of his infamous 55 policy that was supported by the Board. They created the problem; they must own the results instead of trying to pass the buck down to the parents and the teachers.
          We can then ask about their motives for creating a situation in which the students achieve so poorly on the tests the Board selected after never having been held accountable for their own academic performance because of Board policies. Their affiliation with corporate reform, and their many instances of clear graft-related policy-making, shows their motives.

  • realityed

    Pelto, your ‘knowledge’ of Capital Prep past and present has always been shaky. The school still is affiliated with CCC, sending students to the school every semester.

    Why let the truth get in the way of a good lie?

    • Concerned Parent

      Affiliated we both know John was referring to Capital Prep was housed @ Capital Community College in its first inception and we can all check where the first funding line items for Capital Prep came from….. Yes our Capital Prep children take community college classes @ Capital Community College however that is nothing to show boat about most public and magnet schools today offer the same “Collaboration” projects. Next….realityed

      • jonpelto

        Thank you concerned parent. You are absolutely correct -that is what I meant – and as reality ed decided to skip over, when capital prep was party of capital community college, activity funds flowed through the college, now it is separate which is one of the reasons capital prep’s financial situation needs to be fully investigated,
        Realityed knows exactly how he or she is misleading readers,

        Remember this particular lie when the truth about the money problems come out,
        Realityed – since you are dedicated to the truth — here is * simple yes or no question.
        Are YOU one of the people that has signatory authority over the Capital PRep student activity fund?
        I have the signature card in front of me….

        Which of the four is yours?

        • realityed

          No. But congrats in getting the signature card. It must’ve taken a lot of effort. Good job.

          It’s amazing how you want the benefit of the “you know what I meant” but you will not give it to others. In fact, you stress what was written regardless of the known intent.

          You wrote Capital is no longer affiliated with CCC. They both still have a working relationship. In fact, one of the only changes is Capital is not actually in the building. You mis-wrote.

          If you want other to let go of your mistakes, do not harp on others’.

        • educationmatters

          He has a vague statement open to interpretation. CP has accusations of hostile work environment, bullying, discrimination, anti-union activities, threatening statements, mis-appropriation of funds, theft of state funds, and the list goes on. Care to explain how these are “equal” mistakes?

        • realityed

          Pelto has accusations of stretching the truth and careless reporting. Always have to take into account the sources…

        • educationmatters

          So you admit that the aforementioned is an accurate list for CP, you just feel that it is balanced out by Pelto’s “careless reporting.” I’m sure from your point if view revealing the truth is “careless.” But thank you for the confirmation he’s on the right track!

        • realityed

          You should read again.

        • educationmatters

          Fortunately I didn’t attend CP so my reading ability is fine. (Before anyone thinks that’s a dig on the students – I was a special education student and we all know how CP treats those students.) Your reading ability seems to be as suspect as your writing and fact basis for accusations. Pelto has supported his statements with facts and has couched his questions as exactly that – questions he would like answered. That his questions make people nervous enough to come here and make accusations says a lot about their veracity.

        • $$CAPITAL$$ prep

          For what it is worth, I believe that Pelto has offered on at least 2 different occasions to have an open dialogue and even has gone so far as to offer to have the dialogue in public as well as to have it broadcasted using such media outlets as CPR. This is what I call putting your money where your mouth is… I have heard nothing but crickets as a response to this offer from anybody in support of CP. Realityed, if your party is so confident that Pelto is stretching the truth or is careless in his reporting Perry would have taken Pelto up on his offer because by doing so would be good ink… Instead Perry has resorted to ghostwriting garbage. Time tells no lies, neither do crickets…

          Realityed, if you are so confident that your accusations against Pelto are true… Accept his offer… If not, go back to the bench.

        • Bill Morrison

          I absolutely love Capital Prep’s brag that they offer Capital Community College courses! We all know the limitations of Community College courses; they do not necessarily transfer to four year institutions. But, the fully public, non-exclusive Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School offers eight Early College Experience courses from the University of Connecticut, receiving few accolades from the Board of Ed or from so-called Dr. Perry.
          Concerning Jonathan Pelto’s reporting, I have always found that he bases his reporting on solid research-based evidence and he willingly provides his sources. The same cannot be said of “Dr.” Perry or even any corporate education reformer I have ever read. Kudo’s to Pelto!

        • speaking up

          Taking sources into account is good advice/practice; doing the same with motives even better. As one source – and as one who has absolutely nothing to gain by speaking up – I welcome any impending investigation(s). For the sake of every child who has been trampled in Dr. Steve Perry’s wake, and for the sake of every child that I hope to save from this fate, I welcome all questions/eyes. I am here to say, loud and clear, that Dr. Steve Perry’s incompetence has harmed my child and that I believe absolutely that the same has been done to others. Far from being stretched, the truth of the harm caused in my child’s case is egregious and has yet to have been heard – because I have thus far been unsuccessful in voicing it effectively. Like all attempts to bring the truth to light in this situation, it HAS taken a lot of effort. Trust and know, realityed, that I will continue to expend this level of effort – along with whatever else it takes – to stop this unbelievable, irresponsible, unconscionable farce.

        • Bill Morrison

          These accusations come from teachers, students, and parents, and are extremely well-documented. Even a cursory reading of Perry’s own tweets will convict the so-called “Dr.”

  • Concerned Parent

    The Attack on Public Schools a must read:
    http://www.publicschoolshakedown.org/stopping-charter-invasion

  • really?

    “state and school officials to move forward with creating Capital Community College Senior Academy, a magnet school to be established for 11th and 12th graders next year in partnership with the community college in Hartford.” Why would students leave at the end of their sophomore year in their school to attend this academy? It seems the academy would attract students that are (1) not planning on attending a four year college (2) not doing well academically in school. Has Capital Community College created it’s own feeder school? Where do you think these students are coming from? The suburbs?