Mayor Segarra and Matt Poland lead 6-2 vote to give TFA $650,000

There will be 210 fewer job openings in the Hartford School System for Connecticut residents thanks to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and their allies on the Hartford Board of Education.

While hundreds of qualified, certified Connecticut teachers are unemployed and hundreds of additional Connecticut residents will be seeking teaching jobs after graduating from Connecticut institutions of higher education and completely comprehensive teacher training programs, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra led his political appointees in a 6-2 vote to give Teach for America another three-year contract with the City of Hartford..  In exchange for the $650,000 finder’s fee, Teach for America will send 210 new recruits to teach in Hartford Schools.

Mayor Segarra appoints the majority of members to the Hartford Board of Education.  All of his appointees, including out-going Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, voted in favor of the TFA contract.

In this case the actual deciding vote came from the Hartford Board of Education’s one elected Republican who, “coincidently,” was “elected” chairman of the Hartford Board of Education last night as Segarra’s choice for the position.

Only Working Families Party member Robert Cotto and Michael Brescia, a former Buckley High School teacher, voted against the TFA contract.

Although the TFA recruits only get five weeks of training, they are paid the same salary and given the same benefits as teachers who already hold teacher certification in Connecticut and who have gone through a full college-level teacher training program.

The Hartford Courant update on the vote is below, but for background purposes,

According to Forbes Magazine, as of 2012, Teach for America collects in excess of $318 million a year to enlist recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Wendy Kopp is the Founder and Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors.  Until recently she was Co-CEO of Teach For America.  Now, in addition to being the Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors, Kopp serves as Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Teach For All, a new TFA spin-off company that is trying to recreate TFA in the global marketplace.

Connecticut billionaire Steven Mandel Jr. is the Treasurer of Teach For America’s Board of Directors.  Mandel is not only a major campaign contributor to Governor Malloy but has donated tens of millions to support the corporate education reform industry.  Mandel played a pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and the related ongoing effort to privatize public education in Bridgeport.

In addition to her TFA work, Wendy Kopp is married to Richard Barth, Jr.  Barth serves as the CEO of the KIPP charter school chain.  KIPP is one of the biggest players in the corporate education reform industry with 141 charter schools in 20 states.

Interestingly, Morgan Barth, who illegally taught and served as an administrator at Achievement First, Inc. for six years before becoming Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Director” is a close relative of Barth and Kopp.

Of course, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school management company with schools in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island.  Achievement First Inc. has also been the charter school company that has received the most financial benefit from Malloy and Pryor’s pro-charter school policies.

Not long ago Achievement First, Inc. added Elisa Villanueva Beard to their Board of Directors.  Elisa Villanueva Beard is a long time TFA senior executive and became TFA’s Co-CEO when Kopp left to become CEO of that new TFA spin off company.

Jonathan Sackler, a leading corporate education reform advocate in Connecticut and another major Malloy donor has been part of the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors since it was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.  Sacker also formed ConnCAN and ConnAD, which is now called A Better Connecticut.

ConnCAN, ConnAD and A Better Connecticut led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying effort in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative.  These groups, along with Steve Mandel and Excel Bridgeport Inc., played the key role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to eliminate an elected board of education in Bridgeport.  They also pumped a significant amount of money into Fich’s failed effort to elect Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who would support Paul Vallas.  (They failed Vallas leaves his post in Bridgeport this coming Friday).  Finch is a leading supporter of Achievement First’s Bridgeport Charter School and is lobbying on behalf of Capital Prep Steve Perry’s attempt to use his own private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler also created 50CAN, a company dedicated to spreading the ConnCAN model across the country.  Sackler formed 50CAN and serves on its Board of Directors.  50CAN’s Board includes Dacia Toll who not only co-founded Achievement First Inc. with Stefan Pryor, but presently serves as Co-CEO & President of Achievement First, Inc.

Another 50CAN Board Member is none-other-than KIPP Charter School’s Richard Barth Jr.  That being the same Richard Barth Jr. who is Wendy Kopp’s husband and Morgan Barth’s relative.

Meanwhile, back in Hartford, the Hartford Courant explains,

“The board voted 6-2 to approve a three-year, $650,940 contract extension between the city schools and Teach For America, a proposal that drew critics and supporters of TFA who addressed the board for more than an hour during public comments.

Teach For America recruits and trains recent college graduates who pledge to teach for at least two years in mostly low-income public schools across the country. The agreement calls for Hartford to pay Teach For America about $3,000 per recruit, with up to 60 TFA hires in 2014-15, up to 70 in 2015-16 and as many as 80 in 2016-17.

[…]

Since 2007, the first year of Hartford’s partnership with Teach For America, the district has hired 1,477 new teachers, 14 percent of whom are TFA recruits, said Jennifer Allen, the school system’s chief talent officer.

Rather than graduating from a traditional teacher preparation college, TFA recruits complete five weeks of training and become certified through the state’s Alternate Route to Certification program, administrators said. They also receive ongoing professional development through TFA that Allen called “a remarkable model for supporting new teachers.”

While several Hartford students spoke in support of their TFA teachers, many of the critics Monday, including Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, described the contract as paying a “headhunters fee” and argued that the money should be spent on improving school programs. Board member Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against the extension, also criticized the retention rate.

Among the 22 TFA hires in 2007, three remain in the school system. And of the 31 TFA teachers in the 2011-12 year, 13 still teach in Hartford schools, district data show.

Those numbers reveal that only 13 percent of the 2007 TFA recruits are still teaching in Hartford after six years and 58 percent of the 2011 TFA recruits have already bailed.

Of course, the contract states that TFA keeps its $3,000 per recruit even if the teacher quits during the first week of school.

  • buygoldandprosper

    Matt Poland? The head of the Hartford Library system who does not have a degree in library science? The same Matt Poland?!

    His vote on this issue clearly reflects his self described skills:

    “Team leader and troubleshooter with proven ability to bring together talent and ideas to create an imaginative, innovative, and successful organization.”

    What a clown! Hartford and Bridgeport never cease to amaze…
    Call it a Toto. Call it a Kohler. They are both toilets.

  • mookalaboona

    These people want better education for kids, then do a despicable act such as this. Idiots surround themselves with idiots.

    • Guest

      Well, they are all in bed together and are all related. Too much inbreeding leads to idiots.

    • Guest

      I do not believe they actually want better education for kids, and as long as they can use teachers as scapegoats, they do not need to concern themselves with better education. They can, instead, focus on getting richer by exploiting minority students. Education is big business.

  • Sleepless in Bridgeport

    After all is said and done isn’t this the ultimate objective. Get rid of experienced teachers who carry heavy pension rights that that states don’t want to continue funding (or can’t). Hire TFA’ers who only teach for 2 years and quit (No state pension for them to worry about). Malloy and his houligans won’t take on the other public servants like police and public works. They are too powerful and Malloy looks like a jerk if he were to jeoplardize public safety. Oh, I apologize, he would look like like more of a jerk. Create more charters and especially private charters. They love to get their hands on slave labor with low benefits to boot, and they follow no rules or state regulations. Create the image in the public’s mind that there is such a thing as a “bad teacher” and they are like zombies who are taking over our schools. The only fly in their ointment is that there is no proof that this strategy will improve anything and there is high probability that it could backfire and criple public education. This is not sputnik, this is like a meteor, and it is headed right toward Hartford. The only ones with smiles on their faces are the Gates, the Broads, the Sacklers, the Mandels laughing all the way to the bank.

    • brutus2011

      Someone needs to do an expose on how public school teachers are treated or handled in the workplace. In my experience, we have never been truly respected or valued in our society or by our so-called leaders–both union leaders and administrators. Unless teachers band together and exercise their latent power, it will be more of the same use and abuse. If you need proof, consider this: Teachers have no power, no money, and all of the accountability. Administrators have all the power, make the most money by far, and have very little of the accountability. And, where are the teacher’s union management in all this? Cozied right next to the administrators. Teachers wake up!

      • Philip Stull

        Most teachers by their very nature are not fighters and their Union is made up of ex-teachers who have the same nature. They avoid conflict often until it is too late to fight change.

        • brutus2011

          All I can say at this point in time is to quote New Hampshire’s auto license plate slogan…

          “Live Free or Die”

    • JMC

      You said it for me, SiB, but 10 times more cogently.

  • buygoldandprosper

    Pedro Segarra and his allies are to education in Hartford what the Boko Haram is to education in Nigeria.

  • Josewald

    I am a Hartford school teacher — out sick today– and I am upset with all of these developments. The statistics on the TFA teachers are correct. They do not stay. Some are excellent and move on to the suburbs after getting their experience in Hartford, or they go back to doing what their degree prepared them for, once they have had their student loans reduced significantly. There are so many better ways to spend that money in Hartford! We need paras in the primary grades as we have full classrooms of 23 needy little ones. One way that the inner city students will have a chance to excel is smaller class sizes. Many of the children in my class would be receiving special education services in the suburbs. Hartford needs more special education teachers to service the number of students who qualify.That TFA money should have been spent to give us a few more certified, qualified teachers to help Hartford lower class sizes as well as service special education students.

  • educationmatters

    The election for Hartford mayor and city council is next year. Don’t complain – enact change. If you’re not a resident find a candidate and donate the his/her campaign. If you’re a resident – throw them out!

  • Mary Gallucci

    I guess the (2) defenders of TFA from a previous blog are out–celebrating. Yes, it’s a victory for TFA, not for the children of Hartford and not for the economy and well-being of the city of Hartford. Soon Hartford and other urban “reforming” districts, the “alliance” districts and the Commissioner’s Network, will be staffed by TFAers and we can then join Newark in having Superintendents who fire teachers and do massive TFA hirings.
    I guess TFA will have to revise its “we only take the top X% of top graduates” since they are now accepting considerably more of all graduates–for the ONLY program ALL graduating seniors, regardless of major, can apply to… that rather compromises the exclusivity message.

    • Bill Morrison

      Mary,
      One TFA’er who spoke at the BoE meeting took four years to get through community college. The argument that they only take top college students has gone up in smoke.

  • Bill Morrison

    I am most disappointed by this vote. I sincerely believe that all education reform in Hartford since Adamowski has been institutionalized racism given the relaxation of attendance requirements, the minimum score of 55, the redesign of comprehensive high schools that offered choice in electives into small learning trade schools, and, now, the preference of teachers who have been trained not educated. By giving preference to TFA over their better prepared counterparts from CT’s universities and colleges, the Board has told Hartford’s largely minority population that their children do not deserve the most highly educated and certified teachers, that they should be satisfied by trained functionaries who are not educated in the science of child development, brain research, and how these apply to lesson design. This is a shameful vote by people who do know better.

    • Bill Morrison

      By relaxed attendance requirements, I am referring to the fact that students can miss over three quarters of the year and still receive credit if the receive a grade of 65 in one quarter of a semester course or a 75 over one quarter of a full year course. Both will work out to an average of 60 for the year. The Board accepts such standards as a way of inflating graduation rates, but these standards are in no way a real a high school education.

  • Guest

    This is a prime example that it’s about money, not education, and certainly not the needs of minority students. They, in fact, are being exploited so those in power can stuff their pockets. The system is corrupt. Everyone except students, parents, and teachers seems to benefit.

  • jrp1900

    Last night the Hartford BOE heard testimony from innocent children that they would like TFA to come into their schools and pilot them towards success. Whoever decided to make use of the children is one cynical bastard. I bet most of the kids didn’t know a damn thing about TFA until they were coached to speak by one of the true believers in the Hartford educational world. Hartford is crawling with all sorts of reformers and their naïve enablers. it’s easy to see how they drummed up some children to come out and witness for TFA. The reformers played on the bad faith of the BOE: How can you deny the children their God-given right to be taught by a wunderkind from Harvard or Princeton? It’s always a nice touch (in “post-racial” America–LOL!) to roll out minority children who are just asking to be saved by selfless, benevolent whites. They called this stuff “the white man’s burden” in the 19th century. Now they call it “school reform.”

    Just imagine if the children had testified on behalf of professional teachers. Somehow I don’t think their testimony would carry much weight. Which leads me to believe that no one really cares what the children want or think: it’s all a matter of using them as props to get the policies wanted by the reformers. This is not just cynical; it’s obscene.

    It’s tragic that more folks in Hartford don’t understand the threat that TFA poses to the long-term future of their school district. Understandably, there is a great deal of frustration and despair in many urban school districts; there is no denying that the educational system has repeatedly failed poor urban children. But the education system has failed because American society at large has failed–it’s a fallacy to blame teachers for the misadventures in public schooling that arise out of deep-seated social problems. TFA is no solution to educational inequality. In fact, TFA will exacerbate the failings of the education system, as schools become more separate and unequal–there will be those schools in wealthy areas, which are well-funded and staffed by experienced competent teachers, and then there will be those schools in “the ghetto,” with too few professional teachers and too many TFAers. The teacher turnover in these schools will be intolerably high; the staff morale will be low; the children will be alienated as they increasingly sense that they have been given a bum deal; education will be little more than teaching to the test; and money will continue to bleed from the district into the coffers of TFA. In short, things in Hartford will change, but they will remain the same: the school district will largely exist as a place of opportunity for corporate education services. The Hartford BOE will continue to give away large sums of money to private parties with no real commitment to Hartford communities. A Hartford child who makes it to ed school with the hope of becoming a teacher will have little chance of being hired in her own hometown, as preference has been granted to a wealthy ivy leaguer from a Long Island suburb, a place where people of Hartford have virtually no chance of being hired. This is the unhappy future that lies ahead of us.

    The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that TFA is a disgusting scavenger. TFA flies over poor desperate districts just waiting for the chance to come down and feed on whatever carcass is at hand. They want teaching positions; they want to get into any and all schools; but, above all, they want the money and power. And now Wendy Kopp is plying her colonialist claptrap on unsuspecting poor people overseas. It’s enough to make one sick.

    The time has come for would-be TFAers to ask themselves what TFA is really all about. They have to understand the role that they are being asked to play in the destruction of public schooling in the United States.

    • JMC

      Spot on, as so often, JRP. And now Pryor springs a demand for another $25 million for charter schools.

      • JMC

        $35 million. Sorry.

        • speaking up

          I’ve missed this new $35 million – for what, when and where?

        • JMC

          See today’s Courant online. $35 million additional for Hartford area Magnet schools. Pryor just revealed this yesterday or the day before.

        • buygoldandprosper

          “Pryor did not have many details when he met with legislators this week, but later he provided a rough breakdown on those costs for the coming academic year, which he said included about $4 million for transportation, about $6 million for pre-kindergarten tuition, and $25 million associated with a variety of factors driven by the growth of enrollment at the magnet schools.”
          He came to class unprepared asking for millions?!! I like the big number explained as a “variety”…

  • buygoldandprosper

    “Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor has told surprised legislators that his department needs $35 million more to run the 84 magnet schools in the state – on top of the $280 million the agency receives under the state budget.”
    Hmmmm–I wonder why? Expenses are mounting.

  • Guest

    In her letter to the editor published by the Hartford Courant on Feb. 27 TFA-Connecticut’s Tamara Smith fails to mention the almost $6,000 TFA recruits receive at the end of their two year commitment to a district. She does mention that TFA recruits are “more likely to stay for the first two years than any other source of teachers.” Why leave the $6,000 out? If the amount is so insignificant then why pay it to TFA recruits at all?