NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again

The battle for control of Hartford’s Clark Elementary School has become a case study in how the corporate education reform industry works.

On one side are the heroic parents and teachers who are working tirelessly to save and improve one of Hartford’s local neighborhood schools.

On the other side is the money, greed and arrogance that drives the corporate education reform industry.

The effort to run over the will of the local community and hand Clark Elementary School over to a charter school management company is being led by Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, and Morgan Barth, Pryor’s “Turnaround Director,” who illegally worked as a teacher and administrator for Achievement First, Inc before being appointed to his present position by Pryor.

As Wait, What? readers know, Stefan Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc. and Achievement First, Inc. has received more money from the Malloy administration than any other charter school operator.

With the help of Hartford’s out-going superintendent, Christina Kishimoto, Pryor and his band of education reformers tried to work a deal to close Clark Elementary School and hand the school and all of its taxpayer funds over to Achievement First, Inc.

Clark Parents and teachers fought back and derailed to the effort to give the school to Achievement First, Inc.

As the following links reveal, Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth then concocted a plan to hand Clark Elementary School over to a large Washington D.C. charter school company called Friendship Charter Schools.

The only thing standing in their way was a state law requiring that parents, teachers and the local community had to play a role in selecting a “turnaround” model and there was little interest in a  Washington D.C. charter school company that had virtually no experience running schools with a large Latino population, a significant number of English Language Learners and a large special education population.

But now, according to sources close to Pryor and Barth, rather than work with the local community to identify a turnaround model that is actually appropriate for Hartford’s Clark Elementary, Malloy’s State Department of Education is telling the parents, teachers and local community that they must accept the charter option or the school will receive no additional funds or support mandated under the Commissioner’s Network Program.

The arrogance being displayed by Malloy’s appointees is truly breathtaking.  Never in a million years would these bullies treat White, suburban communities they way they are treating a community made of African Americans, Latinos and other Americans of color.

State Department of Education sources confirm that Stefan Pryor and Morgan Barth are giving the Clark School community an  ultimatum.

Their choice – go with one of our hand-picked charter schools or get nothing.

The racism and discrimination against the Clark School community is nothing short of criminal

But if members of the Connecticut General Assembly don’t intervene, the Malloy administration will get away with destroying another urban neighborhood school.

For background, here are some of the previous Wait, What? posts on Clark Elementary School.

Breaking News: Hartford’s Clark School Targeted for closure, will be handed over to Achievement First, Inc. (10/25/13)

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc. (10/28/13)

(Updated) Superintendent Kishimoto’s “end justified the means” form of a School Redesign Analysis (10/29/13)

Update on the effort to destroy the Clark Elementary School in Hartford (11/30/13)

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back! (10/31/13)

Hartford’s Clark Elementary School Community says “NO” to takeover (11/11/13)

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain  (2/10/14)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School  (2/13/14)

  • brutus2011

    Tell you what parents….forgo the money and I will teach math and history for free … and I am certified in both … let’s lead a revolution against these shysters….

    • jonpelto

      Great comment…. don’t let these thugs get away with this. All children deserve better

  • Linda174

    @15Warrenton: Lot of rage right now here at #HartfordRising over sham Commissioner’s Network and playing ClarkSt families for fools. Hornets’ nest kicked

  • educationmatters

    Is anyone surprised? Isn’t this the group the flew to Washington DC? It’s like one of those time share things where they get you to Florida and on a cruise then looked shocked when you say no. “But we paid for your trip and the cruise. You HAVE to buy a time share from us!””

  • truthsayer

    Typical Malloy Cartel tactics. Cajole, lie then threaten. As a State worker I remember, if you don’t vote for this contract I’ll layoff 1500 people, then 2500, then 5000, then 7500, then 10000 until our Union colluded to fixed the second vote (when they lost the 1st). I guarantee there will be more and escalating threats.

  • Fredda Friend

    The parents and teachers should form a group, apply for a charter and run the school. The money won’t be spent on frivolous and unnecessary salaries for administrators or CEO’s or other suits with fancy titles. The money could be spent on reducing class size, books, reading and ESL specialists, books for the library, paras for each classroom, before and after school programs and the list could go on. They could be a non testing charter and ask the school system to reimburse them for the money earmarked for standardized testing and data collection. Without data collection the administrators would be free to work with teachers and students.

    • jonpelto

      Great idea!

  • jrp1900

    Clark parents most likely recognize now that they are in a dogfight over the future of their school. They must see that in resisting Barth and Pryor they have a pit bull by the tail–my advice is hold on tight and don’t let go, otherwise there is a good chance that you will be bitten and mauled. I speak from experience.

    I have been directly involved in a school Turnaround within the Commissioner’s Network. I would not describe the experience as positive. It soon became clear to me, as the Turnaround process unfolded, that the Commissioner’s Network is little more than a forcing house for privatization and other market-driven “solutions” to the so-called “crisis” of public education. The CT legislature made the signal mistake of granting the Commissioner dictatorial powers within the terms of the network. In practice this means that Stefan Pryor–Mr. Achievement First–is more or less granted a free hand to pursue his corporate reform nonsense on so-called “failing schools,” many of which are located in urban districts populated by poor people of color, the most vulnerable denizens of what once called “the other America.” The Commissioner’s Network is essentially a gift to the corporate reformers: it is implicitly understood that Pryor can do what he wants with the 25 schools in his Network. The Network is an opportunity for the reformers to experiment with real live schools. They can try out this or that policy until they arrive at the final winning policy. The children in the Network are guinea pigs.

    This is the context for the privatization of Clark. Did Barth and Pryor conduct a robust “needs analysis” of Clark Elementary School? I think not. It does not matter to them what Clark parents want for their children. They are certain that they know better than the Clark parents what Clark children really need. Clark children need their school to be privatized, because that’s always what “failing” public schools “need.” Barth and Pryor have no magic, no science, to back their viewpoint; they just have their blind, dogmatic conviction. In other words, they have the true corporate religion…

    Clark parents are right to fight for their school and I wish them well in their struggle. And Jon Pelto is right: Barth and Pryor would never adopt bullying tactics with white suburban parents. Such methods are best reserved for poor people of color who have no political power.


    • msavge

      You’re wrong. Bullying tactics are being used against white suburban parents. What do you think is happening to parents who want to opt their parents out of the SEBAC in Hebron, for example. Pure bullying tactics, encouraged by Pryor. The bullying is spreading. It STARTED with poor people of color, but it will spread to every public school in the state if we don’t stop it.

      • jonpelto

        You are absolutely right, very true…. They details are different but the underlying motivation is the same.

      • jrp1900

        msavage: I stand corrected. I agree with you that the reform rot is going to spread to all public schools in CT. Barth and Pryor will certainly use heavy-handed tactics against suburban parents, but they will still have to tread carefully. They are politicians and politicians want to survive. Reformers are generally used to pushing around powerless poor people, and they have become accustomed to getting their way. It will be interesting to see how they fare when they go up against people who are little more confident in asserting their rights.

    • speaking up

      I am a white suburban parent.My child was bullied by other children at Capital Prep. This bullying behavior was modeled and condoned by the administration in the school. I was then bullied by said administration and this bullying behavior was modeled and condoned by city and state administrators and officials.
      Has Dr. Steve Perry ever been reprimanded or sanctioned in any way – or will he be “given” another school? Why is he still heading Capital Prep, much less being considered in Bridgeport?

      CT’s public schools – all of them – are fair game in this market.

  • speaking up

    How and when did we all get so desensitized?

    Dr. Steve Perry’s actions and behavior can not be seen as anything less than outrageous and we’ve all been put on hold for long enough that we’ve agreed to let things fall where they may. I have to admit that one of my first thoughts upon hearing that Dr. Steve Perry had submitted an application for a Charter school in Bridgeport was relief that, at least, he wouldn’t be getting another school in Hartford.

    But why does he even still have one?!?

    Why do we keep hearing and reading of new offensive behavior and actions taken by Perry, Pryor, Malloy (and many, many others) and why are we shaking our heads over each one… and then moving on to the next one?

    The term “unbelievable” doesn’t have much meaning any more.

    • brutus2011

      I have been thinking along the same lines. Only I was thinking in terms of “deference” rather than “desensitized.”

      Historian Gordon Wood wrote a book I read some time ago that the former colonists mindset rejected the deference before felt for one’s “betters” or “superiors,” etc.

      Somehow, we seem to allow those in management or “leadership in education” positions to do pretty much whatever they want–as though they “own” the education activity or system our children are encompassed by.

      Kind of like we are all “hypnotized” or mesmerized by the title or suit or the whatever.

      I mean, how did we ever swallow the bunk that it is all the teacher’s fault?

      In some ways, we should thank Danny Boy for opening his big mouth and insulting teachers the way he did a few years ago.

      Time to let these near-crooks in suits, including our elected representatives, know who is really the boss of our kid’s education AND whose tax dollars they seem to think is theirs to do as they please.

      Time to end deference to these folks.

      • speaking up

        brutus, I read this comment yesterday and have thought a lot about it since. When my child was being bullied at Capital Prep, I went to the school and tried various means and methods to work with faculty and staff to alleviate the situation. I did address them with the deference due to professionals working in a field that I was comparatively unfamiliar with – at first. It quickly became obvious that none of the individuals that I spoke with in that school had any expertise in professionally addressing bullying situations, and I stopped listening to them or waiting for them to find solutions.

        My next stop was HPS. I was shuffled from office to office and given a number of telephone numbers… any deference that I may have planned to have for this “next level” of professionals in the field disintegrated before I ever heard back from any of them.

        I then went to the State Dep’t of Ed. I did give these professionals the deference due to their titles and positions. I was listened to and it was suggested that there would be recourse. I continued to communicate with these individuals and I continued to visit these offices – deferentially, but also persistently. After some weeks my persistence waned. After some months I made the decision to move on. My child was no longer in the situation (I’d pulled my child out and enrolled my child in another school), and I decided to focus my attention on my child. This situation was very disruptive and upsetting to my child. There were many issues that needed my time and attention and I made the conscious decision to not give the “professionals” at Capital Prep, HPS, DoE and Hartford BoE any more time or energy. I saved all of the correspondences that I’d had with them and I went on with my life.

        And then I read a story here, on Wait, What that was eerily similar to mine. At first I thought that someone had simply gotten the dates and a few of the details wrong, but that they were using/telling my story. (They were not. It was another case of bullying at Capital Prep after I’d attempted to remedy the situation and failed.)

        I have since become involved again. I have spoken up here, on Wait, What and someone who claimed to have knowledge of my child’s bullying situation in 2011 – someone with access to a computer at Capital Prep – made disparaging, inappropriate and unprofessional remarks about my child. I’ve continued to speak up about this situation and was disheartened to hear that Dr. Steve Perry had submitted an application for a Charter school in Bridgeport. I am even more disheartened to know that it is being considered. Connecticut knows (at least some of) the truth about Dr. Steve Perry. Allowing him to continue to “lead” “his” school in Hartford is outrageous. Considering him for leadership of another school is negligent at best, and allowing him to sell false information about himself and “his” school to outsiders (from other states) is, too.

        I attended the Hartford BoE meeting after which the executive session on Dr. Steve Perry was being held and I was told that I would not be allowed to speak because this meeting was a special meeting with special agenda items – and Dr. Steve Perry was not one of them. (There had been a number of meetings cancelled and re-scheduled due to weather and snow. I had not realized that I’d missed the “regular” meeting where public comment was allowed/scheduled.)

        I made a conscious decision to not press the issue. I started to walk back to my seat and then I turned around and spoke very quietly to Mr. Poland and Ms. Kishimoto at their table. I told them that I was very disappointed not to be given an opportunity to be heard on this matter before the executive session convened. They explained the procedural policy again and I nodded. I had been heard.

        Any and all deference that I had toward the professionals in this matter disintegrated a long time ago. It doesn’t matter. Voices speaking against the agenda are either not heard or, if the voices are persistent (deferential or not), they are simply ignored until they go away.

        I am not planning to go away this time but, as time ticks… and ticks… and ticks… with each new outrageous action followed by another one… and another… with absolutely nothing being done, I become more and more desensitized.

        Dr. Steve Perry publicly made inappropriate, threatening comments about a decision that he didn’t like (that he would not be “given” another school in Hartford). Nothing was done.
        He is publicly disseminating flagrant lies about results and outcomes at “his” school. Nothing is being done.
        He was not in compliance with State and Federal laws on bullying and I notified city and state officials. Nothing was done.
        Children are being harmed by the atmosphere that he has created in “his” (public!) school building and parents have notified appropriate officials. I am not aware of anything having been done.

        And time continues to tick… and tick… bullying tactics continue… tick…

    • Htfd CT Capital Prep Parent

      Agreed hopefully when my children get into another magnet this year and after May (The last month of school) I am coming out to the media about all of the unethical practices at Capital Prep and I am looking for current and or past parents to come forth with me. I was scared of Perry and Beganski’s retaliation but We are not only fighting for just our children but the current children @ Capital Prep and now the Bridgeport Charter School children where he will have NO supervision and free reign.