NEWS FLASH: Its official – choice means Friendship Charter School or nothing

In a brazen effort to hand over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Friendship Charter Schools of Washington D.C. and divert more scarce public funds to another out-of-state charter school management company, a special meeting of the Hartford Board of Education has suddenly been called for tomorrow to approve a resolution “requesting” that Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, use his authority to simply hand Clark Elementary over to Friendship Charter Schools without any further debate or discussion.

As reported in multiple blog posts here at Wait, What?, this extraordinary abuse of power has been playing out for the last few months.

The Clark School “turnaround” process has suddenly became a case study in how the corporate education reform industry really works.

And in this case, the concept of “school choice” has been corrupted to mean that Clark School parents, teachers and the greater community must accept Friendship Charter School as their new master or Commissioner Stefan Pryor will withhold $1.5 million that was allocated to improve the neighborhood school.

Of course, a large chunk of that “new” money will be used to pay for the “services” of Friendship Charter School.

Regardless of the political spin coming from the corporate education reformers, the truth is as follows;

When Clark Elementary School’s parents, teachers and community were told that their school was going to be handed over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor…

The Clark parents said NO! – “We want Choices.”

And the Achievement First, Inc. proposal was defeated.

In response to this development, Commissioner Pryor, his senior staff, and high-ranking administrators for the Hartford School System decided that the new “choice” would be Friendship Charter Schools, a Washington D.C. based charter school management company.

Although the Clark parents continued to say – “We want Choices,” those in power decided “choice” is not the selection of multiple options but simply a decision of Friendship Charter School or nothing.

As internal emails, documents and first hand reports reveal, a strategy was developed by Pryor’s State Department of Education, Hartford Board of Education administrators and corporate education reform organizations to “persuade”  the Clark parents that handing their school over to Friendship was effectively their only choice.

To implement this political strategy of deception, state and city officials used a combination of public and private funds to pay for a campaign that was orchestrated and coordinated by a series of education reform groups including Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (H.A.R.T) and Michele Rhee’s StudentsFirst.

The gory details will continue to leak out in the coming days, but the strategy reached its zenith today when these education reform groups handed out flyers instructing Clark Parents to meet late tomorrow afternoon at that Clark School, don tee-shirts and march to the Hartford Board of Education meeting to demand the Hartford Board of Education approve Friendship before the state withdraws the $1.5 million needed to help improve their school.

Gone is the discussion of providing Clark School parents with the range of choices they wanted to hear about.

Last week’s site visit to New York City that would have allowed Clark’s parents to examine other options was cancelled and will now not be rescheduled.

The group’s planned site visit to Cincinnati to look at other school options has suddenly disappeared, as well.

And the Clark School Governance Committee’s vote in favor of seeking multiple options has been “re-interpreted” as a vote for Friendship Charter School.

Check back for additional details as they become available…

But as far as the corporate education reform industry is concerned, the only thing that stands between them and control of another local Connecticut neighborhood school, its students and millions in taxpayer money that comes with it is the following resolution that will be taken up tomorrow at 5:15 p.m. by the Hartford Board of Education.

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT: the Board hereby requests that the Commissioner exercise his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develop and impose a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark; and

BE IT THEREFORE FURTHER RESOLVED THAT: if the Commissioner exercises his statutory authority pursuant to Connecticut General Statute § 10-233h(d) and develops and imposes a turnaround plan for Clark that includes Friendship as the lead partner with responsibility for the day-to-day management and administration of Clark then the Board will negotiate the financial impact of the plan with the exclusive bargaining units for Clark certified employees in accordance with Connecticut General Statute § 10-153S(c).

RECOMMENDATION That the Hartford Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent to approve the resolution requesting Commissioner’s Exercise of Statutory Authority relative to John C. Clark Turnaround Committee.

You can also read more about this developing issue at the Real Hartford Blog –

  • educationmatters

    Well…the Hartford Board if Education is finally about to do something stupid enough to get it sued. And it’s so stupid it will end as an injunction. Easy come easy go.

    • Linda174

      Pryor believes he is invincible. He has the support of the privatization King Malloy and the appointed, arrogant, ignorant state BOE.

  • Mary Gallucci

    I am wondering where the parent/school governing councils are at these charter schools; where are their meeting agendas and minutes? according to state law, these are supposed to be available. (Neither the Jumoke corporation nor Achievement First seem to post these materials; AF’s calendars are blank).
    Sec. 10-66kk. Governing council. Internet posting of meeting schedules, agendas and minutes. Membership. (a) The governing council of each state charter school shall post on any Internet web site that the council operates the (1) schedule, (2) agenda, and (3) minutes of each meeting, including any meeting of subcommittees of the governing council. (b) The membership of the governing council of each state charter school shall meet the requirements concerning such membership set forth in the provisions of subdivision (3) of subsection (d) of section 10-66bb at the time of application for a state charter and at all other times.
    Check out the CT SDE website:
    So, be forewarned, parents! You are most likely being used. and the public seems to have no access at all to school documents, unlike with other public schools.

  • educationmatters

    That’s why we have three branches of government.

  • Charlie Puffers

    There is no transparency, no honesty, and no integrity among most of the decision makers conspiring to take over the public schools in the cities of CT under the guise of reform. These bullies are denying a voice to the people most affected. Why is there so much secrecy? What is the rush? Why was the agenda changed at the 11th hour?

    Why did the State Board of Education gleefully approve more charters last week against the wishes of the elected officials from Bridgeport and Stamford and many concerned citizens who attended the meeting to speak during the public forum? Is it desperation or just plain meanness that is contributing to the urgency of this madness?

  • Stand up Clark Community!

    Clark school families, friends, and community please think twice about what is being offered. If the commissioner REALLY GAVE A DAMN ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN, SCHOOL, AND COMMUNITY WHY ALL THE STRINGS ATTACHED TO THIS DEAL? Why the big rush, the take it now or it’s gone mentality? In the grand scheme of things 1.5 million to run a school is squat. They are playing you! As soon as your school goes charter it is private property, no longer yours. How much of that 1.5 mil is gone before it even gets to the school. You know your teachers, you know it’s not them that is the true cause of Clark’s problems. Their hands are tied by the very same people who have made and forced the decisions that have lead to today’s problems. This is about the “big man” squeezing even more money from you. They are hoping that you take the chump-change bait so that they can take your PUBLIC school and turn it in to a PRIVATE school.
    Take all of the momentum that you have going for you right now, and kick this “fools gold” offer to the curb and DEMAND that your BOE provide you with the same support as they provide their magnet schools. Their is no magic in a charter school, just more money and a whole lot of smoke. Don’t sell off your neighbourhoods asset to these players. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever! True Story!!

  • Linda174

    Where’s Holzer now?

  • SayNo2SchoolPrivitzation

    CT Fight for Public Education Event
    Saturday, April 19 at 1:30pm
    Hartford Public Library 500 Main St Hartford CT

  • speaking up

    Wait a minute.

    I concur wholeheartedly with Stand up Clark Community – below – and I also took to heart what Rafael said on the earlier Clark post yesterday. I see that it’s going to take all of us; parents, teachers, and community members at large to make our presence acknowledged and our voices heard on the commandeering that is being allowed to be happen to our public schools.

    I decided that I’d show up at the Board of Ed meeting tonight. And then I looked at the schedule. Tonight is a budget meeting; the “public” meeting is next week on the 15th. This is exactly what happened with the Executive Session on Steve Perry a few months ago. Snow cancellations, rescheduling… and then no opportunity to publicly comment BEFORE the exec session was held.

    Wait. What?

    • Rafael G

      Oh there goes our chance to talk again…i really hope its not the perry scandal all over with us not getting to speak before they make “decisions” So th en there is no public comment section tonight?

  • Kerri

    Now Mayor Segarra has joined ranks with those seeking to misrepresent the vote that happened at the end of March regarding Friendship. For shame!

  • Achievement First

    Achievement First is not a company, it is a non-profit 501c(3) that was originally started 15 years ago as Amistad Academy by a group of community activists who believed that equality in education is the civil rights issue of our time. Achievement First is committed to serving students in our most historically underserved communities. We are excited to serve more students in Hartford, and we will open schools where the district allows us and there is available space. In this case, the district ultimately selected a temporary co-location with Global Communications Academy. Achievement First does not “take over” schools or advocate for school closings.We establish schools in underserved communities in order to help all students climb the mountain to and through college.

    • jonpelto

      Actually a 501(c) is a corporation but you could also call an nonprofit corporation.
      Pryor’s own bio has claimed he co-founded Achievement First Inc.

      The proposal to “take over” Clark Elementary School was to close the school and re-open as an Achievement First, Inc. school.
      Can you explain which of these three statements is not true?