UPDATED with Hartford Board of Education vote.
With Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra leading the way, the Hartford Board of Education voted 7 -1 (With only Working Families Party Robert Cotto Jr. voting no) to ask Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to short-circuit the legislative mandated school turnaround process and give Friendship Charter School, Inc. a no-bid contract to take over Hartford’s Clark Elementary School.
During the course of the discussion, the Hartford Board of Education chairman read letters from Clark Parents in favor of the move to give Friendship their school but failed to read letters from parents who opposed the give-a-way program. In addition, the Board of Education dismissed the first hand reports that the so-called 10-1 vote in favor of Friendship Charter Schools by the Clark School Governance was actually a vote in favor of having Friendship as an option but WAS NOT a vote exclusively in favor of the out-of-state charter school company.
Perhaps the single most important development at the meeting was the fact that the Mayor and administers with the City of Hartford admitted that the Malloy administration was behind the Friendship and that the city was told that Clark would lose the funds state funds if the parents, teachers and local officials did not agree to the Commissioner’s demand.
The Malloy administration’s willingness to abuse its powers and its commitment to privatizing Connecticut’s public schools apparently has no bounds.
UPDATED with email to Hartford Board of Education from Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member)
When Paul Hozler, the Executive Director of the corporate funded education reform group Achieve Hartford! wrote to two high-ranking Hartford Board of Education administrators that he was concerned that,
“…The [Clark] parents seem to be playing into the pockets of the AFT,”
Hozler revealed far more than he probably meant to about the strategy behind the on-going effort to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to an out-of-state charter school management company called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.
As reported yesterday on Wait, What?, in a hastily called special Hartford Board of Education meeting scheduled for late this afternoon, Mayor Pedro Segarra and his appointed majority on the Hartford Board are expected to vote in favor of a resolution asking Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, to step in and unilaterally eliminate the involvement of the parents and teachers of the Clark Elementary School.
The rush to put an end to the legally mandated school turnaround process is part of a broader effort to ensure that Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. gets a lucrative state taxpayer funded management contract to take over the Clark Elementary School.
Sources inside the State Department of Education and within the Hartford School System now confirm what internal emails had already revealed.
Prior to the weekend of March 29-30, 2014, Commissioner Pryor, his turnaround team, the Hartford school administrators and a group of corporate education reform organizations were intending to allow the Clark parents and teachers to complete the legally mandated turnaround committee process.
The privatization proponents have envisioned a process in which the steps to reach consensus about Clark School would be achieved with a site visit to New York City and Cincinnati to provide the Clark School community with an opportunity to explore other turnaround options, in addition to Friendship Charter School.
However, growing concerns about the possibility that the Hartford Federation of Teachers (HFT) and the community organization known as Hartford Rising might convince parents to choose another management model for Clark Elementary School led the supporters of privatization to a last minute change of strategy.
Starting with a meeting on Sunday evening, March 30th, the public and private funded groups promoting Friendship Charter Schools, Inc. met with a small group of Clark parents to scare them into thinking that if they did not choose Friendship Charter Schools immediately, they would lose out on the Malloy administration’s promise to allocate $1.5 million to help enhance the Clark Elementary School.
The Clark School parents were told that the site visit to New York was postponed and that Clark parents needed to attend the State Board of Education Meeting on April 2nd and speak up in favor of additional funding for Clark.
In an interesting twist, apparently Achieve Hartford!, Hartford Area Rally Together (HART) and the other groups failed to cancel the trip and a coach bus actually showed up at the Clark School to take parents to see the New York City schools, but the bus was turned away when there were no parents to go on the trip.
At the Sunday meeting, and in the days that followed, the corporate education reform groups also planned a demonstration that is set for this afternoon in which Clark Parents were told to come to the school, put on tee-shirts and march to the Board of Education meeting to demand that the Hartford Board of Education vote to ask the Commissioner to unilaterally give the management contract to Friendship Charter Schools.
The fact that the demonstration planning has been going on for days is particularly noteworthy since the notice of the Board of Education’s special meeting wasn’t even released until 5pm last night.
The coordinated effort to give Friendship Charter School a no-bid contract is not only evident in the package of internal emails but the effort has now been independently confirmed by people directly involved in the process.
And perhaps the most disturbing development in this whole, bizarre charade is that it appears to be nothing more than an attempt to undermine the Hartford Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers despite state laws that not only allow, but require, the full participation of teachers and their union in the turnaround process.
Making the situation even more disgusting, in an effort to cover-up the privatization strategy, the Malloy administration, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the corporate education reform groups are trying to make it appear that the whole effort to close down the turnaround committee process is simply a response to “service” the Clark parents.
As part of that strategy, Mayor Pedro Segarra released a statement earlier today claiming that the vote to request Malloy’s Commissioner of Education to stop the turnaround process and simply hand pick Friendship Charter Schools is at the request of the Clark Parents.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra’s statement was as follows,
MAYOR SEGARRA statement on parents decision regarding turnaround plan for clark elementary school
— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—
(April 8, 2014) Today, Mayor Segarra made the following statement regarding the proposed turnaround plan for John C. Clark Elementary School:
“It has always been my belief that when a school partners with its families and community groups, children will stay in school longer and have a better chance of success. A critical component of a providing a quality education is making sure the parents have a voice in the school process. Parents who are actively involved in their children’s education are helping to build a foundation for their children’s future success. The parents at Clark Elementary School have actively engaged in discussions surrounding the reform process for the school and have made their desires clear.
“The Clark School Governance Council voted unanimously in favor of partnering with the Friendship Public Charter Schools to assist in the school’s turnaround work. It is disappointing to see that despite this clear recommendation from the School Governance Council, the Clark Turnaround Committee failed to reach consensus on a plan that would have provided the Clark Elementary School with the resources that are needed for a successful turnaround plan. As Mayor, I support the School Governance Council’s recommendation to partner with Friendship Public Charter Schools to undertake this important work.
“I am asking that Stefan Pryor, Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut, exercise his statutory authority and contact Friendship to formally request that they reconsider being the lead partner with Clark Elementary School.”
Mayor Segarra’s claim that he is “doing it for the parents” is particularly insulting since Hartford parents that have been directly involved in the process have made it clear that the purported vote in favor of Friendship Charter Schools was not intended to be a vote in favor of giving the contact to Friendship Charter Schools but only a vote that Clark parents wanted Friendship Charter Schools as one of the options on the table as they explored other potential management models.
But as we have learned over and over again, when it comes to the privatization of our public schools, the truth is a dispensable commodity for the Malloy administration.
4 P.M. UPDATE:
Earlier today, Lakeisha McFarland (Clark PTO President and School Governance Council member sent the Board of Education the following email;
Good Afternoon Mayor Segarra and Board Members,
My name is Lakeisha McFarland I am the PTO President, SGC member and turn around team committee member at Clark school. I feel it is necessary to inform you that the SGC 10-0 vote that everyone is talking and writing about was NOT to partner with Friendship but it was to ask them to return to the table to be considered as ONE of the options for Clark. A couple of parents are being misled to change their voices completely. Our unified voice was to see other models and we refused to have Friendship forced on us as the option we must partner with. As the PTO President I am responsible for communicating with parents and the last meeting that was held we all agreed as a parent body that more options and other models needed to be visited. It is unfair that an organization can change the minds of a couple and pretend that this is what the majority of parents want. Despite the couple of parents that are being misled to believe that we must pick Friendship, parents at large still stand on our original demand of seeing more options other than Friendship. It is a sad day when an organization that is hired to get the consensus of the parents and stakeholders in the Clark community are doing the opposite and trying to deliver us to Friendship on a silver platter. Parents at Clark are asking you NOT to intervene in the process of the turn around team and PLEASE don’t take our voices away.