Perry’s stunning record of absenteeism continues

As 2013 came to an end, Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry had missed about 30 of 127 school days, which was about 24 percent of all school days since the 2013-2014 Capital Prep school year had begun.

As of the beginning of October 2014, Perry had already been way from Capital Prep for an incredible 55 days, of which about 30 or so were school days.

In fact, since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, Perry’s absentee rate is nearly 25 percent.

This disregard for his duties as a full-time employee of the Hartford Public Schools comes at a time when federal, state and local officials are cracking down on absenteeism.

The Connecticut State Department of Education’s own report says, “Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing ten percent or greater of the total number of school days for ANY REASON.  It includes both excused and unexcused absences.” 

According to state law, “Parents who do not assume responsibility for their child’s attendance as required by law, may be referred to the State Prosecutor for prosecution.”

The State Department of Education’s level of concern is about chronic and excessive absenteeism is so great, that just last month the State Board of Education announced their intention to “rank order” all Connecticut public schools based each school’s  level of student absenteeism and that poor absentee rates could lead to state takeover of local schools.

Absenteeism rates among teachers have also been receiving attention lately.  A June 2014 report released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) claimed that, “When teachers are absent 10 days, the decrease in student achievement is equivalent to the difference between having a brand new teacher and one with two or three years more experience…Worse yet, a number of studies have found there to be a disproportionately high rate of teacher absenteeism in schools serving low income and minority students, providing yet another obstacle to closing the achievement gap.”

But considering the vital role that administrators have in public schools, policymakers should be even more concerned when top administrators, like Capital Prep’s Steve Perry are missing in action for dozens of school days.

In the past, Perry has defended his excessive absenteeism by claiming that he was simply using banked “vacation time,” but the Hartford Board of Education and the contract between the Board of Education and administrator’s union limits the use of banked vacation time.

For example, the Hartford’s administrator’s contract notes that principles shall not take vacation time for the five days prior to the return of teachers to school, and yet, this year, Perry skipped out on two of the five days leading up to the beginning of the Capital Preparatory Magnet School year and even took a vacation day during one of the two “Professional Learning Days” at the beginning of the school year when administrators are supposed to be getting teachers ready for the arrival of students.

State and local policies also say that key administrators should be in their buildings and on duty when students are engaged in the major standardized testing periods, but Perry was away multiple days last spring when students were suffering through the unfair and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test.

An equally troubling question is how Perry is even getting permission to take so many vacation days.

While principals in Hartford Public Schools can bank their vacation and sick days, the Hartford Board of Education Policy requires principals to receive permission from an assistant superintendent of schools before they can take any day off.

Of course, the backdrop to this entire issue is the actions that Perry and his top administrators and teachers are taking when it comes to their efforts to start up a charter management company.  According to the charter school proposals Perry and his operation submitted in Connecticut and New York, he and eight of his senior administrators and teachers have been working for the past two years to turn Perry’s private company into a charter school management chain.

As has been noted in earlier Wait, What? blogs, their actions raise serious legal and ethical issues since the concepts, ideas and materials that they have been using to promote their charter school company actually belong to the City of Hartford.

Official complaints have now been filed with the Hartford Ethics Commission, the Connecticut State Auditors and appropriate entities in New York where Perry is trying to open a charter school in Harlem.

With the extent of Perry’s chronic absenteeism comes the question of whether, in addition to violating copyright laws, Perry or any members of his team have inappropriately been collecting full-time salaries and benefits, all of which are paid for by Hartford and Connecticut taxpayers.

  • Jim Spellman

    Has to be incredibly frustrating for you, Jon. You document gross violations time after time and the offenders go untouched and unimpeded. CT, The Who You Know State.

  • readdoctor

    There are school where missing 30 days, or more places a student on the retention list.

  • Steve Perry: I Stopped Believing

    By Wayne Jebian

    There’s Steve Perry, lead singer of the band Journey, who
    sang “Don’t Stop Believing”, then there’s Dr. Steve Perry, Principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet school, who said, “There will be head injuries.”

    To both Steve Perrys, I’m sorry, but I have stopped
    believing.

    I remember coming to work each morning at Capital Community
    College, which housed Capital Prep in its startup years, and I remember Dr. Perry standing by the G. Fox revolving doors, greeting each student as he or she came in. I witnessed the man’s dedication, which I believed he could transfer to his students through sheer force of will. When in 2009, CNN
    dedicated a special episode of “Black in America” to Dr. Perry and Capital Prep, I recognized the students featured on the show, and I felt proud of what Dr. Perry had accomplished.

    Fast-forward a few years, and now Dr. Perry is a kind of educational celebrity. Policymakers look to him for answers about how to solve the problems of inner city schools. Only he doesn’t have any real answers. The data on Capital Prep show unspectacular test scores compared to other Connecticut schools.

    Dr. Perry often boasted of a 100% college placement rate
    for his students, but that is a hollow claim given the attrition rates for students from freshman year through graduation. If 35% of students drop out, which they did in 2011, how is that better than having more students graduate with a few not going on to college right away?

    People are desperate for solutions for the problems plaguing
    schools in low income areas, and they want to believe that there are educators out there who can do a better job with inner-city students. Parents pin their hopes on the idea that a school can somehow compensate for an impoverished environment. Along comes Dr. Perry, who forcefully asserts that not only is it
    possible, but that he is the one who knows how to do it. He offers hope, and while you can’t blame parents for seizing on it, you might blame policymakers for being gullible.

    If Dr. Perry was a great educator at one time, his recent
    successes have been more in the arena of self-promotion. He clearly has done a good job with that, or else he wouldn’t have garnered enough support to launch a charter school chain, with the first two sites in Bridgeport and Harlem, according to news reports. Between promoting his book, his speaking
    engagements, his appearances on CNN, and the new schools, Dr. Perry gives off all of the appearances of someone who is cashing in.

    What the less-than-stellar performance of Capital Prep
    demonstrates is that Dr. Steve Perry can’t be everywhere at once. He may be off telling the rest of the country what to do about education in the inner city, but his home base is hardly the best role model. If he wants to set an example, he should be putting his house in order.

    Instead, he is singing, “So now I come to you with open arms. Nothing to hide; believe what I say.”

    Oops. Sorry. Wrong Steve Perry.

    • CTedFromTheTrenches

      Excellent post.

  • Guest Again

    I can not comprehend how this man continues to get away with these antics….

  • Tom Burns

    So much to say–Ct has beaten back so many Corporate takeovers of education to date–unlike Philly, Cleveland, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and New York where Charters have made no difference and have stolen public monies to support their unsuccessful efforts–we, the taxpayers of CT (where my children attend public schools) must reject the latest proposal of 8 new charter schools to the tune of $21 million dollars plus–when our state has a huge deficit–yet will bet on private schools (called public charter schools) that have never proven anything anywhere over the last 30 years–Do you/we really want corporations taking over our education system–this is what Sweden did while Finland stayed the course (20 years ago)–Finland is considered a great education system today while Sweden which was a leader in education before corporations got involved has deteriorated immensely–so simply–do you want to give our education system (which is #1 in the world) to corporations to run–Enron?? My children deserve better–and deserve real public education–a Community not a Corporation a Family not a Business—We can get it right in CT and I will make sure we do–Tom

    • R.L.

      We can’t get it right as long as Malloy, or any other corporate shill, owns the governorship in this state.

  • Bluecoat

    With all due respect, has anyone checked on the teacher absenteeism rate from the CT SDE website?
    Abysmal.

    • George

      And did they bother to look into the causes for absenteeism in those districts? If you have a few people with catastrophic illnesses, that skews the number. If you have a number of young teachers (particularly women) who have young children, that can skew the number due to childcare issues. If you work in a poor district, the number of children who come to school sick because their parents can’t afford to stay home, because they do not receive appropriate health care and nutrition and are frequently ill, that can skew the numbers.

      My wife teaches in New Haven and, already, a number of kids have come to school with fever, vomiting, diarrhea, you name it. Several of the parents admitted that they knew but sent the kids anyway. Over the years, my wife has had 4-5 year-old kids vomit in her lap more times than can be counted, and has had them sneeze in her face on an almost daily basis. What do you think happens then? The first 5 years of her tenure, my wife had bronchitis on average 4 times a year. She has been treated for pneumonia at least a dozen times in the past 20 years and hospitalized once. Think that might have something to do with higher absentee rates in urban districts? Hmmm?

      • Bluecoat

        OK wise guy,
        I understand the reasons that can skew the results, but they have been steadily increasing over the last ten years.
        Maternity leave, sick days, sabbaticals, I get it, but these stats are directly from the State SDE website, and I don’t think they list the reasons why as part of that data.
        Please look at the list of Towns, most of the Towns on top of the list, like Berlin, for instance, are not Urban areas.
        Most of the big cities are within a day or two of the State Average of 8.
        Did you even look at the list?
        Seems to me there is an abuse of the system that is costing taxpayers a lot of money for substitutes.
        The data is four years old, so maybe there has been an improvement, but the data does show a steady and consistent increase over ten years or so. All you have to do is go to the State site, type in your City or Town, and see how the rates have increased from year to year.
        Top 10 worst School districts thru 2010:
        Average Teacher Absentee rates(State Ave. is 8 days)
        Canaan: 18.8 days
        Berlin: 16.52
        Preston: 14.85
        Deep River: 14.8
        New Hartford: 14.4
        Thompson: 14.23
        Woodstock: 13.55
        Cornwall: 13.2
        Woodbridge: 12.9
        Putnam: 12.9
        Compare to the Big cities/urban areas:
        Hartford: 11.72 days
        Groton:10.82
        Waterbury: 10.57
        Stamford: 9.8
        New Britain: 9.14
        New London: 8.18
        New Haven: 7.12
        Bridgeport: 5.4
        Something is wrong here, and if you told me to guess which towns or Cities had the worst rates, I would have picked Bridgeport, or New Haven, or Hartford.
        Try asking someone this question, and then direct them to the State website link above.
        FYI, I think CATO institute gave CT an ‘F’ grade for the data on the State Department of Education Website.

        • Guest

          My guess is the increasingly ridiculous number of demands on classroom teachers is reaching critical mass. Every year we have more and more on our plates that we are expected to do with the same amount of time to do it –24 hours. And it all has to be documented. Teachers who used to love going to work every day are exhausted and burnt out three months in to the school year. So either teachers are calling in more for “mental health days” or they are becoming genuinely sick from all the stress or a combination of both. Teaching has now become a high pressure job. At least in other high pressure jobs remuneration matches the taxing demands. Not so for teachers.

        • R.L.

          ABSOLUTELY!!!! Not to mention the verbal abuse, general disrespect of staff, and sometimes downright chaos that exists in some schools. This is especially true in the schools left behind in the wake of Adamowski’s destructive policies. You know, the old neighborhood public schools.

        • guest

          I left at 9 pm on many nights and then was out due to a sexual assault at the hands of students – had a black eye for a month. Other teachers left for mental health leaves. Yes, I’m talking Hartford Public Schools. I rarely missed a day of teaching as it’s easier to come in sick than prepare for a sub until I arrived in HPS. Most teachers do not call in sick unless it’s really something serious but of course there are always outliers. But most not only pull long days but take work home at night and on weekends.

          As for the assault, and this is documented, the Hartford Police didn’t file my report and I had a state advocate with me. Six days after I filed my report with the HPD, “someone” came in and my report disappeared. No one in recors could tell me who came in for the report. It took the State’s Attorney’s office to get someone to “find it”. The students’ names are redacted but I should post it so people understand what it can be like to be a teacher. It is quite graphic though. And no accountability was held.

        • sharewhut

          Average can also be skewed by number of teachers, a pregnancy or catastrophic in Canaan which is part of a region, with only an elementary school of it’s own staffed by @40, will have a greater impact on average than New Haven. A single teacher on a 180 (classroom day) maternity adds almost 4.5% to average. Also skews the socioeconomic correlation, with smaller schools/less teachers in suburbs & rural areas with higher avg. household incomes. None of this data seems to include the number of teachers and total absences.

      • Bluecoat

        I know some people here will find fault with the ct policy institute since it is or was run by Foley, but their chart is useful.
        I did follow the link in their article to the State Website to check the data, and they used the State collected data. But the State website stinks, and is probably purposefully maintained this way, so just use ctpolicy’s site and type in your school district and it will have from 2001/2002 thru 201 school years.
        Click on each year separately and see how your Town or City has steadily increased over that 10 year span.
        Something is not right.

  • Bluecoat
  • joek

    wonder if he’s down in sanctuary city for the charter rally today. they are expecting thousands. sorry i won’t be there. trying to opt out of ct….