Bridgeport principal brought in by Jumoke’s “Dr.” Michael Sharpe arrested for first-degree larceny

When Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to hand Bridgeport’s Dunbar Elementary School over to the FUSE/Jumoke charter school chain, the man formerly known as “Dr.” Michael Sharpe began by firing all but 4 of the school’s 19 teachers and hired Baton Rouge, Louisiana principal and “turnaround expert,” Marilyn Taylor, to serve as the principal of the Jumoke Academy at Dunbar.

Less than sixteen months later, Marilyn Taylor has now been charged with stealing more than $10,000 from Dunbar’s school’s fundraising account and spending the money gambling at casinos in Mississippi and Connecticut.

At an August 19, 2013 ceremony at the school, Bridgeport’s “superintendent” and corporate education reform industry guru Paul Vallas gushed about Jumoke and its holding company, The Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE).

Vallas, who was joined at the event by Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the assembled crowd, “The transformation will be extraordinary, because this group has done it in the past.”

According to a story in the CT Post as the time, Principal Marilyn Taylor took the microphone and using what is classic education reform rhetoric, added, “You are the parents of scholars now…Don’t let this be the only opportunity we see you.”

But while FUSE promised that their special education “model” would produce what Taylor called, “quick wins,” the results were anything but good for the school, its principal and the 15 new Jumoke at Dunbar teachers, eight of whom were Teach for America (TFA) recruits.

Earlier this year, before the Jumoke/FUSE organization collapsed in disgrace and its records were seized by the FBI, a Jumoke Academy at Dunbar official was quoted in another CT Post story telling that Bridgeport Board of Education that, “the management group they brought in to run the school this year — when Dunbar joined the Commissioner’s Network — are people who truly care about the students.”

The CT Post story explained that, “Being part of the state network means extra funding and state support in exchange for implementing changes meant to bring about a quick turnaround in school culture and test scores.”

At the time the Malloy administration and the Bridgeport Board of Education decided to hand the school over to Jumoke/FUSE, Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira, “cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she wondered what the district could accomplish on its own with the money.”

Then, only a few months later, the Hartford Courant broke that story that “Dr.” Michael Sharpe never received a doctorate and that, in fact, he had served a lengthy prison sentence for embezzling funds from a public agency in California.

Now Sharpe’s hand-picked principal, Marilyn Taylor, is out on bail after posting a $20,000 bond and Interim Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz has told the CT Post that, “Marilyn Taylor will not be returning to work as a principal in Bridgeport. I don’t want to say more at this point.”

Interestingly, Taylor has been out on paid administrative leave for the past six weeks and, according to the CT Post, “The alleged theft from a student activity account occurred in November 2013 and involved thousands of dollars generated from student fundraising, according to sources…at the time, Dunbar was being run by Family Schools for Urban Excellence.”

The news coverage of Taylor’s arrest fails to identify whether Taylor played any role in helping Jumoke/FUSE “win” an extremely lucrative contract to run up to three public schools in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  However, the contract with FUSE was later canceled by the Louisiana state authority that had originally signed the contract when Jumoke/FUSE collapsed.

Those issues are apparently among those that remain under investigation by the FBI.

And as for Stefan Pryor, the out-going Commissioner of Education, is concerned…a spokesperson for the Commissioner told the CT Post that the decision to remove Marilyn Taylor was “’a local decision’” and said she had no knowledge of whether it was related to the state’s probe into FUSE…”

Check back for updates on this breaking story.

  • Linda174

    I think the newly created position of Commerce Commissioner for the State of Rhode Island may be interested in approving a casino charter chain with a finance theme and appoint Ms. Taylor as the CEO. As we all know sleazy “reformers” never go away. See: Vallas, Pryor, Malloy……never ending cesspool of edushysters.

    • Sleepless in Bridgeport

      Add Manny Rivera, Adamowski, Kishimoto, Stevie Perry, Holy Moly, the whole Ayala family, See what our state Dept of Education has to say:

      Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education also
      called the recent developments and allegations disturbing.

      “We commend Superintendent Rabinowitz for dealing with this issue
      appropriately and for keeping the best interest of Dunbar students at
      the forefront,” Donnelly said. ” In partnership with the district, our
      attention will keep focus on implementing school improvements and
      supporting the success of Dunbar students. As this matter continues
      forward through the legal system, we hope for an expedient and just
      resolution to this matter.”

      What about their major culpability in this travesty. Tar and feathers for Pryor.

  • truthsayer

    When are we going to learn that all of these corporate education types are just cons and scam artists after easy to get public funds. And more than likely the politicians that promote them are getting kickbacks and campaign funding. Pryor is the biggest con man and Malloy is his willing accomplice.

    • Tom Burns

      We already know–as do our legislators–but the lobbying power of the corporate interests are strong and unchecked will override truth–so sad–we must not let it happen in CT–a moratorium on Charters and any other false alternatives to public education must be all of our families goals–In Indiana the Governor is proposing that federal money go to all schools whether private or charter–not happening–time for a lawsuit as I will not let my federal taxes pay for private schools and fake charters or vouchers–will you??

      • R.L.

        “We already know–as do our legislators–but the lobbying power of the corporate interests are strong and unchecked will override truth–so sad–we must not let it happen in CT….” Too late. It has happened/is happening here in CT, and our unions have become susceptible to the lobbying power of the corporate interests as well. They also led the public to believe, through their endorsement of governor Danny, that teachers were in favor of the policies being implemented by the racketeer, Dannel, thus giving him the election. Gee, I also kind of remember you, Tom Burns, pitching for him before the election. It’s way past time for lawsuits. Will the union leadership who are supposed to be the ones representing us with their new found “seat at the table” be the ones filing these suits? It’s been awfully warm for December in Connecticut. It must be all of the hot air being blown around with all of the words with no meaning being spoken by those who recently sold us out.

  • Maria Pereira

    I was totally opposed to FUSE taking over Dunbar School at a cost of over $400,000 per year in management fees to manage a school with only 300 students, however I believe John Bagley voted against the FUSE takeover as well. Every other BBOE member voted in favor of it including two of my allies.