CT Post Editorial: A long-overdue step on charters

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The Connecticut Post has published a powerful editorial about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school debacle and the Malloy Administration’s failure to properly oversee the growing charter school industry in Connecticut.

Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, his Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Pryor’s minions of charter school allies are diverting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies that have been allowed to open up charter schools or have been given no-bid contracts to run local public schools in Connecticut’s poorest communities.

The editorial lays out the stark facts about the Jumoke/FUSE charter school company and its contract to run the Bridgeport neighborhood school known as Dunbar.

The CT Post doesn’t even get to the fact that Commissioner Pryor, Pryor’s Division Director in charge of turnaround schools, and their new Bureau Chief in the turnaround schools division all worked for Achievement First, Inc., Connecticut’s largest charter school management company, before getting their state jobs.

Together, Pryor and his two top charter school lieutenants are earning about $500,000 in salary and benefits, courtesy of Connecticut’s taxpayers.  And while we pay, they are spending their time undermining Connecticut’s public school system.

The Connecticut Post editorial does observe,

It is almost beyond belief that the state Department of Education, its hand finally forced, is just now ordering all charter schools and charter school management firms in Connecticut to conduct background checks on the people being entrusted with the care of children.

The department acted only after Michael P. Sharpe, director of a company the state picked to turn around Bridgeport’s Dunbar School, was discovered to have convictions for forgery and embezzlement, and no doctoral degree, as claimed.

So, in this case at least, with the horse long out of the barn, the department announced with a flourish that it will sic a special investigator on FUSE — Family Urban – and Jumoke Academy, a Hartford charter school that FUSE also runs.

The state department also said it will make charter schools and their management companies to adhere to anti-nepotism and conflict-of-interest policies established for public school districts.

Well, how about that?

“Today’s actions may not be the limit of what we undertake,” intoned Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.

What’s next? Triple secret double-dog probation?

[…]

FUSE, for one thing, received $435,000 from the state in so-called Commissioner’s Network money, money designed to help turn around particularly low-functioning schools in the state.

You can read the complete editorial at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-long-overdue-step-on-charters-5593806.php

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

News Flash:  Malloy/Pryor hand another top job to an Achievement First Inc. staffer

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The Malloy administration has given the one-hundred thousand-dollar-a-year-plus job of “Bureau Chief for District and School Transformation” to William (Billy) Johnson, a former employee of Achievement First Inc.

Of course, Achievement First, Inc. being the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Education Commissioner.   The company now operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island and has been the largest beneficiary of Malloy’s effort to shovel funds to the charter school industry.

The new “Bureau Chief” will report to Morgan Barth, the State Department of Education’s ‘Division Director.”  Before getting his lucrative management job in the Malloy administration, Barth also worked for Achievement First, Inc.

And Barth reports to Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Not only did Pryor play a key role in the creation of Achievement First, Inc., but he served on its Board of Directors until he resigned to become Malloy’s “education reform” point-person.

The timing of this hand-out to another Achievement First Inc. employee is particularly noteworthy since it takes place at the very moment that Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and Commissioner Pryor are circling the wagons in an attempt to deny any responsibility for the Jumoke Academy/FUSE Charter School Management Company debacle of the past few weeks.

Their claim that they didn’t know anything about the problems associated with Jumoke Academy/FUSE certainly lacks credibility since it was Pryor, Morgan Barth and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson, who worked directly with Jumoke Academy/FUSE to get them their two no-bid contracts – one to run the Milner School in Hartford and one to run the Dunbar School in Bridgeport.  In addition, it was the same cast of characters who successfully got Jumoke Academy/FUSE their new charter school in New Haven.

But as we’ve seen throughout Malloy’s tenure in office, the charter school industry is a priority.

And now another senior position is being given to someone affiliated with Achievement First, Inc. and charter schools.

Billy Johnson worked for Achievement First, Inc. from 2004 to June 2009 and returned to Achievement two years ago to become a consultant for Achievement First’s “AF Residency Program for School Leadership in July 2012.

Johnson has also worked for the Domus Academy, another charter school company and for the Stark Elementary School in Stamford, Connecticut.

And what is Johnson’s most recent academic achievement? A 2014 graduate of the UConn’s infamous 093-CT Superintendent Executive Leadership Certificate Program, the very program that Pryor and the State Department of Education sidestepped in granting Paul Vallas his “certification” to run Bridgeport’s schools.

Although Johnson’s salary has not been released yet, the position was advertised for $102,546 – $131,539 per year plus benefits.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Charter School champion, “OxyContin producer” gives Malloy operation over $200,000  

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This month Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy will be getting a check for $6.2 million in public funds through the Connecticut Public Financing Program to pay for part of his campaign for governor.

But Malloy’s fundraising operation goes far beyond that money.  Malloy and his political operatives are raising millions through various loopholes in Connecticut law.

Take for example, the following;

Jonathan Sackler helped Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, create Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company that owns and operates schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.

Jonathan Sackler created ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group that led the record breaking $6 million lobbying campaign to pass Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative in 2012.  The bill made Malloy the only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure and unilaterally repealing collective bargaining for teachers in so-called “turnaround schools.”

Jonathan Sackler founded 50CAN, the ConnCAN knockoff, which is attempting to spread the charter school lobbying effort across the country.  Sackler is also a member of the board of directors of the NewSchools Venture Fund, a national hedge fund industry-funded organization that is promoting the corporate education reform industry’s activities.

Jonathan Sackler and his family also own a significant share of Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company made famous due to their product known as OxyContin.

In a stunning investigative report by the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender, we now learn that Sackler and his family have given $91,000 to Malloy’s political operation while Sackler’s company has given another $106,000.

In the article entitled, Democrats Reap $91,000 From Charter Schools Advocate And His Family, Jon Lender explains,

There may be no better illustration of state Democrats‘ massive fundraising efforts in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s re-election year than the political donations of Jonathan Sackler and his extended family.

A total of $91,000 in donations has rolled into Connecticut Democratic Party coffers in 2013 and 2014 from four people: Sackler, a Greenwich businessman, investment executive and charter schools advocate; his wife; mother and father.

Lender adds,

Also, a privately held pharmaceutical company in Stamford with which Sackler family members have long been associated — Purdue Pharma — contributed $56,050 in 2013 and $50,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, a national group that spends its money to help elect Democratic governors across the country.

Lender lays out in stark detail the flow of money from the Sacklers to Governor Malloy’s political operation.  Donations that include,

•$55,000 to one of the two Connecticut Democratic Party’s accounts.

Jonathan Sackler and his wife, Mary Corson, each gave a maximum $10,000 donation to the Democratic Party’s state account in 2013 and already have given the same amount in 2014, for a total of $40,000 between them. Also, Sackler’s mother and father, Raymond and Beverly Sackler, have given $15,000 — $10,000 and $5,000, respectively — to that same party account this year.”

•$36,000 to the other Connecticut Democratic Party account

“Jonathan Sackler and Mary Corson each have given $10,000 to that account in 2014, and each gave $8,000 in 2013.

As Wait, What? readers may recall Jonathan Sackler also hosted a fundraiser for a political action committee associated with Malloy the day that Malloy’s “education reform” bill became a public act.  That fundraising netted more than $40,000 making it the most successful of the 14 fundraisers the Prosperity for Connecticut PAC held with Malloy and Wyman.

Sackler’s fundraiser was a “who’s who” in the corporate education reform industry including many of the board members of Achievement First, Inc. and ConnCAN as well as representatives of Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst and Eva Moskowitz’s Harlem Success Academy.

You can find Jon Lender’s MUST READ article at:  http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-major-givers-0622-20140621,0,3261788.column

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

NEWS FLASH: Malloy allied corporate education reformers may bring lawsuit to end teacher tenure in Connecticut

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The nation’s leading public education advocate, Diane Ravitch, is reporting today that,

“Spokespersons for the corporate reform movement hope to launch legal attacks on tenure and seniority in Connecticut, following the example of the Vergara case in California.”

The Vegara case is the one in which a California judge ruled, last week, that California’s teacher tenure law was illegal.

The decision is being appealed, as public school teachers and public school advocates fight to preserve the fundamental due process rights that teachers have in this country.

Earlier today, the national president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, sent out an email earlier saying,

“By attacking the rules that protect and support teachers, the Vergara decision destabilizes public education…While the decision was not unexpected, the rhetoric and lack of a thorough, well-reasoned opinion are disturbing…The judge seems to think teachers are the core of the problem facing public education. We know that teachers hold our schools together, especially in the toughest times.”

Weingarten is right.

As teachers, parents and public school advocates know, the corporate education reform industry has been putting out inaccurate and misleading statements, along with outright lies, to persuade the public that teacher tenure is bad.  Their goal is nothing less than destroying the due process rights that teachers have and deserve.

And as we know, Connecticut has been a prime target for the anti-teacher, anti-public education forces.

In 2012, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy actually proposed doing away with teacher tenure in his “education reform” bill.  The Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly removed Malloy’s anti-tenure provision before passing most of the rest of his initiative.

Although Malloy’s proposal to end tenure failed, we are now learning that the CEO of ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, is working to file a lawsuit to end teacher tenure in Connecticut.

When it comes to the corporate education reform industry’s effort, ConnCAN and its leaders have been Malloy’s biggest supporters.

  • ConnCAN led the $6 million dollar lobbying effort to pass Malloy’s education reform bill.  Their overall lobbying campaign was the most expensive effort in state history.
  • Malloy’s 2012 education reform bill not only called for doing away with teacher tenure, but proposed eliminating collective bargaining for teachers in turnaround schools.  When the legislature’s education committee rejected Malloy’s anti-collective bargaining language, ConnCAN issued a statement claiming that allowing teachers to have collective bargaining rights, “will not only make it impossible to enact reforms necessary to boost student performance, but it will likely prevent the most promising local and national leaders from choosing to run a [Commissioner’s] Network school.”
  • ConnCAN, and its related entity which is called A Better Connecticut, also played a leadership role in the $561,000 campaign to eliminate the democratically elected board of education in Bridgeport and replace it with one appointed by the pro-charter school mayor.  The education reforms pour so much money into their  failed campaign to change Bridgeport’s charter that it became the most expensive in Connecticut history.
  • At the start of the 2013 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, ConnCAN paid for a $38,500 poll that was conducted by Malloy’s chief advisor.  The poll claimed that, “There is broad support for continuing education reforms. Connecticut voters are overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the education reforms passed last year…”  The poll was an attempt to stop any efforts to fix the problems with Malloy’s bad education reform bill.
  • In the fall of 2013, ConnCAN’s A Better Connecticut also hired Malloy’s advisor and his political consulting company to campaign for Bridgeport’s Democratic slate of anti-public education candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education.  Thankfully, the pro-public school candidates, that had the support of the Connecticut Education Association and the Working Families Party, won the Democratic primary and the general election.  Their victory allowed the pro-public education candidates to take control of the Bridgeport Board of Education.
  • ConnCAN has also played an increasingly large role in raising money for Malloy, despite the fact that Malloy is participating in Connecticut’s public financing system and will be getting a taxpayer-funded check for $6.2  million to pay for h is 2014 campaign for governor.
    • ConnCAN’s co-foudner, Jonathan Sackler, held an extremely lucrative fundraiser for the Malloy connected Prosperity for Connecticut PAC the day Malloy’s education reform bill became a public act in 2012.  The fundraiser netted in excess of $40,000 for Malloy’s political operation.
    • In addition, over the past eighteen months, present and former members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors have also funneled more than $70,000 to Malloy’s political operation via the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee.

Finally, in what may will recognize as the most bizarre twist of all, while teachers and public education advocates all across Connecticut fight to save teacher tenure and collective bargaining, the American Federation of Teacher’s state chapter, the AFT-CT, endorsed Dannel Malloy last week without ever allowing me to meet with their political action committee or their executive committee.

Instead, the  AFT-CT Executive Committee threw their support behind the only Democratic governor in the nation who PROPOSED doing away with teacher tenure AND repealing collective bargaining rights for selected teachers.

And now, where Malloy left off, his allies at ConnCAN are carrying on with that agenda.

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Malloy administration considered “restraining order” to stop FOI requests?

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In what may be the single most bizarre development yet in the Malloy administration’s war on teachers and public education and their ongoing commitment to secrecy, a recent Freedom of Information request has produced an email between Governor Malloy’s Director of Communications and a senior official from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, in which they discuss what appears to be the Malloy’s administration’s effort to get a restraining order to prevent FOI requests about Malloy’s education reform efforts.

In the email to Governor Malloy’s Director of Communications, ConnCAN’s Jordan Fenster wrote,

Andrew,

Just following up on our conversation today. Any info you may have on a restraining order of any kind against Jon Pelto, (requested by the administration) would be great. It may have something to do with SDE, considering all the FOI requests and negative press he’s been throwing in that direction. 

My cell number, if you lost it, is XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Thanks,

Jordan

The email is dated April 23, 2013, which coincides with a series of Wait, What? posts about the $35,500 public opinion poll that ConnCAN conducted to help make Malloy’s education reform initiative appear more popular.

It was also the time-period in which Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was engaged in his extended effort to help Paul Vallas circumvent Connecticut law so that Vallas could remain as head of Bridgeport’s School System.

While getting “negative press” may be annoying to politicians, the notion that Governor Malloy’s administration would consider pursuing a “restraining order” to prevent Freedom of Information requests is extremely disturbing considering the fundamental right that citizens have to get access to public information.

Even the notion that government officials would consider corrupting the legal system to quell political opposition is chilling.

Interestingly, the disk of emails that was released by Malloy’s office as a result of the recent FOI request does not contain any other communication that mentions a possible “restraining order” against me or the Wait, What? blog.

However, an FOI request that was submitted to Commission Pryor and the State Department of Education on the same subject remains unanswered.

ConnCAN is the charter school lobbying group that led the record-breaking $6 million lobbying and public relations effort in support of Malloy’s education reform initiative.

Jordan Fenster is the senior writer and editor for ConnCAN.  Before he worked for ConnCAN, Fenster worked as the political reporter for the New Haven Register.

Even More Corporate Education Reform money flows to Malloy’s political operation

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The latest federal campaign finance reports are in and Governor Malloy’s political operation continues to rake in the cash from those associated with the effort to privatize Connecticut’s public schools and undermine Connecticut’s teachers.

As a result of Connecticut’s campaign finance program, Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is on track to collect $6.2 million in public funds to pay for his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

But thanks to a loop-hole in Connecticut law, the Malloy campaign has already diverted nearly $2.2 million in individual and political action committee donations into an account controlled by the Democratic State Central Committee.  Malloy is rounding up donations to this Democratic account so that his team will have additional money to supplement Malloy’s publicly funded campaign this year.

The campaign finance loop-hole is so large you could drive a truck through it.  As a result, much of the money that Malloy and his team has raised into the separate account is coming from individuals and businesses who have state contracts, as well as, from registered lobbyists, political action committees and special interests that would otherwise be banned from contributing to Malloy’s campaign.

One of the most “generous” sources of money for Malloy’s “off-line” political operation has been the corporate education reform industry.

The latest report filed with the Federal Elections Commission reveals the proponents of Malloy’s “education reform” initiative continue to line up to give the Governor campaign donations.

New contributions in March included,

  • Another $20,000 from Jonathan Sackler and his wife.  Sackler helped Stefan Pryor create Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company.  Sackler also founded ConnCAN, Connecticut’s leading charter school advocacy group and 50CAN, a national charter school advocacy organization. 
  • Sackler and his wife have now given $38,000 to the Democratic Party “special” account and another $20,000 to the Connecticut Democrats regular account.  In addition, Sackler hosted a fundraiser that brought in almost $50,000 for the Malloy affiliated Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee. 
  •  $10,000 from Susan Mandel, the spouse of billionaire Steve Mandel.  Mandel is the primary supporter of the Bridgeport charter school advocacy group called Excel Bridgeport, Inc. and serves on the national board of directors of Teach for America.  Mandel and his wife have now contributed $30,000 to the Democratic account that is being used to fund Malloy’s political operation. 

These new contributions to help Malloy come on top of tens of thousands of dollars in additional donations that have been sent by other key players from the corporate education reform industry. For example, Michelle Rhee’s PAC and the Wal-Mart PAC have already sent large donations to boost Malloy’s re-election chances.

You can read about the other donations in the following Wait, What? posts,

Corporate Education Reform Industry pours money into Malloy campaign operation (Feb 2014)

Malloy’s campaign donation haul from corporate education reform industry tops $70k (Dec 2013)

Malloy continues to cash in on Education Reform initiative (Nov. 2013)

Malloy/Democrats make mockery of Connecticut’s once prominent role in campaign finance reform (Oct. 2013)

Corporate Education Reform Industry pours money into Malloy campaign operation

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Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy is the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the nation…And to see how appreciative the corporate education reform industry is, one need only look at Malloy’s campaign fundraising program which has already raised more than $100,000 from the anti-public education industry.

As a participant in Connecticut’s public financing system, candidate Malloy is only supposed to rely on the taxpayer dollars that he will receive as a qualified candidate for governor.  But thanks to a gigantic loophole in the law, the Malloy political operation has been raising money for the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee in order to augment the millions in public funds he will get to pay his campaign expenses.

By the end of February 2014, Malloy’s fundraising program had already collected more than $2.4 million into just one of the two accounts managed by the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Not surprisingly, Malloy has turned to the corporate funded pro-charter school, anti-teacher, anti-public education forces to help him raise record amounts of money.

The infamous Democrats for Education Reform, an anti-public education political action committee based in Washington D.C., has already provided Malloy with a check for $5,000.

Jonathan Sackler and his wife have donated a total of $36,000 to Malloy’s operation in just the past six months.  Sackler is the one who helped Stefan Pryor, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, create and expand Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management company.  Sackler was also a co-founder of the Connecticut charter school advocacy group ConnCAN and went on to create the national charter school advocacy group called 50 CAN.  When Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch tried to eliminate the democratically-elected board of education in that city, he turned to Sackler for a last-minute campaign donation of $50,000 to help pay for what proved to be his failed effort to undermine democracy.

Another nationally-recognized corporate education reform advocate to pour money into Malloy’s campaign is billionaire Stephen Mandel Jr.  Mandel, who was behind the creation of the corporate-funded education reform advocacy group, Excel Bridgeport, Inc., has already written two $10,000 checks for Malloy’s political activities.

Los Angeles, anti-public education billionaire Eli Broad has also gotten in on the act donating $8,000 to Malloy so far in this campaign cycle. Broad’s foundation is one of the three major national foundations funding the corporate education reform effort across the country.

And Sackler isn’t the only member of Achievement First Inc. and ConnCAN’s Board of Directors to have ponied up for Malloy.

To date, board members of these two Connecticut-based education reform groups have donated well in excess of $50,000 to Malloy’s political aspirations and that doesn’t even count another $50,000 that these same people dumped into another political action committee affiliated with Malloy.

So much for campaign contribution limits…and with Election Day still seven months away, we can be sure that Malloy will continue to cash in on his anti-public education agenda.

Will State Board of Education over look conflicts of interest to approve more charter schools

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While Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy’s budget fails to properly fund public schools in Connecticut it does provide for an increase in the number of privately run charter schools.

This Wednesday, April 2, 2014, the Connecticut State Board of Education will meet to consider applications for new charter schools in Connecticut.

The list of applicants includes,

  • Steve Perry’s Capital Prep Harbor School (Bridgeport) – See Application [PDF] 
  • Jumoke Academy Michael Sharpe’s Booker T. Washington Academy (New Haven) – See Application [PDF]
  • Stamford Charter School for Excellence (Stamford) – See Application [PDF] 
  • Great Oaks Charter School  (Bridgeport) – See Application [PDF]

Morgan Barth, an aide to Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is the individual who is responsible for the State Department of Education Charter School review process and will be leading the discussion during the State Board of Education’s agenda item entitled, “Consideration of Charter School Applications.”

What isn’t clear is whether the members of the State Board of Education understand, appreciate or have even been informed about the significant conflicts of interest that exist with some of these applicants.

One of the leading applications for approval at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting is a new publicly funded charter school that is being proposed by Steve Perry.

As readers know, Steve Perry currently serves as the principal of Capital Prep Magnet School, a public school within the Hartford School System.

While failing to show up for his public school job  more than 20 percent of the time, Perry spent his time creating his own private company called Capital Preparatory Schools Incorporated.

It is that private company that is now trying to open a new charter school in Bridgeport.

According to Perry’s application, the “founding members” of his charter school are all full-time employees of Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford although the application doesn’t explain how Perry and the other full-time employees of the City of Hartford will have the time to open and run a privately owned charter school in Bridgeport.

Leading Perry’s proposed “governing board” are Bridgeport’s Reverend Kenneth M. Moales, Jr. (Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and Love Christian Academy), Pastor Carl McCluster (Shiloh Baptist Church), and Reverend William McCollough  (Russell Temple CME Church).

Moales, of course, is the campaign treasurer for Mayor Bill Finch, the disgraced former Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education and a member of the illegally appointed Board Education that was struck down and disbanded by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Kenneth Moales was originally appointed to Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education by the Malloy administration’s Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education.

Perry’s application includes a letter of support from Mayor Bill Finch and Finch has been lobbying for the approval of Perry’s charter school.

The other primary proponent for Perry’s new school is Excel Bridgeport, Inc., the corporate funded education reform lobbying group that was created by Meghan Lowney and Nate Snow.

Snow serves as the director of the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and Lowney works for Steve Mandel, the billionaire corporate education reform industry leader who is also one of Governor Malloy’s biggest campaign contributors.

Nate Snow also serves as the Chairman of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and has worked closely with Pryor, Barth and senior staff at the State Department of Education to expand the TFA’s reach into Connecticut;s urban school districts.

However, the conflicts of interest and the perceived conflicts of interest associated with Steve Perry’s charter school and the other charter school applications go well beyond the information above.

Although it fails to show up in any of the documents associated with Steve Perry’s application, before becoming Pryor’s aide at the State Department of Education, Morgan Barth served as the principal for Achievement First Inc.’s Bridgeport Academy, another charter school in Bridgeport.

At the same time Morgan Barth also served on Excel Bridgeport Inc.’s Board of Directors.  Barth quietly resigned last year.

As part of its pro-charter school lobbing effort, Excel Bridgeport Inc. even featured its board member on their website:  See Excel Bridgeport Board Member Morgan Barth tonight on your TV.

During Barth’s tenure as a member of Excel Bridgeport’s Board of Directors, the corporate funded education lobbying group led the charge in favor of Mayor Bill Finch’s efforts to do away with Bridgeport’s elected Board of Education and replace it with one appointed by Finch.  Excel Bridgeport Inc. also lobbied extensively in support of Paul Vallas, Board Chairman Kenneth Moales, Jr. and the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, including the very charter school that Barth was running.

As Excel Bridgeport wrote at the time, “ It’s amazing how high expectations can change the life path of a child. Keep up the good work AFBA!” [Achievement First Bridgeport Academy].

But Barth’s connection with charter schools and the expansion of charter schools goes well beyond his direct connection with those pushing Steve Perry’s Bridgeport charter school proposal.

Barth worked for Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s charter school management company, Achievement First, Inc., for more than a decade before becoming the Director of Pryor’s Office of School Turnaround.

For at least six of those years Barth taught illegally at Achievement First, Inc.

Despite repeated warnings from the State Department of Education that Barth was not certified and could not legally work in a Connecticut public school, Barth continued to teach and serve as an administrator for Achievement First, Inc.

Fortunately for Barth and Pryor in 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly changed the law and allowed charter schools to have up to 30 percent of their staff un-certified.  Barth was one of those un-certified individuals who continued to work for Achievement First, Inc. until he joined Pryor at the State Department of Education.

In addition to those issues, the complex interrelationships between Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Morgan Barth, Steve Perry, Michael Sharpe (Sharpe’s application to open the New Haven Booker T. Washington Charter School is also up for a vote on Wednesday) and other charter school proponents is extensive and far-reaching.

Just last month, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry and Michael Sharpe were part of the Love Christian Academy’s annual education conference.  The conference is sponsored by none-other-than Kenneth Moales and held at Moales’ church in Bridgeport.

While Moales was unsuccessful in trying to get approval to turn his private religious school into an all-boys publicly funded charter school last year he has, as noted, returned this year as the founding member of the “Governing Board” that will oversee Steve Perry’s new Bridgeport Charter Schools.

The advertising for last month’s conference read, “This year’s theme is educational leadership and will feature Rev. Al Sharpton, Capital Prep’s Founder Steve Perry and State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor.”

One of the highlights of the conference was advertised as the parent workshops put on by Excel Bridgeport, Inc. the very group that is now advocating for Perry’s new school and the group that had Morgan Barth as one of its Directors.

Further blurring the lines, Steve Perry’s Hartford lawyer has recently become Kenneth Moales’ attorney as Moales tries to fight off a foreclosure action that seeks to take his church, home and cars for his failure to pay his mortgages.

And back in Hartford, after spending nearly four years pushing his corporate education reform industry agenda, Governor Malloy has decided to seek re-election and is now trying to persuade teachers, parents and public school advocates that he is going to transform himself into a supporter of public schools.

But the truth paints a very different picture.

When the State Board of Education meets this week to consider diverting even more taxpayer funds to charter schools the public will see, yet again, why Malloy is considered the most anti-teacher, anti-public education Democratic governor in the  nation.

Investigation needed into Malloy administration’s handling of Clark Elementary School Fiasco

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Last October Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and his corporate education reform industry allies teamed up with Hartford’s outgoing superintendent of schools, Christina Kishimoto, to hand Hartford’s Clark Elementary School over to Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.

See Wait, What? articles?

Breaking News: Hartford’s Clark School Targeted for closure, will be handed over to Achievement First, Inc. (October 25, 2013)

Real Hartford Blog examines “bait and switch” with Clark School and Achievement First Inc. (October 28, 2013)

Hartford’s Clark School parents, teachers and community fight back! (October 31, 2013)

When parents, teachers and the Clark School community rose up in anger, even Governor Malloy’s close ally, Mayor Pedro Segarra, were forced to back off the backroom deal with Achievement First, Inc.

With Achievement First, Inc. off the table, Pryor and his operatives concocted Plan B.

Plan B was designed to use Pryor’s “school turnaround process” to hand control of the Clark Elementary School over to a Washington D.C. charter school chain called Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.  In addition to charter schools in Washington, Friendship runs a series of charter schools in Baltimore Maryland.

Despite promising that it would be the parents, teachers and the Clark School community that they play the lead role in making any decisions about the future of Clark Elementary School, Commissioner Pryor, his school turnaround director, Morgan Barth, and Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson were already working to deliver a no-bid contract to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Multiple Freedom of Information Act requests have failed to persuade the State Department of Education to turnover email communications and documents about the early planning that occurred between Pryor’s office and Friendship Charter Schools.

However high-ranking officials within the State Department have confirmed that the Malloy administration had already “cut a deal” with Friendship Charter Schools, Inc weeks ago.

Information about the deal between Pryor and Friendship first appeared in the following Wait, What? posts,

NEWS FLASH: Pryor reportedly giving Hartford’s Clark Elementary School to Washington D.C. Charter School Chain (Feb. 10, 2014)

Corporate Education Reform Industry targets students, parents and teachers of Clark Elementary School  (Feb. 13, 2014)

And early this month, the Malloy administration tried to move forward with Plan B.  See Wait, What? articles,

NEWS FLASH: Stefan Pryor & Morgan Barth trying to roll Hartford’s Clark School parents and teachers – again (March 6, 2014)

Malloy Administration: Clark Elementary Parents – You must accept Friendship Charter School or else (March 9, 2014)

Once again, parents, teachers and the Clark School Community have been forced to come to the defense of their local elementary school

This time, in an attempt to defuse the community’s anger, the Hartford Courant is reporting that Commissioner Pryor has announced that he will allow the community,  More Time To Draft ‘Turnaround’ Plan For Hartford’s Clark School.”  

Although Pryor and the Malloy administration have consistently denied that there was any pre-determination in favor of Friendship Charter Schools, the Courant story reveals the truth with the statement that, “State education officials [now admit that] they recommended Friendship because the group has experience working with a teacher’s union and has the organizational means to take on a school with as many challenges as Clark — and in time for the 2014-15 academic year.”

In a truly laughable moment, Pryor’s Turnaround Director, Morgan Barth was quoted in the same Courant story as saying, “This talk of, ‘it’s Friendship or bust,’ and there’s an ultimatum from the state to have Friendship … that’s not true.”

While Barth’s assistant, Andrew Ferguson added in equally absurd quote saying, “The state can’t want it more than the local community.”

Of course, the ongoing attempt by the Malloy administration reveals just how hard it has been working to give the school away to an out-side charter management company.  In case after case Pryor’s State Department of Education has made it absolutely clear to local communities that they have had little to no choice in what would happen once Pryor’s announced their school was a target for his turnaround program

The citizens of Connecticut deserve an investigation into the Malloy administrations actions surrounding the effort to first give Clark Elementary School to Achievement First, Inc. and then to give it to Friendship Charter Schools, Inc.

Mayor Segarra and Matt Poland lead 6-2 vote to give TFA $650,000

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There will be 210 fewer job openings in the Hartford School System for Connecticut residents thanks to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and their allies on the Hartford Board of Education.

While hundreds of qualified, certified Connecticut teachers are unemployed and hundreds of additional Connecticut residents will be seeking teaching jobs after graduating from Connecticut institutions of higher education and completely comprehensive teacher training programs, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra led his political appointees in a 6-2 vote to give Teach for America another three-year contract with the City of Hartford..  In exchange for the $650,000 finder’s fee, Teach for America will send 210 new recruits to teach in Hartford Schools.

Mayor Segarra appoints the majority of members to the Hartford Board of Education.  All of his appointees, including out-going Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, voted in favor of the TFA contract.

In this case the actual deciding vote came from the Hartford Board of Education’s one elected Republican who, “coincidently,” was “elected” chairman of the Hartford Board of Education last night as Segarra’s choice for the position.

Only Working Families Party member Robert Cotto and Michael Brescia, a former Buckley High School teacher, voted against the TFA contract.

Although the TFA recruits only get five weeks of training, they are paid the same salary and given the same benefits as teachers who already hold teacher certification in Connecticut and who have gone through a full college-level teacher training program.

The Hartford Courant update on the vote is below, but for background purposes,

According to Forbes Magazine, as of 2012, Teach for America collects in excess of $318 million a year to enlist recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Wendy Kopp is the Founder and Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors.  Until recently she was Co-CEO of Teach For America.  Now, in addition to being the Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors, Kopp serves as Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Teach For All, a new TFA spin-off company that is trying to recreate TFA in the global marketplace.

Connecticut billionaire Steven Mandel Jr. is the Treasurer of Teach For America’s Board of Directors.  Mandel is not only a major campaign contributor to Governor Malloy but has donated tens of millions to support the corporate education reform industry.  Mandel played a pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and the related ongoing effort to privatize public education in Bridgeport.

In addition to her TFA work, Wendy Kopp is married to Richard Barth, Jr.  Barth serves as the CEO of the KIPP charter school chain.  KIPP is one of the biggest players in the corporate education reform industry with 141 charter schools in 20 states.

Interestingly, Morgan Barth, who illegally taught and served as an administrator at Achievement First, Inc. for six years before becoming Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Director” is a close relative of Barth and Kopp.

Of course, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school management company with schools in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island.  Achievement First Inc. has also been the charter school company that has received the most financial benefit from Malloy and Pryor’s pro-charter school policies.

Not long ago Achievement First, Inc. added Elisa Villanueva Beard to their Board of Directors.  Elisa Villanueva Beard is a long time TFA senior executive and became TFA’s Co-CEO when Kopp left to become CEO of that new TFA spin off company.

Jonathan Sackler, a leading corporate education reform advocate in Connecticut and another major Malloy donor has been part of the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors since it was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.  Sacker also formed ConnCAN and ConnAD, which is now called A Better Connecticut.

ConnCAN, ConnAD and A Better Connecticut led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying effort in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative.  These groups, along with Steve Mandel and Excel Bridgeport Inc., played the key role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to eliminate an elected board of education in Bridgeport.  They also pumped a significant amount of money into Fich’s failed effort to elect Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who would support Paul Vallas.  (They failed Vallas leaves his post in Bridgeport this coming Friday).  Finch is a leading supporter of Achievement First’s Bridgeport Charter School and is lobbying on behalf of Capital Prep Steve Perry’s attempt to use his own private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler also created 50CAN, a company dedicated to spreading the ConnCAN model across the country.  Sackler formed 50CAN and serves on its Board of Directors.  50CAN’s Board includes Dacia Toll who not only co-founded Achievement First Inc. with Stefan Pryor, but presently serves as Co-CEO & President of Achievement First, Inc.

Another 50CAN Board Member is none-other-than KIPP Charter School’s Richard Barth Jr.  That being the same Richard Barth Jr. who is Wendy Kopp’s husband and Morgan Barth’s relative.

Meanwhile, back in Hartford, the Hartford Courant explains,

“The board voted 6-2 to approve a three-year, $650,940 contract extension between the city schools and Teach For America, a proposal that drew critics and supporters of TFA who addressed the board for more than an hour during public comments.

Teach For America recruits and trains recent college graduates who pledge to teach for at least two years in mostly low-income public schools across the country. The agreement calls for Hartford to pay Teach For America about $3,000 per recruit, with up to 60 TFA hires in 2014-15, up to 70 in 2015-16 and as many as 80 in 2016-17.

[…]

Since 2007, the first year of Hartford’s partnership with Teach For America, the district has hired 1,477 new teachers, 14 percent of whom are TFA recruits, said Jennifer Allen, the school system’s chief talent officer.

Rather than graduating from a traditional teacher preparation college, TFA recruits complete five weeks of training and become certified through the state’s Alternate Route to Certification program, administrators said. They also receive ongoing professional development through TFA that Allen called “a remarkable model for supporting new teachers.”

While several Hartford students spoke in support of their TFA teachers, many of the critics Monday, including Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, described the contract as paying a “headhunters fee” and argued that the money should be spent on improving school programs. Board member Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against the extension, also criticized the retention rate.

Among the 22 TFA hires in 2007, three remain in the school system. And of the 31 TFA teachers in the 2011-12 year, 13 still teach in Hartford schools, district data show.

Those numbers reveal that only 13 percent of the 2007 TFA recruits are still teaching in Hartford after six years and 58 percent of the 2011 TFA recruits have already bailed.

Of course, the contract states that TFA keeps its $3,000 per recruit even if the teacher quits during the first week of school.

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